Surfers, Templars, and €170,000 Homes on Portugal’s Silver Coast

Peniche on Portugal’s Silver Coast has the best waves I’ve ever seen.

Huge waves. Fast, barreling waves. The kind that will whip you off your feet. Tube waves that surfers travel half-way across the world to find.

Indeed, surfers are everywhere. Tall, bronzed, with chiseled good looks. Barefoot and bare-chested.

But I didn’t come here to surf. For the past few days, I’ve been traveling from town to town all along this sun-kissed coast in search of that special kind of alchemy…that blend of attributes that distinguishes a nice place from a true expat destination.

Question: Are you interested in retiring abroad?
 
On the Silver Coast there are a lot of candidates. And the more of it I explore, the more I’m concluding that there isn’t just one standout destination, but many…

Silver towns
The Silver Coast stretches about 155 miles from about an hour north of Lisbon to Porto.

For the beach lover, Peniche is as good as it gets. I spent an afternoon in its historic center, strolling its calçada portuguesa, the embroidered pavement of black and white hand-cut stones that’s unique to Portuguese town.

An impressive cliff-top fortress controls its port. Stocky 15th-century churches lend grandeur to each of its small town squares…

What I like about a Peniche is that it’s a real working town. Not a resort. You’ll see leathery-skinned fishermen in tattered caps relaxing outside bars. There’s a shabby charm to it. But visitors are certainly well catered to with some sublime seafood restaurants serving up delicious charcoal grilled sardines for about $10 a plate.

Most of the action in Peniche happens around its perimeter, where miles of sandy beaches offer up some the best surf breaks in Europe. For the surfing connoisseur, Superturbos beach is the crown jewel, with its curvy waves and hollow, powerful tubes. But there are beaches here for everyone. Vast stretches of empty white sand where you’ll hardly see a footprint…secret little coves protected by Jurassic Age-strata of black rock…as well as bar-lined beaches that invite you to while away an afternoon on a sun lounger.

Baleal Island
Just north of Peniche, Baleal Island connects to the mainland by a stunning expanse of sand with a road running through the middle of it.

Golfers should head about 30 minutes north of Peniche, where a cluster of resort communities offer world-class golf and top-tier beaches on your doorstep.

My base on the Silver Coast is in Praia D’El Rey Golf and Beach community, which has an impressive course set amongst its sandy dunes. You can join Praia D’El Rey and West Cliffs nearby for an annual fee of about €1,500. In between those two courses is the Royal Óbidos, which has hosted the European Tour.

From a second home perspective, there’s good value here too. In Praia D’El Rey, you can own a villa from €260,000 ($273,520). However, the true buying moment here might have been two years ago…

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The condo I’m staying in is owned by international real estate expert, Ronan McMahon. It sits frontline to the beach, and says it cost him just €300,000 when it bought it a couple of years back. I did some sleuthing and discovered the exact same condo type now listing for €395,000 ($415,540).

Praia D'El Rey
Paul is staying in a luxury beachfront condo owned by real estate investor and founder of Real Estate Trend Alert, Ronan McMahon.

However, the true bargain hunter will want to head inland. A pleasant hour’s drive through pine forests takes me to the city of Tomar, the former seat of the Order of the Knights Templar.

The city is famed for its impressive Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that overlooks the town. But more recently the place has been attracting budget conscious expats too.

Historic homes within the medieval center are still very reasonably priced. I came across a renovated three-bedroom house listing for €170,000 ($178,671). And a large five-bedroom place with a garage right on one of the city’s main squares for €260,000 ($273,262).

This renovated three-bed lists for €170,000 ($178,671) in Tomar, Portugal
This renovated three-bed lists for €170,000 ($178,671) in Tomar, Portugal.

Tomar is a very livable city if you can forgo proximity to the beach (it’s about an hour from the coast). And it seems to be making strides in the right direction. A colleague of mine who visited a few years back found it tatty—much has changed since. Buildings are white and gleaming. Streets are wide and leafy. There’s a large indoor market. A manicured park overlooking the river Nabão. And there’s a great buzz about the place.

Tomar is a medieval town that’s been attracting more and more budget conscious expats
Tomar is a medieval town that’s been attracting more and more budget conscious expats.

But there’s always a trade-off. Away from the ocean, temperatures here soar in summer. While it was a pleasant 73 F on the coast, it was a scorching 95 F in Tomar…

The beauty of Portugal and the Silver Coast is that there is such variety in so small an area. And I’ve still a lot more to explore. I’ll be laying out my full finding in an upcoming issue of International Living magazine. Stay tuned…

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