by Linda McGurk – The stereotypical outdoor family vacation in Sweden involves at least three things: camping near the sea, chasing the elusive sun, and wearing matching, dorky family sweat suits. On the Swedish island of Oland, a long, narrow strip of land in the Baltic Sea off the country’s east coast, you can have it all. No wonder Oland, Sweden is one of the country’s most popular family vacation spots.
Oland, Sweden Family Travel Guide
Roughly a third the size of Rhode Island, Oland, Sweden is tiny but sports no less than 75 nature preserves, one UNESCO World Heritage site, over 13,000 relics from ancient civilizations, and nearly 200 miles of pristine shoreline.
But the astonishing nature experiences and the area’s rich history are but two reasons Swedes and foreigners alike flock to Oland, Sweden in the summer, when the island’s population grows from 25,000 to 300,000. Nope, its biggest claim to fame is that it has the most abundant sunshine in all of Sweden – not an insignificant selling point in a country where this is often in short supply.
“There is a lot more sun here than in the rest of Sweden and the scenery is very special,” says Susanne Lund, who has visited Oland, Sweden many times with her husband and two children. “There are rocky beaches, sandy beaches and sea stacks, all within a few miles of each other. And it’s flat, which makes it easy to get to places on bike.”
5 Things to Do with Kids on Oland
1. Hike The Enchanted Forest
The transcendent vapors from the lush Scots pine stands in the Enchanted Forest alone make it a worthwhile excursion with the kids, but there’s more to this place than that. A nature preserve located at the northernmost tip of the island, the Enchanted Forest, Trollskogen has multiple hiking trails – including one that is stroller friendly – rare species of birds and plants, and a magnificent oak tree that is believed to be around 900 years old.
The kiddos will also love checking out the old ship wreck Swiks and building cairns with the many smooth rocks on one of the seemingly endless beaches. Make sure to bring a picnic, because you’ll want to make a day of it.
2. Bask in the sun at Böda Sand Beach Resort
If the Byxelkrok area gets a little too quiet, pay a visit to Böda Sand Beach Resort a few miles to the southeast to get your dose of active family vacation. Whatever outdoor summer activity you fancy, chances are you’ll find it at Böda Sand Beach Resort.
The longest sandy beach in Sweden – check. Water sports – check. Playgrounds, skate park, water park, outdoor gym, golf, group workouts swim lessons and after beach entertainment – check. You’ll be hard pressed to find a bored child (or adult) at Böda.
3. Be a fossil detective by Byrum’s sea stacks
Near the small beach resort of Byrums Sandvik is a nature preserve where 120 sandstone and limestone sea stacks rise from the ocean, chiseled by the crashing and churning waves over hundreds of millions of years.
Not only is this the largest and most famous collection of sea stacks on Oland; kids love the area because of its abundance of fossils. While knocking fossils off the sea stacks is forbidden, collecting small mementos from the ground is permitted.
4. Visit Skäftekärr Iron Age Village
Learn how people on Oland lived 1,500 years ago at Skäftekärr Iron Age Village, where you’ll find remains and replicas of over 20 dwellings from the Iron Age, historic artifacts, a fossil exhibition and special events featuring re-enactors in historic garb. If history is not your toddler’s cup of tea, there are plenty of farm animals to keep him entertained.
5. Ride a bike to Långe Erik
Långe Erik, a 104-foot lighthouse made of limestone, is one of Oland’s most famous landmarks and an easily accessible destination whether you’re traveling with car or riding a bike. Enjoy the miles-wide view from the top of the tower and visit the picturesque lighthouse café serving fika, a Swedish term for socializing while drinking coffee and eating various sweet treats.
Unique Family Bed & Breakfasts on Oland
To experience the unique charm of this Swedish island, there are several affordable bed and breakfasts families can use as a base camp to explore its tranquil oak forests, fairytale wooden windmills, and golden sandy beaches.
This seasonal, timbered eco bed and breakfast is a 4-minute walk from a shingle beach, 1.1 km from Stora Frö village and 26 km from 16th-century seaside palace Kalmar Castle.
Featuring neutral tones, the relaxed rooms, apartments and huts have tables, chairs, and shared bathrooms; some offer the addition of bunk beds and offer private bathrooms and terraces. Apartments also feature kitchenettes.
Free, organic breakfast and daily meals are served in a bright, elegant dining room. And enjoy relaxing in the lounge next to the fireplace, play board games, or sit out on the furnished terrace. Book this property on Booking.com and get the guaranteed lowest, plus you never pay booking fees.
Located near the centre of Borgholm, Villa Badhusgatan provides guests with a stay in a cultural setting reminiscent of the times when this small town was “the bathing spa to visit”.
Guest rooms are situated on the first floor together with two separate bathrooms – both including a shower and a toilet. Depending on the weather, a delicious breakfast can be served indoors, on the balcony or in the garden.
Cafés, restaurants, and shops are just around the corner, while bathing facilities, Borgholm Castle, and Solliden are within easy walking distance. A ten minute car ride will take you to Ekerums’ two 18 hole golf courses. This property can also be booked at Booking.com to reserve the absolute lowest rate.
Situated in Föra village on Oland Island, this family-owned bed and breakfast offers brightly decorated, newly-renovated rooms with garden views and free WiFi access. All guest rooms at OlandsRo B&B have beautiful wooden floors, a quiet seating area, and access to a shared bathroom and kitchen facilities.
A buffet breakfast is served on request and coffee, hot dogs and waffles can be bought at the on-site café during summer months. Guests also have access to BBQ facilities and a shared balcony and terrace, perfect for relaxing after a long day of exploring.
A wonderful centralized location, you’ll find Djupviksbadet Beach is 2 km away, Borgholm town centre is a 15-minute drive away, and the 17th-century Borgholm Castle is 24 km from the B&B.
Family Camping on Oland
For the quintessential island experience, staying at one of the many campgrounds is a must. For kids especially, campgrounds on Oland offer a truly old-school childhood experience and you can find one to fit your camping style, be it an RV or fifth-wheel, tent camping, or a cabin. Sonjas Camping och Stugor is one such lovely, five-star family campground with something to offer everyone, young and old.
“It’s very quaint, almost as if time has stood still,” Lund says about northern Oland, Sweden, her favorite part of the island. “It’s not as trendy and hyped up as some of the other areas.”That’s especially true about Byxelkrok, an old fishing village on the northwest coast of Oland, Sweden, which remains relatively quiet even during peak season. Here, families enjoy the simple pleasures of walking around boathouses turned eclectic shops, playing a game of bocce in the marina, eating ice cream and taking in sunsets that are nothing short of spectacular. Both Neptuni and Tokenas are great family campgrounds in this area of stunning natural beauty.
While Oland has earned its sunny summer destination label fair and square the weather is not completely foolproof. Be sure to bring your rain gear if you do decide to go – Oland is an outdoor mecca and not a place where you’ll want to hibernate in case of bad weather. The matching sweat suits, however, are optional.
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Linda McGurk is a Swedish-born journalist and author, who writes the blog Rain or Shine Mamma to inspire outdoor play and adventure every day, regardless of the weather. She is the author of There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.