Camping on the east coast of Sweden: Öland with rich history
Sweden is a favorite holiday destination for us Norwegians. Most often it is the west coast and the border regions that are visited, while the east coast is an unknown chapter for many of us. We therefore traveled the farthest south and east of Sweden to see what Öland had to offer.
Öland is long and narrow and screens the mainland along half of Kalmar's Län. 135 km measures the island from the north to the south and offers everything you need for a rich holiday. Öland is reached via the 6 kilometer long Öland Bridge, which was Europe's longest when it was opened in 1972. The bridge enters a little south of the border between the island's two municipalities. Borgholm in the north and Mörbylånga in the south. Previously, all transport by ferry from Kalmar to the village with the obvious name Färjestaden went just south of the bridge fort. Together with the village of Mörbylånga where we find the municipal administration, these are the most populous places in the south of the island. The island's only city is further north. Borgholm is the administrative center for Borgholm municipality, and has about 4000 inhabitants. The municipality's total population is just over 10.000. Mörbylånga has 1500 inhabitants.
Tourism and agriculture are the most important industries in Öland. From early spring to late autumn, people flock to the island. Many to their summer cottages around the island, but also to the many campsites. In winter it is quieter, but a few campsites have a limited offer during this season too. Snow and wind can have their charm there too. The first to take the island in the spring come by air. Öland is a popular resting place for migratory birds that have crossed the Baltic Sea. With the birds also come the birdwatchers, who patiently sit with their binoculars and scout for new species. Over 400 species of birds have been observed at Ottenby Bird Station south of the island, and over a million birds have been ringed here since their inception in 1946.
Many artists live in Öland, and in several places there are signs of sales of ceramics and other applied arts. There are also several small galleries and workshops of various kinds. In many places it is also possible to buy a snack and something to drink. Otherwise, there are many good eateries around the island, so here is something for everyone. A specialty with long traditions at Öland is body cakes, a dish very similar to what we in Norway call potato ball.
Although the soil is scarce, it is cultivated very well on Öland. Among other things, there is a large production of brown beans and products based on it, including bean chips. From the big yellow rapeseeds a beautiful oil is made, and otherwise many varieties of vegetables and fruits are grown, all of which get their special taste from the special climate and soil of the island. Grain production is also great here, and all over the island you see windmills that were used to grind the grain. A few are still in use today, but mostly for curiosity.
There are many opportunities for an active holiday in Öland. A popular activity is cycling, and it is marked several miles with fine cycling routes where you get close to nature. Water sports such as windsurfing, surfing and kayaking are also good opportunities. Another great activity is golf, and there are several small and large courses on the island. The largest resort is Ekerum Resort which has two 18-hole courses and a 6-hole short course. There are also golf courses adjacent to the campsites Saxnäs and Böda Sand.
Castle with history
One of Öland's most visited attractions is Borgholm Castle, or rather the castle ruin. It was built in the 1200th century and was destroyed several times in the 15th and 1600th centuries in wars, and despite several partial reconstructions, it was never completely restored. The completed parts also fell into disrepair, and in 1806 a fire set a definitive period for the castle. Today, the ruins are used for various activities such as riding school, concerts and exhibitions. Just south of the ruins is Solliden Castle, which is the royal family's summer resort on Öland. The place is open to the public, though with little access when the royal family resides there. On July 14, Victoria's Day, Crown Princess Victoria's birthday is celebrated on Solliden. The whole royal family then tends to be gathered at the castle.
During the summer months
The tourist season starts at Easter time and ends with the traditional harvest party in late September. It indicates that the crops have arrived and that winter is approaching. However, the high season is during the school holidays, and already in mid-August, the campsites are much quieter. In total there are about 25 campsites on Öland of varying size and standard. In addition, there are about 15 motorhome spaces. The largest and perhaps most famous place is Böda Sands Camping. It is not only Ölands, but also Sweden's largest campsite with a total of 1350 pitches and 125 cabins. It lies along a 2-mile-long chalky-white sandy beach, and has all the amenities one could imagine. A great place for those with active children.
We had booked a cabin at Saxnäs Camping, which is about a kilometer north of the bridge. This is the third largest of the island's campsites. The place is run by the Sörenson family, with Catrin and Lasse in the lead. Lasse came to Saxnäs in 1989. At that time it was Domänverket, a state-owned real estate company, that ran the place. In 2006, the family bought the place and now runs it as a separate business. Lasse is a nice guy, and willingly tells about the history of the place and its many experiences over 30 years as a tourist host. The site now has about 500 plots, and a quarter are high standard places with electricity, TV, water and drainage. In addition, 30 cabins come with all amenities. There is also a large swimming pool on site.
Scarce water resources
Due to scarce freshwater resources at Öland, a pumping station has been built that pumps seawater into the pool and toilets. The salt content of the water between Öland and the mainland is so low that it does not present problems. Among other offers on the site we find several playgrounds, a dance arena with stage, mini golf and of course a long beach. The shop and restaurant are rented to external drivers and have as far as we can judge both good selection and good service. Although there were some families with children here this is probably a place more for good adults who want peace and quiet.
Along the coast
After a few pleasant days in Öland, it was time to explore more of the area, so we headed for the mainland and headed north. It is the E22 that runs north along the coast, but as with most Swedish main roads there is little to see of either coast or buildings. We therefore turned off after a couple of miles and drove the coastal road of Mönsterås. An idyllic stretch of road that runs through several small places that may be worth stopping at, including Pataholm and Timmernabben.
We only took a few short stops there, for the next destination was Oskarshamn, a city with almost 20.000 inhabitants and many different offers. Here you can visit several types of museum, including the Döderhultarmuseum. Axel "Döderhultarn" Petersson was one of Sweden's most famous sculptors, known for their very vivid wood sculptures. There are many opportunities for an active outdoor life both on land and at sea. From Oskarshamn there are also boat trips to Öland and to the nature reserve Blå Jungfrun, an 86 meter high granite dome with many legends and myths attached to it.
On the outskirts of Oskarshamn we took a trip to Gunnarsö Camping, which is another well-known campsite in the region. The campsite has a beautiful location on an island, and has a bit of hilly terrain so you don't have the feeling of standing in a large campsite. Here you can choose between standing completely out on the sea, or in a thinner forest area. All amenities including shop and restaurant. And a popular bathing facility with plunge tower.
Village life from the past
A little north of Oskarshamn we find Stensjö village. It is an authentic small village from the 17-1800s with mainly farm operations. Here you can walk around and see how people lived 2-300 years ago. In several of the buildings you will find exhibitions that show everyday life in earlier times. Life goes on daily in the city, where people work on the land and the animals walk around. Stensjö town is also widely used in connection with film recordings. Best known from the films about Astrid Lindgren's Children in Bullarebyn and Emil in Lönneberga.
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