While planning the vacation part of the Sweden trip, multiple blogs and articles spoke of how a visit to an archipelago island was almost a non-negotiable part of a trip to Sweden. This is true of both the East and West Coast archipelagos near Gothenburg and Stockholm, respectively but there seemed to be a greater focus on Stockholm. I suspect this is mainly due to Stockholm being a more popular tourist destination, especially for those on shorter trips just trying to get a taste (or smaka!) of Sweden.
I hadn’t made any plans so after returning to Stockholm, I had an inner debate on what to do on my only full day left before my return flight. I really did want to explore an island within the Stockholm archipelago but I also thought wandering Gamla Stan more, seeing City Hall and going to the Nobel Museum also sounded really cool. And it’s true, staying in Stockholm another day would have been awesome. But, ultimately, I decided that there are always more museums to see and things that stay off the list so rather than do more of the same by staying in the city, I decided to venture out for a day trip to experience the Swedish Island lifestyle.
Once I made that decision, I had to figure out which island I wanted to go to. I was in Stockholm one week before the tourist season starts, aka Midsummer. Once Summer arrives, there are many more ferries and seasonal routes open. I really wanted to go to Utö but in the off-season, there was no direct ferry from Stockholm. My second choice was Gällnö, reachable by direct ferry even in the off season. The ferry that was running was the Cinderella line (no Disney affiliation). It also went to Voxholm, Grinda, and Sandhamn. Voxholm has the fortress and is nearby, but looks like a small town rather than a nature-focused island. Grinda sounded a little too family-friendly but would have likely been fun. Sandhamn was a two-hour ferry ride one-way and that just seemed like a little too much for a day trip. Also, it has a reputation as a nice harbor for luxury yachts so I think it is a little posh.
So, Gällnö. I picked it because it sounded very undeveloped and a great place for biking, hiking and swimming. There is a hostel there that is very popular in the Summer and, when passing it, I can see why. It looks delightful and is in the most idyllic spot.
I had made up my mind the night before, so I timed my hotel breakfast so that I could enjoy the delicious food and then head to the pier without stressing about the time. The breakfast was awesome. I started in the drawing room but after I saw another guest outside, I wanted to eat outside too. It was an amazing morning and the guy was very nice. He was a bariatric surgeon from Chicago, traveling with his lawyer wife for what sounded like their annual big trip. He was well-traveled and she joined us after awhile and they were fun and interesting to talk to over coffee.
I biked to the pier and boarded the ferry. It left about 10 minutes later. I paid onboard, a one-way passage with a small bike supplement since I took the bike from the hotel. After 90 minutes, I was dropped off at Gällnö. All by myself. It was disconcerting to be the only one let off with only a few farmhouses visible as the ferry steamed merrily away. Uh oh.
But don’t worry! Everything was fine. I hopped on my bike and went towards the hostel and store. The store was very small and had limited food, mostly geared towards group campers. I wasn’t very hungry and only bought a snack, but a picnic would have been a good idea.
I kept biking and I’m pretty sure I biked on a hiking trail for a bit. I found a beautiful beach and laid out in the sun for a bit. I also scrambled around on some nearby rocks. It was really beautiful.
Then I hopped on my bike and went a few miles in the opposite direction and found another beautiful spot by the coast. I sat for a bit and really, didn’t think much about anything. I just kind of sat and enjoyed how beautiful it was. I tried to hone in on all the sensory inputs so I could have a vivid mental snapshot to go back to as a memory.
Then, although it had only been a few hours, it was time to bike back towards the dock. There was another timetable listed for another ship, maybe a commuter type ferry? I flipped the dockside indicator to show that I was waiting for the boat. I wanted to stick with what I knew so I waited for the Cinderella boat, which was the first one scheduled to arrive anyway. They put the gangplank across and I boarded. I bought a hearty late lunch (risotto!) that was impressively good for being cooked in a ship’s galley!
I bought my ticket on-board again and word to the wise, if you think you can avoid the ticket lady, they do check your ticket stub as you disembark so no cheating!
I had to leave really early the next morning so I decided to take care of as much as I could the night before. I took the tram to the rail station with my roll aboard, which I locked in an overnight locker. The reason for this is that I was leaving so early the next morning that the tram to the station wouldn’t be open and I didn’t want to drag my suitcase for 1.5 miles. I bought my Arlanda Express ticket as well. On the way back to the hotel, I did some last minute sight-seeing along the way.
That night, I treated myself to a dinner at Oaxen Slip. It was so good. I had the herring dish again. To me, it encapsulated new Swedish cuisine in one dish. I had the rhubarb lemonade again and an awesome strawberry and merengue dessert.