Stylist editor Susan Riley finds Comporta is the best complement Lisbon can get.
One hour’s drive from Lisbon down the A2 and A12 – or slightly longer if you take the scenic route on an Atlantic ferry from Setúbal during the summer (far prettier and you can spot bottlenose dolphins as you cross the estuary) – is Comporta, Comporta, the most rustic, back-to-nature beach break we’ve encountered to date.
Comporta itself is a sleepy hamlet, but people use its name to refer to the region in general: the Troia peninsula or the Herdade da Comporta coastline between the Sado estuary and the sea. Made up of seven hamlets (Pego, Carvalhal, Brejos, Torre, Possanco, Carrasqueria and Comporta) and three beach points (Comporta, Carvalhal and Pego), its allure is its barefoot decadence. Tranquil and secluded, but with a touch of class and special atmosphere, its umbrella pines, cork trees, sand dunes and rice fields make the perfect backdrop for horse rides, bike rides, hikes and picnics.
Disclaimer: do not expect much to be going on down here, because (thankfully) it’s not. Save for a stretch of untouched sand (60km worth – I can report shell collecting is bountiful), a few wineries and restaurants at the end of clickety-clackety boardwalks which have forced a Hamptons comparison. Even Comporta village itself, all white-washed and teeming with nesting storks, is tiny, with just a couple of shops and eateries, including Museu do Arroz, housed in a former grain store, and the unassuming São João with its home-style cooking, including seafood rice dishes, Alentejo pork and clams, and an addictive scrambled egg with chorizo.
Comporta’s untouristy nature means places to stay here are discreet, tasteful and arty. Sublime Comporta, a 15-minute drive from Comporta village, is a 42- acre estate that feels like an upscale commune. A feat of minimalist architecture nestled into nature, glass and timberclad frames are dotted through the trees, housing 14 rooms, ultra-cool ‘cabana’ villas with pools and driveways, and a main house boasting restaurant Sem Porta. Relaxation here is easy peasy, not to mention decadent; from the buffet breakfast of dreams (sugar-dusted mini doughnuts, custard tarts… it’s Willy Wonka meets Raymond Blanc) and three pools, to the firepit shaded by olive trees and the subterranean spa.
We enjoyed locally made fizz on the deck after a languid game of tennis; there are also bikes to borrow and an outdoor organic restaurant for dining under the stars. Just come armed with repellant: mosquitoes love it here and they most certainly loved us. It was a bloodbath.
Back down the main road, Restaurant Dona Bia is touted as the best in town, but you can’t go wrong on the coast. Enjoy a tapas-style lunch at Comporta Cafe on Comporta beach and grilled fish at Sal Comporta on Pego beach. Then plot what to do next, and don’t show this review to anyone. It’s our secret, OK?
Rooms at Sublime Comporta from £200; sublimecomporta.pt; firstname.lastname@example.org
Images: Sublime Comporta/Getty