The lure of islands is something most of us share. That little outcrop of land in the middle of the sea, reached only by bobbing boat that rocks us into a holiday mood, promises the full massage for tired minds and bodies as well as a fascinating world of adventure. Helsinki boasts a myriad of islands for you to explore.
This fortress island, a UNESCO heritage site, has monuments, cannons, dark bastions, museums, 850 inhabitants many of whom are artists who live and work there, an idyllic beach and a visitor’s centre where you can find out more about the history and life of this popular tourist attraction. Ferries run regularly from the Market Square and only cost a nominal regular public transport fare.
Two islands separated by a narrow channel, ideal for the kids to explore safely. Take your picnic to the beach or make use of the facilities of the restaurant where you can get stuck into a grill buffet featuring overcooked BBQ pork or salmon or choose from the many other menus available. There are even saunas that can be rented for groups of 8 or more. The ferry ride costs €5 from Kaivopuisto Park, the Compass Square (Merisatamanranta).
Sun worshippers abound on the sandy beaches where you can always find a spot protected and out of the wind. There’s even a nudist beach. The beautiful wooden villa now houses a restaurant. Boat travellers can moor overnight and bring their dogs along to sniff out the eastern island where a covered barbecue complete with cut wood is open for anyone to use. Camping for a nominal fee is also allowed. The two large islands are joined by a bridge. The ferry leaves from near Carusel Café every half hour and costs €6 return. No dogs on the ferry.
Here you will find nature trails popular with bird watchers. The topography of the island with its gardens, embankments, rocky crags and outcrops, and little marshes all make for biodiversity and ideal nesting spots. The island can be reached by boat from the jetty near Café Ursula in Kaivopuisto Park. Remember to lift the white wooden arrow to catch the ride that costs €4 return.
A great day out for the kids. They can pet the domestic animals, clamber on the climbing frame, play hide and seek and swim in the sunshine. There’s also a nature trail, a chapel, restaurant and mooring for private boats. The ferry leaves from Taivallahti jetty at the end of Etelä Hesperiankatu every hour but not on Mondays. Cost €4.
Home to the Helsinki Zoo. No beaches but plenty to keep you and the kids gawking including the Amurinleopard, camels, seals and even bears (yes, you’re in Finland now!) The ferries from the Market Square and Hakaniemi Square.
Once closed to the public, this tiny 150m long island played an important role in history. Negotiations for the surrender of Suomenlinna between the Russians and Finns took place here and its demagnetising station for ships and marine vessels is still in place. The island has a brand-new concept restaurant and picnic areas and will soon get a public sauna and spa! The JT ferry from the Market Square to Suomenlinna with the “L” symbol will stop at Lonna when requested throughout the summer.
Get the full archipelago experience just 22km from the Helsinki shoreline. Take your tent and fishing rod, indulge in mushroom picking (if you know what you’re doing!!), be a naturist for a day, or just find your place in the sun on this island with its eponymous name – beautiful island. Restaurant and cabins available but unfortunately the latter are fully booked at the weekends. The ferry takes 50 minutes from Vuosaari Harbour, operated by Cardinal Marine (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information and bookings: +358 9 310 71445.
If time is at a premium, the best way to at least get a glimpse of the shoreline and the islands surrounding the city is to take a boat tour. For sightseeing cruises and special evening cruises: www.stromma.fi/en.