Come and join us in Annika’s island world
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.
“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.”
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
The island of Dyrön, West Sweden
The tranquil island of Dyrön in the archipelago of Bohuslän, West Sweden.
Photo: Anna Hållams
The island of Dyrön, West Sweden
Photo: Anna Hållams
Signs along the boardwalk on Dyrön, West Sweden
Photo: Katja Ragnstam/VastSverige.com