What happens when a father and son decide to spend a couple of days in the Gulf of Bothnia archipelago? Well, first you have to promise that there will be mobile phone coverage and then keep your fingers crossed that you’re right. Then you can safely assume there’ll be no trace of the kid during the entire trip.

Don’t let’s anticipate here, but I can tell you that the whole idea of going island hopping in the Gulf of Bothnia archipelago wasn’t exactly my son’s idea. It was mine. It was based on that ancient proverb: ’like father, like son’. The thought that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and that they – Sr. and Jr. – should do stuff together. And then preferably the way Sr. used to do them, back at the beginning of time.

— Will I be able to go online?

This was my son’s immediate question when I started discussing the holiday plans at the breakfast table. Based on the experience he’d had a week or so ago when we went to the mountains, and the signal bars were conspicuous by their absence, I suppose he wanted to cover himself. He wants to bring a friend as well. Sometimes a father keen on spending time with his sixteen-year-old son just has to accept the fact that the game plan has changed through the years. The kid has his own will – and that will is better to have with you than against you.

M/S Symfoni on the way to Hindersön. Photo: Håkan Stenlund

First stop: Hindersön

On Wednesday nights M/S Symfoni offers a cruise out to Hindersön island. We leave Luleå harbour at 17:15. 19:00 we have checked in. And ordered food. Already on the table is a beer for dad and Coke for Måns and his friend Edvin, who is joining us. It’s all go at Jopikgården this evening. It’s a folk singer event, and we find ourselves enjoying one of the nicest summer evenings of the year. This means that plenty of people have arrived, this being the island’s centre. Sometimes that’s all it takes for us to leave our safe nests – a bit of sun and an opportunity for a beer with mates. We have toast with goat’s cheese and blueberry honey as a starter. The boys opt for a schnitzel filled with smoked reindeer suovas, and I have the fish cakes. No one is disappointed. And afterwards, while Måns and Edvin take their rental bikes out for an adventure, mapping the island, I stay seated and enjoy a calvados. It’s life in the archipelago, after all.

Jopikgården, a popular hangout on Hindersön. Photo: Håkan Stenlund

The ultimate paradise

Next day we head towards Brändöskär islet. It used to be summer pasture and fishing camp for people living on Brändö island. Nowadays it’s a summer paradise as far out as you can get in Luleå’s archipelago. We stay in one of five rental cottages that Luleå municipality run on Brändöskär: the newly built cottage ’Harren’. It’s basic and comfortable. The cottage easily houses four people in bunk beds. I make a mental note that next year, as soon as the cottages are available for rent, I’ll try to be quicker and book a couple of nights at least. A gas stove, beds, outside toilet and a pump where we get our water. We’ve got all we need and more.

— Dad, I’ve got two 4G signal bars on top of the stone next to the porch.

In other words, everything is peace and quiet. But I’m sure it would have been anyway: the sun is shining from a blue sky, and the rock outcrops north of our camp are warm and inviting. We dive straight out into the sea when it gets too hot. Sometimes you feel like a piece of meat on a stone slab. It’s absolutely fantastic. Later, I sat in the office trying to sort out the first working days of the year; these are the days I reminisce about. Warm, smooth rock against my skin and that sensation when your feet leave the cliffs, and you’re diving straight down into the sea. Freedom, that refreshing feeling, and a life lived as it should be.

Fisherman's cabins are to be found on most islands. You can even rent a cabin via Luleå municipality. Photo: Håkan Stenlund

The closest paradise

If Brändöskär is the ultimate paradise, then perhaps Klubbviken Havsbad is the closest. Transfer boats leave Luleå in the mornings and evenings throughout the summer. But bigger tour boats also make a stop at Klubbviken. It’s not only a place to bask in the sun, relax and swim in the sea during the day; you can stay the night as well. If you do, you’ll notice what a difference there is between night and day. Klubbviken transforms from a lively playa under the sun into an intimate little ’archipelago island’ for you and your loved ones once the last tour boat has left. This evening, we eat a tender entrecote steak at the restaurant, and afterwards, we fall asleep in one of the rental cottages available at Klubbviken. It’s easy to go to sleep tonight again.

Where do you get sunshine and daylight 24 hours a day?

Island hopping became popular in the Greek archipelago during the 70s. In the Stockholm archipelago, people have been island hopping for decades. But I’m not convinced the experience is the same as this. Where do you get sunshine and daylight 24 hours a day? To go for a swim in the sea in the middle of the night when it’s as bright as during the day is an exceptional feeling. And you’ve got so much time to do things thanks to the extra light, and hours. We wake up the next morning, ready for a new adventure.

Learn more

Luleå archipelago with its 1312 islands is a beautiful and varied archipelago reachable with a boat of your own or by shuttle boat from the Luleå harbour. There’s also a canoe- and kayak guide for Lulea archipelago. For more information lulea.nu.

After breakfast, we head out to Junkön island and the 25th Salmon Run. It’s a trail run on Junkön that attracts many good runners because of the great prizes: löjrom (vendace roe), smoked whitefish and salmon prepared in many different ways. But mostly the Salmon Run is a feast of suffering, the feast part being the main one. After the runners have made it around the 6.2 km long trail, with many stretches featuring loose sand, a barbeque and a cold beer await most participants. And yes, even if I’m not participating as such, I think I can enjoy the party. It’s holiday time in the archipelago after all.

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