Mosts tourists to Göteborg opt to visit the Northern part of the archipelago (Orust, Hönö), as they are very well connected to the mainland and are easily accessed by car. Not so many, however, venture out to the Southern archipelago which has its own advantages.
The main islands are accessible by public ferries which leave from Saltholmen (tram no 11 terminus). The public ferries are part of the transport system, and so you can use the same tickets for going to the archipelago as you would for any other destination in the city. With Göteborg pass you even get to travel for free!
The main islands of the Southern archipelago are Styrsö (biggest, with schools and health care facilities), Brännö, Donsö, Köpstadsö and Vrångö. In the old days, these islands housed communities of fishermen and their families. In the early 1900s, some islands (notably Styrsö) saw some new developments with beach resort hotels and summer houses (or villas, more appropriately in some cases) cropping up.
These days, the islands have a small number of permanent residents in addition to the flocks of people coming to the islands to enjoy the summer months either for the day on the beach or in a rented summer house. There is restricted access for cars, so any rented vehicles will have to have only 2 wheels, and in fact, cycling is a great way to get around. The pace is more quiet out here, and the locals are friendly.
Why let the Swedes keep these islands to themselves? :-)
A tram tour (nr.11) of about 45 minutes from the city centre (Brunnspark / Central Station) of Göteborg brings you to the Saltholmen harbour. The normal bus/tram ticket can also be used on the boat for just a few euros. When having a Göteborg pass, it's free. You can even buy a ticket by sms. I took a trip to the most departed island, Vrangö, a 45 minutes trip.
This trip can be made on an evening. I left the city centre at 18:30 by tram, took the ferry at 19:30, spend one hour and a half at the island (no restaurants or cafes open!), took the boat of 21:41, the tram of 22:43 and was back in the city centre around 23:30.
See my Vrangö travel page!
If you are in Gothenburg in summer a really nice excursion for the day is to go to the island/city of Marstrand. You can go there by bus (Nils Eriksson terminal) but THE way to come to Marstrand is by boat. The company Börjesson arranges boat tours to Marstrand daily during summer. It is a nice 3 hours journey to get there and then you do see something of the beatiful archipelago. The best thing though is to buy a one way fare, not the return ticket. If you buy the return ticket you will only have 2 hours at Marstrand, which is not really enough. There are plenty of buses going to Gothenburg from Marstrand (which is also slightly cheaper then buying the return ticket on the ferry).
What you should not miss when at Marstrand is to walk all the way around the island. The back side of the island is really special with the characteristic cliffs of the Swedish West coast. Eating and drinking in Marstrand is pretty expensive so if you are a budget traveller it is a good idea to bring your own picnic - then you can eat it sitting on a cliff by the sea.
Vinga is a strong symbol in Sweden, and especially locally of course, since it is the first bit of Swedish land sailors lay their eyes on when returning home. Having experienced it myself on many a ferry journey moving home from England, I have to say it gives a lump in your throat seeing it again when you've been gone.
The very unusual lighthouse with its strong light is a well-known silhouette in these waters and what many make a trip out here for in summer when there are boats from Lilla Bommen (see transport tip) but they also come because of the loved troubadour Evert Taube who was born here as his father was the lighthouse keeper. Taube was inspired by his seaman travels to Argentina and by living on the French Riviera amongst other places, and wrote many well-known songs. Some are shanty-like and some quite romantic about the Gothenburg and Stockholm (were he also lived) archipelagos - there are English translations of some if you search the web.
From the main station, take the tram 11 and go until Saltholmen...the last station.
U can see the changing of architecture from the city center to the suburbs and than the small villages after Goeteborg.
Get out of the tram and walk direction harbour...in the way we met a guy selling some fine swedish cinammon pastrys...were perfect...'cause it was kind of cold and we had to wait for a while for the next boat to come.
The arquipelago has many islands and we asked a lokal one which was the best to visit...he said, the southest: Vrango. It was soooo amazing...we didn't meet anyone there...'cause most tourist drop off before, at the biggest island and biggest village: Styrso.
After walking and enjoying the sunny day there we didn't want to go see this big islan...so just got back...and than the tram back to the city.
For a great CHEAP afternoon trip take the no. 11 tram at 13:56 from the central square outside the central train station to Saltholmen, walk 150 mtrs to the boat terminal and catch the 14:40 sailing to Branno Husvik, stay on the boat returning to Saltholmen at 16:21 and catch the next tram back to the central square.
A lovely cruise in the southern islands and all for 2 coupons (SEK40) or less if you buy a multitrip discount card!
The boat has a cafe selling coffee, drinks and snacks. the views are outstanding.
I took this after getting off the ferry at Saltholmen coming back from Styrso. Saltholmen itself was a pretty area - right on the edge of the city where the buildings have thinned out considerably and there is a little of the same landscape as on the archipelago islands.
There was some accident in the city and the trams were delayed for a while so I kind of wish I had used that time to walk around a bit more. Still I enjoyed the view I had! :)
Its easy to get here, just jump on tram #11 and its the last stop on the line. The ferry terminal is just in front of you.
Do you have a day to spare? Need to charge your batteries, improve your tan, relax, chill out?
Then take your bathing trunks, pack the pick-nick basket, hang the 'do not disturb' sign around your neck and head out towards the ferries at Saltholmen.
If you take the tram there you can use the same ticket on the ferrys, no extra charge.
There are a large number of islands to choose from and you can't really make any big misstakes in choosing where to go off.
But if you want something specific there is a ticket office there where you can ask, or just ask someone at the docks, friendly and accurate tips are guaranteed.
I believe the southern Archipelago is easier to get to and thats the one I went to. The ferries [passenger only - no cars on the islands although I don't think that is the case in the nothern archipelago] leave from Saltholmen which is the last stop on tram #11. I guess they don't all go to all the destinations so its best to check if you want to go to a specific island/stop. You could visit several islands or just one as I did or if you were short of time just ride the ferry around.
Its very inexpensive as the ferries are for the locals too and is basically the same price as a single tram ticket [per journey, if you visit more than one island obviously it'll cost more] and you can use your tram ticket on the boat if you already have one. With the 100-card its a continuation of your 90 minute journey so costs you no extra at all. I guess maybe it works the same with a normal single ticket but I didn't use those.
While wandering around on Styrso I noticed a worn path through the bushes and up this wee hill. I ended up following it and although it didn't go far the panoramic views were brilliant! I could see all around the town and over to some other smaller islands and could just have sat there all day soaking up the sun & the views!
My favourite thing from the whole trip was a short visit out to the southern archipelago [sodra skargarden]. It was a beautiful sunny morning and despite being March it was relatively warm! I just went for the morning and visited the island of Styrso which is one of the larger ones.
This is actually one of the few places in Gothenburg that's just as beautiful in the winter as in the summer. Hop on any of the ferries at Saltholmen (number 10 tram to the end station in the west) and see a lot of the islands. If you enjoy the ferry enough, you don't even have to step ashore, just ride it around and get back to where you started.
I got off the ferry at Styrso Bratten and had a nice wander round there. It was SO peaceful and some beautiful views.
I came across this lovely little church and just had to get a picture! :)