The Traveling Reporter has picked out five islands in Stockholm’s archipelago to familiarize you with island life.
As summer approaches, recreational skippers from all over head to their laid-up boats and yachts along the country’s long coastline to wash, polish, repair, and prepare their vessels for the upcoming high season. The boating and sailing community in Sweden is alive and prosperous with tens of thousands of small vessels which head out in the archipelago to find peace and serenity every summer.
But judging from numerous trips around these collection of islands just an hour or two away from Stockholm, very few tourists ever venture outside the boundaries of the capital. Too bad because it is both easy and rewarding to set aside a day or two for a field trip into what could be described as one of the world’s largest and most unique archipelagos.
The Stockholm archipelago consists of somewhere between 30.000 and 35.000 islands, a unique environment spread over a vast area stretching from Arholma in the north, featuring a former military base turned into a museum, to Landsort with its landmark lighthouse in the south. A large part of the waters in between is covered by two commuter cruise lines, Waxholmsbolaget named after idyllic summer hotspot Vaxholm just north of Stockholm, and Strömma, with the later running its ferries under the brand name Cinderellabåtarna (Cinderella Boats).
With the main ferry departures and arrivals hub located in the middle of Stockholm City at the Strömkajen jetty at a bay called Nybroviken, there are really no reasons – other than bad weather – for visitors not to take the chance to experience this place of beauty and tranquility. Ferries are fast enough for day trips, but there are several hostels and even a few good hotels with restaurants that can keep you satisfied over a weekend.
To get you started, below are some of the most visited destinations, each with its own specialty. More information on how to travel around the islands can be found at Visit Skärgården. Waxholmsbolaget and Cinderellabåtarna also offer information in English including details on all major destinations within the archipelago.
Situated right in the inlet of Stockholm and boasting a slogan that, in Swedish, reads “Stockholm’s closest archipelago island”, you could almost swim to this place. With a history of drunken sailors staggering around between bars before boarding for their next voyage, the mood these days is somewhat more family oriented. Tourists mixed with children balancing ice-cream cones, and the main jetty with restaurants lined up can get quite crowded on summer days.
But the island which opens for business at the end of April is big enough for a short walk. And it is actually possible to experience some sort of archipelago feeling here, even though you may have to search a little for it. For the brave, head off to the cliffs to have a swim in the mildly salty water of the Baltic Sea.
A good alternative if you are pressed for time, the voyage to Fjäderholmarna takes about 25-30 minutes.
Sandhamn is the real deal in the sense that this sand island lies in the outermost eastern part of the archipelago, close to open sea. The place is big enough to have residents all year round and the harbor is a lively place in summertime filled with boats. The journey by ferry is about three hours from Stockholm, but it is possible to cut down that time by taking a bus halfway and catching a boat from Stavsnäs. Check ferry operator Waxholmsbolaget’s web page for info.
The main drawcard is the Seglarhotellet, the Sailor’s Hotel, with its bar, restaurant and activities. A brisk walk across the island takes you to a beach and there is also an old pilot’s station and a church, surrounded by an idyllic village of small wooden houses. However, the whole concept of Sandhamn is rather up-market, and some Stockholmers would argue this is not genuine archipelago life, but rather a place for the rich to show off and party on exclusive yachts.
Finnhamn is a group of islands and islets in the middle part of the Stockholm archipelago, but people usually refer to the jetty on the main island Stora Jolpan, with its neighboring peninsula Idholmen. Being one of the archipelago’s most developed destinations in terms of tourism, while at the same time large enough for everyone to find some solitude and space, Finnhamn offers tons of things to do.
Gravel roads zigzag the island, taking you from the hostel/hotel – where you can rent kayaks, among other things – to the harbor with a small shop, and further away to nice bathing cliffs and a farm with free-range chickens. There is a sauna and also a small collection of holiday cottages for rent with an adjoining kitchen for self-catering.
A large bay west of Stora Jolpan called The Paradise gets crowded with boats during high season with skippers taking advantage of the protective formation of the surrounding islands.
Möja is one of the archipelago’s largest islands with an inland fresh water lake. The island is a little different from many other tourism hotspots in that it doesn’t seem to seek visits to the same extent. Being somewhat reserved in its attitude, you have to look for experiences here. Möja features six jetties around the island, accessible by ferry, but most of the action takes place on its eastern side.
Winding along the coastline, a gravel road takes you from the northern point, Långvik (Long Bay), where there is a shop and a hostel, down to Kyrkviken (Church’s Bay) in the south, with another hostel nearby, a good restaurant, the church and a small harbor.
Along the road lie a few other communities, all very idyllic. With most of the archipelago’s professional fishermen long gone, Möja actually houses one of the last still going – the Wikström family – which runs a seafod restaurant called Wikström’s Fish.
Bathing here takes some effort as the gravel road rarely runs close enough to water. Instead, dense forest covers the island and adds to the somewhat somber feeling in some parts of Möja. Nevertheless, this is one of the genuine parts of the archipelago with year round-residents and is well worth a visit. The island has several lodging alternatives and a taxi service.
Kymmendö (also spelled Kymendö)
Kymmendö might not be the most obvious choice for foreign visitors. It is hard to find any online information in English (the link above goes to a Swedish Wikipedia page translated by Google) and there are no hotels or hostels. But this beautiful island is highly interesting from a historical and literary point of view.
It is possible to make a day trip from Stockholm to Kymmendö by taking a commuter train to Handen (25 minutes), then catching bus 839 to Dalarö (20 minutes), from where a Waxholmsbolaget ferry, numbered 1951, will bring you to Kymmendö (15 minutes). The island has a restaurant/bar and a small shop which are open during summer, and the island is great for walks around the village and through airy forests.
There are no cars or real roads here. Lodging alternatives are limited if you don’t bring your own tent. A better idea is perhaps to include Kymmendö on a island-hopping tour (see links below).
Information on how to travel around the islands can be found at Visit Skärgården (Visit the Archipelago). Waxholmsbolaget and Cinderellabåtarna also have information in English, including details on all major destinations in the archipelago.
A version of this article was originally published at The Traveling Reporter.