187 000. According to Statistics Finland that is the number of islands in Finland with an area of at least 100 square meters. For a country our size that is a lot. This includes both the islands in the Finnish archipelago along the south and west coasts and all the islands in the 188 000 lakes that we have.
Now I have fallen in love. The targets of my infatuation this summer are the islands in front of Helsinki and Espoo – and most probably in Raasepori as well as soon as we get round to visiting them. Over the years I had only visited a few of the more accessible islands in Helsinki, such as Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Uunisaari, but now, with having brought our boat out to the sea instead of a lake for the first time, we have been able to visit places we had never heard of. And they are right around the corner from mainland.
If you feel like breathing in the fresh sea air and soaking in some gorgeous scenery, I listed a few simple tips for you.
Suomenlinna Sea Fortress
Having just advertised the smaller and lesser known islands, I still have to list Suomenlinna Sea Fortress as number one. Why? Because it is easy for everyone to access (just hop on the ferry from the market square), it has stunning views both out to the sea and into the city, plenty of spots for picnic, an excellent pizza house (Pizzeria Nikolai of Restaurant Walhalla) and exciting tunnels to explore. It’s the Finnish equivalent to hobbit land. (More info: Suomenlinna)
This island is a fairly recent attraction in Helsinki since it was only opened to the public in 2016 after being deserted and closed for years and years. The nature on the island is almost completely wild has been untouched for decades. Therefore it makes for a surreal experience to enter a place where time stands still and you have stunning views to our capital at the same time. The island has a history closely linked with war and it stills hides old ammunition. Due to this and the unique nature, visitors are forbidden to step outside the marked trails. However, you can access these out of bounds areas with a guide.
Vallisaari is also easily accessed from the market square with ferries going regularly from May through to September. (More info: Vallisaari)
Dinner cruise in the Eastern Helsinki archipelago
The eastern part of Helsinki is full of islands mostly accessible to private boaters or kayaks, but a really nice way of accessing the area is on a brunch, lunch or dinner cruise from the market square. You sit back and relax with a nice meal and a drink and soak in the scenery. (More info: Royal Line, IHA-Lines)
Gåsgrund in Espoo
The islands in Espoo have some gems among them. In June, July and August they can be accessed by a scheduled boat service leaving from Otaniemi, Haukilahti and Matinkylä. I have fallen in love with the island of Gåsgrund: a definite pearl on the outskirts of the Espoo archipelago. Couldn’t get a hotel booking with a sea view? Not to worry, this island will give you 180 degree marine views from your studio that is a tent. Gåsgrund is perfect for camping with rugged cliffs and more sheltered areas. There are two excellent cooking shelters and outhouses. And better yet, there’s even a sauna with a beach. This is the best archipelago experience you can get with the least amount of effort.
For ferry schedules check out: Espoo scheduled boats
Can you smell the sea yet?