10 Beautiful Islands To Visit In The Gothenburg Archipelagos
*This guide was made possible by Skandinavisk, the home fragrance and body care specialists, and fellow Scandinavian explorers.
During the summer, I promised to share a guide to my favourite corner of Sweden, perhaps even the world: the Gothenburg archipelago! I’ve finally put pen to paper in the hope that someday, you’ll experience this magical coastline too:
The beauty of living in Sweden. When it comes to breath-taking scenery and great deserted swathes of nature you’re spoilt for choice. And, my favourite place of all is the Göteborgs skärgård (Gothenburg archipelago). Spanning over 280 kilometres of Sweden’s west coast – from Gothenburg in the south to the Norwegian border town of Strömstad – the rugged coastline encompasses over 8000 islands.
The dramatic scenery is dominated by deep grey granite rocks, which fade into pink as you travel North. Heather, fern and other hardy flora squeeze through cracks and crevices and warm rock pools swirl with critters and small fish. Little wonder CNN Travel referred to this region as ‘one of the ten great wilderness areas left in the world’.
Easily accessible from Gothenburg airport, many of the islands are inter-connected via a network of bridges and ferries. While some of the islands are inhabited year-round, Swedes flock here in the summertime to enjoy the forever changing scenery – exploring the coves, cliffs and shallow bays and deep fjords via boat and kayak. In the evening the fishing villages buzz with quayside seafood restaurants and bars as well as small ateliers and galleries.
Having sailed here many times with my family, here’s my guide to this staggeringly beautiful coastline – which I hope you’ll save for a time when we are free to roam once again!
For this journey, we brought the latest version of their very own ‘HAV‘ theme with us. This next generation collection has been completely updated and upgraded and covers everyday essentials such as hand washes and body wash, hand creams and body lotions, scented candles and scent diffusers in various Scandi-themed scents, and includes peace of mind benefits such as vegan and cruelty free formula, certified organic ingredients, local spring water, Swedish rapeseed wax, bioplastics and FSC-certified packaging from Swedish forests. They also smell divine and, just like a dip in the water here, ‘HAV – Distant Shores‘ will leave your skin silky smooth with a scent of invigorating salt spray, sea kelp, hawthorn and beach rose. So, pairing up with Skandinavisk to make this guide possible felt like an incredibly natural fit!
During your stay, you’ll share the deep saline water with a rich bounty of sea life including mackerel, lobsters, oyster, mussels, sea birds, sunbathing seals and porpoises. Just be weary of the fiery red Lion’s Mane jellyfish – whose stinging tentacles can be troublesome in certain bays and fjords along the shoreline.
Where to stay
2: Stora Dyron
Many visitors opt for Marstrand, a haven for sailors and swimmers alike. The party island comes alive in summer with lively bars, great restaurants and boutique shops. It is indeed, well worth a visit, with its historic stone fortress, but if you’d like to experience a road less travelled – I absolutely love the island of Stora Dyron. Steeped in history from the Second World War and incredibly welcoming, this little island has so much to offer. Take the coastal trail made up of a series of wooden boardwalks which wind through staggering crevices and cling to the cliff edge before enjoying fresh seafood on the quay.
Where to eat: Tuck into fresh seafood whilst overlooking the bustling harbour at Trålverket or pick up a picnic from the ICA grocery store and enjoy it on the cliffs with views over the Marstrand Fjord.
Where to stay: Annika på Dyron – or rent a wonderful Airbnb on Tjörn and use it as a base to visit Stora Dyron, Tjörnekalv, Astol and other islands in the area.
Getting there: Take the passenger ferry from Rönnäng jetty on Tjörn.
Top tip: Cleanse your mind, body and soul at the Dyron public sauna. Perched on a section of the cliff with spectacular views over the sea, it’s available to book for a private party or shared with others. Needless to say, it’s extremely popular especially on colder days, so make sure you book well in advance!).
3: Mollösund (Örust)
This old fishing village on the southwest tip of Örust is a Brantmark family favourite – it’s so pretty! Formerly one of the most important fishing centres in Bohuslän, it’s become a summer idyll with Swedes, who come here to enjoy the relaxed ambience, seascapes, and fresh seafood. Take a stroll through the tiny lanes that wind through the old fisherman’s cottages, while taking in the small boutique shops, little cafes and the statue of the old lady, gazing out to see in the hope of seeing her loved one return. The view from the top of the hill beside the windmill is spectacular and the climb will surely earn you a cool beer at one of the Harbourside bars! Fancy a dip? There’s a small child-friendly beach a short walk from the village or for the more daring, there’s a springboard beside the harbour (make sure you practise your diving technique before your visit, spectating is a local pastime!).
Where to eat: Sample the array of fresh seafood at Mollösund Wärdshus or Movitz Magasin whilst sipping local beer and enjoying the gentle stream of boats passing through Strömsund.
Where to stay: Mollösund Wärdshus
Getting there: Mollösund is on the island of Örust which has great transport links with Gothenburg by train, bus and car – no ferry required!
Where to eat: you’re spoilt for choice on this wonderful island. Tantalise your tastebuds with local oysters and the catch of the day at iconic Peterson’s Krog with its genuine Bohuslän setting (book well in advance, especially in high season!) or head inland to Simsons Prästgård old vicarage for a fine dining experience with dishes composed of locally sourced, organic and seasonal ingredients.
An alternative is to pick up crab, crayfish and other local delicacies at the quayside fishmongers ‘Fiskaffären’ and enjoy a picnic on the rocks.
If you’re visiting in the Autumn, the local family run oyster and champagne bar is a must. Invest in the full package and ‘koppla av’ (relax) in the hot tub with views of Måseskär lighthouse. I’ve yet to experience this, but it’s high up on my bucket list!
Above: Peterson’s Krog – popular among sailors and locals alike!
Getting there: Park your car (or alight from the bus) at Tuvesvik and hop on a ferry to Käringön.
5. Gullhomen – Härmanö
Connected to the island of Härmanö via a small footbridge, this popular, car-free island is one of the oldest fishing communities in Bohuslän. It attracts visitors far and wide who love to meander past the wooden houses, fishing huts and boathouses. Extremely popular with day visitors who arrive hourly by ferry to enjoy the cafes, restaurants, art galleries and church, the village can get fairly busy in high season. Venture out into Bohusläns largest nature reserve on Härmanö and experience the beautiful winding coast with its crystal clear bays and glistening coves all to yourself before heading back to the harbour for a relaxing meal!
Where to eat: Grab an outdoor seat and order a hearty fish stew at local favourite Hamncafeet (seen above).
Where to stay: Book a waterside self-catering cottage at Gulholmensbaden or find your own clapboard cottage on Airbnb!
Getting there: Hop on a ferry from Tuvesvik on Örust – it only takes ten minutes!
6. Fiskebäckskil – Skaftö
In the Gothenburg archipelago you need to be prepared for all types of weather. And when we arrived in Fiskebäckskil on the island of Skaftö this year the weather gods were definitely not on our side. The good news? This picturesque village has so much to offer that it didn’t matter. Wander through the pristine wooden cottages with their well-kept rose gardens and enjoy a day at the beach or hire a mountain bike and explore one of the many coastal trails (stopping for lunch in the charming village of Grundsund). Or if you’re in need of a little R&R, pamper yourself at Gullmarsstand Hotell & Konferens spa before ending your day with a delicious seafood meal at Brygghuset. It’s impossible to get bored in this wonderful place!
If you love swimming as much as my family, you’ll love the local white sandy beach, with a wonderful bathing deck and diving boards. Just look out for the Lion’s Mane jelly fish. Their sting can pack a punch!
Where to eat: We had an incredible meal at the popular Brygghuset overlooking the harbour (book well in advance!) which serves scrummy seafood dishes infused with local Bohuslän flavours and a touch of French cuisine. Per was especially happy with the extensive whisky selection!
Where to stay: Slipens Hotel, Gullmarsstrand Hotell & Konferens,
Getting there: Fiskebäckskil has great transport links and is easily accessible by car or bus. You can also arrive by ferry from Lysekil.
Top tip: While on the island of Skaftö don’t miss Grundsund – a picturesque fishing village famous for its fishing huts and boathouses that line the waterway. It’s where Per and I met and holds a really special place in our hearts – even if we didn’t visit the village on this particular trip!
7: Stora Kornö
It took us several years before we discovered Stora Kornö and adjacent island Lilla Kornö. Known for being one of Bohuslän’s best preserved fishing villages, this tiny island is a little tricky to get to (locals arrive by private boat – which they also use for their grocery supplies!), but it’s well worth the hassle! Chill alongside local residents on the ‘lying bench’ in the harbour and watch the boats come and go or borrow a book from the honesty library and sunbathe on the warm cliffs. Then, take one of the little pathways heading east or west, either way will take you through lush forests, over bare pink cliffs and small wildflower meadows. You’ll be rewarded with a lovely view over the seal colony on one of the adjacent isles!
Where to eat / stay: there are no restaurants or hotels on Stora Kornö, however the town of Lysekil is nearby and a great base from which to explore smaller isles such as these. I can highly recommend freindly Strandflickorna hotel.
Getting there: Contact the Lysekil tourist board for organised tours.
We have been sailing to the island of Bohus-Malmön since the children were small because it boasts easily the best beach in Bohuslän! A walk along the well-marked ‘kuststigen’ trail will take you to a white stretch of sandy isthmus which links Malmön with Klåvbergs Holme. Popular among locals, it’s a perfect place to relax while children learn to swim in the outdoor swimming school. Now nine and twelve (how did that happen?!) our children prefer the bone-shakingly high diving board on the opposite side of the bay! However, we still love the incredible coastal trail which winds past glittering coves, old quarries, and turquoise lagoons. If you’re feeling energetic you might also like to try your hand at crazy golf and tennis before enjoying a Harbourside beer – or a sauna!
Per is not one for preening, so I was surprised to find him avidly applying the Skandinavisk HAV hand cream! Also seen: the divine HAV body wash and Scent Diffuser – a perfect match with Bohus-Malmön’s pristine beach.
Where to eat: Tuck into local seafood and shellfish at Malmön Brygga or traditional west coast fare at Gastroträdgården.
Where to stay: Bohus-Malmöns Pensionat, Villa Lugn & Ro
Getting there: Take the car-ferry from Tullboden to Bohus-Malmön
Love a party? Smögen is where it’s at thanks to its buzzing 700-metre-long ‘Smögenbryggan’ lined with rickety fisherman’s houses, shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. In fact, every West Coast sailor, has a story from this town – and Per and I are no different! Not into partying? This year, we donned out best outdoor gear (we arrived in a gale) and took the beautiful coastal path which starts at the far end of the harbour and takes you across wooden bridges and staggeringly high cliffs. If you’re feeling adventurous and the weather allows, a small ferry will take you to nearby Hållö – the adjacent island, famous for its lighthouse.
Where to stay: Wallentinska Huset
Getting there: Connected to the mainland via a bridge, Smögen is easily accessible by bus or car.
10. Pick your own island!
With over 8,000 islands, there’s no shortage of places to explore. And, thanks to Sweden’s ‘allemansrätten’ (the ‘freedom to roam’) you can moor up pretty much anywhere, as long as it isn’t a protected area (marked with a yellow sign) or someone’s private dock. Why not hire a small boat or invest in a guide and enjoy your very own island for a few days!
As the day turned to night, the girls explored the sheltered water by SUP and we took to the cliffs to enjoy an evening drink at sunset, watching the moon rise over the fjord.
Pictured above right: HAV scented candle
By the end of our holiday, it was with a heavy heart that we turned South and made our way slowly back to Malmö. One thing is for sure though, we’ll be back!
I hope this guide will inspire you to visit this magical part of the world one day. The west coast wilderness is waiting!
*This post was brought to you in association with Skandinavisk. I only ever work with brands I love and think you will too. Thank you for supporting the brands that ensure I can bring fresh and inspiring content to your mailbox each day!