For the surfing legend, the Portuguese town of Nazaré is more than just a place to catch record-breaking waves: it’s a great destination for food, views and relaxation
American surfer Garrett McNamara travels around the world chasing big waves. But there’s one place that keeps drawing him back: Nazaré on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. The seaside resort, 75 miles north of Lisbon, is where he set a new world record in 2011, surfing a 90ft wave, and where he claimed to have broken his own record in January 2013, catching a 100ft wave. But Nazaré is more than just a surfing hotspot for him: he married his American wife there, at the chapel on the cliffs overlooking Praia do Norte (north beach).
His love of the town is reciprocated. Everywhere he goes he’s greeted with open arms and kisses from the restaurant owner to the fishermen and the old ladies of the town in their traditional costume. One restaurant has even created a McNamara menu. Here he reveals his favourite places in the town and along its coast.
“If you want to surf small, friendly waves go to the beach in the village; the main sandy beach in the bay gets busy in summer. There are some nice lefts by the harbour. Praia do Sul (the south beach) is similar but a little more powerful and then there’s Praia do Norte, where you’ll find the big waves. Here, you’ll discover an underwater canyon produces massive swells; it gets really challenging when these gets big, so you have to make sure you pick the right time to go there.”(The beach has no lifeguard, even in summer. Tow surfing requires a navy license and planning, for safety reasons).
“Restaurant Celeste (mains about £9) is where I eat most often. The people there are like family to me; Celeste is like our mother, she takes care of us. And she also happens to make the best arroz doce (rice pudding) in the world.” McNamara tributes at the restaurant include a bottle of wine with the date of his wedding, and the McNamara menu, which features his favourite salad with sesame seeds, grilled seabass with migas, and potatoes with garlic and olive oil.
“Taverna do 8 ó 80 (tapas around £3.20, mains around £9) is where I had my wedding party. It’s not a traditional Nazaré restaurant, it’s more like a tapas and wine bar, with a huge wine list. It also organises wine-tastings. I also like Casa Pires a Sardinha (mains about £8) for its grilled fish.”
“Most of the time I stay at Hotel Miramar Sul (doubles from £43 B&B). I can look at the beach and the waves from it while I’m eating breakfast, and it’s an amazing place to watch the sunset. As a special treat, we sometimes have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, the Atlântico View (mains from £12). It’s great for traditional dishes with a contemporary twist, such as wild sea bass with acorda (traditional bread soup; veal in puff pastry). I eat mainly fish and vegetables there but the desserts are also fantastic, particularly the chocolate fondant on red berries with tangerine ice-cream.”
Ocean water spa
“The Thalasso Nazaré barra (one-hour massage £44; seaweed body wrap £50), right on the beach, is one of the few spas with thalassotherapy in Portugal. It’s where I recover having spent all day in the waves. I can relax on the indoor salt-water pool watching the sea, or enjoying the sunset on the beach after the hydrotherapy.”
The best view
“I got married at the lighthouse , the 16th-century Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo, on the edge of the promontory of Sítio. From here you have a clear view of Praia do Norte and the swell on one side and the village of Nazaré, the village beach and the fishing boats on the other side. A funicular connects the village to the high cliff.”