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Photographer: Mikael Almse

Visit the first marine national park in Sweden

The Koster Sea and islands off the coast in northern Bohuslän make up the Kosterhavet National Park, Sweden’s very first marine national park. Hop on a boat to see them, paddle out on a guided kayaking trip or hike them until your heart is content. But see them you should in their pristine, dramatic and protected natural glory – above and below the surface.

The park stretches from off the coast of holiday town Strömstad in the north to Grebbestad (oyster capital of Sweden) in the south and within its confines is the most species-rich marine environment in Sweden.

But what does that mean?

It means that of the 12,000-odd plants and creatures that call this beautiful and unique environment home, more than 200 are unique to this area. As is the Koster Fjörd that runs north to south through the park into the North Atlantic continental shelf providing an oceanic, salty-sea dwelling for plant and animal life close to the coast. The fjord is also an important mating and spawning site for fish and shellfish.

All of this you find out yourself at Kosterhavet Naturum, the national park visitor centre located beside the pier at Ekenäs on car-free South Koster island. On offer are a photographic exhibition and interactive presentations and films about the Koster Sea and don’t miss the aquarium where you get to see and touch various species. South Koster is just under one hour by ferry from Norra hamnen in Strömstad.

Photographer: Roger Borgelid

Being a marine national park, more than 99.5% of it is under water. Luckily there is a ‘signposted’ snorkeling trail in the clean, azure waters at a depth of 1 to 1.5 metres that you can follow, ticking off the species from the signpost as you go. This is hugely popular with kids and there are wet suits available. There is a snorkel trail on South Koster island at Rörvik and one at Hasselbukten on the island of Saltö. Above the surface there are cultural and heritage sites related mostly to fishing and farming, the main ones being the car-free North and South Koster islands.

Apart from enjoying the sea, island and aquatic vistas, beachcombing and general lazing about in the sun here, there are various trips to go on; fancy a seal spotting trip? How about going on one of the ‘safaris’ on offer where you go out with local fishermen to bait, pot and haul langoustine and the world famous West Coast lobster, depending on season?

Photographer: Henrik Trygg

Other activities on offer here include kayaking, hiking, bird watching and fishing for mackerel.
There’s a bunch of nature reserves connected to the national park that are well worth a visit: the Koster Islands, Saltö, Kockholmen, Nord Långö and the wonderfully named Väderöarna, or Weather Islands, in English.

Did you know?

  • Kosterhavet National Park covers an area of roughly 390 square kilometres, of which 380 square kilometres is underwater
  • Sweden’s only coral reef is in the Koster Sea
  • The Koster Fjord is 250 metres deep in places