Exploring Olhão’s improved waterfront

Finally we are back in our beloved Olhão, and as you might expect after more than two years away there have been some changes. One of the changes had commenced only a few months before we had left – the €1.5 million improvement project for the waterfront . It had been called ‘controversial‘ when it was first proposed, and many still had reservations when the work finally began in the autumn of 2018. You may recall me sharing the plans and our thoughts when I went into raptures over the benches. Here’s the post again if you want to read it, otherwise keep scrolling.

The good news is that they have restored these benches, but disappointingly their new positions break up story they are telling. Still I must focus on the positive which is that they have been incorporated into the new park design. Talking of which I mostly like the changes! There are more seats, some rather unusual but all positioned so you can now enjoy the view of the Ria Formosa if you are sat down. Before you were either looking at the wall, or trying to avoid being stepped on by those promenading along the front. I haven’t though quite got my head around all the sandy sections. They kind of work under the trees in the Jardin Patrão Joaquim Lopes but I am less sure about them in the open sections of Jardin Pescador Olhanense. What do you think?

Having criticised the sand I guess I should be grateful there is not more of it. You may recall from my bandstand post a few years ago that in 1986 when the bandstand first appeared they had sand everywhere. If you haven’t got time to revisit that post here’s a then and now.

I originally planned this post in early 2019 as a historical exercise to record the before and after, and some of the in between. However my plans didn’t envisage it would be more than two years before we returned. So I couldn’t personally record much of the in between. However, as this is Portugal, the work is not quite finished despite the time lapse. Actually to be fair the whole world has been on pause due to Covid19 so perhaps it is not surprising the work is not quite complete.

The section near the ferry terminal remains work in progress, and the second phase on the eastern side beside the harbour has only just started. Once they are completed it should be a wonderful water front destination, as well as recreational area for local residents. Just one small proviso we’ve yet to learn what impact, if any, there has been on the fishermen and their access to the marinas and harbours. We know there were potential issues but fingers crossed these were addressed. We’ll keep you posted but for now here’s the first of three galleries recording the changes.

The park we visit regularly is Jardin Pescador Olhanense as it en route to what we consider the best markets in the Algarve! I do miss the palm trees along some of the foot paths but must acknowledge many of them had needed replacing, and other trees have been planted. The biggest change is that the long central footpath has been replaced by one at the side, allowing the centre of the park to be an area for relaxation and exercise rather than a thoroughfare. The outdoor gym has been moved and is now under the trees. They have also expanded the children’s playground. Four of the photographs in the gallery are pre-upgrade, so you can compare the before and after.

One of the criticisms of the project was that it was too focused on tourism, and was only giving lip service to its plan to capture ‘tradition, values and soul’ of Olhão. However our observations have been that as many locals as visitors are using the area, and if you look back at the postcards of the park in the 1950s/60s, they haven’t actually changed much!

I totally understand though the concerns shared about the impact of the work on local businesses whilst it was in progress. As you can see from the photographs in the gallery above and also the short film upheaval is the only way to describe it. There is never any way round construction hassles, and hopefully they are all now benefiting from the extended pedestrian areas and reduction in traffic noise and pollution.

The garden nearest the ferry terminal and harbour has always been a favourite specially at sunset. However we don’t visit it as much, which might explain why I have included only one pre-upgrade photo (the last one) below.

Looking back at my galleries I have realised I haven’t included any clear view of the waterfront itself. So here’s one to finish with, taken from one of the new ‘boat’ structures that extend the parks over the water. Why not come and visit in person yourself.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

39 thoughts

  1. Hi Becky,
    Thanks for your detailed and comprehensive article!
    There have been rumors about the work they are doing by the fishing harbor, involving a reported 5-star hotel, shops and restaurants around the harbor, and a museum.
    My friends claim to have seen the plans on the city’s website, but they cannot find them now and nobody seems to know anyone with knowledge about this rumored project. They are obviously doing a lot of work around the harbor, so something is definitely in the works.
    Our apartment overlooks the harbor, Ria Formosa, Armona Island, and the Atlantic, so it would be nice to know what is planned and what impact, if any, it will have on us.
    Thank you!

    1. Yes we saw something about this before we left last year. Have you spoken to Jose at Vai e Volta, he normally has a good handle on what’s going on

  2. The sand pavements look like high maintenance, but other than that it looks lovely. I imagine you’re seeing it with a mix of new and familiar eyes after so many months away.

  3. How beautiful. I’m sure you’re happy to be back to see it all again. It will be lovely but, change is always hard. I loved the video with the drone footage–it was an excellent way to see the scope of the project!

    1. You are so right about change – slow change we all seem to cope with but quick changes always unsettle. So glad you watched the video – just amazed they did all the upheaval in one go!

  4. I can empathise with why some see the redevelopment as ‘controversial’, most remodelling is and often offends some people. It’s always a shame to see something from days gone by removed and replaced. But I can also see why this needs to happen and hope this area thrives and becomes just as lovely in years to come.

Love to hear your thoughts