Swedens sublime Bohuslan Coast

Drifting across the mirror-still surface of a shallow bay in Kosterhavet, Sweden’s first national marine park, the reason why the Bohuslän Coast beguiles visitors becomes as clear as the water barely stirring beneath the kayak.

In a country lauded for its stewardship of the environment (Swedenranks first and third in the world respectively in the most recently published Global Green Economy Index and Environmental Performance Index), the west coast is a showcase of sensitive development.

Stretching north from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, the region features pine forests framing fjord-like lakes, charming coastal towns and, of course, a vast archipelago of 8000 islands, islets and skerries, whose distinctive Bohus granite glows orangey-pink in the rising and setting sun.

In summer, that sun shines for 18 hours a day at this latitude, giving you plenty of time to explore what Bohuslän has to offer; better still, the E6 motorway, which runs parallel to the coast for about 100 miles, forms the backbone of a readymade route for independent travellers. The only decision that remains is what to see along the way.

 

First stop: Marstrand – find the perfect place to drop anchor

Calculate the total value of the yachts gliding to and fro in Marstrand’s gästhamn (guest harbour) and you’d probably end up with a figure that dwarfs some countries’ GDP.

This small island, which lies about 30 miles north of Gothenburg, has been a compulsory stop for the Swedish elite ever since King Oscar II built a summer house here in the late 19th century; these days, Marstrand is a chic backdrop for world-class sailing events and welcomes up to 10,000 people a week in high season.

The king’s old residence – the regal Grand Hotel Marstrand, which has some satisfyingly old-school rooms and a swish restaurant – is one of the town’s two big historical sights; the other looms above it in the form of Carlstens Fästning, a hulking fortress built in the 17th century after Denmark-Norway ceded Marstrand to Sweden as part of a peace treaty.

While Carlstens Fästning trades on its storied history, offering guided tours and historical reenactments, Marstrand’s other old fort – the smaller 18th-century Strandverket Konsthall – opts for radical reinvention as the Strandverket Art Museum (www.strandverket.se), an unexpected outpost of contemporary sculpture, photography and more.

Don’t confine yourself to the history-steeped town, though – the rest of Marstrand is beautiful and begs for exploration. It’s also accessible thanks to well-marked trails, which range from easy to challenging. If you strike out west, scan the horizon for the red iron tower of the Pater Noster Lighthouse (paternosterlighthouse.com), now a small hotel for those who really, really want to get away from it all.

Marstrand is car-free, so you’ll need to park on the neighbouring island of Koön then hop on the ferry, which takes a couple of minutes.