Located in Santa Luzia, Tavira, Praia do Barril is a marvellous hidden gem. This Algarvian beach is, even during the summer, the perfect place for a relaxed family beach day. Stretching for kilometres in both directions, this beach, located in the vast Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, provides enough space for everyone that visits even during the summer. Usually, the entrance point can get a bit crowded but with a small walk, you can find a spot where you will have the beach all to yourself.
The landscape is formed by the Serra do Caldeirão in the north and the Cerro de São Miguel in the northwest. In addition the marshes, channels and salt flats of the Ria Formosa, as well as the dune formations of the island of Tavira and the Atlantic Ocean in the south make up this impressive destination.
Tavira Island lies south of the town of Tavira, part of the Ria Formosa. Just a few hundred meters off the coast, peppered with sand banks, it is a beautiful place to go for a swim, absorb the nature and do some birdwatching. The island itself offers 11km of some of the best beaches in the Algarve, with Praia do Barril, Praia da Ilha de Tavira and Praia do Homem Nú being among the highlights.
THE BEACH IN TAVIRA
Praia do Barril is one of the calmest beaches on the south coast of the Algarve, escaping even at the height of the bathing season from the floods that characterize other beaches in the region.
With very soft, white sand, Praia do Barril is known best for its quality. Not only for being very clean but also for the deep blue, crystal clear water, regularly bearing the blue flag, proof of its environmental quality.
Along the beach you will not find many sand banks, being a big beach, it is long and wide, stretching for many kilometres. The absence of any large banks and cliffs makes this beach a bit susceptible to windy days, however these are luckily few and far between. If you do happen to visit on one of the are windier days, you can still explore the water sports at the nautical centre located at the beach.
The water is generally calm and warm during spring and summer months and on mild sunny days, throughout the winter months, it is a place for outdoor sports or water birdwatching.
Besides all the natural marvels it has to offer, this beach used to be a small fishing village until the second half of the 20th century.
Built during the 1840’s, the buildings found at this beach were uses by fisherman during the tuna (Bluefin tuna) fishing season – April to September. Nearly 80 families lived in the small village but in the 60’s and with the change of the migration routes of the Bluefin tuna, the village was eventually abandoned. The buildings were restored and turned into bars, restaurants, a small museum and other facilities. Also linked to this past as an old fisherman’s village, there is a unique trait to this beach, an anchor cemetery.
ANCHOR CEMETERY IN TAVIRA
For some this might be a rather dramatic landscape architecture design but it is a feature to celebrate the history of the beach and its former village. Originally used for the fishing, they were embedded into the sand dunes close to the beach, creating a maze of nets, which would ensnare the large and powerful Bluefin Tuna. These complex structures required hundreds of anchors to secure the nets against the ferocity of the Atlantic Ocean and the strength of the tuna.
HOW TO GO PRAIA DO BARRIL?
One of the unique parts about going to Praia do Barril in Tavira, is that to arrive there, you have to walk or catch a train – from Praia da Ilha de Tavira or from Santa Luzia.! Going to Praia do Barril is a real feast for the senses. Nevertheless, the ride or walk is worth every meter!
FROM PEDRAS D’EL REI
The most direct way to get to the Praia do Barril is from the holiday village of Pedras d’el Rei, in Santa Luzia.
Here you will find a cark park (paid) but there are several places nearby to park your car for free. After parking your car, head to the small footbridge that goes over Ria Formosa and pick your desired ride. A small train will take you to the beach. This train originally used for hauling goods and freshly caught fish between the fishing community and the village of Pedras D’el Rei.
If you are not in the mood to go on the train, you can go by foot, the distance to the beach is around 1km.
By foot or train, the way to Praia do Barril will be full of amazement. Take the opportunity to observe the fauna in the banks of silt, you might even spot “bocas” a crab typical of these mashes. Along the way and as you get closer to the beach, a curry aroma intensifies, this smell comes from a small plant that grows in the area, the shrubby everlasting (perpétua-das-areias). This is a great area for birdwatching as well, a good opportunity to observe waders and long-legged species.
FROM PRAIA DE ILHA DE TAVIRA
If you like adventure and long walks, consider going to Praia do Barril from Ilha de Tavira. Catch the ferry in Tavira, at Quatro Águas. After you arrive at the island, it will take you about 45 minutes to reach Praia do Barril. This will be a bit more difficult but it is a perfect walk for nature lovers. There is also a boat on Tavira Island that will take you straight to Barril.
The Algarve and specially Tavira is no stranger to squid and octopus dishes, if you are keen to try these local dishes we have a few restaurant recommendations:
- Museu do Atum “Tuna Museum”, a restaurant in Praia do Barril that is not just a place to eat but to learn a bit more about the island’s history.
- Polvo & Companhia, a restaurant in Santa Luzia specialising in octopus.
- Casa do Polvo Tasquinha, another great restaurant where octopus is also in the spotlight
PRAIA DO BARRIL – FACILITIES
When you visit Praia do Barril, you will find several facilities
- Public restrooms;
- Water sports;
- Tuna Musum.