The town of Olhao is essentially and historically linked to the local fishing industry and only grew into existence as a significant location in the 17th Century. It has about 30,000 inhabitants and was raised to the status of a town as a result of their actions in 1808, on the 16th of June when they revolted against the French occupying army. Then 17 local fishermen successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean without charts in their small fishing boat "Bom Sucesso". The vessel was 18 metres in length and had two sails and the journey took two and half months. Their successful purpose was to announce to the exiled Prince regent - Dom Pedro - the French invading armies had been defeated in the Algarve and had retreated northwards leaving the Algarve free for his return to Portugal. After his return in November of the same year the village was raised to the status of town in reward for the valiant trip taken by the fishermen. It was in this town in 1882 that the first canning factory for tuna and sardines was established. Very soon canning factories spread along the coast and it was to become the leading industry for many years in the Algarve.
The town lies on the coast reasonably close to Faro and at the end of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. Architecturally the town is well known for an older quarter where the flat terraced roofs and straight box-shaped chimneys show a definite Moorish flavour in their style. Another important curiosity to the visitor is the fish market held every day in a long building on the waterfront. Each morning there is a lively atmosphere and the impressively large variety of fish offered by the local catch is displayed to tempt the local housewife.
Travelling east from Olhao is the small sea village of Fuseta with the ruined remains of what were once a castle and some older similar architectural style houses. To the north in the countryside is the small village of Moncarapacho with a 16th Century Church with a local museum next door. On the nearby hill named Cerro da Cabeca there is a popular grotto named after the village. From the town of Olhao there is a boat ferry service that takes visitors to the nearby very small islands of Ilha da Culatra and Ilha da Armona. With their un-spoilt sandy beaches and virtual lack of construction these islands act as a pleasant contrast to the noise and bustle of the main coast.