Porto Moniz used to be the center of the whaling industry on Madeira Island. It lasted from 1941 until 1981, but these days the town is mainly catering to tourists stopping there for lunch and for the fantastic views of Madeira’s rugged north coast.
Whaling on Madeira Island.
Whaling was done from open boats in the past.
Whaling was brought to Madeira from the Azores, where there has been a much longer and stronger tradition for whaling. The oil from the whales used to be worth a lot of money, as it was used to produced various things. It was even used as car fuel during the second world war. During the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s, whaling was big in Porto Moniz and it was the main income of the inhabitants. Madeira was extremely poor at that time. Portugal was ruled by the facist dictator Salazar, who hated Madeira and suppressed the island and it’s inhabitants. Even in the 1970’s when whaling started to become unprofitable, they kept catching a few whales in Porto Moniz. Mainly because they had no electricity in town and needed the oil from the whales for their oil lamps. Whales were caught in tiny open boats with hand held harpoons. The whaling industry was never highly industrialised on Madeira, like you see it in Norway, Russia and Japan.
Whales were harpooned by hand in Porto Moniz.
But these days there is no more whaling in Porto Moniz. The town is mainly agricultural and there is a little bit of fishing too. Porto Moniz makes a perfect stop for the tour busses coming from the sough coast of Madeira and a handful of restaurants in town are cashing in on that and giving work to a few dozen locals. I think this is good for the town as it could easily become deserted, had it not been for the tourism jobs. There are about half a dozen small hotels there too. They cater mainly to people coming to the island for hiking. There are no big resort hotels in Porto Moniz, as the weather on the north coast of Madeira is a little too unsteady for traditional holiday makers.
Lunch restaurants has replaces whaling in Porto Moniz these days.
Natural pools and the old fort, which is today and aquarium.
But because of the lack of big resorts, Porto Moniz still has a lot of charm. And some of the most breathtaking views you will find anywhere. If you happen to come to Madeira one day, then I would highly recommend spending a night or two in town, so that you catch the small town atmosphere there, once the tour busses have returned with the tour groups coming at lunch time. Porto Moniz still has some of the old Madeira charm and a wonderful rugged coastline.
Porto Moniz clings to the steep mountain slopes.
The coastline by Porto Moniz is rugged and stunning.