We stayed near the beach behind the huge sand dunes next to the Fair Play Bar. The parking was excellent, helped by the fact it was free again. We’ve done a lot of free wild camping in Portugal.
Costa Nova is an old fishing town, and you can still see lots of fishing boats harboured there today. There is a very wide front with a grassy park and promenade along the length of the lagoon, with a long walking and cycling trail you can enjoy. Perched on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic and the beach on one side, and the Aveiro lagoon on the other side.
Costa Nova is known for the colorful fisherman’s houses in bright primary colors and stripes. They were originally seasonal for shelters and equipment while the fishermen were out fishing. Now they are converted into homes and they give the town its signature look.
Some are painted and some are tiled.
The prettiest houses are the ones facing the lagoon, and they look glorious in the sunshine early in the morning. It looks just like you would imagine the picture-perfect summer beach huts would look.
It’s a very nice place to stay. It’s quaint, colourful and quiet. There’s also a huge beach at the back with lots of boardwalks but unfortunately, when we were there, even though it was the second week of June in sunny Portugal, the winds were coming from the North and they were cold.
It was just a 10-minute drive up the road from Costa Nova to Aveiro. Again we got to park for free, but this time we didn’t stay overnight as it was under a flyover which we’d read was quite noisy at night. But there were dozens of motorhomes there so it seemed safe and there were even a few caravans.
Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal. However, it is not really anything like Venice, just that it has a couple of canals, so it was as much like Venice as Birmingham might be, however, it was still beautiful.
We went there to see the canals, to go on a boat trip and to see some of the famous Art Nouveau houses, as Aveiro is also called The Art Nouveau City.
The whole town was very busy with coach loads of people getting off. We checked one boat ticket office and were told they were fully booked (with coach trips) for the next 2 hours. We didn’t think we would be able to get on a boat trip, but we were lucky to get the last couple of spaces along with a french coach trip. Just like the Red Sails Cayman Glassbottom boat out of Rum Point, they can always squeeze two more on.
It was €10 each for a 45 minute trip on a large boat with side seating and a pronounced prow. The boats are actually quite similar in style to gondolas but much larger. They were originally used in the seaweed trade in the area, where seaweed was dried and used as fertilizer.
The seaweed was the main source of fertiliser for use on the farmland that surrounded the city, ensuring that it played a vital rule in Aveiro’s agricultural economy. The low-edged design of the boats (Moliceiros) was perfect for gathering seaweed and the long, shallow body was ideal for navigating through low waters.
They were nicely painted and decorated with religious scenes, favourite footballers or teams, or bawdy and saucy scenes involving ladies with large breasts etc.
It was a pleasant enough trip along the canals and past the salt flats. The guide gives a brief history of the town and the boats, and some recommendations for other things to visit in the area. We were really lucky to have a very fun guide who was not only perfectly multi-lingual but could sing and play the guitar as well.
The architecture of the town isn’t that interesting apart from some very nice art nouveau houses that front onto the canal in the poshest part of town.
The art nouveau museum is housed in the most impressive looking house, but the museum itself isn’t very interesting, although there is a mini-movie of the times which kept us entertained. There is very little in the museum, and the interior of the house is completely plain and modernised, so just the facade, circular staircase, windows and doors of the original remain.
The downstairs and rear garden is now a small cafe.
Overall, Aveiro is a very touristy place, and busy, but the boat trip is pleasant and if you enjoy Art Nouveau architecture, you can enjoy a nice couple of hours here. Costa Nova is a pretty and relaxed place to visit and makes a good base to explore the area.