Karmoy was created as a new municipality on 1 January 1965 after the merger of Kopervik, Skudeneshavn, Skudenes, Stangaland, Torvastad, Åkra, and most of Avaldsnes.
The body of the water between the island and the mainland is the Karmsundet, the "Northern Passage" which gave Norway its name. Avaldnes was a royal farm and residence, the seat of Harald Hårfagre (Fair-Hair), who could control and tax the ship traffic from this strategic defensive spot (in about 900 AD).
The vast part of the district is the large island Karmøy, but it also includes the peninsula between Karmsund and Førdesfjord and several small islands.
The natural and cultural landscape is highly heterogeneous, encompassing chalk-white sands, moorland and several piers around the island. The landscape in the north is mainly agricultural, while large parts of the inland south are heather moors. The island has many white, sandy beaches facing the North Sea, attracting surfers as one of the top spots for windsurfing in Norway.
Built up places are for the most part located along the coast, the main such areas being Kopervik, Åkrehamn and Skudeneshavn. The airport of Haugesund is also located on the island. Karmøy is known for its industries, as well as for fishing. Among interested people Karmøy is also well known in Norway for the heather moors and the surfing beaches.