When anyone is asked for advice on what to see in Southwest Finland, the first words that cross their lips are ‘the Archipelago.’ From the large, offshore islands filled with rural culture to the rugged outer skerries with their baron beauty, the Archipelago is both unique and picturesque. In this blog I have taken my family with me to explore the municipality of Kustavi.
Kustavi is one of the most popular places for Finns to own a summer cottage due to a location that is near to the mainland, easily accessible by boat as well as being situated along the famous Archipelago Trail.
As we set off from Turku with the sun shining, the smooth route out to Kustavi took us straight through scenic countryside. Although we didn’t have time to stop and visit all that we past, there were a number of deviations worth mentioning. Chief amongst them was Louhisaari Manor, the birthplace of Marshal Mannerheim (Finland’s former president and general during the Finnish civil and second world wars). Happily, though, we settled for the feast of rich red farm buildings and golden wheat fields that interspersed the lush forest-filled vistas along the way.
When driving into Kustavi you cross the Kaitainen Bridge, the brow of which points toward heaven and provides great views over the Archipelago either side. Our first night on the island was spent at a place called Kustavi Lootholma, a camping area with a marina for boaters and, most importantly, our special accommodation for the night – a Yurt cottage! There are a total of eight of these canvassed huts, each containing a double bed, a sofa bed, a small fridge and a table and chairs. Each yurt comes with its own terrace as well as additional power sockets. Suffice to say this was some luxury camping, perfect if you’re looking for an outdoor experience but traveling with a partner who likes their creature comforts! We chose to barbecue in the evening and enjoy the company of the other campers, but there is also a restaurant at the marina and the site is not far from the main services in Kustavi.
The next day we packed up and headed out to explore some of the other sights. First up was a collection of traditional artisan workshops known as the Kustavin Savipaja Handicrafts Village. It was great to watch as the blacksmith hammered away to produce a collection of tools, ornaments and jewellery. Those on the look out for a new set of unique earthenware would be richly rewarded with the rows of hand crafted and locally designed crockery. The kids will also be well entertained as they explore the yard petting the rabbits, visiting the sleepy goat dosing in the shade and burning off the rest of their energy in the play area. There is even a peddle-car track! The café and grill kiosk make this an ideal family destination.
Our accommodation for the second night was at the Peterzéns marina, hotel and restaurant, just walking distance from Kustavin Savipaja. Peterzéns really seemed the place to be as the harbour was filled with pristine sailboats, the boutiques thronged with happy shoppers and the restaurant served up a bountiful archipelago buffet. On top of all this it had a mini-golf course and a great play park for children. As the kids played at the park and the wife sipped a cold glass of something sparkling, I chatted to our delightful host Leontina. A representative of the 13th generation of Peterzén to inhabit the island, she explained to me how the marina is a magnet for activity in the summer as all the Finnish who have escaped to their summer cottages swarm like mosquitoes for their evening entertainment.
Peterzéns provides entertainment every weekend throughout the summer. That night we enjoyed a barmy summer evening swaying away to some old-school 80’s covers that were right up our street! Our bed for the evening was in one of their quaint little boathouses that flank the marina. Made from recycled shipping containers and with a thatched roof, each boathouse has a WC and their own little terrace.
Kustavi is one of the most popular vacation spots in Finland and it’s easy to see why. It will be featured again in this blog series as will the Archipelago, so keep reading for more about this fantastic corner of Southwest Finland.