Faro 'ilhas' - Island beaches
Ilha da Barreta (also called Ilha Deserta) and Ilha da Culatra are the sandspit island beaches around Faro. They are only accessible by ferry, but there are regular trips departing from the town and they are well worth a visit.
The ferries to Farol (which is the western end of Culatra) and Deserta run from Porta Nova Pier in Faro. The pier is just to the east of the marina, round the corner past the fire station - follow the railway line and you can't miss it.
Ilha Deserta is an uninhabited ilha with just one very popular restaurant on it ("Restaurante O Estaminé" offering traditional flavours from the Atlantic and Ria Formosa; Tel: 917811856) - if you want to lunch here we would suggest you book a table before or as soon as you arrive on the ilha! The beach on the seaward side is a beautiful sandy bay, just a couple of minutes walk from the quay.
There is a small area of sunbeds for hire, but most people seem to take their own sunshades and their own refreshments to enjoy a quiet few hours on this very peaceful ilha.
The ferry to Ilha Deserta runs daily throughout the year but with less frequent crossings during the quieter months. The trip takes about 30 to 35 minutes and is a very enjoyable journey through the Ria Formosa nature reserve. The cost of a return ticket is around 7€
Ilha da Culatra is the next ilha to the east and the lighthouse at Farol is easily spotted. The ferry from Faro runs to Farol, which has a small, permanent all year round, population which increases to around 3000 in the summer season. It's a lovely seaside community of mostly single storey houses; with oleanders lining the sandy pathways and bouganvileas climbing over the verandas. There are several restaurants and cafés dotted along the pathways from the quay.
The beach on the seaward side is another beautiful sandy bay and obviously popular both with the residents and people just visiting for a few hours.
The ferry to Farol runs more often than to Deserta and there are also several places on Farol offering 24 hour water taxi services. The trip takes the same time (30 to 35 minutes) as the trip to Ilha Deserta and the return ticket costs around 5€
If you want a very quiet, relaxed day on the beach and nothing else, then Deserta is just the place; if you like to wander around and explore and have a choice of places to eat and drink, as well as having a beautiful beach, then Ilha da Culatra is the place for you.
Something we found rather frustrating was that the ferries don't go from one ilha to the next! The quays at Farol and Deserta are virtually opposite each other across a narrow stretch of water, but no connecting ferry! We would suggest that if you want to see both in one day, you are probably best to start at Farol and to get a water taxi across to Deserta, then get the ferry back from Deserta to Faro. If you try this, don't get the return tickets as the ferries are run by two separate companies!
The beaches at Ilha Deserta and Praia do Farol are supervised during the 'beach season'.