Summer traditions can be great, but if you’re on year six of packing the same people into the same car to go on the same vacation, it’s time to switch things up. Surfing in Portugal, perhaps – or cycling through Northern Ireland. We've put together a list of 15 places well off the beaten path that you should go to when you're ready to try something new.
Surfers Lodge Peniche
The dream swells of the squally North Atlantic hit Portugal’s serrated seaboard hard – and as the most westerly town of mainland Europe, they pound the surfer’s paradise of Peniche hardest of all. Surfers Lodge Peniche, the newest bolt-hole on the block of the fishing village turned burgeoning resort, has just recently opened its doors to the latest campervan arrivals of wave-riders. And with its unique and nostalgic raison d’etre, it’s aiming to shore up the most old-school surfers of them all.
Run by former Swedish national surfing champ John Malmqvist, the “SLP’s” high-end concept is to bring the retro finesse of 1960’s surfing style back to life. As a result, the lodge vibe is more a heyday-homage to Californian counterculture than that of the mainstream modernism of Billabong branding and Jack Johnson on shuffle. Bedrooms and dorms here flit thematically from Woodstock to The Beatles and are all underpinned by the incomparable edge of Nordic design. Chunky bespoke furniture is crafted from the salvaged panels of old Portuguese fishing boats, while funky add-ins like denim jean ottomans and VW Kombi collectibles bring an Antiques Roadshow charm to the boho brief.
Beyond the design (and the dunes), Peniche’s coastline is a Euro-utopia for all surfing levels, with the cove at Baleal (just a block from the lodge) an ideal stomping ground for rookies. The lodge’s surf class options begin on terra firma however: stance and balance are first practiced at a nearby skate park before BOSU balls are brought in for some pre-session core warm-ups on the beach. Due to its location (jutting out on a wind-whipped peninsula), Peniche offers surfers the best breaks in Portugal, and more advanced barrel-riders can graduate to Supertubos beach nearby, known for the best pipeline on the continent.
All classes are captured on GoPros, and, afterward, groups and instructors gather back in the lounge to analyze progress (cracking a Portuguese Salves beer, an optional extra). Come evening, the lodge’s gourmet bistro and Moroccan-style roof deck, with panoramic infinity pool, are already the town’s it-spot for sundowners. West Coast spirit - Portuguese living.
So how does all that Scandi-style stack up against SLP's substance? Actually, pretty well. With no summer season under its wetsuit yet, nor barely a TripAdvisor review to its name, there's a sense that the lodge is going through an initial phase of character development. However, with a little more sand in its floorboards and a bit more amp to that Jefferson Airplane, Europe’s surfing hideaway could soon be chalking Kelly Slater tens.
More information: Surfers Lodge Peniche is located about an hour’s drive north of the capital in Lisbon, and offers surf-and-stay packages from €408 per week. The tenth round of this year’s ASP World Championship Tour also rolls into the city on October 8-19, for those considering a fall getaway.
Credit: Surfers Lodge Peniche.