By Wendy Andersen
I’LL be honest, Chiclana de la Frontera always seemed a bit of a carbuncle to be avoided en route to the laid back beaches of Conil and El Palmar or the elegance of Vejer.
But since moving to the town, I have started to discover those hidden gems that only the locals know about.
You know, the ones that rarely make it into the guide books.
One of the best is the old abandoned fishing village of Sancti Petri, which sits on a spit between the estuary and the ocean and is slowly
If you head out early – or on a cool day – you can walk through the protected marshland that separates Sancti Petri from the town.
It is a haven for migrating birds, with a distinct sense of peace as you make your way along the paths between the labyrinth of pools.
As you leave the marshes behind, you find yourself strolling along the river, with dinghies bob in the estuary and seagulls lazily glide by.
The fishing village itself was abandoned when the tuna factory closed down years ago, and is only now being restored.
There is only limited access at present, but you do get to see it in its authentic glory.
At the end of the spit, a Coca-Cola sign heralds the entry way to the fisherman’s association, where you are guaranteed the best of the day’s catch and at the best prices.
Coming round the end of the spit, you arrive at the marina, where cabin cruisers and sail boats nestle together in their moorings.
If you’re feeling energetic you can rent a boat from the kiosk or attend classes for kayaking, surfing, kite surfing, basically anything on the water.
You can also take one of the cruises out to Sancti Petri Island, which is dominated by the foreboding castle which dates back to 1610.
(See box below for prices and contact information)
Keep walking past the fishing village and you will reach the golden sandy beaches that this part of the coast is famous for.
If the waves are very high and you have young children the river side of the beach offers calmer waters, and there is a lifeguard service.
A bit further along as you join the ocean proper, you have the full waves for surfing and general frolicking.
The breakwater that separates the two, a long stretch of rocks that nearly reaches the island of Sancti Petri, offers hours of fun to children obsessed with collecting crabs from rock pools.
Tour of Sancti Petri Island, from €22, includes train around park and boat trip to island (tel 661 858 203)
For just a boat trip and tour of island, from €10pp (Cruceros Sancti Petri. Tel. 956 100 324 / 617 378 894)
For kayak tours: €10. 676 363 718