Where the gaze may freely wander along wind-swept islets, where the barren meets the beautiful and the dramatic twists and turns of history live in perfect harmony with romanticism. Where small villages are alive with a unique archipelago atmosphere. There lies an archipelago that has remained hidden from many and is becoming one of the most attractive travel destinations in southern Finland. We welcome you to enjoy the gorgeous archipelago of the Eastern Gulf of Finland in Kotka, Hamina, Loviisa, Pyhtää and Virolahti!
The Island of Kaunissaari
Kaunissaari Island is the most popular tourist attraction at sea in Southeastern Finland – and has been that ever since the 1950s. In Finnish, ‘kaunis’ means ‘beautiful’ and ‘saari’ translates as ‘island’, and this island sure is beautiful.
Here, the old harbor bay is lined with red beach storehouses and boathouses. Idyllic fishermen’s huts with their gardens and narrow alleyways invite you to breathe in the atmosphere of the 1930s fishing community, a time this rustic archipelago village reminds you of. The island is covered with fine maritime pine forests shaped by the winds. The long sandy beaches on the northern and eastern shores invite you for leisurely relaxation and water games.
Hiking is a great way of seeing the island. On the shore of the harbor bay there is an archipelago museum displaying an interesting collection of items that tell a story about life, and the people, on the island. A shop, a café, sales outlets for smoked fish and handicrafts and the legendary restaurant Kaunissaaren Maja offer opportunities for enjoying delicious food and purchasing souvenirs.
Svartholm Sea Fortress
Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the cool crisp sea breeze that flows over it, and then take in the glimmering sea right before you. Laivasilta Pier in Loviisa makes this reality.
Enjoy the local dishes at outside eateries, or do a bit of impulse shopping at some small boutiques. Then hop on board to see the Sea Fortress Svartholm only half an hour away.
Svartholm Sea Fortress outside Loviisa was built in the 1750s and suffered great damage during the Crimean War. In the 1960s, the Finnish Heritage Agency began to restore the fortress, commonly known as the little sister of the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress just outside Helsinki.
If you embark on a sea adventure to Svartholm with the kids, bring toy swords with you, as this is the perfect place to play pirates! Bistro Svartholm is a popular stop for the local boaters, so do as they do and stop by for a tasty meal and a bit of relaxed island life before heading back to the mainland.
The Island of Tammio
At Tammio Island the scenery is like a fairy tale book – an old fishing village with beautiful wooden houses scattered around the harbor. Here you can enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and beautiful landscape, listen to the birds and admire the hundreds and thousands of gorgeous lilacs against the blue sky.
At summertime Tammio’s houses are temporarily filled with summer residents, but there is only one resident on the island all year round. The houses have belonged to the same families for a long time, and there is a strong community among the islanders.
The Island of Haapasaari
The history of Haapasaari is based on maritime surveillance and piloting. It is located in the outer archipelago an approximately 40-minute boat ride away from Sapokka in Kotka. The idyllic Haapasaari has a shop, a summer kiosk, a guest harbour and a church and school from the 19th century. The shop in Haapasaari is unique; it is the smallest independent co-operative shop in Finland that has been serving its customers since 1907.
Haapasaari is a two-part island of about one kilometre in length whose halves are connected by a sandy heath only about 20 metres wide running north of Kylänlahti. The fishing village has been built around a sheltered natural harbour. Wartime bunkers and cannons can be seen on the nearby Kilpisaari and Vanhankylänmaa.
The Island of Rankki
Rankki Island in Kotka probably reminds most people of the legendary marine weather forecasts. The fortress island of Rankki outside Kotka was originally part of the defensive line of Peter The Great’s sea fortress that was built by the Russians on the Gulf of Finland to protect St. Petersburg. Heavy coastal cannons and a Russian barracks were located there in 1916.
Rankki has been used by the military and the island was closed from civilians for over a hundred years. On Rankki, you can still see the massive coastal cannons and the old Russian barracks whose building remains in a nearly original state. The Rankki cannons played a crucial part in Finnish defensive battles in the spring of 1940. Also on display on Rankki is the historical exhibition ‘Coastal Artillery Rules’. This is the easternmost archipelago in Finland; the southern shore of Rankki has a view of Suursaari, which was lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War.
The Island of Varissaari
Varissaari Island is located right outside Kotka and has been a popular site for outdoor activities for the people of Kotka since the late 19th century. The ruins of the Ruotsinsalmi sea fortress Fort Elisabeth are also located in Varissaari. Together with Fort Slava in Kukouri, the fortress protected shipping lanes leading to Ruotsinsalmi. Some of the buildings and walls were destroyed in the Crimean War, but the walls have been renovated over recent years.
Varissaari has the excellent Restaurant Vaakku and the Sauna Raft Kiulu. You can also get a feel for the naval atmosphere by SUP boarding
The Island of Kukouri
Kukouri is the second of the two fortress islands outside Kotka. The round red-brick fortress on Kukouri, Fort Slava, was completed in 1794. Fort Slava is one of the outermost fortresses of the Ruotsinsalmi sea fortifications. A special feature of the fortress is its perfectly round shape which makes it unique in Finland. The fortress has a diameter of 75 metres and used to have 44 cannon posts. During the Crimean War, a fleet of 14 ships blew up the fortress on 27 July 1855.
Kukouri can be visited using chartered transportation.
The Island of Rääntiö
In the mysterious and exotic border zone of the Eastern Gulf of Finland there is a hygge paradise. On the island of Rääntiö you enjoy tranquility, sea breezes and fantastic sunrises in a very comfortable and wonderfully decorated villa by the sea, next door to Russia.
Today, Virolahti is a quiet rural town but only a few hundred years ago the southeastern part of Finland, its beautiful landscapes and precious granite attracted lots of merchants, cosmopolitans and power-givers from faraway countries. In their footsteps you can also find everything that belongs to the mysterious and exotic border zone. Here you enjoy the fire in the fire, good food, slow sauna bathing and red-colored sunrises in nature’s embrace in beauty that even the emperor could not resist.
The National Park of Eastern Gulf of Finland
The Eastern Gulf of Finland National Park is located in the outer archipelago. The national park includes over a hundred islands and islets that are known particularly for their birdlife and military history. The largest islands are Kilpisaari, Ristisaari, Ulko-Tammio, Mustaviiri and Pitkäviiri.
The main island of the national park is Ulko-Tammio, where the only sheltered harbor in the national park is located. Ulko-Tammio is also a significant site in terms of military history where one can see many remains from a World War II fortress and fortifications. You can find out about the military history of Ulko-Tammio by taking a tour along the nature path. There are also two cannons that have been restored to their posts along the nature path. Ulko-Tammio can be accessed from Sapokka in Kotka on summer weekends.
The natural park offers magnificent experiences for birdwatchers. The migration of arctic birds every spring is one of the most spectacular events in birdlife. A flock of millions of migrating birds in all its glory can be seen in southeastern Finland, and its main route passes right over the national park.
To secure your sea adventure, book a ticket on a cruise by Meriset. There is a free ferry that goes once a day in high season, but during the summer it often happens that there isn’t room for everyone on board. If you visit during spring or autumn, there is plenty of room on the ferry but it goes only a few times a week.
Fishing at the Eastern Gulf of Finland
Eastern Gulf of Finland offers diverse fishing waters and the opportunity to take a packaged trip with our professional guides to try your luck at catching, for example, pike-perch and pike in sheltered bay areas, or having a go at surf fishing for trout on outer islets and offshore spin fishing for salmon. You can focus on one type of fish only, or choose the best catch for each fishing season.