Luleå’s archipelago is the only one in the world surrounded by brackish water (the Atlantic Ocean off the Norwegian port of Narvik contains ten times more salt than this part of the Gulf of Bothnia). Made up of over 1700 islands and skerries, most of which are uninhabited and unexploited, it’s well worth a visit. The islands are renowned for rich bird-life and a profusion of wild berries: lingonberries, blueberries and raspberries are very common, with Arctic raspberries, cloudberries, wild strawberries and sea buckthorn also found in large numbers.
The islands mentioned below are among the most popular destinations in the archipelago; they're also the most accessible, being served by once-daily passenger boats from Luleå. With a few notable exceptions, the islands are relatively small – no more than a couple of square kilometres in size – and are therefore ideal for short walks. Few are inhabited year-round and there are therefore barely any facilities – you should take all provisions with you and shouldn’t count on being able to buy anything once you leave the boat. Although it’s perfectly feasible to take a tent and camp on the islands, other accommodation is severely limited (we have listed where cabins exist) and most visitors to the islands are day-trippers.
The wildest and most beautiful of all the islands, Brändöskär, is located far out in the Gulf of Bothnia and is consequently exposed to the weather and can often be very windy. Its best features are some terrific upland scenery with plentiful mosses and areas of heathland interspersed with smooth rocks along the coast, ideal for sunbathing. At the island’s southern point there’s a wooden fishermen’s chapel dating from 1774 whose altarpiece depicts an impressive fishing catch; ask locally for the key if the chapel is locked.
People have lived and worked on Hindersön, one of the bigger islands here, since the sixteenth century. Then, fishing, farming and catching seals were the main occupations; today, this is the only island north of Arholma in the Stockholm archipelago which is still farmed. Much of the island is covered with spruce forest, though, if you look carefully, you may also find wild strawberries, Arctic raspberries, the rare Siberian primrose and ghost orchid; ospreys (fiskgjuse in Swedish) also nest on the island.
Kluntarna has a little of everything – small fishing villages, dense pine forest and thousands of seabirds such as black guillemots and cormorants as well as waders like the greater ringed plover – and is a good choice, especially if you’ve only time to visit one island. Visitors are requested to show special respect for the delicate environment since the entire island is a protected nature reserve.
Far out in the outer archipelago, south of Luleå, is Rödkallen. Site of an important lighthouse which once guarded the difficult southern approaches to Luleå, this tiny island offers fantastic sea and sky views; parts of it have been declared a nature reserve and the barren, rocky landscape is characteristic of its exposure to the elements.
Klubbviken, a bay on the island of Sandön, is the place to come for good sandy beaches, and has the added advantage of regular boat connections to Luleå. Walking paths crisscross the island, taking in some terrific pine moorland scenery.