The attractive fishing village of Ferragudo has done a good job of avoiding the wholesale development that has affected much of this part of the Algarve. This is even more impressive considering its location at the mouth of the Rio Arade estuary, right across the water from the tourist hotspots of Portimão and Praia da Rocha. It is something of a wonder how the village has retained much of its traditional charm given its sprawling neighbours and prime location. To describe it has a hidden gem may be going too far, but as it hovers on the edge of the tourist radar it remains largely unspoilt.
Ferragudo sits on the banks of a small offshoot of the main Arade estuary. The palm-lined riverfront here divides what can be considered the old village from the newer developments just across the water before it gives way to the little park. Across the road from here is the main square, the charming little Praça Rainha Dona Leonor. Lined with cafes this is the perfect spot for a breakfast coffee and pastry or a bite to eat at lunch whilst you watch the daily catch being unloaded. Head a little way along the riverfront from here and you'll find exactly where the locally caught seafood ends up - in any of a number of fish restaurants that look out over the waters of the Arade.
From the waterside a warren of cobbled streets lined with whitewashed cottages rise up into the old village. If you keep heading uphill you are bound to reach Ferragudo's church. From the terrace in front of the church are some great views over the Arade to Portimão and of the closest beach, Praia da Angrinha. As well as being a very pleasant sandy beach, Angrinha is also home to the medieval Castelo de São João de Arade which commands an elevated position on the headland at the southern end of the beach.
This castle dates back to the 16th century when many of the Algarve's fortifications were built. It sits on the opposite side of the river to its counterpart, the Fortaleza de Santa Catarina in Praia da Rocha. These defences originally came about to defend the coast from pirates and corsairs, and were simple watchtowers. As time passed needs changed and in the 17th century the fortifications were much extended as the entrance to the Arade became of potential strategic importance during the Restoration War with Spain.
By 1896 the fortress had fallen into disuse and was sold at auction. To a large extent its present appearance and styling is down to the poet Coelho Carvalho who took it on as a summer residence. Today the status of the property is a little unclear; it is owned by the state but not open to the public.
Along with the charms of the old village, Ferragudo's biggest draw is the array of fine beaches nearby. The town's main beach is considered to be Praia Grande which lies on the far side of the Castelo de São João de Arade. As the name suggests this is a good-sized stretch of sand and it faces into the calm waters of the estuary making swimming pretty safe here.
The sheltered waters of the Arade beaches are ideal for a range of watersports including kayaking and windsurfing. To get to one of the nearby ocean beaches you'll have to head a little further out of town and beyond the breakwater that protects the mouth of the river. The first of these little coves is the Praia do Pintadinho which nestles in the shelter of the imposing headland of Ponta do Altar
The headland here is home to a pretty little lighthouse which now stands in the shadow of a huge concrete tower. It is worth the trip down the single lane track to the lighthouse for the views up and down the coast.