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's a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, reading, blogging, and best of all spending time with family, friends but unfortunately no longer the cat.

37 thoughts

  1. well it looks neat and tidy to me, though the previous commenter who sounds like a local is obviously not impressed, so maybe looks aren’t everything. My question is about those strange wave like structures along the front which look as if they are turfed? Now I know the Portuguese love their wave patterns in the calçadas, but I cannot work out what these are for?

    1. Hee hee you are not the only one bemused, I am assuming for kids to play on perhaps with bikes – but who knows?!!

      I think views remain split, as have seen so many locals really enjoying the park area. I know though some elements have not worked, and that they have not been great at maintaining the trees

        1. and sadly water was in short supply this year. They had a great winter 2019/20 but then no, or at least very little, rain since. Tourists and those involved in tourism love the weather, but not been great for the environment 🙁

  2. When you have more time,you will discover the nonsenses of the design,and as Olhao residents,
    lived through 2 years of chaos,.
    The historical benches have just been repainted,and some tiling replaced but the continuity has been ignored.
    They turfed the new section around the sewage pump house,in early July,now similar to a desert,while reseeded areas benefit from irrigation.
    Some designer placed the water jets so the new benches get a good shower morning and evening including the alien only ones,while the people are relaxing on them.
    A number of new shrubs/trees were planted dead,as they were left 6 months,in planted.
    The ferry end is still being completed,while the western end,once open park ,with crested larks and rabbits,has been incorporated into the new marina complex,is unfinished and closed.
    It appears that the waterfront has been passed to the marina operator so access is restricted and for the moment is not being cleaned,as is normal in well run marinas,in the Peninsular.
    The old pungent odours are still present at the ferry end while new ones have appeared at the water front opposite the new apartment block.
    The ban on clam gathering has continued,and in some areas extended,and the paucity of blue flag beaches indicates the continued pollution problem.
    Residents are not over impressed.

    1. Sorry to hear this, and that huge issues remain with pollution. The water in the rivers at the western end seems clearer, and the reduction in plastic is significant – so fingers crossed all of the initial problems you have highlighted are just teething issues and that things do improve

      We had spotted the dead turf and trees, and hope that is all replaced before the spring. Like you also hope the new marina complex is finished soon. Most frustrating not to be able to get out there.

    1. It’s a very Portuguese thing to just sit and catch up with friends. Yesterday I was up at dawn photographing the sunrise, and there were already some fishermen sitting down and putting the world to rights 🙂

  3. It’s certainly easier to walk on now. Those old tree roots had the paving all over the place! It’s a nice, modern look and compliments the ever growing parade of restaurants. Any recommends? Too early for you to have tried many, Becky. I’ll ask again in a few weeks. Old favourites, the best?

    1. Glad you agree too. I find it so bizarre, can’t quite get my head around why it is part of the design. Native plants would look so much nicer

    1. ooh not sure I like your weather!! I am just getting used to Tshirts and shorts, although do need a throw in the evenings

      Apologies by the way for not messaging about a time for a chat. Our days are currently not being planned until the mornings, and so gives me no time to give you any notice for a time to chat. Might try tomorrow xx

  4. The park looks like a lovely place to spend time and enjoy good weather. The improvements aren’t that dramatic, just ‘updated’. There is always a tug -o-war between maintaining what local residents want for their community vs accommodating and attracting tourist (same here in Florida) As long as history is protected, I am fine with ‘controlled’ growth.

    Malcolm and I were just talking yesterday about booking a cruise that ends in Lisbon next April. We have explored Porto and Lisbon on previous trips, so it’s time to go further south and check out the Algarve. If we book it, I will be looking to you for recommendations. Glad you finally got back to this beautiful place.

    1. oh you have summed it up perfectly. Like you as long as heritage, history and the environment are protected – controlled growth is good.

      ooh that be amazing if you came further south to the Algarve, also recommend the region in between – Alentejo. It is a real hidden delight.

Love to hear your thoughts