The first inhabitants of the region were the Tupis-Guaranis, an indigenous ethnic group who lived off agriculture, fishing and the fruits of the forest. The proof of their existence can be found in the "Sambaquis"(remains) and arqueological sites dating back to 4800 A.C.

At the beginning of the XVI century, sailships heading to the Bacia do Prata (River Delta, situated between modern-day Argentina and Uraguay) stopped at the Santa Catarina island for food and water. However it was only around 1675, when Francisco Dias Velho, along with his family and companions, started populating the island that later became known as Nossa Senhora do Desterro, the second oldest settlement in the estate and an important political centre, but still being part of Laguna village. Afterwards, Paulistas (from São Paulo) and Vicentistas(from São Vicente on the coast close to São Paulo), started populating the coast and in 1726, Nossa Senhora do Desterro was declared a village.

For its strategic position in the southern part of the Portuguese Colony, the island started to be used for military purposes which brought settlers, emigrating from the Azores Islands to increase the population of the island and to work on to support the military fortifications which were being created. These people came with the promise of a better life often did not materialize. These immigrants brought with them the culture and customs which are still evident today.

During the XVII century whale hunting stations were created to commercialize the whale oil, which did not bring economic benefits to the region only to the Portuguese Crown.
In 1823, Desterro was declared a city and became the capital of the Province of Santa Catarina, the start of prosperity.
At the beginning of the XX century Florianópolis progressed rapidly, with a series of infrastructure projects, including the Hercílio Luz bridge, today´s famous as the landmark of this time..