Nature and hiking on the Koster Islands
Almost the same distance from Oslo (130 kilometres) and Gothenburg (160 kilometres), Strömstad is ideally situated between two of the most vibrant cities in Scandinavia. Strömstad has the saltiest water on the west coast, and is the location of the Kosterhavet National Park, the only marine national park in Sweden. Just 45 minutes by boat to the west, the Koster Islands offer excellent opportunities for walking, kayaking and cycling.
Remember that the choice of activities, and opening times of restaurants, shops and hotels vary over the year. Check the companies’ own websites for current information.
Day 1, boat to South Koster
From Gothenburg, you can make your way easily to Strömstad in northern Bohuslän by Västtrafik train or bus. The journey takes about 2½ hours. From Strömstad and onwards to the Koster Islands, you can also travel with Västtrafik, which operates boats from the north harbour every day of the year.
The boat journey to the Koster Islands – North Koster and South Koster – takes around 45 minutes. If you have your own bike with you, you can take it on board, space permitting, for a small fee.
The islands are to a large extent nature reserves, and you will encounter a lovely mixture of coastal meadows with a rich flora, rolling countryside, and a windswept outer archipelago. On South Koster, between the end of March to the end of October, you can choose to check in at Hotell Ekenäs Koster,a classic archipelago hotel that also offers apartments and suites. The hotel is right next to the Ekenäs ferry landing, which is one of the ferry stops on South Koster. Not far from the beach beside the Kilesand ferry stop you’ll find modern Kostergården, which has rooms, cottages and apartments to rent. More accommodation alternatives on the Koster Islands can be found here.
Photographer: Åsa Dahlgren
Kosterhavet National Park
The Kosterhavet National Park is the only marine national park in Sweden and covers almost 400 square kilometres, with about 12 000 species, half underwater and half on land. It is also the location of the only coral reef in Sweden, with examples of marine life not found anywhere else in Swedish waters. Make sure you visit the naturum Kosterhavet Visitor Centre, which is also the main entrance to the national park, as well as the manned visitor centre, on the Ekenäs jetty on South Koster. You’ll find, amongst other things, information about nature in the national park, a ‘petting aquarium’ and exhibitions. Guided tours are arranged on land, and during the summer by the water as well. Naturum Kosterhavet is open all year round and admission is free.
Walk or cycle on South Koster
South Koster is ideal for exploring on foot or by bike as the island has virtually car free. To make it easier for you to find the walking trails on North and South Koster, the Kosterhavet National Park has produced an app – Walking in Kosterhavet – which is free and can be downloaded from both the App Store and Google Play Store.
If you choose to make your way around by bike, you can see a lot in a short space of time as the distances are not particularly great. There are a number of signposted trailswhich take you around the island. If you don’t have a bike with you, you’ll be able to hire enough for the whole family from April to October near all the ferry landings on South Koster.
While you’re wandering the island don’t miss the view from Valfjäll, the highest outlook point on South Koster looking out over the Koster Islands and Ursholmen.
If you prefer to explore the area from a kayak, there are ample opportunities in Kosterhavet. You can find more information about kayaking in the area here.
Photographer: Åsa Dahlgren
A visit to Kosters Gardens is a must while you’re on the island. Kosters Gardens is an organic visitor garden, with a restaurant and a farm shop certified by A Taste of West Sweden. Apart from serving excellent food in a beautiful setting, Kosters Gardens also offers guided tours of the area – by bike as well as on foot or by kayak. Please note that Kosters Gardens is open most of the year but not all the time. If you plan to visit it’s best to check opening times before you arrive on the island.
During winter there are no restaurants open on the Koster Islands – but during the rest of the year you can round off the day with something to delicious to eat at one of the restaurants in the area. Some of these restaurants usually open around Easter. There’s also an ICA supermarket open all year round on South Koster, where you’ll also find a cash dispenser.
Day 2, Walking on North Koster
You can easily make your way to North Koster by boat from South Koster, or directly from Strömstad. During the summer and on public holidays in spring you can also travel by cable ferry between the two islands. If you travel to North Koster outside peak season, remember to bring something to eat and drink for the whole trip as there is no shop on the island that is open all year round. During summer there are restaurants and a food shop open on North Koster.
Photographer: Roger Borgelid
On North Koster there are two signposted walking trails, 5.4 kilometres and 5.5 kilometres long, passing through rich and varied natural landscapes. Along the trails there are many opportunities to make a detour. Högen Hill, with Koster’s two lighthouses, is 58 metres above sea level. It is the highest point on the Koster Islands and provides a stunning view. If you want to go for a swim, you can do so both from the beach or the rocks.
After your walk, you can choose to stay another night on South Koster or take the boat back to Strömstad and check in at one of the places to stay there.
Would you like to continue your island-hopping adventure from Strömstad? In the summer you can take a day trip to the islands of Nord-Långö and Ursholmen, and the ferry from Strömstad to Skjärhalden in Norway operates all year round.
Find your island-hops
Bohuslän's archipelago is something special. To help you get a really genuine archipelago experience we've put together both ferry companies and route suggestions that will make your island hops happen.