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!
Armona Island is part of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a 60km protected coastal area, dedicated to protecting the wildlife, fauna and culture of the Eastern Algarve. 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.
How does this pedestrian-island-thing work?
1. Pack light. Dress is casual in the Algarve. But bring a light sweater/sweatshirt–the evenings can be cool and breezy, even in August.
2. 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). We’ll send you an Olhão map highlighting the ferry terminal, parking, internet café, etc.
3. If your arrival coincides with the regular ferry, buy a ticket and hop onboard. If not, 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.
4. Walk off the boat, wheeling your suitcase behind you for the three-minute walk to Casa Armona.
What about food?
At Casa Armona, we provide a starter supply of spices, staples (oil, vinegar, rice, flour, coffee, OJ) and paper products. On the island, there are 3-4 cafés/restaurants and a small grocer 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 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.
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.)