Örö is in a large island in the Archipelago Sea national park in Finland. It is quite easily reachable – a one hour ferry trip from Kasnäs in Kimitoön through the inner archipelago – but still more or less by the open sea, and its sandy shores and meadows provide biotops seldom found in the rest of Finland. The landscapes are nice and there are smooth cliffs and beaches with fine sand. Many of the visitors also come for the military history.
While most services in Finnish national parks are handled by Metsähallitus, in Örö they are left to private partners. Camping, seeing the sights and walking around are still free also on Örö. The company handling most of the services is to be changed in 2019, check what information is obsolete.
The island used to be a commons pasture for the villages of Hitis-Rosala. There were huts used as a base for fishing expeditions and other overnight stays. The sheltered waters were also used as temporary anchorages for naval vessels.
This changed when the Russians built a fort on the island 1910–1915, as part of the "Peter the Great" chain of fortifications defending the Gulf of Finland and thereby Saint Petersburg (similar forts where built at Russarö and Utö, and in Estonia). When Finland became independent in 1917 it became part of the Finnish defense and construction works continued.
The fort was modernized in the 1930s. In the Continuation War 1941–1944 the Soviet marin base in Hanko (leased as part of the Winter War peace treaty 1940) was within range for the heavy batteries. Örö also provided supporting fire in the battle of Bengtskär.
The coastal forts, and their artillery, long had an important role in Finnish coastal defence, but finally they were decommissioned. The island still remained a military area, used for training and supervision, until 2015, when it became part of the national park and opened for tourism. Some military installations are still in use and off limits for visitors.
Being off limits for the public and used for military purposes has protected many otherwise threatened natural features. As a former training area for conscripts, it also has nostalgic value.
The large island (200 ha, 1.5 km·3 km), surrounded by smooth cliffs, is a mostly forested sandy reef with low bedrock hills. The most precious habitats on Örö are the scorched heathlands and the sandy beaches.
Flora and fauna
In season there are several daily ferry connections from Kasnäs in the southwest end of Kimitoön. The ferry to Hanko (Hangö) was transferred to another route in spring 2019, hopefully some other shipowner will take over the connection. Advance reservations recommended. Note that the tickets are valid only on the vessel for which they are bought (different companies). Children fares for 3–12 years old on Sissel, 5–14 on Eugenia, 6–16 on Inga. 2017:
- M/S Sissel, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 26 Jun–14 Aug: leaves 10:00, arrives 10:45; return trip leaves 15:05, arrives 15:50 (2017). Off season: group by agreement.. Also packets with lunch, guiding etc. included. €16/8 single, €26/13 same day return.
- Sailing ship Eugenia, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu leaves 10:00, arrives 12:00, return trip leaves 15:30, arrives 17:30. Return trip with the traditional sailing vessel Eugenia (replica of a late 19th-century one-masted coastal freighter), including lunch and guided tour. Groups (2–34 persons) can ask for other routes and dates. €48/30.
- [dead link] Sailing ship Inga, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. M–F last week of June, mostly Tu–Th Sa in July, Sa in August: from Kasnäs leaves 10:00, arrives 12:20; return trip leaves 18:00, arrives 19:15, optionally after one or more nights on the island. Return trip with the galeas Inga, a two-masted traditional sailing ship, built as a coastal freighter. Lunch on the way out, guided tours and free time on the island and coffee with bun on the way back. €69, children and seniors €50.
There are few buses to Kasnäs, and they do not necessarily combine with the Örö ferries. Connections to Dalsbruk are better, with a few services a day, e.g. from Turku (1¾ hours, €18.70), Salo (1½ hours, €15) or Helsinki (3 hours, €36). Take a taxi (or your bike) from Dalsbruk, 20 km (€34–50).
With private vessels the guest harbour, where also the ferry quay is situated, is the only allowed entry point, unless the harbour master assigns other moorings (as sometimes in peek season). If you arrive by canoe or kayak, there is also a landing spot on the south shore, near the camping site. Anchoring is forbidden (there are lots of unmarked cables).
- 1 Guest harbour, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. June–August daily 08:00–21:00; May, September F–Su; April, October with weather reservation (call harbour master). Facilities include septic tank emptying, toilet, shower, water, washing facilities, café and sauna. Mooring between booms, side berthing for bigger vessels. Open for north-easterly winds. Nautical chart 644, chart series B (Western Gulf of Finland). Harbour draught 3.0 m. €26/boat/night.
Off season, when no service in the harbour is available, you can access the harbour for free.
Fees and permits
There are no entry fees, but you need to pay for transport or mooring. There are non-free services such as lodging, bike rental, guiding, a restaurant and a café.
Anchoring is forbidden (several uncharted cables). Landing is allowed only at the guest harbour or as instructed by the harbour master.
Scuba diving is forbidden, except with special permits.
Minor areas are still used by the military and off limits.
Butterfly traps and other research equipment are to be left alone.
The sandy beaches and some other features are sensitive. Avoid causing damage.
There is livestock on the island. Do not feed or disturb. Do not disturb wildlife either. Dogs must be kept on leash everywhere and are not allowed in the pastures.
There are old cobbled roads providing easy access across the island, and some trails showing batteries, barracks and nature. Deviating from roads and trails is allowed, but should be avoided. All important sights can be accessed by the trails.
There are bikes for rent (use on roads only): €8 half day, €16 whole day. Using motorized vehicles is not allowed (but you can get your luggage transported to your accommodation).
Kayaks for rent, €25.
The harbour is near the east end of the island, 0.5 km from the restaurant. The 12" battery and most lodgings are near the restaurant. The camping site is a further 0.5 km from the harbour, as are some lodgings. The beach is near the southern tip, 1–1.5 km (depending on route) from the camping site.
- 12" batteries. The heavy 12-inch (30-cm) cannons had a range of 45 km. The impressive pieces have barrels weighting 50 tonnes, which would be replaced after a certain amount of firing.
- Other fortifications and infrastructure.
- The landscapes.
- Archipelago woods.
- Sunny meadows.
- Sand and gravel beaches.
- Flora and fauna, especially butterflies and dragonflies.
- For swimming, use the designated beach.
- Sauna available.
- Guided tours, daily in Finnish in season, but private guiding in at least English and Swedish is available on request and can be tailored to your interests.
- Games, such as mölkky and krocket for rent by the restaurant.
- Sea kayaking around the island and in the nearby archipelago.
- Some souvenirs for sale.
Eat and drink
- 12" restaurant, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. June–August daily: lunch 11:00–16:00, dinner 17:00–; May and September by agreement. The restaurant is the former garrison's canteen, built in the Russian pre-World War I times.
- Harbour café, also meals.
- The apartments and cottages have kitchens.
- Barbecue in the harbour.
- Using portable stoves is allowed, disposable grills and open fire are prohibited.
Accommodation in cottages (private or shared), at a campsite or in your yacht in the guest harbour.
There are several options for lodging: rooms, apartments, cottages, guesthouse, dormitory. Most are available all year. Linen included.
- hotel rooms in former barracks building from €110
- apartments for six to seven persons from €90
- cottages for three to seven persons €120–150
- cottage for two, with own waterfront and sauna, privy and water tap outside €100
- rooms for six €110–120
- bed in dormitory €35
Camping is allowed at the campsite in sparse forest. Dining shelter. Privy. Free.
Backcountry camping is not allowed.
Old defense structure, such as trenches and foxholes, are sometimes well hidden. Watch your step.
Although the island has been cleared from dangerous military materials, there may be individual pieces left. Do not touch things you might find.