The Northern Littoral Natural Park spans 18 kilometres of coastline in the municipality of Esposende and consists of a variety of habitats such as beaches, open sea, riverbanks, rocky reefs, dunes, pine and oak forests as well as agricultural zones. Many small river systems flow into the Atlantic in this area, the largest of them, the rio Cávado, forming a large estuary.
The natural park has an area of 8887 hectares, approximately 86% being marine areas and 14% terrestrial areas. The park was created to preserve the dunes and the wildlife in the area from human impacts, mainly urbanization.
This marine component of the Park is a multi-use area with two differently regulated partially protected zones.
Why is it important?
The large number of different habitats in the Natural Park gives rise to a large number of marine, fluvial and terrestrial species.
Here, more than 240 plant species can be found. The composition is highly dependent on the habitat with many species specially adapted to their environment. This great diversity in plants and habitats generate enough food and shelter to sustain 220 different species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish within the park.
In the Park’s waters, there are 93 fish species, including some commercially valuable species. These include the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), the European conger (Conger conger) or the white seabream (Diplodus sargus). In the park’s rivers for example one can find the critically endangered European eel (Anguilla Anguilla).
As many as 142 bird species have been recorded, most of them using this area temporarily during their annual migrations.
The best way to explore the Northern Littoral Park is by taking a nice walk over the dunes and try spotting some wildlife. Parking is easy and the dunes are made accessible for visitors by boardwalks that at the same time protect the dunes and their flora and fauna from trampling.
In the hottest months talk a stroll through the cooling pine forests or go for a refreshing dive in the Atlantic and soak up in the sun on the sandy beaches.
The Castro de São Lourenço makes for a great walk around the ancient ruins in an idyllic forest setting and the visitor centre will reward you with a little history lesson of our own species.