«... Because before they arrived at the coast of Africa, they were struck by a storm so large with the force of winds against them, that they despaired for their lives: for the ship was so small, and the sea so rough it swallowed them, pushing the dry tree about at will. (…) But it pleased the mercy of God for the storm to cease, and although the winds caused them to miss the route they were taking according to the orders of the Prince, they (the winds) did not divert them from their good fortune: discovering the Island we now call Porto Santo, the name they gave it then because it sheltered them from the danger they went through during
the days of fortune. . . »
João Barros, 16th cent
Lying a short distance from the island of Madeira is the island of Porto Santo, a paradise island with a beach of golden sand around 9 km long. The island is itself one municipality with only one parish, that of Vila Baleira, raised to the status of municipality in 1835 and made a city in 1996.
The Christopher Columbus House-Museum is a point of reference, located next to the parish church in the Pelourinho square. It is said that the house where the museum is located was the residence of the Genoese navigator Christopher Colombus. The belvederes of the island are obligatory stops that communicate the landscape of Porto Santo, its geological formation and predominant vegetation. These points of reference are the Portela belvedere, from which one can see some windmills, formerly used to grind wheat and other cereals; the Pico das Flores belvedere, from which one can see the island of Madeira and the Desertas islands; and the Pico do Castelo belvedere, at around 430 metres elevation, protected by a fortress where the population sought refuge when under attack from pirates and corsairs.
The parish church of Porto Santo has been completely altered since the beginning of the 17th century.
The Fort of São José still maintains a line of eight iron cannons, which in former days served to defend the island. In the 20th century, the fort became private property.
The island of Porto Santo presents the visitor with a variety of pieces of handicraft that perpetuate the culture and the tradition of the island. Among the various types of works, note the braided palmetto work, made from the tender leaves of the palmetto palm and used to make varied objects, such as hats, handbags, belts, holders for glasses and bottles. Also important is the basketwork made from canes, clay transformed into decorative pieces---pots, figures for the nativity scene and others, copies of farm utensils made out of wood, miniature winepresses, ox sledges and other items out of wood, as well as the use of shells as decoration in the making of table lamps, picture frames, jewellery boxes, etc.
Nature and activities:
Today, Porto Santo offers a wide variety of recreational and sports activities, among which stand out nautical activities, walks, and golf. In regard to the walks, some of them lead to less accessible places or small elevations, among which is the path from Pico Grande to Terra Chã, from Moledo to Pico do Castelo and the Fonte da Areia walk.