The top things to do on Sandhamn island revolve around enjoying the beauty of the Stockholm archipelago.
Explore the Stockholm Archipelago: Sandhamn
You can boat into the waters of the Stockholm archipelago just minutes after leaving the city of Stockholm. What you’ll pass is a cluster of 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks spread across the cool Baltic Sea. One of the top destinations boats make their way toward is Sandhamn island.
Arriving by R.I.B.
You can get to Sandhamn by ferry but our bloggers tour went another way: R.I.B. It stands for rigid inflatable boat. It is a lightweight, high-performance super buoyant boat typically used for military and patrol operations. Now, it’s a way to travel the Stockholm archipelago!
I’m not a boater, and the thought of getting tossed off a boat is my worst nightmare. I had no idea what a R.I.B. boat was capable of or what speeding over the sea at 60 knots per meant. After donning the appropriate gear offered by the R.I.B. tour operators, including hat, warm shell and big goggles, I learned quickly the extra gear was absolutely necessary and it’s a very fast ride. Bumpy in parts but total fun. I can’t remember the last time I yelped with a bit of fear but total exhilaration. However, knowing I could count on my fancy life vest and securing a back-row seat (smoother ride they say), I made it just fine and would totally do it again.
With Oppet Hav R.I.B. Tours, we approached Sandhamn’s sparkling harbor lined with yachts, boats and a landscape behind it that reminded me of a quaint countryside. Red and yellow painted wooden houses with peaked roofs stood out among greenery and windswept pines. What’s even more special is that no cars are allowed on the island.
We took a tour with a local guide who led us through much of the island. It’s small, home to about 100 permanent residents. During the summer, the population grows to about 3,000 residents.
In the 19th century, 300 people settled here making it one of the biggest settlements in the archipelago. It eventually evolved into a summer getaway for the well-to-do. Today, about ten ferry boats make their way to Sandhamn bringing boatloads of guests.
If you’re one of those guests, here’s a list of the things to do on Sandhamn.
Things to Do on Sandhamn Island
Take a Walk in the Forest
Sandhamn island has extensive walking paths. It takes about an hour to explore the entire land mass on foot. I loved the fresh air of the pine forest. We also stopped to pick fresh berries along the way.
Go to the Beach
The beaches at the eastern tip are considered some of the best in the Archipelago. Locals highly recommend Skärkarlshamn, Fläskberget and Trouville.
Stroll the Harbor
Sandhamn Harbor buzzes with a laid back vibe. One of the top things to do on Sandhamn island is to check out the local businesses here, from shops to eateries, or simply enjoy the view.
Walk in the Village
Sandhamns – höjden a little neighborhood of colorful houses framed by the cutest flower gardens. Follow the paths through narrow alleys set affront from red, yellow or white painted wooden houses, traditional log houses and summer villas, some of which have been built in the 20th century.
Dining at the Sandhamn Yacht Hotel is a must. The restaurant was established in 1897 and has been serving classic Swedish cuisine since.
The main dish was a delight, Swedish-style salmon with asparagus and baby potatoes. A crème brûlée fan, I savored every spoonful of the dessert. This version was topped with chocolate flakes.
Tip: In the morning, head to the local bakery to try some fresh seglarbullen or sailor buns.
Feel the Author Inspiration
The island is an inspiration for authors. If you have read the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, a central character named Mikael Blomkvist has a cabin in Sandhamn. The crime drama series by Viveca Stein called the Sandhamn Murders are shot on location on the island.
With nature surrounding you, Sandhamn is the perfect place to get active. Swim at the beaches, take a kayaking excursion or bike around the island. I learned tennis is quite popular on the island and the summer residents hold a number of tournaments during the summer months.
Cheer at a Regatta
Sandhamn is the where sailors and yachters meet. It’s also their summer destination where they create the vibrant party scene during summer. The island is home of the Royal Swedish Yacht Club which was founded at the turn of the 20th century. If you are around for the club’s regattas, they are historic events that have been going on for more than a century.
The world’s yachting elite come to participate in the Round Gotland Race, covering two days in July. It is considered the most prestigious race in the Baltic Sea.
The Customs House
This historical building was built in 1752 and was the home of poet Elias Sehlstedt.
The island also has its own little Stockholm archipelago museum. Founded in 1966, it is near the landmark Customs House. Learn about the mostly hard life locals had in the past, living far out from the mainland on a mostly barren island. Outside of the museum, a red house with a bell tower was an old 19th century wash house. The Sandhamn Museum itself once housed the customs officer of the island.
This chapel was built in 1935 as part of the Church of Sweden.
More Islands to Explore
Another great destination is Utö. You can read about this charming island in my earlier post: Stockholm Archipelago: Things to Do on Uto Island.
We also took a fika break (Swedish coffee break) on an islet called Huvudskär. I loved the little red wooden paneled houses here. On a good day seals like to play around on the tiny island.
How to Get to Sandhamn
From Stockholm, the journey takes about three hours by steamship, but there are faster boats available. The journey is 3 1/2 hours each way and costs 150SEK ($30/£15) one way. There are no car ferries.
The most exciting way, however, is speeding there by R.I.B. boat. I recommend booking an excursion with Öppet Hav.
Where to Stay on Sandhamn
The Sandhamn Yacht Hotel is gorgeous four-star hotel overlooking the harbor. For a full review, check out my write up in Telegraph Travel and my review here on the blog: Sandhamn Yacht Hotel: Stockholm Archipelago Luxury.
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Have you ever been to an archipelago destination anywhere in the world?