From Florianópolis airport, drive just over 100 km and find a summer to call your own
by Manu Sombra | photos Anna Carolina Negri
In summer, the length of the Brazilian coast suggests an obvious destination: the beach. What many people don’t know – but Argentines, Uruguayans, Gauchos discovered long ago – is that the Atlantic Ocean draws in the South of Santa Catarina some of its most exuberant landscapes.The beach here has its own definition and edgings, being entitled to pine trees, rocky walls, and cold water, which in the warmer season can mean refreshing. Among the sea baths, dives in History: high mountains with sediments of shells and sand remind the primitive people who lived in this region thousands of years ago. A row of houses, fortifications, and churches date of more recent chapters, such as the Farroupilha Revolution, which extended from the Rio Grande do Sul to Santa Catarina as of 1835. Or the Armações Baleeiras (frame of whale fishing), which between the 17th and 19th centuries promoted the killing of whales at the Brazilian coast for the production and export of oil. Palhoça, Garopaba, Imbituba, and Laguna are our destinations on the next pages. The four cities today focus on fishing, surfing, and tourism, which, from July to October, have whale watching as their great attraction. But it’s January. Our mission is to show that it is unforgettable to feel the heat in the South.
87 km far from Floripa Airport, Garopaba means boat cove in the Tupi-Guarani language. But it is from the Portuguese colonization – more specifically Azorean, from 1666 – that the city retains the clearest traces of the past, observed in the architecture and urban design of its Historical Center. From the churchyard of São Joaquim Church, built in 1846 on the top of a rock where there was a frame of whale fishing, we see the cove of Praia (Beach) dos Pescadores. Anchored vessels refer to the name of indigenous baptism, while herons feed on fish leftover in the sand. In the early hours, birds compete for space with runners and meditation practitioners.From the Historical Center, you can continue walking to the narrow Praia da Vigia, where the sea is calm and inviting.
City tours lead to more distant destinations, such as Praia do Silveira, designed between hills of the Atlantic Forest and considered one of the best for surfing. Further to the south, Praia da Ferrugem has that named because it has a coppery tone but clear lagoon, the Lagoa de Garopaba. Only follow your trip after knowing the Dunas do Siriú. Sandboard rents provide a slip between the hills, which reach 40 meters height. Enjoy the walk listening to the wind, and relax. Really close, the sandy hills make Praia do Siriú look like a mirage on the horizon. A metal staircase by the Estrada (Road) Paulo Lopes brings us back to the real world.
From Florianópolis International Airport, 66 km of the two-way road takes us to Guarda do Embaú, a village that lends its name to Palhoça’s best-known stretch of sand. Guarda do Embaú beach is a huge sandy bank cut by the narrow river of Madre. Cross it by canoeing or swimming.As children bathe in the mild-temperature river, surfers float in the sea, waiting for the perfect wave. In 2019, Guarda became the first Brazilian beach to join the prestigious World Surfing Reserves (WSR), a program created by Save the Waves Coalition organization to recognize and protect global surf habitats that have consistent waves and a sports-oriented culture. Only nine beaches in the world have reached this recognition so far.If you have no intimacy with the board, don’t worry. The neighboring beaches of Pinheira and Sonho have less choppy waters. The climb to Pedra do Urubu presents us with a panorama of the region, which integrates the Parque Estadual da (Estate Park of) Serra do Tabuleiro. And an ecological trail between the cliffs leads us to the mystical Vale da Utopia (Utopia Valley).
Different looks combine towards Imbituba. The national capital of the Southern Right Whale hosts the Instituto (Institute) Australis, which monitors these marine mammals from July to October when they arrive to give birth. The city has already hosted stages of the World Championship Tour – WCT, and in 2015 was cited by the English newspaper The Guardian for having one of the ‘top ten beaches you have probably never heard of.” We are 97 km from the airport in the capital. The advice is to abuse the sunscreen to walk about 10 km through paradisiacal scenarios of the South of Santa Catarina. The trail begins at Barra de Ibiraquera. The quiet summer community is bordered by the Lagoa (Lagoon) de Ibiraquera, which is seasonally invaded by saltwater, forming delicious natural pools.When passing through Praia do Luz, a hill reminds us that we are among some of the most important shell mounds in the Country. Very common in Santa Catarina, these mounts of sand and shell sediments were built by the people who lived on the coast between 2 and 8 thousand years ago. A heap of bones found suggests that they may have been the cemeteries of primitive men who inhabited America.From Praia do Luz, we follow a trail of spit forest interspersed with viewpoints, from where you can see the port region of Imbituba. Rock formations and pastures make the look even more bucolic – it is common to find cows and need to deviate from some horn along the way. A stop at the reserved Praia do Porto Novo, a small cove surrounded by fishing ranches, again proves that it is possible to dive without surf in the surf land.The hippie, relaxed vibe of Praia do Rosa, described by The Guardian as a paradise to discover, has been giving way to the hype. Divided into Rosa Sul and Rosa Norte, this 3 km stretch of sand today is surrounded by seafood bars and restaurants. The suggestion is to recharge the batteries.Another trail leads to Praia Vermelha, a secluded stretch of coast surrounded by pine trees and hills, where camouflaged mansions in the forest indicate some human presence. Wooden ranches are the basis for artisanal mullet fishing, which in winter mobilizes the local community. At Praia do Ouvidor (already after Imbituba’s border with Garopaba), these beachfront cabins transform the landscape into a beautiful postcard.
The tip is to change the sand for the cobblestone. In the city’s Historical Center, row houses form an interesting architectural mosaic from different times. Here the Portuguese-Brazilian, eclectic, and art deco styles talk to each other. Laguna is 134 km from the airport but transports the visitor farther. The bronze statue in one of the squares honors his most illustrious character: Anita Garibaldi was born at Laguna, who also met the Italian general and guerrilla Giuseppe Garibaldi there. The couple fought together in the Farroupilha Revolution – Republican revolt that between 1835 and 1845 extrapolated Gaucho territory – and in the unification of Italy, where Anita was buried. Leaving the Historical Center, visit Molhes da Barra, and the restaurants that surround the Lagoa do Imaruí, where the flagship is the locally-caught shrimp. We highly recommend you to go by car so you optimize the travel time. To Farol (Lighthouse) de Santa Marta, for example, we traveled 17 km of paved road, with a ferry crossing. Built in 1891 at Cabo de Santa Marta, the lighthouse can be seen from different points and contrasts in magnitude with the quiet village of its surroundings. A walk on the beaches and hills of the region surprises with new shell mound, native birds, and a climate of contemplation that suggests staying longer. One thing: you may want to stay there for good.