Crashing, freezing waves not really your thing? Fed up of salty skin and sand that finds its way into everything? Looking for a cheaper way to cool off this summer? Central Portugal’s network of river beaches could be the perfect solution. Here’s a quick run down on why they beat the seaside hands down:
You can actually swim in them
With calm waters and no nasty undercurrents or danger of anyone accidentally drifting or being swept out to sea, they are safer and easier for both splashing around and serious swimming. And they’re definitely warmer than the Atlantic Ocean. Most river beaches also have a lifeguard on duty and a first aid point during peak periods, just in case.
The only things likely to be floating around in river beaches are leaves, unlike the detritus that rides the waves of coastal beaches. You might get the odd dragonfly or damselfly hovering around to add to the natural beauty though.
No two river beaches are the same. Some, like the one in Goís import sand to create an island in the middle of the river. Others, such as Bogueira in Casal de Ermio, and Canaveias build wooden walkways to ease your way across the river to the on site café and bathroom facilities.
More to do
Most river beaches have some kind of rope swing set up in an overhanging tree. Some even have proper jumping platforms and ladders. As well as water that’s deep enough for diving and swimming, there are usually places where you can position yourself to let the cool water gently trickle over your legs or sit and let your feet dangle in the river.
If you’re feeling more energetic, at Casal de Ermio and Praia de Palheiros do Zorro near Coimbra, you can hire a kayak or canoe or do a spot of fishing. There’s usually a grassy area for sunbathing or knocking a football around, although the two don’t necessarily mix well. Walkers will find footpaths leading to castles, convents and schist villages at Lousã.
For the little ones, you should find some kind of children’s play area if not a paddling pool.
Reasonably priced cafés are a common feature at these riverside areas. If you want to bring your own food, you’ll usually find picnic tables and possibly outdoor barbecues but if you’re really keen to cook your own meat, it’s best to check the facilities beforehand.
At some river beaches, for example Cascalheira, you can sling a hammock up between trees and gently sway the day away in dappled shade. Even without a hammock, those who don’t fancy baking in the sun can easily find respite under a tree, without having to fork out for a beach hut or bring your own brolly although it is possible to hire shades and sunbeds at some places, such as Praia de Palheiros do Zorro near Coimbra.
No beach tat
There are no tacky souvenirs, beach towels, inflatable dolphins or football shirts for sale so the only financial demands your kids are likely to make on you are begging for an ice cream.