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, so there are very little archaeological findings. 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 main village, Näsby, is on the east coast of the main island, some 11 km from the 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 as the same ferries run to Norrskata as well. See the timetables here. The one-way trip takes about 30 minutes. Both ferries are free of charge and have a café. The harbour is also served by a ferry from Långnäs on Åland.
A road ferry M/S Antonia operates during the summer season (May 31th to September 1st in 2019) five times a day Mon-Sat and three times in Sundays between Mossala and Dalen in Iniö. See the timetables here. 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. 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 (about €23, children 4–11 half price). You need to change the bus in Galtby harbour in Korpo. The second bus is waiting for the ferry in Kittuis harbour. During the summer season the bus continues all the way to Mossala only in Sundays. Check the timetables from Matkahuolto. Using Houtskari as your destination in Matkahuolto search gives you trips to Näsby and Mossala (Parainen) to Mossala. Both coaches are operated by TLO using Skärgårdsbuss white-green livery.
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 when the batch of cars from a ferry is approaching. Otherwise there is 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.
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.
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.
The cable ferries at 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 cars. A small passenger vessel M/S Karolina (☏ Iniö in the east and Brändö in the west. The timetable (here) is maybe a bit complex. A small ship-like ferry M/S Satava (☏ ) operates mostly in Iniö archipelago, but visits Roslax in Houtskär. The timetable (here) 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.) 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 (Taksi Helsinki). Taxis ordered by smart phone app. Pricing not told on the web.
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, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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.
Eat & Drink
- 1 Houtskärs Gästgifveri, Näsbyvägen 189, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 11:00–14:00. year-round
- 2 Grill café Skagen - Näsby gästhamn (Näsby Guest Marina), Näsby, ☏ . kitchen 11:00–21:00. May–September
- 3 Hotel Hyppeis Värdshus, Hyppeisvägen 540, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. lunch 10:00–14:00, dinner 15:00–21:00. June–August
- 4 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.
- 5 Pub Pelago, Björkö. A pub that seems to be open during the summer months every now and then.
- 1 Houtskärs Gästgifveri, Näsbyvägen 189, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Hotel and bar-restaurant in Näsby village.
- 2 Hotel Hyppeis Värdshus, Hyppeisvägen 540, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel is open year-round, restaurant from June to August.
- 3 Tuulenlatva (Windy Hill's Inn), Houtskärsvägen 109, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. B&B with unique rooms €110–130/night.
Camping and cabins
- 4 Mossala Island Resort, Mossala, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins, camping site, caravans. Guest marina. Restaurant. Nature trail and observing tower. Activities from fishing to disc golf. tent €20 (WC and shower included), caravans €30.
- 5 Kittuis Camping & Caravan, Kittuis färjfäste, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Camping site
- 6 Skärgårdsskolan, Näsbyvägen 259, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Cabins with B&B for meetings, courses and camp schools. Smoking and alcohol consumption are forbidden.
- 7 Grill café Skagen - Näsby gästhamn (Näsby Guest Marina), Näsby, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Guest marina, restaurant
- 8 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.
- 9 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.
- 10 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.
- 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.