Kayaking in Sweden: Our Top 5 Kayaking Destinations

All of Sweden’s coastal archipelagos are beautiful. And you can go camping wherever you like. So what sets the ones that are the absolute best for kayaking and wild camping apart?


The best spots for kayaking in Sweden

When we founded Do the North, 20 years ago, we started by asking a bunch of leisure kayakers what their favorite spots for multi-day kayaking trips were. The area that kept coming up time and again was the Saint Anna Archipelago. We went paddling all over Sweden for research, and at the end of the day, we agreed – Saint Anna had it all! There are many more places that are amazing for kayaking in Sweden too, and we’ve compiled a list of our favs along with pros and cons for each area.

For kayaking in Sweden, these are some of the factors that we looked at:

Landscape: Is the area mostly wilderness or are many islands inhabited? How close are the islands to each other and how large is the area? Is it possible to experience the different zones of the Swedish archipelago from mainland to open sea in one trip?

Solitude: Is the area busy, or can you get into that lovely feeling of being all alone in a stunning island wilderness?

Archipelago culture and points of interest: Do you get to experience genuine archipelago culture and are there interesting spots to visit along your journey through the wild?

Weather conditions: Can you adjust your route to find shelter no matter what Mother Nature throws your way? Or are there waters you need to cross that are simply too exposed for paddling in windy conditions?

Flexibility: Do you need to loop back to where you started, or follow a predetermined A to B? Or can you adapt your route as you go along and choose between several endpoints towards the end of your trip?

#1 Saint Anna & Gryt Archipelagos

Of course, we’re gonna be a bit partial here, since this is our fav. But in an attempt to be as impartial as we can. The Sankt Anna & Gryt archipelagos aren’t just beautiful, they also have the highest density of islands out of all the archipelagos of Sweden. What does that mean then? Well, 6000 islands and islets are situated very closely together. So close in fact, that large parts of the area are only accessible by kayak. Simply ideal for paddling and camping if you want that feeling of being all alone in the wild.

These archipelagos span around 60 km from north-south and 15 km from west-east. Small enough to zig-zag your way through the entire area in around 5 days, big enough to explore for up to two weeks. Since they aren’t that wide, you can easily experience all the different zones of the Swedish archipelago. The inner parts, closest to the mainland, with large forested islands and narrow straits in between. The middle zone with clusters and clusters of lush islands with somewhat wider straits in between. And the outer zone, close to the open sea, with a myriad of barren tiny islets and skerries. With so many different landscapes and flexibility of what route to take, it’s easy to find sheltered routes if conditions are windy.

Although most of the journey is uninhabited wilderness, there are also many points of interest to visit – idyllic old fishing villages, lookouts that have been used as navigational marks for centuries, homesteads and lighthouses.

Pros: It’s just far enough from Stockholm, and inaccessible enough, to get away from any crowds. You’ll barely see anyone else for days! You camp on your very own island each night and get to explore proper island wilderness. Along the way you have the choice to discover genuine archipelago culture, both past and present. Several endpoints to choose from, so that you can keep your route flexible. Suitable for beginners.

Cons: The area is best enjoyed with 4+ days to spend. As it’s located in quite inaccessible coastal countryside, it can be difficult to do this trip completely on your own without kayak operator services that include transport. If you’re looking to combine your trip with other activities such as hiking, bicycling or snorkeling, this is not your best option.

Check out our most popular adventures Self-guided Kayak Expedition, Guided Kayak Adventure, For a selection of all our tours visit Kayaking in Saint Anna & Gryt. All services needed to easily get to and explore the area are included.

#2 The High Coast

You gotta head far north for this one, about 6 hours north of Stockholm, but it’s well worth it! You will experience an absolutely beautiful dramatic landscape, sometimes paddling past walls of rocks that are 70 meters high. As your backdrop you have Skuleberget, the world’s highest coast line and a UNESCO world heritage site (combine your visit with an extra day to climb the mountain).

A good 5-day route goes from Örnsköldsvik to Bönhamn or vice versa depending on the wind direction. There aren’t as many islands as further south – instead the wonders of the area include paddling into beautiful lagoons, along steep rock walls, as well as the stunning backdrop.

Pros: The whole area is a fantastically beautiful place to explore and the landscape is more dramatic than anywhere else along the Swedish coastline. Although a wild and at times exposed area, it’s still suitable for intermediate paddlers. You can include other activities than paddling in your trip like for example climbing ”Balesudden” and take a dip in the lake up there.

Cons: It can be difficult to find camp spots on the steep islands. Best is to go with the kayak operator’s suggestions on where to camp, so you may not be alone in your spot. Some parts of this route are not suitable if conditions are very windy.

#3 Fjällbacka Archipelago and the Koster Islands

The west coast is a completely different landscape than the east coast. The islands are barren without trees, waters are clearer and there are some sandy beaches. It’s saltwater, which means a different and more varied flora and fauna than the brackish east coast. It’s however also a lot more exposed to wind, and you’ll need to handle currents, swells and tides. It’s better suited for experienced paddlers with some flexibility as to when to go on your trip and where, as some parts aren’t suitable at all if it’s too windy.

A good 5-day route in this area starts in the Fjällbacka Archipelago, which is a very beautiful island landscape. Then continue over some exposed open waters to the Koster islands, Sweden’s only marine national park. There is a flurry of activity here with lots of seafood restaurants, and you can bicycle around the pretty island or go snorkeling. Finish up by heading back to the Fjällbacka Archipelago and where you started.

Pros: If you have good weather and feel secure in your paddling skills, this is an absolutely gorgeous paddle and a great chance to experience genuine west coast archipelago culture. You can combine your journey with other activities like bicycling and snorkeling.

Cons: There are a lot fewer islands than on the east coast with some quite exposed waters in between, which makes it more difficult to find shelter in windy conditions. And it’s often way windier. Not beginner friendly because of wind, currents and tides. You need to loop back to your start point.

#4 Stendörren Nature Reserve and Trosa Archipelago

This is a great area to paddle if you have a bit less time on your hands. It’s similar to the Saint Anna Archipelago, but smaller. A myriad of uninhabited islands and islets, close to each other, and a short distance from inner to outer archipelago.

A good 2 or 3 day loop takes you to the Stendörren Nature Reserve, a favorite by sailors and kayakers alike. Here you can hike the islands via small suspension bridges. Even though there are quite a few visitors here in the summer, it’s not as busy as Stockholm and you can find your own little nook on the islands.

Pros: Uninhabited wilderness with tonnes of islands and islets contained in a small area. Suitable for beginners.

Cons: The area is quite small and works best for a two or three day paddle. There aren’t that many points of interest or archipelago culture to explore.

#5 Stockholm Archipelago

The Stockholm Archipelago is a favorite by tonnes of Swedes and other visitors. There is a bustle of summer activity here – sailors, motor boaters, Stockholmers spending the summer at their island retreat, and kayakers.  It’s a massive area that spans 140 km in the north-south direction, and 60 km from west to east, in total comprising around 30,000 islands.  

There are many kayak operators that offer up a way to experience a beautiful slice of the area with nature reserves and picturesque villages.

Pros: Accessible, as it’s so close to Stockholm. If you only have a day or two to spend, this is a great compromise to get a taste of what a longer paddle in a more secluded Swedish archipelago could be. Depending on where you go, there are many places that are suitable for beginners with sheltered routes if it’s windy.

Cons: Well, it’s very much “on the beaten path”. Sweden’s capital city is just around the corner, which means lots of ferries, boaters, summer houses, jet skis. And of course lots of other kayakers too, out for anything from a day paddle to several days. So if you’re looking for solitude, it’s not your best bet.