Praia da Adraga beach, Sintra, Portugal. Photograph: Ariane Lohmar/Getty Images
Winning tip: Praia da Adraga, Sintra, near Lisbon
It’s worth making the 12km journey from Sintra to mainland Europe‘s most westerly sands to see the Atlantic breakers rolling in over Adraga beach. It is great for surfing and watching sunsets – which are even better viewed while sampling fresh clams in white wine at nearby Azenhas do Mar, a sheltered restaurant that’s built into the cliffs.
Capela do Senhor da Pedra on Miramar beach. Photograph: Alamy
A lovely, somewhat isolated beach with golden sand about seven miles south of Porto. You are almost guaranteed to have huge swathes of the beach to yourself, even in the height of summer. On a rock at the water’s edge, there is a little white chapel, Capela do Senhor da Pedra, which is celebrated in a festival every June.
Praia do Cabedelo, Minho
A fantastic beach with soft sand that stretches for miles. It is easily reached from Viana do Castelo by a short hop on a small ferry. It is a lovely area and the town itself is a real delight. Good train links make Viana easy to reach, with plenty of shops to stock up on picnic supplies before getting the ferry.
Praia de Mira, Figueira da Foz
It is easy to see why this place appeals across the board: there’s a beach on one side, a lagoon on the other, beach cafes and upmarket dining. There are paddle boats, bike hire and pine trails for the active and a seemingly infinite stretch of sand for those who want nothing more than to sunbathe.
Guincho. Photograph: Alamy
Praia do Guincho
Guincho beach, on Portugal‘s Estoril coast, 5km from the town of Cascais, was used in the opening sequence of the Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s easy to see why the movie makers choose it: it’s a heady cocktail of golden sands, mystical orange rock, white-tipped foamy waves and deep blue skies. Perfect for surfing, walking – or watching sunsets or dramatic storms late at night.
Troia peninsula, Setúbal
Instead of heading to the crowded beaches of Cascais and Estoril from Lisbon, venture south to Setúbal and catch the catamaran to the stunning peninsula of Troia. With 18km of sandy beaches you can easily spend a relaxing day with a picnic without the hordes of people, or even attempt to see some dolphins from one of its boat trips.
Praia da Rocha. Photograph: Alamy
Praia da Rocha, Lagos
If you’d like to find a less busy beach in Portugal, aim for Praia da Rocha in Portimão, eastern Lagos. This has a stunning stretch of beach and there are some amazing caves to explore, too. If you have the kids on board, try visiting the Portimão Museum in the morning and head to the caves and a swim at Praia da Rocha in the afternoon.
Away from the more commercial, built-up areas of the western Algarve is Altura, a quiet town a few kilometres from the Spanish border. This wonderful, family-friendly beach plays host to all sorts of water sports in summer. If you fancy some city action, glorious Seville is a 90-minute drive away across the border.
Praia do Castelo. Photograph: Alamy
Praia do Castelo
Castelo beach is hidden among the striking cliffs of the Algarve. Fortunately, many tourists never make it beyond the long white beaches of Albufeira, leaving this tiny cove to more adventurous travellers and locals. Its is small, especially at high tide, but has reasonably priced food and drink. Be prepared for a chilly entrance though, as the sea is still very brisk until August.
Praia da Oura, Albufeira
The setting of the Oura beach is as perfect as any traveller could wish: its soft, golden sands look out to beautiful blue waves. Have lunch at one of the simple local restaurants on the promenade that look down on it.