What if you could buy your own island?
You’re probably picturing a palm-tree-lined beach on a tropical island, right? That’s not what Johan Pedersén wanted. Instead, he bought Nässlingen, one of the 30,000 islands in the Stockholm archipelago in Sweden. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Nässlingen recently with a group of bloggers, and we could all see why he fell in love with the place.
Disclosure: I received a night’s stay and meals from Nässlingen as part of a fam (familiarization) trip. Nevertheless, all opinions are my own.
Many of the Stockholm archipelago’s islands are dotted with charming little (and sometimes big) summer houses used by vacationing Swedes during the short summer, but also at other times of the year. Many other islands are uninhabited, and boating around and among them is a popular summer activity.
On Nässlingen, which comprises about 100 mostly wooded acres, Johan and his business partners decided to create an environmentally-friendly destination with accommodations that are a bit more upscale than many of the islands. Instead of the much more common hostels, Nässlingen’s accommodations include the brand-new small hotel in which I stayed, and a scattering of simple but comfortable bungalows.
The hotel on Nässlingen
The hotel is next to the main building holding the reception and the restaurant. My room wasn’t quite done; apparently our group was only the second one to stay in the brand-new hotel. Nevertheless, barring a few missing electrical fixtures, it was just what I imagined for a Scandinavian hotel. With walls covered in clean, white-painted, rough-wood paneling and bedding in white and gray, the room exuded simple, understated calm. The furnishings were well-thought-out: I didn’t have to move furniture around to charge my electronics, and I had a reading lamp (Ikea, of course!) by the bed.
The bathroom, too, was chic and sensible, all done in white and natural wood. I especially liked the two shower heads in the shower stall: a normal hand shower in a bracket and a rain shower as well.
Christine Forsell, marketing director of Nässlingen, showed us one of the smaller bungalows. It looked like any typical rental bungalow, with a kitchen, a table for four, a bathroom and two bedrooms, as well as a porch outside. It would work well for a family with up to two children. The larger bungalows, which have a living room as well, have been renovated, while these smaller ones will get the same treatment soon. Since all the larger ones were rented when we visited, we didn’t get to see them.
Day Trips and group events
In the busy season—the summer—Nässlingen receives day trippers who go island hopping in their own small boats. For a fee, they can also dock overnight and use the facilities. Some of them come specially to enjoy the island’s restaurant.
Another source of income for the island is group events: weddings, small retreats and conferences, which often happen slightly off-season, in the spring or fall.
The restaurant at Nässlingen offers both inside and outside seating and serves fresh, organic local dishes, made from locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible. Our group lingered over our meals, partly because they were delicious, partly because we enjoyed each other’s company, and partly because the room itself was so pleasant. The decor oozed a chic, simple, Swedish aesthetic, with plain wood tables, rough-woven natural cloth seat covers, and large windows allowing plenty of light.
Enjoying Nässlingen Island
Nässlingen Island, like all the islands we passed on our way there, is hilly but not mountainous, and mostly covered with woods. A small port makes arrival easy, and I found the views across the water to the neighboring islands somehow restful. This is not a dramatic landscape. Like Sweden itself, it’s peaceful.
Paths circle the island for strolling or jogging. No cars are allowed: only the occasional electric golf cart used by the staff. When I was there, the paths were lined with wildflowers and I enjoyed the smell of the forest we walked through.
For the more athletically inclined, the paths make a 2½ kilometer running track. Here and there you can stop and make use of the “eco-gym” equipment, built from rough wood. Each works the same muscles the fancy equipment in a gym would.
No Swedish destination would be complete without a sauna, of course. Perched on the edge of the island next to the small beach, the spa building includes three saunas: one for women, one for men, and one that can be booked for mixed groups. Each has big windows overlooking the water, and, when we went there late, after dinner, the sunset.
A big lounge area with a wood stove for heating connects the three saunas and changing rooms, and the outside patio holds a Jacuzzi as well. I’ve never been a fan of sauna, so the Jacuzzi is where I spent my evening. Sitting there in the warm bubbles, holding a cold cider in my hand, overlooking the darkening sky, I felt unbelievably fortunate.
Speaking of sunsets, Sweden is a great place for photographing sunsets, since they go on forever this time of year. What I mean is that it never gets quite dark. I left the group at about midnight to go to bed, yet the “sunset” was still going on. The entire time I was soaking in that Jacuzzi, the night sky glowed magnificently.
You can visit Nässlingen in a number of ways. Renting a boat to go island-hopping would make a great vacation. Regular island-hopping ferries stop at Nässlingen too. If you’re staying a while, staff will pick you up on the mainland by arrangement.
The goal, according to Forsell, and the reason our blogger group was invited, is not to get visitors to visit Nässlingen on a day trip from Stockholm. Instead, she hopes to get visitors to stay at Nässlingen, enjoying the beauty and peace of the place, and visit Stockholm on a day trip.
It was easy to see why Pedersén chose Nässlingen, and experiencing the island was delightful. I admit, though, that my private island would still be tropical and include palm trees, mostly because that would mean warm weather all year, rather than just for a short Scandinavian summer.