The once private island of the Gago Da Camara family, this small little island off the coast of Sao Miguel is named after the town that overlooks this small island Villa Franca. Villa Franca was the first capital of Sao Miguel island and therefore of the Azores but after a large earthquake in the 1500’s the islanders decided to move the capital to the other end of the island in a small bay between two fishing villages which is now, Ponta Delgada. The town of Vila Franca then became a more of a weekend retreat town and has remained a quiet part of the island, making it perfect for beach lovers and summer cottages due to its unique surroundings.
The island of Villa Franca is the perfect place to go and relax in the beautifully forested area surrounding this ancient crater from a submerged volcano. The waters inside the bay are very calm as the island’s small channel is facing the island of Sao Miguel and not into the open ocean, preventing waves from entering. The island is about 1 km from the coast of Sao Miguel and although it looks much closer it is not so don’t make the mistake of trying to swim there as the ocean waters are very unpredictable. The island is classified as a nature reserve and the local government since purchasing the island in the 1980’s has limited the number of visitors the island can receive a day. The island can host up to 400 visitors a day, however, it does not receive that many people as it still is a relatively undiscovered tourist destination. In the 1940’s and 50’s many of the islands high society would take baskets and crates filled with cured meats and cheeses and would have private lunches and celebrations on the island as well as send their teenage children to camp their overnight, knowing it was safe from danger and had an amazing view of the milky way above. It became an island of legend amongst fisherman and many tales of sea monsters rising from the ocean and settling on the island are stories of the past with no evidence of any mammal creatures other than birds ever visiting this island.
This is the site of the annual Red Bull Cliff Diving competition that has taken place annually here on this small island since 2006. Before the discovery by Red Bull of this unique diving location, it was relatively desolate with the odd group of tourists or ecology group visiting it to study its flora and fauna. It now has become a popular destination for couples looking to relax in this quiet bay while admiring the beauty of Sao Miguel from 1 km away. The island is accessible by a small ferry-boat with the schedule and prices varying depending on the season.