The Swedish West Coast is famous for its bare cliffs, wide archipelago, and cute fishing villages. The region, called Bohuslän, can be experienced by either car or boat. You can cruise between small villages, visit deserted islands and spend the night in a vibrant harbor. This Sweden West Coast Road Trip itinerary guides you to the places you just can’t miss.
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Sweden’s west coast is beautiful in many ways. From white sandy beaches in the south to bare cliffs in the north. The landscape changes character around Gothenburg. From this point, the sand turns to cliffs and an archipelago begins. The region of Bohuslän, which stretches from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, counts as one of the ten most beautiful wilderness places in the world, according to CNN. The Bohuslän coast has around 3 000 islands and around 4 500 islets and skerries. This makes boating so popular in this area.
Map of West Sweden
The unique Bohuslän area stretches from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border. This Google map points out places you should not miss during your visit.
The Best Villages and Islands on Sweden’s West Coast
Regardless if you plan to visit West Sweden on a road trip or by renting your own boat, there are several places you simply can’t miss. Many villages are accessible by car, while some require a ferry ride. This road trip itinerary takes you through the must-see villages of Bohuslän, from south to north.
Marstrand, one of the most famous islands in Bohuslän.
Marstrand is probably the most famous (and popular) island in Bohuslän. This is probably because of its interesting history with Carlsten’s Fortress, but also its many international sailing competitions. The island is filled with cute tree houses, and the harbor is filled with popular restaurants – giving the island a vibrant nightlife. At the highest point of the island, you will find Carlsten’s Fortress, a big stone fortress built in 1658 to protect the newly acquired province of Bohuslän from hostile attacks.
You can reach Marstrand Island by a small ferry from Koön. Park your car at one of the many parking lots nearby, for example at Brandstationen Parkering.
Things to do at Marstrand Island
- Visit Carlsten’s Fortress
- Watch a sailing competition
- Hike around the island (5 km)
Åstol, my favorite island on the Swedish west coast.
Åstol is a popular stop for vacation sailers, giving the harbor a somewhat vibrant atmosphere. The island is famous for its narrow streets, and tightly located white houses. A must-do is to go for a walk to the western side of the island, where you find a great swimming spot and have a spectacular view of Carlstens Fästning at Marstrand Island.
Things to do at Åstol Island:
- Wander the cute narrow streets
- Enjoy the view of Carlsten’s Fortress from the western side
- Eat at the unique restaurant Åstol Rökeri (Smokehouse)
Skärhamn is a picturesque fishing village at Tjörn, one of the larger islands in Bohuslän. It is easy to get to Skärhamn by car.
Things to do at Tjörn Island, near Skärhamn:
- Wander around the harbour
- Visit Pilane sculpture park
- Visit the Nordic Watercolour Museum
The cute island Gullholmen, right next to Härmanö.
Gullholmen is, in my opinion, one of the most spectacular islands in Bohuslän. It’s tiny, packed with small wooden houses, and only has a few small paths to walk on. There’s not much to do on this island, besides admiring the unique and incredibly beautiful environment.
Grundsund, a tiny village on Skaftö island.
Another beautiful coastal town on the west coast is Grundsund on Skaftö Island. The village has a narrow canal lined with boats and small red boathouses. South of Grundsund is Skaftö’s southernmost cape, Islandsberg. The area is bare and houses a lighthouse by the same name. From here you have an incredible view of the archipelago.
Grundsund is easily reachable by car. Set your Google Maps to ICA Grundsund, from where you’ll have a good starting point to explore the village.
Things to do in Grundsund:
- Wander the streets near the canal
- Visit Islandsberg cape
Fiskebäckskil is filled with colorful wooden houses.
A few kilometers north of Grundsund you’ll find Fiskebäckskil. This village is a bit larger than Grundsund but equally beautiful.
If you need a place to spend the night I can highly recommend Gullmarsstrand Hotell & Konferens. Their spa is wonderful!
Things to do in Fiskebäckskil:
- Take a walk through the village
- Have lunch at Brygghuset Fiskebäckskil – both serve great food
- Visit the spa at Gullmarstrand
Bohus-Malmön is one of the more popular islands in Bohuslän, with lots of activities and a few cafés and restaurants.
Top thing to do at Bohus-Malmön is to visit the beach Pärlane, a small sand dune connecting Bohus-Malmön to a smaller nearby island. Another great thing to do at Bohus-Malmön is to visit Snurrans Fyr, from where you get a picture-perfect view of the harbor and the small red wooden houses.
If you’re into hiking, Bohus-Malmön offers a coastal hike trail called Kuststigen. The trail goes through varied landscapes and passes by several monuments from the stone-cutting era. By the end of the 1800s, the first cobblestone was cut, and the island became one of the most important sources of pink Bohus granite.
You can get to Bohus-Malmön by car ferry from Tullboden. However, as the island is pretty small it might be easier to park your car on the mainland and explore the island by foot.
Things to do on Bohus-Malmön:
- Visit Pärlane beach
- Enjoy the harbor view from Snurrans Fyr
- Explore the unique cliff formations from the stone-cutting era, preferably at Uddestenbrottet
- Hike Kuststigen
The popular village Smögen, famous for its colorful wooden houses at Smögenbryggan.
Smögen is probably the second most popular summer destination in Bohuslän, after Marstrand. This is an obvious stop on your Sweden west coast road trip.
In Smögen you will find lots of restaurants and boutiques, all located along the dock. Don’t miss the iconic Smögenbryggan, a part of the dock lined with beautiful colorful boathouses.
Smögen is connected to the mainland with a bridge, which makes the island easy to reach by car.
Things to do in Smögen:
Hunnebostrand, located about 10 km north of Smögen, is a larger village with a few restaurants and shops. Don’t miss to hike up to the viewpoint, where you have a spectacular view of the archipelago.
Things to do in Hunnebostrand:
- Hike up to Hunnebostrand’s viewpoint for a 360-degree view of the archipelago
A beautiful sunset at Ulön / Dannemark.
10. Ulön / Dannemark
This tip is for the sailers out there! If you want to skip the harbor life for a night, I suggest you head to Ulön / Dannemark. There are no public boats going out to this island, which means you need to have your own boat.
Ulön / Dannemark is a horseshoe-shaped island (it used to be two islands) and a popular stop while sailing in Bohuslän. Even though there is no proper harbor, you will most likely not be alone here. However, you can usually find a private spot to berth at. Walk to the west side of the island to see the sun set over the horizon.
Hamburgsund from above.
Hamburgsund is a small village located on the strait between the mainland and Hamburgö. This is a really cute, pittoresque village and a real favorite of mine! Just like Gullholmen, there’s not much to do in Hamburgsund besides admiring the beautiful surroundings.
The village Fjällbacka, mostly known for being the hometown of crime novelist Camilla Läckberg.
Fjällbacka is a 17th-century fishing village mainly known for being the hometown of present-day crime novelist Camilla Läckberg, and it’s also the location of Ingrid Bergman’s summer house. The village has a popular harbor for sailors, and houses a few restaurants and shops.
Camilla Läckberg fans can take a Murder Mystery guided tour of the village and locations from the books. Others might simply enjoy walking around in the village or hiking up to Kungsklyftan Hill for great views of the village and nearby islands.
Things to do in Fjällbacka:
- Hike to Kungsklyftan
- Wander around the village and the popular harbor
- Take a Murder Mystery guided tour
When to visit west Sweden
The peak season in Bohuslän is from the end of June to the beginning of August. This is when Swedish summer is most reliable. It’s usually warm and sunny, and it’s bright until 11 pm. But the weather in Sweden can change quickly. If you sail you have to keep up to date on the winds. The SMHI app gives you a weather forecast, and the ViVa app a good update on winds and current.
Sailing in Bohuslän
Thanks to the Swedish Right of Public Access (Allemansrätten) you can choose to berth at deserted islands as long as you don’t disturb. Don’t forget that you have to pay a berthing charge for every night you spend in a harbor (and don’t arrive too late as the harbors get filled up quite early during peak season).
OBS! You should not rent a boat if you don’t have enough experience. The archipelago can be hard to cruise around in, and during peak season there are many other boats around.
Bonus tips: Dalsland
If want to extend your west Sweden road trip I recommend you to drive a bit north to the region called Dalsland. Dalsland is known to be the most accessible area of wilderness in Europe, the nature here is just stunning. I recommend discovering one of the many hiking trails, booking a night at the 72 hour cabin or rent a canoe at one of the many lakes.
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