Why Finland's Rosala Island Is the Archipelago by Kids

The old boat houses of Rosala, Finland
The old boat houses of Rosala, Finland | © Kristian Bäckström / WikiCommons
Photo of Jessica Wood
12 June 2018

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.

Part of the rocky Rosala coastline. | © Ilkka Jukarainen / Flickr

About Rosala Island

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.

Rosala as seen from the air | © Timo Noko / Flickr

Islands to explore

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.

Various islands of the Turku Archipelago | © Vitaly Repin / Flickr

My first boat

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.

A boat sails between islands of the Turku Archipelago | © Vitaly Repin / Flickr

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.

Teaching children to fish is common in Finland | © Visit Lakeland / Flickr

An appreciation for nature

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.

Children in Rosala love birdwatching | © USFWS Mountain-Prairie / Flickr

Visiting Rosala

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.

One of the passenger ferries connecting the islands of the Turku Archipelago | © Vitaly Repin / Flickr

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.

Interior of the Viking House at Rosala Viking Centre, Finland. | © Pöllö / WikiCommons

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.