Calm and protected bays or exposed and wild barren islets? Stockholm archipelago is like an abundant menu or varied landscapes that offer completely different experiences. But how is the inner and outer archipelago different?
From the shallow bays on the mainland in Stockholm it is eight miles eastward to the outermost islets at Svenska Högarna. The difference from one side to the other, from the inner to the outer archipelago can be as different as day and night. From leafy greens to barren cliffs. The difference between the protected life in the inner archipelago and a landscape completely exposed to the elements in the outskirts is exciting.
One of the most noticeable differences between the inner and outer archipelago is the height of the vegetation. Just like in the mountains, the vegetation becomes more barren the tougher the climate gets. From the inner archipelago’s abundant and leafy fauna, to the outer archipelago’s more minimal and barren, almost alpine vegetation, there is a contrast. It is interesting to see cloudberries in many places in the outer archipelago, a berry that loves an alpine climate and environment.
There is not really a clear delineation between the inner-, middle- and outer archipelago. The deciduous forest and orchids spread out into the middle archipelago, and the outer archipelago with its cliffs covered with green algae reach out into the middle archipelago. The colors are more leafy green in the inner archipelago, and lighter and yellowy the further out into the ocean you get.
The animal life also differs between the inner and outer archipelago. The sea eagle, that likes to hunt in the outer parts of the archipelago prefers to live in the middle archipelago. Here, it usually steals fish from the more skilled osprey, that hunts in shallower bays, but lives close to the beach in the inner archipelago.
The Stockholm archipelago is a nice paradox. From the leafy protected environment of the inner archipelago, to the more tough and wild outer archipelago. It has been this way for thousands of years, but what parts are exposed and what parts are covered by water has changed radically because the shoreline has receded. Today, city dwellers and other archipelago visitors can easily access both the inner and outer archipelago. The regular, year-round boat traffic bring people out to many of the islands. This, in combination with a growing infrastructure and expanded telephone and internet networks have made it easier to visit and live and work in the archipelago.
In general, people who seek adventure tend to visit the outer archipelago. There is more distance between the islands the further out you get. Here you are exposed to the forces of nature in the same way as in the mountains, where the environment is very dependent on the weather conditions. If there is a storm it can be hard to find shelter. The outer archipelago will give you an exciting adventure without protection. In the inner and middle archipelago, you can take your time to take in the cultural landscape and the rich history of the archipelago in a more protected and secure environment.
The archipelago’s three components
Jonas Davidson, head of customer service at The Archipelago Foundation in the northern archipelago region, often crosses the border between the inner, middle and outer archipelago when he takes the boat from Täby to the Möja archipelago via Vaxholm. He sees this as an experience with three components. First comes the most protected inner part, then the feeling of an archipelago life increases, with archipelago boats and merchant villas from the last century. In the end you reach the barren and exposed landscape of the outer archipelago, against the backdrop of the horizon in the east.
– Islands such as Grinda and Finnhamn in the middle archipelago are easily accessible for everyone. To go from central Stockholm to sipping a glass of wine at Grinda restaurant is not such a big deal, even if you are not used to traveling in the archipelago. You can easily get there by either private boat, archipelago boat with commuter traffic. The inner and middle archipelago are usually the first experience of the archipelago for many people. And then, you may want to venture further out.
So you only have to decide what type of experience you want. Maybe you seek the wild, unprotected and exposed cliffs of the outer islands? If you want to go seal watching, find salamanders, see the terns fly and fish, we would recommend the furthest points of the archipelago. If you like to swim in warm protected bays with shelter from the harsh winds, you should choose the inner archipelago. If you have a fishing rod and worms you can catch some perch to cook for dinner. In the inner archipelago you can also take long walks through leafy forests and meadows with blooming cat’s foot, cowslip and violets.
And if you just can’t decide, we invite you to start exploring the archipelago to find your perfect favorite spot.
Text: Niclas Sjögren