Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra - Atlas Obscura

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Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra

This 17th-century Portuguese fort now houses a nautical museum. 


The Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra (Barra Lighthouse) stands sentinel on a rugged, low headland that juts out into the Atlantic off the coast of Brazil. The cape, named Ponta de Santo Antônio (Point of Santo Antônio) is within the boundaries of the vibrant and spirited city of Salvador.

The Ponta marks the northern entrance to the Baía de Todos os Santo (Bay of All Saints) and has been a significant landmark since 1501 when the Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian navigator, sailed in on All Saints’ Day, November 1. 

In 1689, the Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra was strategically and officially established here. After a tragic (and unfortunate) shipwreck on a nearby sand bar, a primitive lighthouse made of taipa, with a beacon powered by whale oil, was built within the fort as an aid to navigation. In 1839 the rudimentary lighthouse was replaced by the one you see today,  manufactured and shipped over from England. 

The formidable Barra Lighthouse rises 72 feet (22 meters) towards the sky and is built on the top of the fortification, making it even more impressive. With its height, bold black and white bands, and more powerful (electric) beacon, it is an unmistakable visual aid for mariners and a beloved icon for the locals. 

Most breathtaking and visually inspiring are the panoramic views of the mighty Atlantic to the north and the Bay of All Saints to the south. Gorgeous sandy beaches, rock outcroppings, and natural water pools perfect for a cooling swim or soak on a sweltering day flank the fort and lighthouse. 

Also, within the fortress is the Museu Náutico da Bahia (Maritime Museum of Bahia). The museum features an extensive collection of maritime and nautical artifacts, boat models, and informative panels (in Portuguese and English) illustrating the history of the area, the indigenous people, and the transatlantic slave trade. There’s also a unique display in the Salas das Miniaturas (Miniature Room) of tiny ships painstakingly built inside small glass bottles. 

Surrounded by water, Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra and the grassy area that gently slopes towards the sea is arguably one of the best spots to watch spectacular sunsets in Salvador and all the bay. 

Know Before You Go

A visit to Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra is rewarding in so many ways; the views of the bay, ocean, and fiery sunsets are phenomenal. The museum overflows with rich Brazilian history and heritage, and the surrounding beaches and waterfront are soothing and relaxing. Plus, with its proximity to restaurants, bars, and shopping, you can spend a good portion of the day here and feel like you’ve had an exciting and robust experience. 


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March 14, 2023

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