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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.
Restaurants on Armona Island
There is an area of restaurants, cafés and a small grocer just as you get off the ferry, jokingly referred to as the “Baixa” or “downtown”. The two largest restaurants are Tolinhas (on the right) and Carlos (on the left). The food at Tolinhas is simple, tasty and classically Portuguese–plus the outdoor seating area is lovely. They also do takeaway (bring your own tupperware). If it’s too warm or too cold to eat outside, go for Carlos: the food is–in our experience–not quite as good, but the indoor seating is much more pleasant. And don’t miss the less obvious restaurant/bar tucked behind Carlos, for a younger, trendy-er vibe: just follow the chalkboard signs just past the grocer on the main “street”. All three restaurants are open regularly throughout the year, and at least one will be open at any given time.
Along with these three restaurants, there are several cafés clustered around the dock which serve coffee, snacks, ice cream and drinks. Again, at least one will be open whenever you visit.
During the warmer months, there is also a restaurant/café/grocer about halfway to the Atlantic beach (across from the playground), and a lovely café, which also serves light meals, overlooking the Atlantic beach itself.
There are three small grocers on the island itself: one in the area by the dock, another 50 meters down the road (under a big green awning) and a third halfway to the Atlantic beach, across from the playground. The grocer under the awning sometimes has fresh fish, and there is a fruit stand next door with more fresh produce.
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.
At Casa Armona, we provide a starter supply of spices, staples (oil, vinegar, pasta, coffee, OJ) and paper products, along with our other standard amenities.
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. Rent kayaks or schedule a boat tour for a different perspective. 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). 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 (€25 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 (The second block is 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.)