If you’re looking for waves, salty winds, wild nature and tonnes of shellfish, take a trip with skipper Annika Kristensson to the islands of Bohuslän’s archipelago.
A group of summer visitors wants to get from Marstrand to Skärhamn on the west coast of Sweden, so skipper Annika Kristensson of Gunnar’s Boat Tours is pretty busy. Her eyes are two slender, smiling strips under a dark fringe that has a little white in it.
“I love life out here on the islands. The nature of Bohuslän’s archipelago with its many islands, rocky slopes, cliffs, beaches, little harbours and multitude of wildlife is infinitely beautiful. To be able to show visitors where we live and see it through their eyes is awesome. I love those meetings,” she says.
Annika came to Dyrön, just north of Marstrand, when she was 19 years old with the intention of working here for a couple of years. But that’s not how things panned out. A couple of years here turned into a life: a whopping 27 years as a matter of fact, with a husband and two daughters and as owner of Gunnar’s Boat Tours. When she and her partner took over Gunnar’s Boat Tours, she also gained her skipper’s certificate. If you’re going to live on an island with 200 inhabitants, you have to be able to do everything for yourself.
Annika Kristensson is a skipper and owner of Gunnars Boat Tours in the archipelago of Bohuslän, West Sweden. Photo: Anna Hållams
“I actually hold a Bachelor of Commerce. But when you’re running a shipping company, it’s handy to be able to pilot a boat as well. You have to be a jack of all trades to live out here. Versatile. Running Gunnar’s Boat Tours involves me in everything from doing the orders to sending out invoices at the end of a trip. Having responsibility for everything from the ordering to the experience itself is the key to success and ensuring that people have a good time out here.
“If the service we offer doesn’t come up to scratch, you’ll know straight away, and that’s embarrassing. So we can’t afford to fall short.”
Annika’s archipelago is only an hour away from central Gothenburg and it’s easy and affordable to reach using public transport. In fact, you can use the same ticket you use on Gothenburg’s trams on some routes out to the archipelago. There are lots of options, not bad, right?“Some visitors believe that travelling to the archipelago’s islands will be difficult, but it’s not. Boats come out here every day throughout the year – summer and winter. In fact, you can even do a spot of island hopping.”
She’s also grateful that the coast is so open: not just in the sense of being open to the sea, but also in the sense that it’s available for all to enjoy. “Foreign visitors often think that our beautiful places and beaches must be private, but that’s not the case. They’re here for everyone – it’s just a case of helping yourself,” she says. “So, be our guests!”
See killer whales and dolphins
Aside from transporting people to and from Gothenburg and around the islands, Annika tries to tell them what they can see and do out in the archipelago. It’s a delight. “We see dolphins, seals, seabirds and wild sheep on our trips around the archipelago, and we’ve recently seen killer whales to the north of Käringön. You can fish too, of course; it’s simply a matter of casting your rod from the rocks.”
There are also many locations to take a dip.
“Lots of places are suitable. Just get out there! But what’s really nice is that you can find your own private bathing spot by paddling out in a kayak, for example.”
She reels off the bathing spots: Hala, Risö, Åstol, and many more besides. There are so many nice trails to wander along as well. The thousands of people living on the islands aren’t just spoilt for good bathing areas, she explains. Mussels, lobster, crayfish, oysters and huge shrimp sandwiches will all end up on their dinner plates. And it’s all hauled up within feet of the front door. It’s such a privilege.
“We’re really spoilt for good quality seafood out here. We can choose from restaurants Tenan at Grand Hotel Marstrand, Marstrands Havshotell or Salt & Sill. The summer pubs also offer a lot of good food and drink, and then in autumn, there are lobsters to be had.”
Experience the coast of contrasts
If Annika had to sum up her world in one word, it would have to be “contrasts”. “It can be both demanding and amazing to live here. But I like it. It’s in the ups and downs that I truly feel alive. If you haven’t been to the bottom, how can you get to the top?” she asks.
How is life out here demanding? “It can get really windy and cold. And living on an island requires a lot of planning.”
Her island has just a few hundred inhabitants, no cars, a handful of shops and one café. It’s beautiful and quiet in summer as well as in winter. “Getting out here in the middle of an autumn storm can be an intense experience too. More places have saunas now though, so you can get warm even when there’s a storm outside.”
Travelling with Gunnar's boat tours in the archipelago of Bohuslän is a great way to explore the islands. Photo: Anna Hållams
Every day of the year she carries people from Gothenburg and the many islands in the archipelago. She knows every cliff and inlet, every harbour and inn. But naturally, she has her own “hideaway” – somewhere she is especially fond of. “Since I’m a Dyrön resident, it has to be there. We have a little beach at Hala that gets really baked by the sun during the summer. But it’s just as pretty in the winter. On a really glistening winter’s day, the sea looks just like a mirror in front of us. It’s so quiet you can feel it with your ears. We just sit there drinking coffee. There’s no finer place.”
Read more about how to travel to the archipelago: vastsverige.com/bohuslan/batluffa
Annika’s top five bathing spots
Skipper and owner of Gunnar’s Boat Tours Annika Kristensson travels daily between the islands of Gothenburg’s archipelago with its innumerable bathing spots. These are her personal favourites. It’s easy to get around the islands using the regular Västtrafik ferries.
“Dyrön has several bathing spots, but Hala in the south is the nicest. It has a sandy beach – known locally as the Riviera – with a trampoline, a tower and a jetty with a ladder for those who have difficulty getting into the water.”
“There’s a fantastic sandy beach here, clear waters and rocks that are great for jumping off. You can reach Risö easily using the regular ferry.”
“This fjord contains the islands of Risön, Hättan and Kärrsön. There’s a ferry to Risön and Hättan, both of which are good for those who love to walk and bathe. More than anything, it’s lovely to paddle in the fjord, which is also home to a large number of swans.”
“This island is uninhabited and you can paddle out to it. There’s a narrow lagoon here which opens into a pool. It’s amazing.”
“There used to be a guano factory here. Today, all that’s left are the harbour, where the boats moored to unload the herring, and some old buildings. It’s a magical place that you can reach by boat or kayak or by ferry to Älgön, which is one part of the strait. There’s a tranquillity in this place that invites you to ponder on the life that once thrived here. The sound is very suitable for swimming in and there are some nice flat areas where you can sunbathe.”