Scandinavians love to travel and are constantly chasing sunny beaches in far away places. What they might not know is that there are the most amazing adventures waiting to be had right in their own backyards!
There isn’t much traffic on the expressway going north. We pass by trucks and buses. The early morning rain is slowing down as the skies get bluer. We’re leaving the pulse of Gothenburg behind us; we are on our way to the peaceful cliffs of the archipelago. We will rent kayaks in Marstrand, a town situated an hour or so north of Gothenburg. As we get off the expressway, there’s a scent of summer and flowers in the air. With the rush and frenzy behind us, there’s nothing but serenity and peace ahead.
“Make sure you pack the kayak evenly,” says my friend Christofer Lann, an experienced kayaker. A tent, sleeping bags, and food have been packed in watertight bags. After a brief conversation over the marine chart about where to head, we launch our kayaks. We’re on our way.
Marstrand’s hectic nightlife seems close yet far away. We’re guests in a world where entertainment is limited to rocky cliffs and the open sea. We encounter large white sailboats and chugging motorboats, but eventually all is quiet as we paddle into the land of seagulls and ducks. We pass by rocks and skerries. The waves get bigger as we come into the outer archipelago. Seals stop us in our tracks then follow us for a while.
Kayaking and camping or day trips
Kayaking on the Swedish west coast leaves you with plenty of options. If you stay at a hotel in Gothenburg, you’ll have easy access to the southern archipelago and can rent kayaks in Styrsö. Then an hour or so north of the city, there’s the above-mentioned Marstrand where there are several hotels to choose from. There are also kayaks for rent in Orust. If you don’t want to paddle back the same way you came, you can ask to be picked up along the coast. At Orust Kayak, you can buy information material regarding kayaking and camping, etc. What’s so special about kayaking is the closeness to nature, and the fact that you use nothing but your own muscle strength to navigate. It’s also an eco-friendly alternative.
“We’re almost there,” says Christofer. “Once we’re in the bay, we’ll be on the lee side.”
Our goal is Högö Island. As we've paddled closer, the wind has gotten stronger, and the waves beat against the kayak. Then all is silent as we glide into the bay.
Once the kayaks are safely on dry land, we decide to explore the island. Every nook and cranny is scrutinized in search of the best spot to tent. The tents are up and the sun has begun to set. Time ceases to exist in the warmth of the sun’s last rays. A quick dip in the sea and we’re off to collect firewood and start cooking. We eat in silence and remain seated for a while, mesmerized by the crackling fire. We brush our teeth wide-eyed and amazed at how the breathtaking moon rises. The next morning we breakfast in the sun and are on our way again. We make our way north with the sun beating on our backs. No longer are we curious visitors, but part of nature itself.
On our way back to Marstrand we happen upon a lonesome lighthouse which leads us to take an extra turn. We stretch our legs and lunch on the cliffs till it’s time to get back to reality again. Paddling towards Marstrand after pasta and bread among seashells and swans is easy. We glide into the marina with big smiles on our faces – we’ve come to the end of our journey.
We disembark and get our kayaks up. The kayaks are washed down and put back. A quick thank-you and we’re heading back to the big city. We turn onto the expressway, and when we reach the bright lights of the big city, the remote cliffs of the archipelago seem far, far away.
Jerker Waller runs Styrsö Kajaker in Gothenburg's archipelago. He knows all there is to know about kayaks and kayaking. We asked for some tips.
Why kayak on the Swedish west coast?
The west coast of Sweden is beautiful and varied. Among the islands you can find anything from idyllic, sandy beaches to massive granite rocks. It’s up to the individual to decide whether she wants to paddle amongst rocks and skerries or venture out among the bigger waves in the open sea. There are several spots where one can just sit and watch the sea and the sailboats.
Why go to the southern archipelago?
Because the southern archipelago offers a throng of inhabited and uninhabited little islands, and the nature is quiet and beautiful in spite of the nearness to the city. Depending on where you go, you’ll have either an exciting or a more meditative experience.
How should I prepare for a trip with the kayak?
Remember to bring plenty of food and drink and suitable clothing. One tip is to eat right before you start, that way you’ll have the energy to paddle for a while. You should also bring along a map, compass, and a cell phone in a watertight bag. Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat or cap. There are courses to prepare you for kayak technique and safety.
What’s so wonderful about kayaking?
You’ll find yourself in the borderland between water and the open skies. There’s complete silence while you bop on the surface of the water. Being in the midst of nature like that can give you a new outlook on things. And it is very beautiful and meditative.
Any tips for beginners?
Most people are surprised at how steady the kayak feels once you’re in it. It is somewhat narrower than a canoe, yet still sturdy since it has a lower center of gravity. One tip is to get into your swimsuit and just play around a bit with the kayak and the paddle before you head out. Sometimes it helps to tip it over just to know how it feels.
Written and photographed by Emil Sergel
Where to rent a kayak:
Experience kayaking only 40 minutes from Gothenburg.
Address: Furufjällsvägen 13, 430 84 Styrsö
Phone: 0702 77 51 90
Prices: One-person kayak 280 SEK per day, two-person kayak 360 SEK per day.
Marstrandskajaker Fiskhamnen in Marstrand
Paddle away from the high nightlife of Marstrand.
Address: Fiskhamnen, 44030 Marstrand
Phone: 0303 607 42
Price: One-person kayak 300 SEK per day, two-person kayak 400 SEK per day.
Open sea, cliffs, and lots of greenery
Address: Stockens camping Västra Orust
Price: One-person kayak 350 SEK per day, two-person kayak 450 SEK per day.
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