Swedens west coast archipelago with skerries

Sweden’s West Coast – Travel Tips and Art inspired by our Trip.

Visiting Sweden is on the bucket list of many people, and even thought my favourite country for holiday travels is still the United Kingdom, my boyfriend l o v e s Sweden and has already visited it several times. As we only had 12 days for travelling, we didn’t go up far north, but rather stayed at Sweden’s west coast. I’ve collected my 5 personal highlights. Enjoy them and your next holiday in Sweden. Traveling style: Caravan and camping.

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Two Times a First Time

To be straight forward and honest: I’m not a huge camping enthusiast, but *we* decided to give it a try. Overall, I’m just sceptic and find some things a bit odd about it. The stuff you have to load into your car and caravan, the small bed, sharing showers and toilettes with others … I prefer a decent Bed & Breakfast instead.

However, we compromised on going with the caravan at least every second year, so caravan and car it was – for 12 days! The longest time I’ve ever (!) spent on a holiday trip and in a caravan. For someone who prefers having a space of their own and enjoys being alone every once in a while (often), this was a lot. Anyway, I ended up kind of liking it. Once you’ve set up your little space, it’s even cosy and feels a bit like home away from home, which is nice.

The second first time was visiting Sweden! I’ve never been there before and honestly it wasn’t even far up in my bucket list, but I loved it. The few people I talked to (introvert says hello) were nice and the landscape was wonderful, magical, astonishing. We had sunshine and rain, a thunderstorm, and blue skies. These 12 days were a combination of exploring nature on hikes or road daytrips, great food and lots of time to relax. So, let’s dive in! I’ll share my experiences and which wonderful paintings came to life in memory of this trip.

A Camping Spot up North – Next to the Swedish Archipelagos and the Ocean

We have a rule: As I only find caravanning ok-ish, I choose the camping spot or have the final word. And this time it was soooo beautiful. Bofors Camping was just perfect. I would always return and if it wasn’t that far away (took us two days to get there), I would probably go there more often. It’s close to Strömstad, at the northern west coast of Sweden, amid the local archipelago with all its little skerries. You have to cross two bridges to get to the island it’s situated on. It only dawned on me after half of our holiday that our camping spot is on an island and that we’re not just crossing rivers, but the ocean. Ups.

We stayed there for the whole trip – because I find it nasty to build up your whole caravan and make yourself comfortable, only to wrap things up again and drive somewhere else. I don’t get this, as long as you aren’t on holiday for a much longer time. Instead, we had daytrips with our car to different places (and you definitely need a car, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere – maybe a boat would be helpful, but that’s it). Find out more about my highlights down below!

Exploring Sweden’s North-West Coast from Strömstad to Smögen – with occasional Trips into the Mainland.

As I’ve written above, we spent lots of time hiking and driving with car to explore the region of Bohuslän. From our camping spot it wouldn’t have been far to the Norwegian border and its capital city Oslo, as well, but we decided to stay in Sweden and enjoy the beautiful nature instead of doing city trips. Now I list a few of my highlights of our holiday trip to the Swedish west coast.

Highlight 1 – The Island of Saltö

On our first day, we decided to stay where we were and explore the area close to our camping site. We walked through the village of Hätteback with the Tjärnö Marine Laboratory – it’s worth a visit! Tiny, but great! – and over a little bridge onto the island of Saltö, which is a nature reserve.

The skies were bright and blue, we had light winds and deep blue waters. Stony shores, bright forests and lots of plants to admire. You just walk through warm forests, along stony beaches and climb across stones. On the westernmost shore is a special stone formation, looking like a straight street, as the colours of the stones vary. My personal highlight, though, was discovering little ponds with flowers or seaweed, all over the shores.

After our day out, we drove to the marina of Strömstad and ate Fish & Chips. It was delicious with lots of sunshine and a view across the harbour!

An artwork inspired by a walk along the shore.

Highlight 2 – Forests on the Swedish Skerries

I’m always torn apart between whether I prefer forests or coastlines. They are both very special and magical. While at home in Germany it’s a bit difficult to find a place where you have both next to each other, you’ll find lots of little and big forests along the shores of the Swedish west coast. They are mostly conifer forests and many of them are very bright – in contrast to the forest within Sweden, which can be quite dark.

For me, this was the perfect mixture though: walking along sandy or stony beaches, wind in your face, salt on your lips and then you just turn slightly to the inland and walk through warm, bright and spicy smelling woods on soft, bouncy grounds. Mhhmm, you know, at first you smell this salty mixture of ocean water and seaweed combined with sunshine and then, just around the corner it’s the welcoming, distinctive smell of pine woods, heated by the sun, covering you like a cosy blanket. Every now and then a forest glade will show up, like in my painting “Savour the Liveliness”.

Forest scene oil painting with candle by Mareike Heil

My artwork “Savour the Liveliness”, oil on canvas, was inspired by a forest glade we found on a hike on the island Saltö.

By the way, the maritime nature in this area in parts belongs to the Kosterhavet National Park including the Koster Islands, which you can visit by taking the ferry in Strömstad. (We didn’t visit the islands, due to bad weather on the days we wanted to). The Kosterhavet National Park is Sweden’s first maritime national park, which you can explore in many different ways.

Hightlight 3 – Tanumshede & Hunnebostrand

Another highlight was our daytrip to Tanumshede, Smögen and Hunnebostrand. I enjoy driving around on holiday with the car, as long as I’m not only doing it. So, our daytrip was great because we’ve seen many nice places and how the landscape changes depending on whether you’re closer to the coast or a bit inside the country.

In Tanumshede you can visit petroglyphs – signs scratched into stones – by people from the bronze age. They are classified as world cultural heritage and can be found in many spots in this area. However, honestly I’m not as much interested in anthropology and anthropological sites and often get bored when visiting museums displaying artefacts. And it’s been the same with looking at the petroglyphs, though the area is created perfectly to explore them and easily accessible next to the Vitlyke Museum. Besides, I really enjoyed the Vitlyke Museum itself. It’s very modern and has a great, small interactive exhibition inside. You can also sit outside and eat – we had ice cream – and have some coffee. So overall I enjoyed our half-a-day there.

In the afternoon we headed to Smögen, as everyone said “Go visit it!” (more on this below), but ended our day in Hunnebostrand. A small village next to Smögen, with beautiful restaurants next to the ocean. You basically sit at your table and can look down into the water, watching the sun set. Marvellous!

Highlight 4 – Scratching Moose in Ed!

Before this holiday I said, when I go visit Sweden, then I’ll have to see moose. And pet them, if possible. I’ve never seen one in real life. And so, one day, we drove to Ed to the Dalsland Moose Ranch. And guess what? I scratched moose! Awwww!

The landscape is very different to the one at the Swedish north-west coast. There are far and wide forests with shallow hills and lakes everywhere. Ed is next to the lake Stora Le, but we mostly stayed at the Moose Ranch. The ranch itself is a great place. Very calm and natural. We booked the guided moose feeding in advance, where they explain many things about moose in general and their moose in particular. You can ask questions and feed the moose. So great!

Afterwards we had waffles and then had a walk around the ranch and visited the Skogens öga lake. A tiny lake surrounded by cliffs, being almost round. The path leads you through a forest with blueberries as far as you can see (taste great, blue tongue guaranty). Finally, at the lake, it’s been so silent. No noises at all. Perfect.

Forest Lake Oil Painting
Sudden Silence – Oil painting inspired by lake views in Sweden.

Highlight 5 – Sitting in the Sun & Occasional “Road Trips”.

Do you like discovering knew places? Me too! But I also L O V E the sweet and simple life. Rest. Delicious food. Doing nothing. I’ve spend holidays before, where I had to-do’s and to-visit’s and to-hike-to’s for each and every day – and it was great, I’ve seen so much – but these holidays weren’t really … restful. It’s the same with photography (I’ve written about this in another article before). Taking many pictures doesn’t necessarily go along with making more lasting holiday memories.

So, my highlight number five – and I strongly encourage you to do this as well! – was sitting around in the sun, just somewhere where you’ve found a sweet spot, right where you are. And having miniature road trips. I know it’s sitting in the car and driving around and it’s not very eco-friendly, but it’s a great way to relax, see a lot and discover wonderful places.

Pro tip: Don’t always take the fastest route or the best one. You’re on holiday and have a lot of time, so feel free to leave the big roads and drive around on small ones. The ones you only see when zooming in to Maps very closely. You’re very likely to discover one of your most favourite views of the whole trip.

sunshine at the sea
Me, enjoying the sweet sun.

Anti-Recommendations: Drive around Smögen and Don’t Get Stung by a Wasp.

A few sentences about Smögen. The internet will tell you to visit it. Instagram will tell you to visit it. Friends will tell you to visit it. And if you enjoy expensive parking, over-priced anything and over-crowded streets it might be your place, but otherwise it’s not as spectacular as you might think. Visiting it was almost bizarre. You walk along a small landing stage, water to the left, tiny houses with restaurants to the right, with thousands of other humans, while rich my-parents-bought-me-a-yacht teens lie on their boats, in swimwear, displaying their parents wealth, while being stared at by strangers. I don’t know what’s worst. Having to show off yourself like this or being just like any other tourist following a trend. Don’t go there, seriously. It’s wasted time.

My second anti-recommendation is: getting stunk by a wasp while watching the Trollhättan waterfall is not fun. So always have medicine with you and enjoy the waterfall!

Would I Visit Sweden’s North-West Coast again?

Definitely yes! There is so much more to explore, and I loved the landscape and nature. It connects what I love: ocean and forests. I was able to take some beautiful photos which are finding their way onto canvas and inspired me to start playing with oil paint.

swedish city strömstad marina
The marina of Strömstad. #foodwithaview

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