Oland (a.k.a Öland or Øland) is Sweden’s second largest island, located on the East coast, in the Baltic Sea. It’s one of the most popular summer destinations for Swedes. So much so that even the royal family spends a few weeks/year on the island!
During my long-term house sitting in Kalmar, I’ve had the chance to explore some parts of Oland. Although I have previously visited other famous islands such as Santorini or Ko Pha-Ngan, I must say I was really impressed with Oland!
I was taken off guard because I did not expect much of it when I first decided to visit. After all, what is there to see on a northern island, right? Well, it turns out it’s simply breathtaking. From amazing natural reservations to ancient ruins and picturesque beaches, Oland has much more to offer than first meets the eye.
Getting to, and around Oland
The main gateway to Oland is the city of Kalmar, Sweden which lies just a few kilometers across the Kalmar straight. The islands main connection to the continent is the massive 6km bridge that links the two sides. However, the bridge is not accessible to bikes or pedestrians. So if you don’t own a car, you have only two other options: bus or ferry.
There are no trains to Oland or within the island. But there are several buses that leave from the Kalmar main station and travel across the bridge. I had a lot of difficulties finding out the routes and schedules for the busses. That’s until a friend pointed me to this very handy app which allows you to search for your destination and shows the best routes and times.
The last option (and my favorite) is taking the ferry across the straight. It only takes 30 minutes and costs 55 Swedish kroner/adult. Furthermore, you can get a bike onboard too! You can find the departure schedule on this page.
Within Oland, the best way to get around, if you want to see as much as possible, is by car of course. There are also buses that drive around the island. Unfortunately, they’re quite few and rare in between. But you can still take advantage of the bus system, especially since buses are equipped with bike racks!
During my trips, I mostly used a bike, which I transported via the ferry. And although Oland is very bike friendly, biking around limits the amount of distance you can cover, especially if you don’t have too many days at your disposal.
Another thing you should consider before setting ambitious bike goals, is the wind speed. At times, the winds can be quite intense, slowing down your progress. It pays to check the wind forecast one day before and adjusting your goals accordingly.
Besides biking, I made a road trip by car, with a friend. I really appreciate the convenience of driving around the island, but biking also has its charm.
Best things to do in Oland
Go for a swim
Oland is famous for its many beautiful beaches. Most of them are shallow for a long way in so, they’re very child-friendly. I was also surprised by the clear water, which I would not have expected to see in the Baltic Sea.
Visit prehistorical sites
There are numerous iron age vestiges on the island, from warrior graves to early fortifications. Having been inhabited since 6000 BC, there are plenty of historical locations on the island to see.
I was impressed by Noah Ark, a late iron age burial ground that’s shaped like a ship…it baffles me that it has kept the shape for more than 2500 years! According to the information at the site, it contained the remains of several cremated people from that era together with personal objects such as rings and swords.
It’s fair to say that Oland is a paradise for birds. Numerous species live here permanently, migrate during the summer or simply stop for a rest on their migratory route. Being a novice birdwatcher myself, it was a real treat to get to see so many different species in a short amount of time. Here are some of the shots I made during my visits:
Go on a hike
Oland has hundreds of kilometers of marked hiking trails that you can wander on. There are also a lot of camping places around the island, including the biggest one in Sweden (Boda Sand). Just pay attention to camp and/or make fires only in designated areas. As the whole island is just a big nature reservation, you might face a hefty fine if you camp in unpermitted places.
Visit the Ottenby lighthouse
The Ottenby lighthouse is situated in the most southern point of the island. This is one of the best places on the island for birdwatching as most of the migratory birds pass by during the migration season. There’s also an ornithological research station here that catches birds using nets, marks them, and then releases them.
Personally, I loved the energy of this place during my short visit. The whole lighthouse complex and the wildlife around it, made me feel I wanted to spend several weeks there just to take everything in. This is one of the places I’d really like to visit again sometime in the future.
A few other suggestions
Those are the things that impressed me the most, but of course, Oland has much more to offer. Here are some other suggestions of what you can do on Oland:
- visit Kark X Gustav’s wall – a 4000-meter long wall across the whole island, built by a rich king to make sure his imported deer do not escape his domain
- go to museums. There are a few of them on the island
- visit Solliden, the summer retreat of the Swedish royal family
- pass by local artisans and see their crafts. Pottery and glassblowing are popular on the island. There are a lot of local shops where you can buy locally-made souvenirs, but you can also watch the artisans as they work!
- practice water sports. Oland is perfect for wind sports such as kite surfing
This is not an exhaustive list. For sure there are much more things you can do on this island of the Viking gods. My advice is just to book your trip and go there. You will not regret it!