Cruising the Stockholm archipelago

Evening blog fans and welcome one of the best days of our lives! We spent our Sunday cruising the Stockholm archipelago on the SS Waxholm III and it was AWESOME. We covered over 150km on our 12 hour cruise, stopping at a few of the islands for a quick look around (see map below). As luck would have it, the weather was on our side – it was sunny, warm (that’s Sweden’s version of warm: 21C), with no ocean swell and just enough of a gentle breeze to ensure we didn’t over-heat (Ha! Ha!). We were also very fortunate to get a day when the cruise boat was virtually empty; they had 53 passengers on board a vessel that can cary 120 people. An almost private cruise – yay! 


Our cruise through the Stockholm archipelago.


Our vessel for the day: the SS Waxholm III.

The cruise set off from Nybrokajen, past the Stranvaagen and some of the islands and buildings we walked around yesterday. Stockholm really is a gorgeous city – or at least it is in summer, we might have a completely different opinion if it was mid-winter! (Winter temperatures around here hover around 0C to -5C, with lots of snow and rain; sunrise in winter is as late as 9:00am and sunset as early as 3:00pm. Yikes!)


Sailing out of Stockholm, past the beautiful buildings of the Strandvagen.


These beautiful canal-front buildings are all 5 star hotels now.


This part of the water-front had a whole lot of boats permanently moored along it, all converted into  homes. Not a bad address hey?!


We sailed past Kastellholmen island and its fortress.


Stockholm – what a city!


Not long out of Stockholm we passed through the Baggensstäket (translation = Baggen Strait). This strait was the primary southern trade route into Stockholm for many centuries and is still an important access point for boats sailing through the archipelago. The channel has been regularly dredged since the 16th century to ensure it remains deep and wide enough for sea-faring traffic. Interestingly it is the narrowest strait in the Stockholm archipelago; at times we could literally see into the gardens of the homes on either side of the strait. It was all very picturesque.


Approaching the strait – you can see how narrow it gets.


As we cruised through the narrowest part of the strait we could literally see into people’s back yards!


The houses along the channel were so cute!


This little yellow cottage used to be the toll-collectors home and office in the 19th century (it is now a private residence).


Some of the houses along the strait were huge, others tiny like this one.


Once through the Baggensstäket we sailed South-West for another 2 hours, past numerous wooded islets and inhabited islands. Many of the islands had farms on them, with this part of the archipelago being sheltered enough to sustain grasslands and forests. Around noon we pulled in at our first island stop of the day: Kymmendo. This small island is owned by one farming family who raise sheep and let out rooms to summer holiday-makers. Though small and obscure, the island receives a steady stream of visitors due to the fact that August Strindberg, a famous Swedish author (famous in Sweden anyway), stayed here during his summer holidays and wrote a novel based on his experiences and the people of the island (“Natives of Hemsö”, published in 1887). Having never heard of the author or the novel, we weren’t as excited as some of the Swedes on board about visiting Kymmendo, but we were quite excited to hear that the earliest recorded inhabitants of the island were the Mortenssons – perhaps a distant relative of Shane’s?

We really enjoyed our walk around the island. It was so lush and green, and the black-faced sheep they farm were huge compared to the plain white ones we have back home. Shane even had thoughts of going for a quick swim in the ocean until he stuck a toe in the water and just about lost it to frost bite. 

Lunch in the ship’s dining room was great – very Swedish (i.e. lots of herring, salmon and potatoes).


Kymmendo – just us, the farmers and their sheep.


The main farmhouse on Kymmendo is over 150 years old and is still lived in by the family that owns the island.


The island was lush and green. Perfect for sheep.


Shane thought about having a swim but quickly changed his mind once he realised how COLD the water was!


From Kymmendo we sailed due North to the islet of Bullero, with lunch served along the way. The tiny island of Bullero is a nature reserve with just a pier, a camping ground and a couple of summer cabins on it. It was lovely to see one of these unspoiled islands, more or less in its natural state. Bullero is one of the outer islands of the Stockholm archipelago and was a good example of how barren these more exposed islands can be, compared to the sheltered ones closer in. With no protection from the winds, the outer islands had far fewer trees on them and many were just rocky outcrops. We had great fun climbing over the rocks, checking out the island of Bullero.


The island of Bullero was mostly exposed, wind-blown rocks and sea birds.


There is a camping ground on the island and these 2 cottages that can be rented in summer. Not a bad place to get away form it all.


Shane doing his best impression of a slightly camp sea captain.


We had a great time walking around the nature reserve of Bullero.


The ocean looked so inviting…. but don’t be fooled, that water is strictly for penguins only.


Finally, from Bullero we sailed another hour or so North towards Sandhamn. This island is home to about 100 permanent residents, but in summer the population swells to over 2,000 as people move to their summer cottages for the holidays. The island is only about 50km from Stockholm city and has been a very popular holiday spot for people from the city since the 19th century. The village itself was so cute, with tiny lanes between brightly coloured wooden houses and summer flowers everywhere – it was like something from a post card. We would love to come back to Stockholm one summer and rent a cottage on an island like Sandhamn for a week or so and just enjoy the laid back holiday atmosphere and beautiful scenery.


Sailing into the main village on Sandhamn.


An example of the cute laneways between holidays homes on Sandhamn.


Unsurprisingly the waterfront area was the busiest in Sandhamn, with boats of every shape size moored out front of the numerous holiday cottages.


So many summer flowers lining the streets of Sandhamn!


Once we left Sandhamn they served us dinner and we settled in for the cruise back into Stockholm. The views along the way were just magnificent, as the sun began to set. It was a long day (12 hours in total), but an awesome one. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far. We love Stockholm!


Sailing back towards Stockholm we saw lots of islands, small and big, and other boats.


Working hard at relaxing. I think I’ve just about got it worked out, though I may need a few more months’ practice.


On the way back to Stockholm we passed by Vaxholm Fort, a defensive fortification from the 19th century.


Sailing back into Stockholm, just in time for sunset.


Sunset in Stockholm – a beautiful end to an awesome day.

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