São Lourenço Bay, located in the northeast part of Santa Maria, constitutes a unique landscape – a huge semi-conical slope, much like a half of a volcanic crater, entirely covered by dry stone wine corrals and bordered by a series of white houses on the water edge.
Vineyards grow within these basalt walls, which protect them from the wind and rain, while concentrating the sun’s heat on their tender leaves; the stone structures extend from the top of the cliff to the white sand beach and the crystal clear sea waters below.
The Romeiro islet stands on the southern end of the bay, adorned by a curious cave where stalactites and stalagmites once grew. A natural interior jetty allows access by boat and lets us have a glimpse of the only Azorean endemic mammal: the Nyctalus azoreum bat.
The superior quality of its natural and environmental heritage led to the classification of the bay as a Regional Natural Reserve and a Corine Biotope (Location of Communitary Interest for the Protection of Nature and Wildlife).
Some endemic plant species can be observed here, such as the green heather (Erica azorica), the “pau-branco” (Picconia azorica), the “malfurada” (Hypericum foliosum), the Azorean euphorbia (Euphorbia azorica), the local laurel (Laurus azorica) and the fire tree (Morella faya).
The bay is considered a very important habitat for the nesting of several protected marine birds, namely Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) and the roseate tern (Sterna dougallii).