Experience a diverse array of coastal landscapes on this section from Porto Covo to Vila Nova de Milfontes. You’ll walk mostly on energy-sapping sandy paths but be richly rewarded with extraordinary scenery.
The Rota Vicentina (Fisherman’s Trail) begins dramatically along a rugged stretch of the Atlantic Coastline. The footpath fights to keep close to the coast to ensure you enjoy every breathtaking viewpoint available, but doing so demands that you tackle some wild terrain. The path wades over sand-dunes and across beaches. It teeters atop cliffs and scrambles around inlets. At all times the path is sandy ensuring every kilometre and viewpoint is hard-fought for. (Don’t worry – the entire Rota Vicentina isn’t this sandy!)
Some of the beauty you can’t fail to notice - large coastal features such as velvety caves, shifting sand-dunes and precarious pillars - but for others you must look a little closer. There is an enormous diversity of plant-life here, around 150 species, 25% of which are endemic to the Iberian Peninsula and some found only along Portugal’s south-west coast. All have adapted to the region’s harsh conditions, where droughts can last 6 months, strong winds gust from the Atlantic Ocean, and a frenzy of waves buffet the shore.
Vila Nova de Milfontes sits at the mouth of the River Mira, though by here the river water is salty and tidal, and the beaches are sandy, just like the sea. Historically, the town has served a key defensive role, as evidenced by the imposing fortress that juts out from the town towards the river. A charming tangle of narrow streets forms the historic centre of the town, a perfect place to wander, get lost and stumble upon delightful cafes and restaurants.
Don’t underestimate today’s walk. Although it is flat, the trail is mostly on sandy paths and it is a hard-fought 19 kilometres. The restaurant at 3km may be too early to stop and the restaurant at 16.5km too late, so be sure to bring sufficient provisions.
There are many exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk. Additionally, some of the cliff-edges may be unstable; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp left bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Some of the path is along rocky steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Points of Interest
‘Peachtree Island’, as the translation goes, has a staggering history, dating to the 2nd Century BC when it was first occupied by the Carthaginians. Over the years, there has been a fish salting centre, a chapel, and a fortress (of which you can still see the ruins).
Construction began on this fort in 1598, however the project was abandoned and restarted several times and only completed in 1690. A similar fort on the island provided two lines of defence. The fort was damaged in the 1755 earthquake and then abandoned in 1844 due to the evolution of warfare.
St Clement’s Fort
St Clement’s Fort is the most noticeable building in Vila Nova de Milfonte, jutting out from the town and towards the River Mira. Historically, the river was considered both the best natural port in the south of Portugal, and also one of the greatest threats as it provided North African pirates with a shortcut to the heart of the Odemira Municipality. The fortress was completed in 1602, but the history is far older, with evidence of Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Carthaginian occupation.
Food and Drink
You will pass a restaurant after 3 kilometres, and another after 17 kilometres. There is nowhere to buy food or drink in between and nowhere to refill water bottles, so be sure to bring sufficient provisions.
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.