Welcome to Armona Island
Armona Island (“Ilha de Armona”) is a pedestrian-only retreat, owned and managed by the Ria Formosa National Park, and reachable via a 15 minute walk-on ferry from Olhão, the Algarve’s largest fishing port. The quick boat ride is a perfect buffer between you and the Algarve crowds: Armona’s many beaches are blissfully empty each morning and evening, and the more hidden of Armona’s beaches — such as the one directly behind Casa Armona— are delightfully wide open during the day… even in August. Perfect for your family holiday!
The Ria Formosa is an estuary that runs much of the length of the Eastern Algarve. The Ria Formosa Natural Park is a 60km protected coastal zone, dedicated to protecting the wildlife and culture of this area. A large part of the park is made up of the barrier island system, including Armona Island. Shellfish farming is extensive, with 80% of Portuguese clam exports coming from this area alone. For more information, read about Ria Formosa Natural Park.
What does pedestrian-only mean, really?
Armona Island has a “main street” that starts at the ferry dock and is only a few buildings long, before giving way to houses and the occational shop or café. All motor traffic is prohibited (aside from occational service vehicles belonging to the Park), so you’ll share the small paved lane with other people on foot, a few bicylces, scooters and skates–mostly belonging to children. Since you leave the crowds and hotels behind you in Olhão, the island is the perfect place to relax, and–in the morning and evenings–the beaches will be practically deserted, even in the summer.
Pack light. Dress is casual in the Algarve. But bring a light sweater/sweatshirt–the evenings can be cool and breezy, even in August.
There are 4-5 cafés/restaurants and two small grocers on the island itself. At least one of each will be open every day. Every morning except Sunday, Olhão has a bountiful indoor market at the foot of the ferry terminal: fish, fruit, meats, pastries, nuts, flowers… this is the largest market in the Algarve. If you can’t find what you want at the market, a major grocery store (Pingo Doce) is one block from the ferry dock. Olhão also has a nice selection of restaurants and cafés.
What to do…
…on the island?
On the first day, most people enjoy breakfast pastries at an Armona café before splitting up: some head for the Olhão market while the others hit the beach until the lunch reunion. Beyond that… play on the beaches. Catch and eat clams. Build sandcastles. Hike the dunes. Try our local fish/seafood recipes, coaxed from the Olhão fish-vendors themselves. Swim. Read. Sleep. Go back to the beach. Enjoy your authentic Portuguese neighbors. Play on the playground. Play boardgames. Cheat at cards. Ride the ferries to nearby Farol (“Lighthouse”) and Culatra Islands. Sit at the café and watch the fishing boats pass by. Enjoy the sunset over the ocean. Lay on the beach and count the falling stars… brilliant!
…and off the island?
Browse the Olhão markets, shops and historic center. Picnic at the Ria Formosa Natural Park, hike the 3km trail, learn about the ingenious Portuguese tidal mills, salt flats, Portuguese water dogs and Eastern Algarve water fowl and bird-watching. Drive 25 minutes — or take the train — to Tavira, the “loveliest town” in the Algarve (romantic, too) for castle exploring and kayak rentals. Grab your swimsuits and drive 90 minutes for a day of fun at either Zoomarine, for animal shows and plenty of swimming, or Aqualand, the Algarve’s largest water park. And Sevilla, Spain is a 90 minute drive from Olhão.
- Take a taxi from the Faro airport (20 minutes, €20 including luggage and tip) or park your car in Olhão (except for the weekend surrounding the Annual Seafood Festival, approximately August 15, Olhão has plenty of free street parking). If you are staying with us, we’ll send you an Olhão map highlighting the ferry terminal, parking, internet café, etc.
- If your arrival coincides with the regular ferry, buy a ticket and hop onboard. Otherwise, use the fast, fun 24-hour taxi-speedboats (€20 for up to 8 people). Even in low season, there are at least 3 regular ferries a day: morning, noon and evening. Very convenient.
- Walk off the boat, wheeling your suitcase behind you for the three-minute walk to Casa Armona.
Where can I get a ferry schedule?
Right here: Olhão-Armona Ferry Schedule (Scroll down for the Olhão/Armona timetable. Please note that the first section is for June/September, the second for July/August, and the last for the “non-summer” months.)