The bay of Sao Martinho do Porto

São Martinho do Porto

The bay of São Martinho do Porto taken from near Varandas de Santo Antonio

The Portuguese coastline between Lisbon in the south and Porto in the North is famed for its wonderful white sand beaches that remain remarkably unspoilt. The colour of the sand gives the region its name the Costa de Prata or Silver Coast in English. The area also boasts unspoilt countryside, fishing villages and some of the best surfing in Europe. There is a wonderful climate, with average temperatures of 15C in the winter and 28C in the summer.

São Martinho do Porto, in the central part of the Costa Prata or Silver Coast, is approximately 100kms north of Lisbon, north of Peniche and South of Nazare and easily accessible from Lisbon airport via the A8 road. The world renowned golf course of Praia Del Rey is a short drive away as are a number of other courses. See the Golf page for more information.

Sao Martinho do Porto has a wonderful, sheltered, sweeping bay with safe bathing waters. There is the usual array of waterside bars, restaurants and local shops. There is a railway station with a service from Lisbon and buses to local towns and Lisbon also stop near the railway station.

The town is small, but has all necessary supplies and a daily market is a short walk from the apartment. The apartment is approximately 200m from the nearest sea and 500m to the town centre.

A Brief History of the town

São Martinho's shell shaped beach is what remains of an old gulf that occupied a vast area, where Alfeizerão constituted a port of considerable importance (now 5km inland). With the progressive silting up of the bay, Salir (do Porto) became the main port town.

The land which now forms the town of Martinho do Porto had previously been donated by Don. Afonso Henriques in 1153 to the Order of Cistercians based in Alcobaça. On the land, the Cistercians founded São Martinho's Farm which later gave its name to the area. The ruins of several mills, located in the area close to the coast of São Martinho prove the existence of farming and particularly wheat.

In June of 1257, Frei Estevão Martins, 12th abbot of the convent of Alcobaça, granted the first Carta de Foral to São Martinho do Porto. A Carta de Foral was used to create a new municipality, town or city and so is an important step in the history of any area.

Over the next couple of centuries more charters were issued from which the parish of São Martinho do Porto acquired control of Casais do Bom Jesus, Venda Nova, Jagos, Vale do Paraíso e dois na Charneca. It is at this point that São Martinho do Porto became the county seat. The 16th and 17th century represent the golden period for the town having also become a commercial port and shipbuilding Center.

Many of the ships built here included the caravels that participated in the discoveries and conquests, in the reigns of Afonso V and John II. Probably, also here, were built the ships that took Sebastian to Alcácer-Quibir. The port of São Martinho enjoyed a great fame from this work.

Currently, there still exists, next to the foot of Monte de Santa Ana, which is on the Southern spur of the bay, the ruins of an arsenal or customs house which was built with wood from Leiria pines on a stone base.

The progressive silting of the bay would eventually reduce São Martinho do Porto to a center of local fishing, which is still a regular activity.

In 1854 the municipality of São Martinho do Porto, became part of the municipality of Alcobaça. In 1895, the parish became part of the municipality of Caldas da Rainha, and later, in 1898, it again became part of the municipality of Alcobaça which is still the administrave center for the parish.

The second half of the 19th century saw a new phase of economic prosperity for Sao Martinho with the completion the line of animal-drawn railway between Marinha Grande and São Martinho do Porto.The local industries of shipbuilding and repair, used raw material from the forest in the region and tar and resin-based products. Fishing developed to support the local population and later the advent of tourism.

São Martinho do Porto was re-classified as a village by a decision of the Assembly of the Republic, in July 13, 1990.

The central area of São Martinho do Porto retains the characteristics of the ancient fishing village, with the typical houses and narrow streets of old Portugal. The main church of the parish, Igreja Matriz de São Martinho do Porto is at the top of the hill in the centre of the old town.

The church was restored in the eighteenth century by the Count de Avelar in a baroque style. Behind the altar is a large oil painting of St. Martin, evoking the famous legend of the Roman knight who helped a homeless man by offering him half his thick cover in cold weather and rain.

With the growth of tourism the sea front has been rejuvinated and a sweeping boulevard gives emphasis to the shape of the bay, Roads have been improved and although there has been development recently, there are restrictions on the height and number of properties that can be built in an atempt to maintain the charm of the small town. However, São Martinho do Porto is an interesting example of a small-scale resort with a certain charm and a unique location.


Here is a satellite view of the bay and a map of the region showing the A8, the quickest route from Lisbon to São Martinho do Porto and a map of the local area which we hope will be useful. You can use the arrow keys and + and - to move around the maps and zoom in and out.
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