If you’re looking for a campsite near to Santander ferry port, then Camping Virgen del Mar is your best option. It’s only a 15 minute drive from the Santander ferry port and there’s a regular bus that stops nearby to take you into the city of Santander. Plus, the beach is a 5 minute walk away, it’s open all year round, and although the pitches are rather hemmed in and offer little privacy, the facilities are good.
We camped at Camping Virgen del Mar in our Mazda Bongo in December 2021. This was our first campsite on our Northern Spain road trip and we decided to stay two nights, to allow a full day to explore the city of Santander (which we very much recommend).
If you are taking the ferry between Santander and Portsmouth, read: Essential tips for taking the ferry to Spain from the UK.
What to expect at the campsite
As we were visiting in the low season, the campsite was very quiet, with only a couple of other motorhomes on site. We imagine that as it’s near to the Santander ferry port and the beach, it’s a very different story in the summer months.
Pitches are typical of most Spanish campsites, and on the small side. Indeed our small Bongo camper with attached awning spread onto a second pitch! There is also little in the way of shade for the summer months.
The pitches are grassy (and were rather waterlogged at the time of our visit) and there are EHUs.
The large and clean wash block has hot showers and washing facilities, with a small playground adjacent (suitable for age 6 and under).
On site there is also a restaurant and small swimming pool, although these were closed at the time of our visit as it was winter.
The nearby beach
To get to the nearby beach, take a left out of the campsite entrance and walk down the hill for 250 metres to a large car park. From here you can walk up to the church, or take the steps down to a small sandy cove.
Next to the car park is a taverna.
Getting the bus to Santander
The number 17 bus to the centre of Santander runs hourly from the stop outside the church (not the church on the coast, but the church in the village), which is a 10 minute walk from the campsite. At the time of our visit the bus fare was €1.30 per person.
Click here for Google maps location of the bus stop.
Unfortunately the back gate to the campsite is locked, which means that you have to take a detour out of the front entrance to get to the bus stop.
Take a right out of the front entrance, walk along the road for 100 metres and then walk across the wasteland on the right to meet a small lane. Turn right and then follow the lane round to the left to meet a main road (this lane is rather popular with fly tippers!) Once you reach the main road, take a left and walk up the hill to the bus stop, right outside the church.
The bus takes 30 minutes to get to the centre of Santander.
What is there do to in Santander?
When you alight at the central bus station, make your way to Centro Botin, a striking modern building that overlooks the harbour. You can walk up the steps (for free) to check out the views of the city.
In the Jardines de Pereda, just behind Centro Botin, is a fantastic playground for kids with outdoor seating next to a bar. Yes parents, order yourself a Mahou and tapas whilst your little darlings release their energy in the playground.
Follow the footpath along the waters edge, leading away from the city centre. This leads you past a marina, and then further onwards to Playa Los Peligros (a lovely sandy beach with the stunning backdrop across the waters of jagged mountains).
Further round the coast is vast swath of sandy beach known as Playa Del Camello. From here, we took the number 2 bus back towards the campsite.
Things to note for Camping Virgen del Mar
- Check in is from 10:00am to 22:00pm. The early check in time is very handy if your ferry to Santander arrives early.
- If you arrive and no one is in reception, there’s a buzzer next to the door.
- Check out is noon.
- Dogs are NOT allowed on site.
- At night you’ll hear the local dogs howling and barking quite loudly.
- There is no supermarket on site or nearby. Stock up before you arrive.
How to book Camping Virgen del Mar
Final thoughts on Camping Virgen del Mar
The campsite is a little tired and cramped, but if you want to explore Santander, or looking for a campsite near to Santander ferry port, this Camping Virgen del Mar is your best option. Indeed, it’s absolutely fine for a couple of nights. The bus into the city was very handy and it’s a lovely walk down to the beach in the evening.
Our next stop? A San Sebastian campsite.