Most of us dream of an idyllic childhood where we roam the countryside while exploring our own world before entering adulthood. Most parents also wish for this kind of life for their children. One place where children experience this type of childhood is in Rosala Island off the coast of Finland, a true paradise for both children and adults.
Rosala is one of over 50,000 islands of the Turku archipelago stretching all the way across Finland’s south-west coast. It has more individual islands than any archipelago in the world. The island on the far southern edge of the archipelago consists of only three small villages and 140 permanent residents. There are only eight children in the local school, yet this is exactly what makes Rosala and its surrounding islands their own kingdom.
The island of Rosala is known for its wide ocean views, charming old buildings, and rocky skerries. Yet the children’s world expands far beyond their main island. With literally thousands of islands in the archipelago, there is an endless amount for them to explore. The islands come in all shapes and sizes. Some are inhabited and some are resident only to the local wildlife, including some rare species of plants and butterfly. Their geography can range anywhere from bare rock to lush forests.
Boats have formed a hugely important part of the archipelago’s culture and lifestyle for thousands of years, all the way back to the time of the Vikings. They are still the only thing connecting all of the islands in place of cars.
While most children ride their bikes to visit their friends, children in Rosala go by boat instead. Similarly, just as many children ask Santa Claus for a bike for Christmas, children in Rosala are much more likely to ask for their first boat. Getting their own boat gives them the freedom to go wherever they want. It makes exploring the vast archipelago even easier and allows them to pretend to be pirates or Vikings (fitting since their island was once home to actual Vikings). In addition, it also allows them to become a part of the local community just like the adults, perhaps even making some extra pocket money by fishing or berry picking.
Growing up so close to nature gives children in Rosala a natural love and appreciation for the world around them, something else most parents want for their own children. Living on the water and seeing it during all types of weathers and seasons lets them gain respect for the sea and teaches them how to recognize and handle difficult sailing conditions. They also get plenty of chances for birdwatching and fishing, and will likely know all the names of the local birds and fish by the time they reach adulthood.
If you would like to give your children a taste of the free life on Rosala or experience it for yourself, you can visit during the summer months by taking a ferry connection or hiring a boat and docking it at the guest harbour. Everyman’s rights mean you are free to camp anywhere on the island outside of private property.
As well as the stunning natural sites, there is a lot to see and experience around Rosala. There is the Rosala Viking Centre, a Viking village replicated from archaeological finds in the area. Kids especially love the centre since they can feast in the Viking hall, take part in mock battles, and even sleep in the Viking-themed bed and breakfast. The annual Viking Market is held on the nearby island of Saltvik every July and is visited by a reconstructed Viking ship. The Bengtskär Lighthouse is only an hour’s sail away from Rosala. It is the tallest lighthouse in the Nordics and offers amazing views of the surrounding ocean, plus a rare granite sauna. The island of Örö only opened up to tourists in 2015 after being used for nearly a hundred years as a military site. You can still see the former military fortifications alongside the island’s beautiful nature.
If you ever need directions or advice on what to see next, all you need to do is ask one of the local kids. They know the area better than most of the adults.