Karimun is one of the most important islands in Riau Archipelago, due to its thriving economy and proximity to Singapore. Tanjung Balai Karimun is a medium-sized town, with a large Chinese community and shops selling a large variety of imported items. The town is linked by both sea and air. Terkulai and Soreh are resort islands nearby which are popular with holidaymakers.
Karimun regency in the beginning was a small town with the name of Tanjung Balai Karimun and with its status as a sub district town with the area of only 275 sq km. Tanjung Balai Karimun, from the scope of history, cannot be separated from its main regency that is Riau islands. Based on the decree of delegation of the Republic of Indonesia, the province of central Sumatra on may 18, 1956 joined the republic of Indonesia, and Riau island were given the status as level II autonomy region which is led by a regent as head of the region who supervised 4 (four) districts, that are:
- Tanjung Pinang District, which covered sub district of South Bintan (incoming East Bintan, Galang, West Tanjung Pinang and East Tanjung Pinang now).
- Karimun District which covered sub district of Karimun, Kundur and Moro.
- Lingga District which covered sub district of Lingga, Singkep and Senayang.
- Tujuh Island District which covered sub district of Jemaja, Siantan, Midai, Serasan, Tambelan, West Bunguran and East Bunguran.
Karimun district, later were abolished based on the decree of governor, head of the level I region of Riau dated August 9, 1964 no. Up/247/5/1965. Based on such stipulation, as of January 1, 1966, all administrative territory of the district in the Riau Islands regency was abolished. It is written the history that in glory of Riau Lingga kingdom when it took over the famous Johor kingdom, most parts of Riau islands territory were in the authority of kingdom of Riau Lingga. It is mentioned that the glorious time of Riau can be depicted by the incoming flow of international commerce since there were so many foreign traders lived in Bandar Riau. Furthermore, it was explained also about the prosperity of this Riau territory, especially at the time his young majesty King Ali held the power. Riau had experienced rapid development. Such historical meanings had implicated the economic situation in this territory nowadays.
Along with the spirit of regional autonomy, then on October 12 law no. 53, 1999 was stipulated which stated that Karimun regency together with kundur and moro regency were merged to one regency with the name of Karimun regency, with position at the same level with other regencies in Indonesia.