When I started researching my city break to Stockholm I knew a day trip on the archipelago would need to feature in the itinerary. Hailed by many as the Venice of the North, its 30,000 islands, reefs and rocks spread out 80 km east into the Baltic Sea from the city.
Only around 200 of these islands are inhabited and around 60 per cent of Swedes own or have access to a summer house. For those living in Stockholm the summer is their chance to escape the city for the remote, calm life of the islands. And we definitely wanted a slice of this action on our city break.
Most of the island villages have limited options for dining. Bringing along provisions is good idea. There are so many islands to choose from when island hopping. Each has its own unique appeal, it proved quite difficult to narrow it down.
Finally after deciphering the Stromma ferry timetable we opted for two, allowing us a couple of hours of exploring on each island. Grinda was the first stop, only an hour away from Stockholm and known as a swimmers paradise. The second was Sandhamn a popular sailor’s haunt. It’s also the island farthest from Stockholm and the last stop before entering the open Baltic Sea. Of course I had to go there!
Ready for a full day at sea we headed for Strömkajen by the Grand Hotel, close to Kungsträdgården Metro station. All the city boats depart from this jetty. You can buy your tickets online or from the ticket kiosk near the ferry. During peak season I’d definitely recommend advance purchase.
My girls were bowled over by the fact they were going to be spending a day on boat named Cinderella.
Large, spacious, two sundecks, a small café and a dining room on the second floor with a chef serving locally sourced Swedish cuisine. A very comfortable way to spend a day out on the waters.
Unfortunately for us the weather wasn’t on our side for Grinda. By the time we arrived the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped and the raindrops fell.
It put a big full stop to any swimming ideas. People usually come to Grinda to enjoy a swim, jumping in from the cliffs or to take a dip in the child-friendly sandy beaches. Nevertheless, it didn’t deter us from exploring the charming island.
We enjoyed a woodland walk, skimmed stones and took in the quiet beautiful nature reserve. If you have more time on the island there are a range of activities you can enjoy like horse trekking, kayaking and boating, plus there is a boules and volleyball ground.
We decided to eat at the main restaurant in the only hotel on the island – Grinda Wärdshus. There is also a bistro option, but it was closed on our visit.
The food is typical Swedish fayre, herring, shrimp salads and meatballs galore. The only vegetarian option on the menu was pesto pasta, which received a groan from me and a hooray from the girls.
Before long it was time to board the boat for an hour’s ride to Sandhamn on the outer edges of the archipelago. The name may ring a bell to avid readers as the island features in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.
On arrival into the port and marina you can spot all the cute timber shops and homes which surround the harbour. The idyllic island is a historical sea pilot station, with a pub, hotels, the classic Royal Swedish Yacht Club, restaurants, cafés and a tiny museum.
Leaving the harbour area behind we walked along pine forest walking paths. It was lovely being a part of the tranquil landscape and experience the slow pace of life.
The island is named after the sand dunes that run across it. We, however, never made it the sandy beaches on the other side. My worry of missing the return boat back to Stockholm reigned supreme. With the overcast weather, it wasn’t like we’d be missing out on any sunbathing. With more time on your hands you can also hire kayaks and bikes which would be a great way to see the island.
We did however stumble across a playground.
After a quick hot chocolate in the pub to warm our cockles, we boarded the boat back to Stockholm. The non-stop journey back did not disappoint – Stunning.
I completely understand why the Swedes escape to this unspoilt way of life. It was incredible to witness the beauty of the sea, tranquility of the islands and opportunity to fill our lungs with clean air. Pure magic!
Where has been your best island hopping experience? Have you ever been to the Stockholm archipelago? Let me know in the comments box below.
If you’re planning a trip you can read my How To Spend A City Break In Stockholm for more handy tips!
Disclaimer: The ferry tickets were complimentary via Stromma. However, all views, opinions and photos, unless otherwise stated are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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