Houtskär (Finnish: Houtskari) is a former municipality, now part of Pargas, in the Archipelago Sea in south-western Finland. It consists of about 700 islands having 19 villages. Houtskär has about 520 permanent residents but many more are residing there in the summer.
Houtskär is a relatively remote group of islands, located in the middle of the Archipelago Sea. Most of the villages were already mentioned in a manuscript from 1540. In the early 1900s a notable part of young men moved to USA. People have traditionally lived mostly from fishery and exporting the fish to mainland Finland. The municipality was also famous for its skilful boatmakers. Because of the temperate climate and calcareous soil there are some rare plants growing on these islands. Nowadays growing potatoes and vegetables is an important source of income. There are just a few professional fishermen left.
The main island is quite large and most of the people live there. Other permanently inhabited islands are connected either by a cable ferry, a road ferry or a smaller vessel.
Houtskär is mostly Swedish speaking. According to local legend the first permanent residents came from Dalarna in Sweden explaining why the local dialect is different from the rest of the Swedish speaking archipelago. The Swedish word skär actually means a skerry but the name Houtskär is, probably, based on Finnish Hautasaari or Hautasalo, both meaning a grave island. This represents a phenomenon where very old Finnish place names have slowly turned into Swedish similar sounding forms. The name appears first time in 1554 as a chapel under Korpo parish. Already in 1636 an order was given to build a new church in Houtskär to replace the old, decaying one.
Service is usually available in both Swedish and Finnish, as well as in English.
The Houtskär islands can be reached only by a boat or ferry. There are two main ports: 1 Kittuis ferry harbour in the south and 2 Mossala ferry harbour in the north, the former used all year. The main village, Näsby, is on the east coast of the main island, some 11 km from Kittuis and 16 km from Mossala. The road is paved.
Road ferries M/S Stella and M/S Mergus operate year-round between 3 Galtby ferry harbour in Korpo and Kittuis. Look at the road signs to get on the right ferry (timetables; services start 5:30–8:00 in the morning and continue to 23:00–24:00, the first service and the ones after 21:05 must usually be booked). The one-way trip takes about 30 minutes. These ferries are free of charge and have a café, at least Stella usually with breakfast and lunch. Galtby is also served by a ferry from Långnäs on Åland.
The ferry M/S Antonia operates between Mossala and Dalen in Iniö during the summer season (June–August and September weekends in 2020, from 14 May 2021) four times daily (timetables). Transport fees: adult €10, children €5, bicycles €12, MC/moped €25, car €40, and caravan €75. The fees for vehicles include all passengers. The ferry has a small café. A one-way trip takes about an hour. There are no services in Dalen but a restaurant in Mossala.
You may get in to Houtskär from Torsholma in Brändö, Åland, as well. See section 'get around' below.
There are daily coaches from Turku to Näsby in Houtskär (lines 901–903; about €23, children 4–11 half price). You need to change coaches, either in Galtby harbour in Korpo or by taking the ferry and boarding the other coach in Kittuis harbour. Some coaches continue all the way to Mossala. The coaches are operated by TLO usually using Skärgårdsbuss's white-green livery (timetables). Also the Föli route planner has the timetables for coaches from Turku, but it seems to believe these are express services – use "Kittuis", "Näsby" or "Mossala" to search and just get off at your stop.
There is a good bike route from Turku to Pargas. Some kilometres after the Pargas centre it gets narrow but continues to the first ferry jetty in Lillmälö. In Nagu, Korpo, and Houtskär you mostly have to cope with the road traffic. It is a good strategy to get off the bike when the batch of cars from a ferry is approaching. Otherwise there is usually little traffic on these roads. Stay on right as the local drivers really don't expect a bicyclist after the next turn...
If you're coming by a yacht there are full service guest marinas in Näsby and Mossala, and a guest harbour also by the Björkö village. The one in Näsby is reached by long sounds, Mossala is in the north and Björkö is in the west. There are guest harbours also at some islands not reachable by road.
The main road from Kittuis to Näsby and Mossala is paved but otherwise there are just gravel roads. The main road is not only narrow but also crooked and hilly. In general, you won't see too far what's ahead (but legends has that when it was built, locals thought it looked like an airstrip – and locals know what's ahead unless you are there).
In Näsby everything is within walking distance. For longer trips biking is an easy way to get around. Ask for renting a bike from your accommodation. Houtskär has an internal bus route but during the tourist season it serves mostly between Kittuis ferry jetty and Näsby. Mossala is mostly served twice a day by the Skärgårdsbuss coaches (lines 903–904).
The cable ferries to Kivimo (Roslax–Kivimo), Mossala (Björkö–Mossala), and Saverkeit (Näsby–Saverkeit) run when needed.
Smaller islands are served by ship-like ferries. These don't carry your car. A small passenger vessel M/S Karolina (☏ Iniö in the east and Brändö in the west, calling at Roslax or Näsby on the main island. The timetable is maybe a bit complex. A small ship-like ferry M/S Satava (☏ ) operates mostly in the Iniö archipelago, but visits Roslax in Houtskär. That timetable is complex as well. For the ports marked with 'y' one must order the vessel by phone at least one day in advance. Both vessels are free of charge.) operates around Houtskär northern archipelago all the way to
Houtskär southern archipelago is served by M/S Fiskö (☏ here) is surprisingly straightforward. The vessel is free of charge. It calls at Kittuis.) from Korpo and Kittuis. The timetable (
There is no public transportation to Jungfruskär. Ask for water taxi (Swedish: taxibåt, Finnish: taksivene) service or look for arranged tours.
With a yacht all small islands are in reach. Be careful about islets with nesting birds.
There are kayaks for rent at some lodging businesses.
- Taxi Peter Juslin: ☏
- Taxi Roger Tengström: ☏
- Valopilkku (taxi app)
Näsby is perhaps one of the most idyllic villages in Finland.
- 1 The Houtskär church (Houtskär kyrka), Näsby. Wooden cross church build in 1703 on a small hill in the middle of Näsby village. Free.
- 2 The Archipelago Museum (Houtskärs Skärgårdsmuseum), Sankt Andreas väg 11, ☏ . June 24th–August 11th: M–F 12:00–19:00, Sa–Su 12:00–16:00. Exhibition on traditional handicrafts, boats and scale models, and fishing equipments. €4, children under 12 free.
- The scenic view of boat houses in 3 Björkö and 4 Hyppeis.
- 5 Borgberget observation tower. Observation tower on a hill in the Järvis village. Free.
- 6 Mossala observation tower. Observation tower in Mossala Island Resort. A view to Mossala fjärden, a circular structure that never turned into a volcano. Free.
- 7 Jungfruskär (access only by boat). This small group of islands is considered as one of the most valuable nature spots in south-western Finland. The elder-flowered orchid, Adam och Eve, is flowering on its wooded meadows in June. This centuries old fishing village later became a navy fortress but was opened to public in early 2000s and now most of the islands belong to the Archipelago National Park. The right to access is restricted, leave no trace! Excursion harbour with toilets. Camping site. Nature trail.
Boating, fishing, enjoy the nature.
- Sankt Andreas kulturstig (in Näsby). A culture trail with info boards around Näsby village. Free.
- 1 M-Market Houtskär, Näsbyvägen 178, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Summertime: M–F 09:00–20:00, Sa 09:00–18:00, Su 10:00–16:00. Groceries, mail service, self-care drugs, fuel, Alko pick-up point
A gracery shop in Björkö village has been closed since 2016 but is still shown on most maps.
Sheep products can be bought at Houtskärs fårfarm in Björkö by – or just stop to caress the sheep.
Eat and drink
- 1 Grill café Skagen, Näsby (Näsby Guest Marina), ☏ . kitchen 11:00–21:00. May–September
- 2 Hotel Hyppeis Värdshus, Hyppeisvägen 540, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. lunch 10:00–14:00, dinner 15:00–21:00. June–August
- 3 Mossala Restaurant, Mossala, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M–Th 08:00–22:00, F–Sa 08:00–23:00, Su 09:00–22:00. June-August. À la carte and breakfast. Café. Small bar.
- 4 Pub Pelago, Björkö. A pub that seems to be open during the summer months every now and then.
- 1 Sybarit (former Houtskärs Gästgifveri), Näsbyvägen 189 (Näsby), ✉ email@example.com. Restaurant with home-like food. Breakfast, lunch and à la carte. Also rooms.
- 2 Hotel Hyppeis Värdshus, Hyppeisvägen 540, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. In 2021 open 1 May–24 August, restaurant 14 June–22 August. Also family rooms. Pets welcome in some of the rooms. Breakfast included. €130.
- 3 Sybarit (former Houtskärs Gästgifveri), Näsbyvägen 189 (Näsby, near end), ✉ email@example.com. Rooms. Restaurant with home-like food. Breakfast, lunch and à la carte.
- 4 Tuulenlatva (Windy Hill's Inn), Houtskärsvägen 109, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. B&B with unique rooms €110–130/night.
- 5 Skärgårdsskolan, Näsbyvägen 259 (Näsby, on the hill before the ferry quay), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 17:00–20:00 or by agreement, check-out: 10:00 or by agreement. B&B in boarding school, in summer or on agreement. Originally a folkhögskola providing post-school education primarily for youth living in the archipelago, in the 1980s mostly as gap year studies. Nowadays mostly short courses for adults and school camps for youth. Most rooms double, a few larger ones (for 3–8+) available. Also cottages (4 persons). Linen and breakfast included. Shared toilets and showers. Silence requested 21:00–08:00. No smoking, no alcohol. Pets allowed in some rooms. Lunch and dinner may be available. double €85, extra bed €25, baby bed €10; single €65; cottage €60+€15/person.
Camping and cabins
- 6 Mossala Island Resort, Mossala, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins, camping site, caravans. Guest marina. Restaurant. Nature trail and observing tower. Activities include fishing, SUP boarding, kite boarding and disc golf. Tent €20 (WC and shower included), caravans €30.
- 7 Kittuis Camping & Caravan, Houtskärsvägen 6 (by Kittuis ferry quay), ☏ , (either number may be obsolete), ✉ email@example.com. Camping site
- 8 Skärgårdsskolan, Näsbyvägen 259, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins with B&B for meetings, courses and camp schools. Smoking and alcohol consumption are forbidden.
- 9 Näsby gästhamn (Näsby Guest Marina) (Näsby), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Guest marina, restaurant
- 10 Mossala Island Resort, Mossala, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins, camping site, caravans. Guest marina. Restaurant. Nature trail and observing tower. Lots of activities from fishing to disc golf.
- 11 [dead link] Nåtö, Nåtö (on Nåtö island), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. B&B and a small guest marina (not for sailing boats!) far in the archipelago. Fishing. Nature trail. Accessible by M/S Karolina.
- 12 Själö Guest Harbour (on the Själö island – not to be confused with Själö in Nagu), ☏ . Guest marina for 1–2 boats. Sheep farm.
Postal code: 21760 Houtskär (all islands)
The ticks are extremely common. If you are driving, beware of elks and deer at dusk. There is a health care station in Näsby (restricted hours).
- Iniö to the north or Korpo to the south-east. You could also complete the Archipelago Trail.
- A tour to one of the more distant islands of the Archipelago Sea.
- The Åland islands, reachable by M/S Karoliina and M/S Satava. Check the timetables carefully. A more straight-forward ferry from Galtby also takes cars.