The west coast of Sweden
The Bohuslän coast stretches from Gothenburg, one of Sweden’s three largest cities, northwards to the border with Norway, and beside this coastline lies the Western Archipelago, a spectacular seascape of 8,000 islands, islets, skerries and rocky outcrops. But what can you do there? Part of the pleasure of visiting the archipelago is getting there, whether by ferry or your own boat. On the larger islands there are convenient guest harbours for mooring up while the coast also offers a range of hotels, restaurants and activities such as kayaking, canoeing, diving and other water sports. And perhaps best of all, the islands are all so easy to reach, from Gothenburg and many points all along the coastline.
The gateway to the west coast is Gothenburg, a city with a rich maritime tradition that has reinvented itself from industrial seaport to contemporary cultural and international sports venue. As well as revamping its cultural landscape, the city has restaurants, hotel and eateries that are gaining an international reputation for innovative cuisine using local produce where fresh fish and shellfish are amongst the specialities. Eateries to look out for include; Sjömagasinet, 28+, Fond, Basement and Kock & Vin, which are five of Sweden’s very best restaurants, all awarded with a star in the Michelin guide. For mid-price options look no further than Familjen, Smaka, Caleo and Hos Pelle.
Gothenburg is a wonderfully compact city, with its major sites and attractions all within walking distance. Worthy of mention are the crowd-pulling Liseberg amusement park, the Nordic region’s biggest and best; the striking, contemporary Gothenburg Opera House; and Universeum, a fun science and discovery centre for the whole family. Remember to look out for are guided boat tours of the city, and idle some time away down by the harbour, maybe catching one of the municipal harbour ferries that criss-cross the busy central harbour. Alternatively, take a boat trip out to the pretty islands within the city archipelago nearby, or even further north along the West Coast.
Western Archipelago and coastline
The Western Archipelago can be reached by ferry from Gothenburg and many points along the Bohuslän coast. For landlubbers and boating enthusiasts alike nearby Marstrand Island, and its more northerly neighbour Åstol, are both good introductions to the archipelago. Marstrand is the yachting and racing centre of the west coast, with a large guest harbour, some excellent restaurants and Carlsten fortress on a hill overlooking the island and out to see. Åstol is much smaller, with a smaller harbour, and typifies many aspects of the west coast island with its charming, uncrowded and unhurried atmosphere, just a single one shop, a B&B and a smokery with live music; what else!
Back on the mainland, Smögen is a picture-postcard-perfect town with Sweden’s longest boardwalk and a half-mile stretch of brightly coloured sea huts selling lip-smacking prawn sandwiches. It also offers a beautifully situated harbour and all the amenities of a small Swedish town. If you are eating out – go for the seafood. Just off Smögen lies Hållö Island with its pink granite rocks and crystal clear waters making it an ideal place for swimming, water sports. Explore the wildlife in the nature reserve too. Reached by ferry from Strömstad, the Koster Islands are part inhabited and part stunning nature reserve, and lie at the centre of 450 square kilometers that form Sweden’s first marine national park. The islands are also reputed to be the sunniest in Sweden. Well worth a visit, for the walking and cycling alone.
Other places falling firmly under the ‘unmissable’ category include; Gullholmen, Fiskebäckskil, Hunnebostrand, Fjällbacka (ancient fishing community which provides the setting for Swedish author Camilla Läckberg’s best-selling crime novels) & Väderöarna (the Weather Islands) and Grebbestad, Sweden’s oyster capital. If, like Greta Garbo, you ‘want to be alone’, there are many lighthouses in the archipelago that you can rent for some blissful seclusion, including the Pater Noster lighthouse on deserted Hamneskär Island north of Marstrand. If you’re feeling a bit more sociable then good hotels, cottages for rent and guesthouses abound along the coastline and out in the archipelago.
And just one more thing. When visiting the west coast and archipelago, order the oysters and the lobster. Take our word for it.