Each island has its own special character and the list below only includes a fraction of all the islands that are worth a visit. During the high season in July and early August some islands have inter-island ferry services, but more commonly they are accessed by regular ferry traffic from the mainland, and some of the larger islands by bridges.
The Koster Islands
The Koster islands, consisting of North and South Koster, are Sweden’s most westerly inhabited islands and are mostly covered by nature reserve. Since the islands are virtually car-free, they attract large numbers of cyclists and hikers.
South Koster is a perfect island for cycling, and bikes can be hired at every pier on the island. The best way to get around North Koster is by foot, as the road network consists mainly of paths. Both islands have a variety of nature types, with lovely swimming beaches, moors, small forests, orchids and rocky landscapes with clear traces of the Ice Age.
There is a range of accommodation styles, for instance Ekenäs Skärgårds hotell offers high quality meals and accommodation. Cabins, guesthouses and campgrounds – all are available. Fresh seafood is part of the culture here on the coast and several places sell it straight from the fisherman’s net, for instance South Koster has a fish shop and smokehouse at Ekenäs and at Västra Bryggan on North Koster is Feskeboa.
South Koster is the larger of the two islands, approximately eight square kilometres in area. Its beaches include Rörvik in Ekenäs and the kilometre-long sandy beach at Kilesand. Compared to North Koster, the forests are larger and the tracks and roads more numerous. Valfjäll, opposite the little wooden church, is a peaceful, beautiful location with excellent views across the Koster archipelago and Ursholmen. The rare Bohus lime tree grows at Ekenäs, and nature lovers can also see a number of different orchids here.
North Koster is only four square kilometres in area. The lighthouse on North Koster has been restored and is now operational after 110 years of disuse. The view from here is magnificent and well worth the walk.
The Koster boats depart from the north harbour in Strömstad, adjacent to the square and the tourist information centre. Make sure the boat you plan to take actually stops at the pier you want to arrive at.
There are two landings on North Koster: Vettnet on the east side and Västra Bryggan in the Koster Strait. South Koster has three: Långagärde in the Koster Strait, Ekenäs and Kilesand. Tickets are purchased on board and there is a charge for bicycles. On the islands, bicycles can be hired at all the piers. On North Koster bicycles are not necessary. There is a cable ferry between North and South Koster.
On Käringön you’ll find the typical fishing village and a vibrant island scene. Walking from the harbour up to the pilot’s lookout tower, you pass by red fishing sheds, small outhouses and gardens that have changed little since the 19th century.
Käringön is home to the much-renowned restaurant Peterson’s krog, and the unique Oyster Bar, where you can enjoy fresh oysters and champagne at the outer limits of the island, while sitting in a tub full of seawater heated by a wood fire. They can also give a presentation of their oyster farm, or arrange an oyster tasting.
The history of Käringön goes back hundreds of years. The first fishermen came to the island in the 16th century. During the great herring years of the 18th and 19th centuries they also caught cod and ling. All the fish was salted and dried by the island’s fishermen.
When the herring stocks decreased in the 19th century many families left the island, but some stayed, and their descendents are the fishermen of today. Also, holidaymakers started visiting the island as early as the 19th century.
Käringön now has a smokehouse and the basic but very pleasant hotel Handelshuset, with 12 double rooms and one single room. Each is different, simply but tastefully decorated with its own ensuite bathroom. Ferries to Käringön depart from Hällevikstrand on the island of Orust. The carpark is located just as you enter Hällevikstrand and it’s a 500 metre walk from there to the ferry.
Gullholmen & Härmanö
At the far west of the Bohuslän archipelago is Gullholmen, one of the oldest and most beautiful fishing villages on the west coast. The wooden houses, typical of the province, huddle closer together than in any of the other towns.
From Gullholmen there is a footbridge to Härmanö, which has one of Bohuslän’s largest nature reserves, where a variety of rare plants grow. The most typical feature of the landscape on Härmanö is the fissured and broken gneiss bedrock, and you can walk through the ”Hell’s Corridors” of black dolerite.
Worth a visit is Gullholmen’s oldest house, Stenstuga, which is now a museum, and the Skepparhuset (the Skipper’s House) from 1893. In the Skepparhuset the rooms and contents have all been kept in their original condition and the house, as well as its boatsheds, is now a maritime and fishing museum.
Accommodation in the form of hotels and cabins is available on Gullholmen at Gullholmsbaden and Skottarn. Ferries to Gullholmen depart from Tuvesvik on Orust.
The Väderöarna Islands start where Sweden ends. The group consists of hundreds of islands spread out across the sea. Home to one of the coast’s largest seal colonies, and with one of Sweden’s warmest and windiest climates, which ensures lush vegetation as well as a barren, exposed landscape. This makes the islands a paradise for birdwatchers, sport fishermen, divers and other nature lovers.
People come to the Väderöarna Islands to dive, fish, paint, swim, have saunas, watch birds and seals and explore the rocky landscape. Accommodation on the islands is at Väderöarnas Pensionat, a guesthouse with breathtaking views across the ocean. It has about 30 beds in eight rooms, from two to six beds per room. The rooms are basic but comfortable.
The guests make their own beds and do their own cleaning, but bedlinen is available for hire. The guesthouse serves fresh seafood, fish and vegetables depending on the season, and is fully licensed. In the little harbour there are very well protected spots to anchor or tie up, for those who arrive in their own boat.
Otherwise you can reach Väderöarna by boat from Hamburgsund or Fjällbacka, which takes about half an hour, depending on the weather. Normally the boat trip is booked at the same time as the accommodation.
Väderöarnas Pensionat & Konferens
Tel., bookings & info: +46 525-32001
The nature reserve on Hållö island is wild and beautiful. Violets grow from the cracks in the rock, and birds that breed on the island include the black guillemot. Sailboats lie at anchor for the night in the coves. There is good swimming from the pink granite rocks and crowds are non-existent.
The most popular spot for swimming is the Marmorbassängen, or Marble Pool, across the island from the ferry wharf. It has smooth rocks dropping straight into the deep, turquoise water, but there is also a stepladder to help you get in. The crystal-clear water is excellent for snorkling and diving. Hållö has an interesting history, and has had a lighthouse since 1842.
For accommodation there’s the charming Utpost Hållö, which is a hostel with conference facilities and cafe in the summer.
Hållö lighthouse was the first lighthouse station on the entire stretch of coastline between Marstrand and the Norwegian border. For 127 years the station was inhabited by lighthouse keepers and their families. However since the lighthouse was automated, there have been no permanent inhabitants on the island.
The Utpost Hållö hostel is located on the south side of the nature reserve. The facility consists of six four-bed ”boathouses” with showers and washbasins. Serving these is a fully-equipped kitchen and three bathrooms. The assembly hall is also used as a dining room.
The rest of the building contains a complete kitchen, three double rooms, a shower and bathroom. During the summer the hostel also has a cafe. The island is served by ferries from the quay at Smögen, departing every half hour during daytime, and the trip takes about 15 minutes.
An island of rock, Åstol sits off Tjörn in southern Bohuslän. The first thing you see of the island are the rocky hills and the white houses, almost all of which are oriented in an east-west direction.
In the port is the well-known smokehouse, Åstol Rökeri, which consists of the restaurant Perrys Bar, a fish shop and the smokehouse itself, which is the heart of the business. Here they smoke eel, mackerel, herring, rainbow trout and shrimp. The restaurant holds music nights with quality Swedish singers, jazz bands and other artists, and in the kitchen there are special visits by chefs from the best restaurants in Göteborg.
Like most of the islands in Bohuslän, Åstol became inhabited as a result of the mid 18th century herring boom. The difference between Åstol and many of the towns up and down the coast is that it is a living community throughout the year, even if there is a considerable difference between summer and winter. Åstol consists of barren, windswept rocky hills made of amphibolite, a metamorphic rock.
The roads on the island are narrow and car-free, and if you walk to the watertower on Store Varn you are rewarded with a magnificent view over the ocean to the west. In the western horizon you can see the Pater Noster islands and to the south is Carlsten’s Fortress on Marstrand. Åstol is reached by ferries from Rönnäng on the island of Tjörn.
Bohus-Malmön is a rocky island about 4 km long and 2 km wide, home to a genuine fishing and stone-cutting community. Here you can take the kärleksstigen or ”Love Path” around Draget which is a popular walking route, past quays, beautiful rose gardens and the beautiful Bohuslän granite.
The official flower of the province, the honeysuckle, flowers twice a year here, and when the heather blooms the island is tinged with purple. Like most islands in Bohuslän, there are also sandy beaches, cliffs and several well-organised swimming spots.
The history of Bohus-Malmön is closely linked to stone cutting. The first quarry started in 1830. At the end of the century the stone company AB Kullgren bought the entire island. When the stone cutting industry died out, tourism became a small but important replacement.
Kursgården is a bed and breakfast hotel that is open nearly all year. In summer there are a number of restaurants and in winter Kursgården can arrange meals by appointment. To get to the island there is a ferry from Kungshamn. Drive towards “Kungshamn S” and then turn left by the sign for Malmön. The ferry leaves twice an hour and is free.