Peniche was an island but with the passing of time it has silted up to become a peninsula. Population began in the time of King Afonso Henriques. He bequeathed the Estate of Touguia to a crusader. The port of Atouguia da Baleia was in front of the island of Peniche.
It is full of stories and the sea. The Legend of "Friends of Peniche" is unforgettable. The marina is the venue for the shuttling of fishing boats and the fishermen live off the catch they sell. The vigilant fort is now a museum. Every year, a flotilla of decorated boats sails past the fort at night to celebrate the most popular feast in Peniche, that of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem. The beaches of Peniche and surrounding areas should be enjoyed during sunlight, from the fine sand of Baleal to the therapeutic sand of Consolação. A trip to - Cabo Carvoeiro - or to the Berlenga islands should not be missed.
Before entering the town of Peniche, go to the coast and gaze in wonder at the marvellous view of the sea. Whether it is bright blue or deep green, calm or breaking against the rock cliffs in fierce waves, this sea has formed sculptures on the rocks that have taken on strange and dramatic shapes resembling enormous tumbledown monuments.
Visit the beach of Baleal (meaning whale), which stretches between two seas as if it was an island (which in fact it was). Like Consolação beach further south, its excellent conditions for surfing and bodyboarding make it very popular. The Papôa promontory, protruding on the left, brings to mind tragic shipwrecks, such as that of the "São Pedro de Alcântara", a Spanish galleon wrecked in 1786 on its return voyage from Peru.
On the way to Cabo Carvoeiro, stop to visit the chapel of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, hollowed out of the underground rock and lined with fine eighteenth-century azulejos. Further on stands the lighthouse, built in 1796. To the west lies the Nau dos Corvos, an impressive formation of rocks where seagulls and crows perch, and on the horizon you can see the Berlenga Islands, the only island nature reserve in mainland Portugal. In Peniche, the fortress that D. João IV ordered to be built in the seventeenth century was, like the forts on Consolação beach and the S. João Baptista fort on the Berlenga Islands, an important military complex for protection against invasions from the sea. The fort in Peniche, which was turned into a political prison in the period of the Estado Novo or "New State" (1933-1974), was the scene of one of the most extraordinary escapes of the twentieth century in Portugal. In 1960 a group of political prisoners escaped from it, among them Álvaro Cunhal, the communist leader. Visit the interesting museum space, which recreates the prison environment and contains various thematic areas relating to the region.
Fishing is still an important activity in Peniche, and people love to watch the the boatloads of fish coming into port. The regional gastronomy takes full advantage of the abundance of fish in the sea. We therefore heartily recommend that you seek out restaurants in the Avenida do Mar that will serve you a caldeirada (fish casserole), sopa de lagosta à moda de Peniche (Peniche-style lobster soup), arroz de marisco (shellfish risotto) and many other dishes that all use the best fresh fish available.
Peniche is the largest centre in Portugal for bobbin lace, a centuries-old art whose origins are lost in time. It may have been a way for the women to occupy their time while their husbands were away at sea. A delicate art acquired through skill and patience, it is represented at international events, and is an artistic legacy that is well worth preserving. Peniche is Europe s most westerly town and home to the largest fishing harbour in Portugal.Next to the fortress, the old fishing harbour remains picturesque.
The village of Baleal, the lace-like coast of Cabo Carvoeiro and the tiny islands of Berlengas (ask for the boat leaving from Peniche) are all nearby. While Baleal is known for its famous big surf so loved by surfers, don t confine yourself to the beach because the little village perched on a tiny peninsula is absolutely delightful. And don t forget to try the tasty fish at one of Peniche s many restaurants, especially those closer to the harbour. Caldeirada, seafood rice, skewers of fish, lobster and a wide variety of chargrilled fish are the bounty from a sea that laps ancient cliffs.Meanwhile, great waves for surfing, transparent waters and an unpolluted environment mean that the local beaches - stretching from Foz de Arelho to Praia de Santa Cruz, including other equally lovely beaches such as that at Areia Branca are quite simply superb.