AN AFTERNOON TRIP TO PRAIA FLUVIAL DA CASCALHEIRA
Central Portugal has over 200 river beaches and our nearest one is located in Côja. Just a bit further away is the blue flag river beach: Cascalheira, near Secarias, Arganil. It is only a 20 min drive from our house and located on the banks of the river Alva and surrounded by woodland. One side of the river bank is covered in beautiful golden sand and on the other side there is a pontoon/platform, small pool and sun beds to hire as well as canoe and paddle board hire. There are several trees for free shade (you don’t have to hire a parasol). I like beaches on the coast with salty seas but I do love the inland river beaches as the crystal clear natural waters are salt free so there is no nasty salt in your eyes or mouth if you fancy a dip. It’s also less dangerous as you don’t have the risk of being swept out to sea with any freak under currents. I find river beaches less crowded than the coastal beaches and the cafes are more affordable too.
I love that you can take a swim at these hidden paradises, right in the middle of nature, with views of natural landscapes and the mountains. You can see right to the bottom as the water as it is very clear apart from the odd leaf floating around. There were tons of tiny fish in the river which was fun to watch. Lots of children had little fishing nets which took me back to my childhood, memories of catching tadpoles in St.Georges Park and then releasing them back like I’m a 7 year old super hero. River beaches are beautiful hideaways, some are located in protected zones and some have small waterfalls too. I also like the fact that there are grassy areas if you are fed up with sand going in all your nooks and crannies. I love to find shade under a tree, relax and listen to the beautiful sounds of nature. I also like to people watch (sunbathers, swimmers, cyclists and men fishing). A lot of the river beaches are close to schist villages which are fabulous to explore.
We didn’t arrive until 1pm and we were worried that it might be full to capacity. We checked the beach app and it said it was high occupancy so we took our chance. The car park was pretty full but we managed to find a space, it’s free to park too. When we arrived we found a perfect spot under a tree and it was great for social distancing. Unfortunately the sun kept moving but the tree didn’t so soon the full on Portuguese heat was burning me head to toe (ha ha). I had great fun watching a young lad on an air bed in the water. Not a lilo but an air bed, flocked on one side, plastic on the other, why not! I counted about 60 people at this time and it seemed very empty. By 3pm it got quite a bit busier and I reckon there were around 80-100 people. I was trying to count them all but they kept moving and wouldn’t stay still (ha ha). The signs say it has a maximum capacity of 100 people. Due to Covid-19 lot’s of places have maximum occupancy numbers. This in a way has worked out great for us as I reckon the number of visitors would be much higher normally and I like the restrictions as each tourist spot never seems that busy to us at the moment and the cafe had no queue so we could easily purchase a nice ice cream and can of coke to cool us down. We had a little wander across the bridge to the other side and the views are spectacular. If you are not brave enough to go in the river you can sit on the bridge and dangle your legs in, the water was surprisingly warm. There were a mixture of Portuguese and British people and I am great at spotting the Brits before they speak.
The only negatives I found were that some people were smoking right on the sand. I was trying to take a nap and smelt smoke in my face. This is not nice especially as there are small children around. I really think people should go to a designated area if they want a smoke. Also I found a few cigarette butts in the sand which again is nasty. If you want to smoke that’s fine but dispose of your butts in the correct manner. There are bins at the river beach. Secondly there were some teenagers diving in the river off of the bridge by the rocks. This is forbidden, there are clear signs but the signs were ignored and it basically an accident waiting to happen! The lifeguard did go and patrol the bridge now and then but I did worry for their safety. Apart from that, we had a splendid afternoon and picnic. On the way back we found another River Beach which has a completely different layout, lots of grass and a separate swimming pool as well as the river. We stopped off briefly to view it and I have to re-visit soon. If I can fit into my bikini, I’m going in next time, cellulite and stretch marks will be on display for all to see!
We enjoyed a lovely afternoon picnic here and we will definitely explore more river beaches in Portugal. It was such a nice get away from all the DIY. Apparently no two river beaches are the same. So now I only have 199 to explore (ha ha).
GPS coordinates: 40º14 56.19N 08º02 09.12W
I highly recommend that you download this App: Info Praia. It’s a fantastic App that informs you about all beaches capacity e.g. low occupancy/high occupancy. Due to Covid-19 all beaches have maximum capacity numbers.
The bathing season runs from 1st July – 31st August and the river beach is guarded 12.00 – 19.00.
Facilities: Canoe hire, cafes, bar, showers, free parking, drinking fountains, picnic areas, BBQ and washing up area, first aid.
Positives of a river beach:
No salty sea water in your face.
Lot’s of free shady areas under trees so you don’t have to hire a parasol. Watch out for the sun as it keeps moving (ha ha).
No nasty under currants.
Crystal clear waters to swim in.
Swim with the fishes.
Located in the middle of the countryside (nature).
Areas of non sand if you get fed up of sand everywhere.
Picnic areas, BBQ facilities and free drinking fountains.
Woodland nature trails – walks/hiking.
Everyone is different – 200 to choose from.
I do apologise for how I look in the photos, had a shower before we set off, left with soaking wet hair, car window open, the boiling heat and wind dried it via the 20 min journey, so I look a little wind swept (ha ha). Also pointless wearing make-up in this heat, it would just melt off me. So it’s me Oh Naturelle Helen!
Bollinger3 years ago
looks great. My kind of place with not too much sand! I would much prefer this to a normal beach where I normally only last about 1 hr. Too hot, too much sand.
This is probably a daft question but is sand on river beaches natural or do some of them have sand transported to them?
Helen3 years ago
It really was amazing and very tranquil. Fluvial or river beach means that the beaches originate in the river. The sand at this river beach was a thin layer and man made but most river beaches have grassy banks not sand. One river beach in Góis has sand imported to make an island in the middle. Everything else is natural: mountains, waterfalls, rocks, fish etc. I much prefer the ones without any sand. The next place we are going to visit is not really a river beach but more of what the Portuguese call a Leisure Zone. It has a river, bridge, separate swimming pool, tons grassy areas, a bar/resturant and a tennis court. What I am amazed at is everything is free here. I remember back in Bristol if it was a hot summers day we would go to the open air pool in Portishead and queue for hours to try and get in and pay an entrance fee for a limited time slot. It’s just so quiet here at the moment, I suppose it’s the lack of tourists and most tourists visit the Algarve and don’t think about Central Portugal.
Bollinger3 years ago
Thanks Helen. They sound great. You do wonder how they pay for the upkeep whilst not charging and having ultralow council tax charges. Perhaps govt pays for it through VAT on products sold at these places and rental income from businesses. Great for the consumer though.
I managed a couple of beers with a mate in my local pub’s beer garden yesterday. An extremely pleasant couple of hours. Only one other person in the large beer garden and not a mask in sight. Almost felt normal if we didnt spend half our time talking about Covid!
Helen3 years ago
The beers sound great, I bet that was a well deserved break from the new normal (what ever that is!). These little treats really do have an impact on our social, emotional and mental wellbeing.
Bye for now,