The place is simply scattered with islands of all shapes and sizes, many with enviable, privately-owned, traditional red Swedish summer houses, and lighthouses sitting majestically on top. A cruise to Gothenburg is indeed the best possible way to experience Sweden and its cosmopolitan, yet relaxed and traditional lifestyle. Like Stockholm’s archipelago on the east coast of Sweden, Göteborgs skärgård has far too many islands to mention, but as with all well-explored cruising areas, there are plenty of recommended places that are worth a visit.
Karl Nordström – Owner and CEO of Sjösportskolan (Gothenburg’s premiere sailing school) – has been cruising the west coast of Sweden and Norway with his family for many years and says once you arrive in Gothenburg, you’ll need plenty of time to explore: “There are thousands of islands, in fact, officially 8,000, plus the skerries, but I would say there are about 100 major islands, each with its own beauty. One that springs to mind that mustn’t be missed is Vinga, which lies approximately ten miles off Gothenburg’s port entrance. This is the home to the 19th century Vinga Lighthouse, which is a well-known beacon for sailors as they make their final approaches to Gothenburg.”
WITH OVER 8,000 ISLANDS TO EXPLORE, OUR EXPERTS SHARE THE SECRETS OF THIS DELIGHTFUL GROUP OF ISLANDS OFF THE WEST COAST OF SWEDEN, ALONG WITH A SUGGESTED ITINERARY THAT LETS YOU TAKE IT ALL IN AT YOUR OWN PACE.
The archipelago starts about ten miles south of Gothenburg and, as you will see on a chart, has a natural south-north divide, with the northern section heading towards Marstrand. The water is so deep in this part of Sweden, and the rocks often sheer-faced into the sea, that cruising with a deep keel yacht is possible virtually anywhere and because there is hardly any tidal current, you’ll find no problem tying up alongside the smooth-faced rocks. This sailing area is exceptionally well charted, meaning you can get close to most islands without worrying about running aground.
To ensure a positive visitor experience, the Swedish Cruising Association (Svenska Kryssarklubben – SXK) has produced both an app and information binders with aerial photos showing the positions of mooring buoys. SXK has also gone to great lengths to install iron eye bolts for mooring alongside rocks. They are everywhere and easy to identify because they are exactly where they are marked on the charts on the app.
The good thing about visiting Sweden in the summer, particularly midsummer, is that it is light almost all the time. It is the perfect time to embrace the delights of Sweden’s annual midsummer celebrations, which happen on a Friday, around 20 June, when you can relax on deck and enjoy the soft glow of the sun as it dips towards the horizon while relishing one of Sweden’s many traditions – a glass of the finest, crisp, white wine and copious amounts of crayfish. Nordström added: “It is a fantastic time to visit, although beware the water is still cold at that time of year, at about 15-16 degrees for swimming. For that reason, few boats are cruising the area at this period.” The busiest time in the archipelago is July and early August, just before the end of the school holidays (around 15 August). From then on, it’s quiet and a nice temperature, although by mid-September it is cooler in the evenings and the sun sets early.
The islands above Gothenburg’s Archipelago stretch up to Norway, which means anyone thinking of sailing to Gothenburg from the UK – approximately 420M from Aberdeen for example – will need plenty of time to explore this beautiful and unique Scandinavian coastline.
Following the 250M passage across the North Sea, Norway is the natural first stop, and Stavanger is, according to Nordström, the perfect place to break the journey. Its location, just a short taxi ride from the airport, makes it one of the most convenient places for crew changeovers, or owners, friends/ family joining the yacht. “There are three marinas to choose from, but one I particularly like is Vågen in the western harbour because it is very deep and extends right into the city centre.”
It is worth spending a few days cruising the area, taking in the spectacular scenery, and sailing through some of the amazing fjords. Nordström recommends Lysefjorden, east of Stavanger: “This is the most dramatic fjord to visit because it is so narrow but incredibly deep – 400m of water and up to 1,000m of the mountain on either side. It does give you an instant taste of Norway and its spectacular scenery. You’ll find plenty of mooring possibilities too. Stop off at Lindøy about five miles east of Stavanger, where there is an anchorage. Continue another 25 miles to a fantastic place called Flörli. Here, there is an imposing 750m tall power station to explore on a staircase of 4444 steps; a restaurant by the water; and berthing in the marina is free, although there is no electricity.”
Following a stretch of open sea sailing in generally downwind conditions from the Skagerrak (the stretch of water between Denmark and Norway) and into the Kattegat (between Denmark and Sweden), you’ll finally reach the archipelago where your Swedish adventures begin. Here you’ll have the chance to explore 100 miles of cruising grounds in protected waters, with lots of harbours and fishing villages with easy access, dotted all the way along.
The pretty fishing harbour of Fjällbacka is worth stopping off at, or slightly further south, Smögen, which Nordström says is one of his favourite places when cruising: “It’s livelier than some places because it is a tourist attraction, but there is so much to see and it’s a real beauty spot. As with most places on this coast, mooring is not an issue. Smögen is noted for its long, wooden pier, about 600m (2,000 ft), and there are plenty of interesting shops in old fishing huts lining the quay. This place is also known for its fish, prawns and other seafood, and one of Sweden's few fish markets is located here. A good suggestion for lunch or dinner is Skärets Krog Restaurant & Piano Bar on Smögen Boardwalk, recommended for its classic, west coast flavours with a modern twist.”
The next stop should be Marstrand – known as the sailing capital of Sweden and host to many high-profile international regattas. It is worth a visit, not least because it is perfectly equipped to welcome visiting yachts. Nordström said: “It has a fantastic history and it’s possible to anchor any size yacht in the bay. There is also a combination of floating pontoons with mooring lines along the quayside, so you can easily moor an 80ft yacht there with no problem.”
Adding a tip on mooring procedures and visitors’ rights in Sweden, Nordström said: “Marstrand is one of the few places calling up a harbour master on VHF could work, but generally they are lousy to get hold of on VHF, so I recommend you call the marina directly on the cell phone. Many places like Marstrand have websites where you can reserve a berth online. The good thing is though, you can anchor anywhere in Sweden free of charge, and land with a tender on any island, even if privately owned, with thanks to the all man’s rights law.”
While cruising the archipelago, make sure you pay a visit to a visit to Åstols Gästhamn. Located just north of Gothenburg, this island has a charming marina nestled in the heart of the village, with space for 80 visiting yachts, most with bow mooring and long-side mooring. Nordström says it’s a great place to eat: “This island is one of my favourite places to visit for fresh fish and shellfish. One of the best places to eat is Rökeriet Åstol, a restaurant right on the water's edge overlooking the archipelago.”
For a real taste of Swedish island life, try Gullholmen, in Bohuslän's outer archipelago, which dates to the 13th century. This popular island is littered with old fishing cottages and boathouses that run right down to the water's edge. And, like most of the inhabited islands you visit in the archipelago, fish is the main dish on the menu.
Finally, as any seasoned sailor knows, it’s essential to stock up on provisions when any opportunity arises. Thankfully, most main marinas in Sweden have plenty of supermarkets, but it is worth remembering that, they don’t sell alcohol. To purchase alcohol in Scandinavia, you must go to a specific Wine Monopoly store. A visit to one of these stores as you arrive is the perfect time to embrace the Swedish tradition of Akvavit – the typical Swedish spirit for raising a toast – and Swedish punch – the essential accompaniment for dessert and coffee.
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