The Koster Islands
These islands are Sweden's most westerly inhabited islands, and located west of Strömstad. There are two islands, Nordkoster and Sydkoster, and both are basically car-free.
South-west of the islands is the Koster Archipelago, with numerous islands and rocks, watched over by the lighthouse on Ursholmen, at the furthest point from the mainland.
How to get to the islands
You can reach the Koster Islands by passenger boat from the centre of Strömstad all year round.
A good place to park your car during a visit to the Koster Islands is in one of the car parks by the entrance to Strömstad. (For more information contact the Tourist information) From these there are free buses to the North Harbour in the summer.
Tickets for the boat journey can be bought on board the boat, in the harbour, or from the shops Konsum and Pressbyrån. Credit cards are not accepted on the boats.
General information about the Koster Islands
Once on Koster, you're met by small fishing villages, surrounded by an amazingly beautiful landscape, with many different plants and flowers. Both islands are nature reserves, which means that the Swedish Right to Roam does not apply here. This means that free camping is not allowed, and that you may not take anything from the natural landscape off the islands. If you want to spend the night on one of the islands during the summer months, it is advisable to pre-book, as the holiday accommodation is often fully booked during high season.
The Koster Islands is a small community divided between two islands. There are around 400 permanent residents. Koster is a well-functioning community, with a school, nursery, shop, and nowadays more opportunities for older people to live here.
Thanks to the tourism industry, there are very good connections to the mainland and these are continuously being improved. It is perfectly possible to commute both to and from the mainland. Some people travel to their workplace in the town, whilst others, such as workmen, commute in the opposite direction, to work on the Koster Islands.
Nordkoster & Sydkoster
The characters of the islands differ slightly.
Nordkoster is more barren than Sydkoster. On Nordkoster, you'll find shingle banks, sandy beaches, secluded bays where you can swim, and a lighthouse with views of the Koster Islands, Kosterhavet National Park and the rest of the archipelago. Most of the buildings on Nordkoster are concentrated to the area between the piers where the passenger boats berth; Västra Bryggan and Vettnet. Nordkoster has a grocery store, restaurants, burger and hot-dog stand, galleries, guest harbour, holiday village and camp site. You can visit Nordkoster for the day and explore the island on foot.
Sydkoster is the larger of the two islands, and greener than Nordkoster. On Sydkoster you'll find open meadows and agricultural land, interspersed with grey granite rocks. Sydkoster also has sandy beaches and secluded bays for swimming. By Långegärde pier is a local heritage museum, housed in an old herring salting house, and right in the middle of the island is Sweden's most westerly church. If you want a view of the Koster Islands and the surrounding archipelago, we recommend a walk to Valfjäll, west of the church.
The buildings on Sydkoster are concentrated mainly to the areas around the piers where the passenger boats berth: Långegärde, Ekenäs and Kilesand.
Sydkoster has a grocery store, a school, bike rental, restaurants, hotels, holiday villages, a fish smoke-house, a burger and hot-dog stand , galleries, arts & crafts, and ceramics workshops. If you want to see a lot of Sydkoster during your visit, the best way is to explore by bicycle. Bike rental is available close to where the passenger boats arrive.
Cycling & walking on Koster
Nordkoster has a fine network of paths, which run through many areas of great natural beauty, and are perfect for walking. All the paths may not seem very well marked if you're a first-time visitor or on a day trip, but since the whole island is no bigger than 4 square kilometres, you won't be lost for very long!
Sydkoster is twice as big as Nordkoster, and the best way to get around here is by cycling or walking. The advantage of cycling is that you get to see more even on a short visit.
Koster's Local Heritage Museum at Långegärde is a popular visitor destination. 5,500 people visit the museum every year. Different exhibitions describe local events and phenomenon, for example the history of the school. There are large collections of tools, mainly from the fishing industry, including objects like painted lobster floats and everyday items from local dwellings. Also on display are images and written accounts about life on Koster during the last few centuries.
From the ceiling hangs a huge jaw bone from a blue whale that once beached in these waters, and they have even managed to find space for an old rowing-boat, fully equipped for fishing. You can also study locally made miniature lace. Tatting was a common pastime among the fishermen in times gone by. It's amazing to see these fine works of art, and to think that they were made by large men's hands.
The museum is run by the islands' local heritage association. It is housed in an old storehouse, called ”Siberia”. The storehouse is a listed building. Not many years ago, it was derelict, but through the efforts of Koster's local heritage association, local carpenters and the Swedish National Heritage Board, it was restored in the 1980s.
The storehouse was built in the 1890s, but was then located on Hamnholmen by Ekenäs. It was used as a herring salting house. The name “Siberia” dates back to this time. Not only was the location the most easterly on the islands, but the building was also cold and draughty. In 1897, the salting business closed down, when the herring ran out. Instead, Siberia was used as a storehouse and a workshop for repairing fishing gear. In 1918, Siberia was sold to Norrvikens Mackerel Fishing Association, which had it taken down and transported to its present location.
It was now used for salting mackerel, a business that was successful for a few years, but in the 1930s this closed down as well. Siberia was then used as a store and boathouse and became derelict. When the rescue operation started, this really was at the eleventh hour. The museum is on the upper floor. On the ground floor is a shellfish restaurant which is open in the summer, and an arts & crafts shop.