There are several paradise-like Swedish West Coast islands. I have my favorite for sure. That is why every year I visit Koster Islands, or Kosterhavet National Park, in Sweden and meet up with my friend when I am there.
I went to the islands for the first time when I was 18 years old and since then I cannot stop going. It is just bliss, a paradise on earth.
The islands is car-free, so roaming the island is mainly by foot or on a bike. For transportation to and from the ferry, there are electric vehicles that you can pre-book from the islanders.
Visiting my favorite Swedish West Coast islands
I usually go mid-May or early June and then I am back in late August or September. So I would be there just before and after the high season.
Both periods has its charm. In late May or early June, the nature is so alive with bright nights, the amazing choirs of birds singing, and the beautiful island flora coming to life. The sea is cold, but it does not stop us from taking a morning swim.
In August, the life on the islands slows down. The constant flow of visitors have fizzled out and the sea is quite warm. It might be a bit cooler in the air, but the feeling of being almost alone on the island is priceless. If you want to go in July, try to find more secluded places to avoid the daily visitors that come with the ferries.
How to get there and how to get around
You can take a bus or train from Gothenburg central station to Strömstad central station. For times that fit with the ferries, check out Västtrafik website. Search for Gothenburg central station to, for example, Ekenäs (Sydkoster).
Then you will get the timetable for the passenger ferries. These depart from the northern harbor in Strömstad throughout the year. The walk from the train and bus station to the harbor takes about 9 minutes (700 meter walk). The ferry crossing takes between 30-50 minutes depending on your Koster destination (there are several ferry quays).
The islands are relatively small, making it accessible and suitable for cycling. You can rent bicycles on the islands.
In the summer months, there is a cable ferry “Kosterlänken” that takes you across the Koster Strait from/to North and South Koster. It is open every day from June until mid-August.
Kosterhavet National Park
Kosterhavet National Park is another name for Koster Islands, which is a group of islands on the west coast. It is a two-hour drive up north from Gothenburg. You need to take a ferry from the coastal town Strömstad. If you want to continue to Norway from Strömstand, you only have to drive 30km to the closest Norwegian town, Halden.
Swedish visitors come to the Koster islands (North Koster and South Koster) to experience a life style that reminds many of us of our childhood. Such as, the long lazy days in a nature setting that seems to be from a Swedish summer fairytale book.
For visitors from other countries, there are many unique attractions. Apart from the natural beauty, there is also a rich marine life and a unique ecosystem. It has been a national park since 1990. The protected landscape include both the land and marine areas. It is the first marine national park in Sweden.
The Koster Islands are characterized by its beautiful coastline, clear waters, cliffs and rocks by the ocean shores, and the sandy beaches. The Koster Islands, especially South Koster Island, feature some impressive cliffs along the coastline. These cliffs provide stunning views of the surroundings. However, be careful when hiking there because the cliffs vary in height and shape.
Many, many years ago we rented a boat to a small rock island nearby with amazing towering cliffs. If you dare, you can also take a jump into the waters from the cliffs.
Marine life and great sea food
The marine environment surrounding the islands is exceptionally rich in biodiversity, with a variety of fish, crustaceans, and other marine species inhabiting the area.
You can order delicious sea food from the fisherman if you like shrimps, crabs and clams. Just call the local fisherman to make your order that you pick-up on set days in one of the harbours.
You can also book a shrimp fishing tour and join a fishing expedition. Koster shrimps (Kosterhavets räkor) is a delicacy. These shrimps are caught only in the waters around Koster island.
If you do not feel like cooking yourself, you can buy fantastic seafood at the deli Koster Rökeri (at the Ferry quay Ekenäs). You can also enjoy a delicious meal at one of the great summer restaurants.
Active holiday island – the natural way
Koster Islands is great for cycling, hiking, and swimming in one of the secluded beaches. You can also try snorkel, there are some stunning underwater landscapes. The islands are also great for birdwatchers. Simple, but fantastic activities when done in the right setting.