National Parks of the Bothnian Bay

Want to discover the beautiful northern Bothnian Bay this summer? Take a trip and visit the two national parks in the area – Haparanda Skärgård National Park and the Bothnian Bay National Park (Perämeren kansallispuisto). They have been awarded the status of national parks because they represent some of the finest nature areas within the countries, with unique landscapes, animals and plants we want to keep intact for future generations.

Haparanda Skärgård National Park

Haparanda Skärgård NP was formed in 1995. It lies in the outer archipelago of the municipality of Haparanda. It consists of two larger islands – Sandskär and Seskar-Furö – and several smaller islands. Sandskär is famous for its long shallow, sandy beaches and rich birdlife. The islands of the archipelago are young, it’s only about 1500 years ago since they started to emerge from the sea due to the land uplift. On the island of Sandskär humans have had settlements since the early times to hunt seal and to fish.

Duckboards going across the sandy and rocky beach to the red church.
Nature trail in Sandskär. Photo by Alejandra Parra, Metsähallitus.
The red wooden church, looks like a barn.
Church in Sandskär. Photo by Alejandra Parra, Metsähallitus.

The National Park is home to a rich flora and fauna. Here you can find for example the pink Siberian primrose (Primula nutans), field wormwood (Artemisia campestris ssp. bottnica) and sea buckthorn growing along the beaches. It’s also home to ringed seals, and large numbers of birds stopping by during their yearly migrations.

Sandy valley with duckboards going across it.
Sandskär is well-known of its huge sandy areas… (Photo by Essi Keskinen, Metsähallitus)
A sunny sand beach, with blue calm water.
…and beautiful sandy beaches! (Photo by Essi Keskinen, Metsähallitus)

The nearest harbor on mainland is Haparanda hamn in Nikkala. During the summer, scheduled boat trips leave from here to Sandskär. On Sandskär you can either bring your tent to stay in or rent one of the small cabins available on the island. The midnight sun is particularly beautiful to watch at such location far out at sea.

Get more information about Haparanda Skärgård National Park here.

Bothnian Bay National Park

The Bothnian Bay National Park (formed in 1991) is located almost right next to the Haparanda Skärgård National Park, close to the border of Finland and Sweden, in the outer archipelago of towns Tornio and Kemi. The National Park is made up of about 30 moraine islands and islets. The shores of the islands are rocky and the waters are shallow in the National Park area. In the island of Vähä-Huituri a nice sandy beach can be found. The youngest islands are actually reefs with no vegetation and the oldest ones even have small forests. Maybe the most well-known island is Selkä-Sarvi, where there is a harbor and open sauna in the northern end and old fishing base in the southern end of the island.

Small island with some forest on it, sea on a background in nice sunset colors.
View towards south from the tower in Selkä-Sarvi (Photo by Lari Pihlanjärvi, Metsähallitus).

The most typical landscapes on these islands are meadows and dry heaths. The coastal meadows have been created by land uplift and the grazing of livestock. During the past decades the meadows and heaths have been managed and preserved to stop overgrowing by other vegetation. One of the nicest examples of these traditional landscapes can be found from Selkä-Sarvi, where sheep can be seen grazing every Summer. People have also left their mark in the scenery, and it could be so, that people have already had temporary settlement on the islands at the end of 16th century! On many islands visitors can see bases of old buildings and supporting stones for seamarks. Read more about the sights here, activities in here, the location of harbors and other useful information here.

Rainbow over Maasarvi-island (Photo by Lari Pihlanjärvi, Metsähallitus).

Bothnian Bay National Park is also a dream for bird watchers. There are about 60 different species nesting in the area, including the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), the Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) and the Temminck’s Stint (Calidris temminckii). There are several plants that can only be found in the land uplift area, for example Primula nutans var. jokelae. When looking under the water surface, endangered species like Baltic water-plantain (Alisma wahlenbergii) and Water Pygmyweed (Crassula aquatica) can be found. There are also many beautiful flads on the islands, full of vegetation.

Lots of big rocks on the front, sea in the middle and cloudy but sunny sky.
Rocky shore and a flada in Selkä-Sarvi (Photo by Linda Jokinen, Metsähallitus).

Take your own boat or rent a taxi boat and come visit both of these parks during the same day next summer!

Written by Linnea Bergdahl & Suvi Saarnio.


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