Turn of the Tide (2023), (Rabo de Peixe in Portuguese, its original title), is the first Portuguese series to enter Netflix’s global Top 10 non-English speaking series and is set in one of our favorite places in the World, the Azores Islands. Two reasons that alone already caught our attention to start watching the first episode. From the first scene until the end of the series, it was a weekend marathon.
Warning, this article contains spoilers from the first season of the Netflix series Turn of the Tide
The fictional series created by Augusto Fraga has as its starting point an event that happened in reality on the island of São Miguel in 2001 when a ship carrying drugs was shipwrecked and caused the tide to drag half a ton of cocaine (505.84 kg of cocaine with a purity of over 80%) to the north coast of the island of São Miguel in the Azores and, more specifically, to the town of Rabo de Peixe, one of the poorest in the country at that time. It is one of those moments in history when reality overcomes fiction and, in this case and in our opinion, this team knew how to take a real fact and create an addictive fiction of seven episodes joining a suspenseful plot, an incredible work of the actors and actresses and a stunning photography in the stunning island of São Miguel.
If you are a fan of the series and are going to visit the island of São Miguel or even if it was precisely the series that whetted your appetite to know the largest island of the Azores, in this article you will find the main locations of the most special scenes of the adventure starring maboy Eduardo (José Condessa), Sílvia (Helena Caldeira), Rafael (Rodrigo Tomás) and Carlinhos (André Leitão), 4 young people from Rabo de Peixe in search of a different life.
Nothing in this seven-episode adventure would be the same without the fearsome and unscrupulous Arruda (brilliantly played by Albano Jerónimo) and his subject Zé do Frango (Dinarte de Freitas), the mobsters Francesco Bonino (Marcantónio del Carlo) and “il padrino” Monti (Francesco Acquaroli) and, of course, the priest Antonio (Miguel Damião), who opens the first scene of the first episode.
The young rapexinhos (affectionate term for people of Rabo de Peixe, pronounced with pride by the characters) also count on the help of Bruna (Kelly Bailey) and Ian (José Afonso Dias Pimental) despite the relentless pursuit of justice by Inspector Frias of the “mainland” Police, i.e. Continental Portugal (Mª João Bastos), the local policeman Francisco (Salvador Martinha) and his superior Banha (João Pedro Vaz). Everything comes to an end, of course, with the help of the pyrotechnician Uncle Joe (Pepê Rapazote).
Although some parts of the series were filmed in Mafra, Almada or Lisbon, especially in interior spaces such as the Instituto de Medicina Legal e Ciências Forenses, the series is set on the Azorean island of São Miguel and the landscapes of the green island turned the island itself into one of the protagonists of the series and one of those responsible for its worldwide success.
Filming locations for the Turn of the Tide series on the island of São Miguel
Rabo de Peixe and Porto Formoso
Of course, the first location mentioned in this article has to be the village of Rabo de Peixe, in the municipality of Ribeira Grande, on the north coast of the island of São Miguel. A humble village of 8,800 inhabitants and fishermen’s cottages where, in 2001, the tide dragged half a ton of cocaine, an event that sociologically altered the quiet village, one of those with the highest poverty rates in Portugal that year, and from which the plot develops.
In the fiction series Turn of the Tide it is precisely in this town where the four main characters, Eduardo, Silvia, Rafael and Carlinhos live; where the video store “América” is located (although the letter A of the neon is always off) where Silvia works; where the concert of Sandro G with his hit “Eu não vou chorar” took place, a concert in which Silvia suffers an overdose; and practically the central location of the entire series. However, as for the shooting location, at Randomtrip we believe that some of the scenes that correspond in the series to the town of Rabo de Peixe were actually shot in Porto Formoso, another town in the same municipality, 18 km away from Rabo de Peixe.
It was in Rabo de Peixe, more specifically in the restaurant Botequim Açoriano, where we tasted the best tuna steak of our two-month trip through the nine islands of the Azores. As a curious fact, the restaurant overlooks another of the filming locations of the series: the Rabo de Peixe cemetery , where Eduardo’s mother, Fátima (Daniela Ruah), is buried and, later, where Eduardo’s father, Jeremiah (Adriano Carvalho), will be buried.
Hopefully the series will attract respectful tourism to the Azores Islands (more specifically to the island of São Miguel), an archipelago of sublime beauty and wonderful people, and not follow the path of narcotourism that we unfortunately experienced on our trip to Colombia (more specifically to the city of Medellin). The Colombian country has suffered and suffers from the stigma of drug addiction and drug trafficking revived by the successful Netflix series Narcos, to the detriment of the country’s heterogeneity, beauty and charming people. In our opinion, in this type of tourism, morbidity takes precedence over historical memory and, since we promote responsible tourism, our advice is not to contribute and not to be complicit in this type of tourism (which in turn is also irresponsible tourism) if given the chance.
Along with the town of Rabo de Peixe, the port is the place where some of the most important scenes of the plot of the series take place. What you may not know is that the famous port of the series Turn of the Tide is Porto Formoso, also belonging to the municipality of Ribeira Grande, 18 km from Rabo de Peixe. It is in this port where part of the population of Rabo de Peixe is seen picking up the packages of cocaine carried by the tide. It is also in this port where we see the arrest of the Italian mafia trafficker Francesco Bonino; where Eduardo and Rafael leave with their boat; and where Arruda kills Rafael a few meters from the shore.
As a curiosity, it is near this port where some of the only tea plantations in Europe and the last two tea factories in Europe are located: the Fábrica de Chá do Porto Formoso and the most famous, the Fábrica de Chá Gorreana. The visit to the Porto Formoso tea factory is free and every year in spring there is a recreation of the tea harvest in the old style, including traditional costumes.
Porto Formoso Church
It is also in Porto Formoso where another important filming location is located, so important that it is where the first scene of the first episode takes place : in the church. Although the plot of the series is set in Rabo de Peixe and the first scene is, according to the dialogues of the characters, in the “Church of Rabo de Peixe”, the church that appears in the series is actually the beautiful Church of Porto Formoso, or rather, the Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça.
It is in this church that the priest of Rabo de Peixe, António, suffers an overdose while celebrating mass; it is also here that one of the most interesting conversations between Carlinhos and the priest António takes place, and one of the most beautiful musical moments of the series when André Leitão sings and plays on the piano the song “A Little Respect” by Erasure; it is also in this church that the mafioso Monti kidnaps Carlinhos.
Caldeiras in Lagoa das Furnas
One of the most heartbreaking scenes of the series is when the villain Arruda, in an act of revenge for the possible betrayal and distrust of one of his subjects, Zé dos Frangos, pushes him into one of Furnas’ steaming volcanic cauldrons.
Furnas is one of the oldest areas on the island of São Miguel, formed approximately 750,000 years ago, and also the most visited on the island. Why? The “Furnas Valley” is located in the crater of the Furnas volcano, one of the three still active volcanoes and the largest on the island of São Miguel.
And it is precisely next to Lagoa das Furnas where there are some holes in the ground with a “lid” (like the one Arruda is seen closing with Zé inside) that are authentic natural kitchens where a famous dish of the island is prepared: the “Cozido das Furnas”! After introducing all the ingredients of a “cozido à portuguesa” (meat, sausages, vegetables), the pan is wrapped in a linen cloth and a friendly local (unlike Arruda) carefully lowers it into one of the holes of the cauldron, where the volcanic heat will cook it. You have to be patient because the “Cozido das Furnas” takes several hours to cook, and maybe that’s what saved Zé …. To give you an idea, normally the stew served in Furnas restaurants at lunchtime (from 12 noon onwards), has been in the boiler since 4 am.
Vila Franca do Campo Islet
In the center of the south coast of the island is the oldest municipality of São Miguel, capital of the island until 1522, Vila Franca do Campo and about 500 meters from the coast is the Ilhéu de Vila Franca or, as it is also known, the “princess ring”, due to its shape. This islet is an ancient submerged volcano whose flooded crater forms an almost perfect circle with a small opening to the sea.
It is precisely on this islet where Eduardo and Rafael hide the cocaine so that Arruda cannot confiscate it. It is also on this islet where we discover that Eduardo and Jeremiah do not get to kill the mobster Monti after all, as he reappears on the islet and is discovered by a group of scouts, from whom he steals the boat to return to São Miguel. In this “reappearance” of Monti on the islet of Vila Franca there is a scene, at night, in which he commands the cagarros (Atlantic shearwaters) to be quiet, an indispensable part of the soundtrack of any trip to the Azores.
Cagarros (Atlantic shearwaters) are a migratory bird that nests in the Azores and whose particular song of“awa awa” (almost as if they were singing the chorus of the song Video Killed the Radio Star), leaves no one indifferent. If you are going to travel to the Azores soon, you should know that in order to avoid situations where young shearwaters are captured or run over on the road, the Government of the Azores promotes every year the SOS Cagarro Campaign, which we advise you to get to know when you arrive in the archipelago.
The place on the island where some of the most action-packed and also the most tragic scenes of this plot take place is the Arnel lighthouse. This lighthouse is the oldest in the Azores, installed in 1876 (it still works today, although automated, without a lighthouse keeper on site) and to visit it you have to go down a very narrow and steep road (35% inclination) where the shootout between the Scandinavian Magnusson and Arruda and his subjects takes place. It is here that the Scandinavians realize that Arruda is trying to sell them flour with sugar instead of cocaine, and where Arruda realizes that he has been cheated by Ian, by Bruna, by Eduardo (or as Arruda calls him, “Quarta-feira” – Wednesday), by his daughter Sílvia and by his subject Zé, by way of revenge.
Unlike the characters in the series, at Randomtrip we do not recommend doing this walk down (and then up) to the lighthouse by car (you can even risk it but keep in mind that less powerful cars may have problems on the way up and if you cross another vehicle on the way up it can be a drama, although not as tragic as Rabo de Peixe). You can leave the car parked at the top, on the main road (EN1-1A), and walk down, it is a good exercise. If you want to enter the lighthouse to pay homage to the place where Zé, one of the most beloved characters in the series, died, you can do so on Thursdays (from 14:00 to 17:00 in summer, and from 13:30 to 16:30 in winter).
Do not leave this area without contemplating the panoramic view from the Miradouro da Ponta do Arnel, where you will have incredible views of the lighthouse and the surroundings, and even a waterfall that you can get close to, the Ponta do Arnel Waterfall.
This lighthouse is located in one of our favorite areas of the island of São Miguel, the Northeast. In the past it was so complicated to reach the Northeast of the island due to the existing roads and the time it took to get there that the area was known as the “tenth island” of the Azores. Nowadays, with the improvement of the roads and the incredible landscapes it offers, it is more and more on the tourist route of those who visit the green Azorean island.
Monte Palace Hotel
There is something poetic and sinister about abandoned buildings. Perhaps that’s why the ruins of the Monte Palace hotel were chosen as the setting for one of the most important scenes in the plot of the Turn of the Tide series: the encounter between the police forces and the mafioso Monti, who (spoiler alert!) finally manages to escape.
The building of the Monte Palace Hotel, in front of the incredible Vista do Rei viewpoint and its panoramic view of the Sete Cidades Lagoon (which still gives it more photo and videogeny), tells stories of what was once a luxury hotel that opened in 1989 (apparently 6 years later than planned) and closed less than 2 years later due to financial problems.
The hotel’s top floor terrace offers stunning views of the Sete Cidades lagoon. Knowing today that recently the real estate group Level Constelation has acquired the hotel to turn it into something beautiful (and hopefully as sustainable as a hotel can be), even though it currently has no security or signage, you should know that it is private property and entry is prohibited.
This hotel is located in front of one of the most beautiful and photogenic lagoons on the island of São Miguel, Lagoa das Sete Cidades. Although it may look like two lagoons together, one green and one blue, it is actually a single lagoon with green water on one side and blue on the other, of different depth and concentration of algae, which do not mix. There is a legend associated with this lagoon that gives it its name. You can read about this legend in our complete guide to São Miguel Island.
The capital of the island is where, “supposedly”, the Police is located where Inspector Frias (who comes from mainland Portugal on purpose to help in this case) and the other members of the Ponta Delgada Police such as Banha and Francisco work. It is also in the capital where the Ponta Delgada Prison is located, where Francesco Bonino is arrested and subsequently escapes thanks to the help of the corrupt prison official Morcela (Rafael Morais). When Inspector Frias meets with the Secretary General of the Autonomous Region of the Azores at the Clube Micaelense, this place is also located in the capital of the island. We recall that it is precisely at this meeting that the Secretary General pronounces one of the most forceful statements of the series about the oblivion, condescension and superiority complex with which Continental Portugal has been managing any matter related to the Autonomous Region of the Azores: “It took more than 400 years for a Portuguese king to deign to visit the archipelago”.
We say “supposedly” because as these scenes mentioned were filmed indoors, they could very well have been filmed in Lisbon or Almada.
São Pedro Gonçalves Sports Pavilion
In almost every episode in which cocaine dealing is recorded in Rabo de Peixe, there is a central place where the action takes place: next to a soccer field. It is the Polideportivo São Pedro Gonçalves, near the sea and with the colorful buildings behind it. The place where Arruda and Zé park the car so many times to control all the movements is here.
San Miguel West Coast
Finally, the most difficult location, both for us as viewers (it is not easy to decipher where it was shot) and, in fiction, for Arruda (who wanted to find out where Eduardo, Silvia and Carlinhos were hiding): the location on the island of São Miguel of Uncle Joe’ s Cabin and its surroundings. As it is known, maboy Eduardo’s uncle Eduardo (as he calls his nephew), Uncle Joe (brother of Eduardo’s mother, brother-in-law of Jeremiah), after spending several years detained in a prison in the United States, was deported to his country of origin, Portugal, and more specifically, to the island where he was born: São Miguel. And it is precisely in his house where the three young people, Eduardo, Sílvia and Carlinhos take refuge, who want to escape from both the villain Arruda and the police.
It is already confirmed that the cabin is not on the island of São Miguel but in Mafra, but the scenes shot on the beach, where Eduardo and Silvia finally resolve that unresolved love and sexual tension throughout the season; where the three have a few moments of happiness with Uncle Joe where each one travels to his childhood; and where Eduardo has the sad news of the murder of his father; in Randomtrip we bet (mind you, it’s just an idea) that it is on the west coast of São Miguel. Such scenes transport us to the volcanic landscape of Mosteiros Beach or surroundings; Ponta da Ferraria or Ponta do Escalvado. Although it could also be a scene from the south coast of the island, near Feteiras.
The success of the first season of the series Turn of the Tide was such that it premiered on May 26, 2023 and on June 15, 2023 Netflix announced a second season. Did Eduardo and Carlinhos arrive safely to the American coast? Did Silvia continue with her pregnancy? What happened to the mobster Monti: did he escape or was he finally captured by Inspector Frias? Is it true what policeman Francisco said that he had worse injuries playing paddle tennis or was he playing hard to get at the Monte Palace Hotel in front of his crush? All these questions will be answered, hopefully, in the second season of Turn of the Tide.
If, in addition to the places mentioned here, you want to know everything to see and do on the island of São Miguel in the Azores Islands with specific itineraries for a weekend or a week on the island, do not miss our complete (and free!) guide to São Miguel with all this information.
Disclaimer: All filming locations mentioned in this article are authored by Randomtrip who, recognizing these locations from the scenes of the episodes of the series after a 3-week trip to São Miguel, created this article. These locations have not been confirmed by the production company Ukbar Filmes. All photos and texts in this article are property of Randomtrip with all rights reserved (except the only photo owned by Netflix mentioned as such).
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