A Beginner's Guide to Island Hopping in Finland

Turku archipelago | © Plenz / WikiCommons
Turku archipelago | © Plenz / WikiCommons
Photo of Jessica Wood
19 October 2017

Finland is one of the best places in the world for island hopping. The coast is lined with tens of thousands of islands, and even the inland lakes are vast enough to have their own chains of islands to explore. This quick guide will tell you the best places to sail in Finland for fun and adventure:

Where to go

There is a lot of choice for island hopping in Finland. The Turku Archipelago on the south west coast is one of the most obvious, as it is one of the largest archipelagos in the world. The islands can be difficult to navigate by boat, but they are fun to explore and there is a lot to see and do. The Åland Islands to the West are particularly beautiful and peaceful with a fascinating maritime museum and Viking market.

Åland Islands | © Vitaly Repin / WikiCommons

Further North, Finnish Lapland can be seen by boat during the summer. Lake Inari is one of Finland’s largest lakes and contains a sacred Sami site which is only accessible by boat. The west coast of Finland leading up to Lapland also has many islands and lakes to explore, such as Kvarken west of Vaasa and Hailuoto near Oulu.

Hailuoto | © Juho Holmi / Flickr

If you wish to stay close to the capitol city of Helsinki and take advantage of its local amenities, there is also a vast archipelago on the Baltic Sea and excellent fishing. It is common for Helsinki residents to sail to their private islands during the summer, or just use them to take a break from city life.

Helsinki coast | © Mihaly / Flickr

How to travel

There are two options in Finland for island hopping. The first is to take advantage of the numerous ferries and boat trips which travel between the islands or on the lakes. All of the locations mentioned above have ferry connections, although most of them are seasonal.

Lakeland ferry | © Visit Lakeland / Flickr

The second option is to rent a boat, which provides a greater degree of freedom and flexibility, but does require a strong level of sailing knowledge, unless you also hire a skipper. Most boat rentals are offered by the hour or the day and can be expensive, but they are at least easy to find throughout Finland. Sail-in-Finland has a full list of companies offering boat rentals, and other useful information.

Safety tips

Finland’s coastal waters can be stormy and hazardous, even to experienced sailors. This is why unless you are completely confident in your sailing abilities, it is best to go island hopping during the summer months. Another reason is that many of the lakes and oceans freeze over during the winter, and are impossible to navigate in a small craft anyway.

Mobile phone coverage is excellent in Finland, even in remote areas, so it is best to take a smartphone for emergencies, and for looking up information, and remember the emergency number, 112, and the number for the sea rescue centre, 0294 1000. Weather forecasts are offered in English over VHF or from the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

When passing by summer homes or inhabited islands, it is important to be respectful of the locals. Right of access does mean that you can legally visit and camp anywhere in Finland, but must first gain permission from the landowner. It is a common misconception that it is also legal to light fires anywhere in Finland without seeking the landowner’s permission first, which is not the case. The vegetation of the Turku Archipelago especially is incredibly vulnerable to fire, so only use pre-built fire pits or a portable camping stove. Most harbours in Finland have a fire pit for visitors to use.

Northern lights over Lahti harbour | © Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho / Flickr

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