Ilha de Itaparica

The Baía de Todos os Santos, occupying 1000 sq km, is Brazil’s largest bay, containing 56 islands rich with lush vegetation and historic architecture. The most popular escape for residents of Salvador is the island of Itaparica. The shores are lined with vacation homes, and while the beaches are only average, many travelers enjoy taking a day trip to the bars, restaurants and relaxed atmosphere of the likable island town of Mar Grande, 9km south of the transport hub of Bom Despacho.

Guarding the northern tip of the island, the Forte de São Lourenço (1711) was built by Dutch invaders and figured prominently in Bahia’s battle for independence in 1823. In the center of the island, a huge tree wraps its roots around and grows through the ruins of the Igreja Baiacu church. The clear waters of Praia Barra Grande, in front of the village, is Itaparica’s finest public beach. It has clear water and weekend homes, and lies in front of its namesake village. Plenty of casual restaurants, clustered near the ferry dock, serve Bahian-style seafood with bay views.

The boat journey from Salvador is half the fun. Passenger ferries (R$3, 40 minutes, every 30 minutes from 6am to 6pm, to 6:30pm on weekends) run between Salvador’s Terminal Marítimo Turístico and Mar Grande’s terminal. It's wise to buy your return ticket ahead of time on summer days.

We often sailed from Terminal Nautico to Ilha de Itaparica where we would spend a couple of days each time lying at anchor. It is a short and pleasant trip, but you need to keep a sharp eye on traffic - especially ferries and big cargo ships. You can anchor on the sand banks close to the small little marina. One can also fill up your water tanks from the spring water fountain nearby - or for a small fee, tie up at the marina and fill your tanks. The anchorage is nice and quiet but gets busy over weekends with locals flocking there in numbers. Be careful as there has been a number of reported boardings and theft - however, the authorities do not take any shit from these crimes.

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