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The Best Beaches of Tavira and Beach Guide
Tavira is a wonderful holiday destination that combines a delightful and historic town with a stunning coastline of unspoilt beaches. These beautiful sandy beaches are located along the seaward side of the Ilha de Tavira island and are protected from development by the Ria de Formosa Nature Park. The beaches of Tavira require effort to travel to, usually via a ferry, but for those who make the effort will be rewarded with pristine beaches that are set in idyllic surroundings. This guide will provide an introduction to the beaches of Tavira, will highlight our favourites and provide details how to traveling to them.
The glorious beach of Praia do Barril
Quick Summary of Tavira’s beaches
Best Overall Beach - Praia do Barril
Most accessible from Tavira - Praia de Tavira
Best for families - Praia de Tavira
Most scenic beach – Praia do Barril
Beach to escape the crowds - Terra Estreita
Nudist beach – section of beach between Terra Estreita and Praia de Tavira
Tavira Beach Overview
The beaches of Tavira are situated on the Ilha de Tavira, and the island has a continuous 10km sandy coastline, which extends from Tavira in the north east to Fuseta in the south west. The Ilha de Tavira is part of the Ria Formosa nature park and this designation has ensured the beaches have retained their unspoilt appearance, with almost no tourist development.
The stunning Terra Estreita beach
The majority of visitors to the Ilha de Tavira are centred around the three main accesses points (two ferry routes and one footbridge) and this gives rise to the three beaches, which are characteristically very similar. The three main beaches on the Ilha de Tavira are the Praia de Tavira, the Terra Estreita and the Praia do Barril. All of the beaches provide soft golden sands, calm clean seawaters and are surrounded by gently rolling sand dunes. The main differences with the beaches are their popularity and extent of tourist facilities, which is directly related to size of town they serve. The following section will detail the three beaches in greater depth.
The Praia de Tavira Beach
The Praia de Tavira is the closest beach to Tavira, being at the north-eastern edge of the Ilha de Tavira and is served by a regular ferry service from the town. As the Praia de Tavira is the nearest beach to Tavira it also tends to be the most popular and a small summer time community has developed on the sand dunes behind the beach, which include a campsite, cafes and shops. The huge size of the beach means that it can easily accommodate all of the summer time visitors, who tend to be concentrated close to the rental parasols and sunshades. The Praia de Tavira is a wonderful beach and the majority of visitors will be happy to spend most of their holiday on this one beach.
The marker and sea groyne at the northern edge of Ilha de Tavira
There are two direct ferry services from Tavira, a summer time service from central Tavira and a year-round service from Quatro Aquas pier, just to the south of Tavira. The summer time ferry (May-Sep) departs from the eastern bank of the Gilao River in central Tavira. The ferry takes 20 minutes and departure times are displayed on the quay, the ferry ticket costs 1.90/1.30/0.90 (return/single/child return).
There is a second ferry route which operates all year round and departs from the Quatro Aquas pier, which is 2km south of Tavira and there is a large car park close to the pier. The ferry journey takes 10 minutes and the cost of the ride is 1.50/0.90 (adult/child). On the Ilha de Tavira it is a 200m walk from the harbour to the beach and the route passes the campsite and beach cafes.
The Praia do Barril beach
The Praia do Barril is our favourite beach of Tavira as it provides a glorious beach, an insight into the heritage of the region and one of the most unique monuments of the Algarve, the Cemitério das Âncoras. Barril was a small fishing community that specialised in the fishing of Bluefin Tuna, but was abandoned in the 1960s due to depleted fish stocks. Today, the small dwellings used by the fishermen have been converted into cafes, shops and beach huts while the hundreds of anchors used for tuna fishing have been placed in the sand dunes as a rusting memorial to this past livelihood. For a full guide to the Praia do Barril please click here.
The Cemetery of Anchors on the Ilha de Tavira
The Praia do Barril beach is located close to the village of Pedras de El-Rei and is the furthest of the three beaches from Tavira. At this point the Ria de Formosa waterways are at their narrowest and there is a pontoon bridge connecting the mainland to the Ilha de Tavira. After the bridge, there is a mini-train which transports visitors the 1km to the beach, this mini train was originally used to transport supplies and freshly caught fish from Barril to the mainland.
The Praia de Terra Estreita beach
The Praia de Terra Estreita beach is virtually undiscovered by tourism and is one of the quietest beaches of the Algarve. The beach is located on the middle section of the Ilha de Tavira, approximately 2km from the Praia de Tavira and the Praia do Barril. The beach lies in front of the small fishing town of Santa Luiza and there is a direct ferry from the town.
The Terra Estreita beach
On the beach, there is just a single beach bar/café while to either side of the beach are deserted stretches of coastline. There is no direct ferry from Tavira and the only connection is from the small fishing town of Santa Luzia, 3 km to the east of Tavira. During the summer the ferry departs every 15 minutes and the return trip costs 2.00. The Praia da Terra Estreita is the beach to visit to escape the crowds and the quiet and relaxed ambience makes the beach a favourite of all who make the effort to travel here.
The beaches for children and families
The beaches of the eastern Algarve are ideal for families with children of all ages. The sea waters are clean and calm, without the powerful waves or strong currents of the western Algarve. During the summer the beaches are supervised by lifeguards and each of the beaches has a selection of cafes and shops. The summer sun can be very intense and sunshades and parasols can be hired for daily use. Sun-cream and sun-protection can be purchased from the shops of Tavira but it is very expensive it is always advisable to bring this from your home country.
When to visit the beaches of Tavira
The weather is suitable for spending time on the beaches from May through to September and the beaches are at their most crowded in July and August. Even at the height of the summer it is easy to walk from the crowded sections of the beach to find almost deserted sections. During the summer season there are a regular and inexpensive ferry services to the Ilha de Tavira but each of the ferry services only serve one section of the island.
The sea waters of Tavira are crystal clear but are surprisingly cold, even in the height of the summer. The sea waters are cold as they are fed by the Atlantic Ocean and not the comparatively warmer Mediterranean Sea. On the beaches parasols and sunbeds can be hired, and they range from E15-10 per day depending on the popularity of the beach.