The one thing about Tavira that keeps the crowds away and preserves the character of the town is the fact the beaches in the immediate vicinity are relatively inaccessible. You can’t just drive to the local beach; they may be only a short distance from town but can only be reached by a boat ride.
The adjacent coastline is protected by a string of Islands which are separated from the mainland by narrow strips of water and lagoons, as well as the salt flats which have been in use since Roman times. This protected wetland area is designated as the Ria Formosa Natural Park and runs all the way from Faro to the Spanish border Vila Real de Santo Antonio. It is home to the rich variety of bird and plant-life which thrives in the coastal lagoons and waterways that separate the Island Sandbars from the Mainland itself.
The nearest beach to Tavira is the Ilha de Tavira, which can only be reached by boat. In the summer months there is a seasonal water-taxi service from the centre of town (approx 15 minutes) but the main ferry, which operates all year round, leaves from the small quay at Quatro Aguas. The ride is shorter (10 mins) and cheaper (€1) but you have to get there first. You can get there on the tourist train but there is ample parking at the end, as well as a couple of nice restaurants, perfect for lunch.
Then it is a short walk from the Ferry stop across the Island to beach itself during which you will pass a number of great cafes and restaurants selling the freshest fish you could wish to find. The beach is unbelievably clean, washed as it is by the clear Atlantic tides, and wonderfully underused, except for certain National Holidays. You can walk for several km towards the West, passing as you go one or two other popular, ie more accessible stretches.