There are countless islands near Helsinki. Their attractions include untrammelled nature, magnificent beaches, historical sights and a wide variety of amenities. Some of these islands have been in recreational use for ages, others only for a few years. Helsinki is located on a peninsula surrounded by sea, so naturally, almost regardless of the direction, there are bound to be islands. Some of these are only a short distance from the city centre, while others require a longer trip along the shore. Below, we have listed ten carefully chosen island targets. We guarantee there’s something here for everyone. Most of these islands are only accessible from spring to autumn, but there are also a couple of exceptions to this rule. Get to know these alternatives now -- the islands are the most beautiful part of Helsinki!

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    Mustikkamaa Island

    A popular island for outdoor activities near Kalasatama

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    The verdant island of Mustikkamaa offers you a splendid setting for taking a walk or for bathing. The island has almost no permanent residents -- it’s for recreational use only. For this purpose, there’s a large beach, some hiking paths, cafés, tennis courts and a small boat harbour. It’s very easy to reach Mustikkamaa from Kalasatama by a light transit bridge. Thanks to the bridge, it’s also quite a fast walk to the island from the Kalasatama subway station, for instance, which is easily accessible from every part of Helsinki. Through the island, you can also access the Korkeasaari Zoo to the south of it. The zoo’s ticket booth is at the southwest corner of the island. If you’re driving, you can access Mustikkamaa Island via Kulosaari Island.

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    Kuninkaansaari Island

    A magnificent camping ground near Vallisaari Island

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    The exceptional Kuninkaansaari Island, next to Vallisaari Island and reachable via earthworks, is not to be missed when planning your trip. Like Vallisaari, it was only opened for travel and entertainment use in 2016. Thus, the natural beauty of the island has barely been touched by humans. Nevertheless, the island has a few historical sights, a small harbour for travellers, and a beach. A great way to get to know the island is taking the Kuninkaansaari tour, which allows you to see all the essential sights. To maintain the unique nature of the island, camping for the night is only allowed at designated locations. Making an open fire, for example, is not permitted. More information on the fascinating history of Kuninkaansaari can easily be found on the island’s website. You can access the island on your own boat or via Vallisaari.

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    Kaunissaari Island

    A popular target for camping and day trips at Suomenlahti Bay

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    If you’re planning for a somewhat longer-than-usual visit to Helsinki, keep Kaunissaari, approximately 20 km from Helsinki, in mind. The island features sandy beaches, rocks, and varied flora and fauna, as well as a kiosk and a restaurant. The island is practically located on the high seas. On one side of the island is the Sipoonselkä sea area; on the other are the open seas of Suomenlahti. A ferry will take you there in approximately one hour. Due to its remote location, you should reserve at least a day in your schedule to visit Kaunissaari. The island’s not just for bathing and relaxation, either, as fishers and birdwatchers are also frequent visitors. It’s particularly popular for summer vacations – a lot of boaters visit the island during the summer days. You can get from Helsinki to Kaunissaari via a ferry operating from Vuosaari. More information can be found on the city’s website.

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    photo by MattiPaavola (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

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    Mustasaari Island

    A little forest island at the Seurasaarenselkä watershed

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    The holiday island of Mustasaari is owned by the parishes of the Church of Finland that are located in Helsinki. It’s at the Seurasaarenselkä watershed, only 15 minutes by ferry from Töölö. Among other attractions, the island hosts a small beach, a playground, a restaurant, an event centre and a beach sauna, which sees a lot of use. As the island is only accessible via water, its beautiful atmosphere is usually quite relaxed. Anyone can visit Mustasaari, but alcohol and pets are not permitted, and neither is overnight camping. In the warmer seasons, many sorts of events can be organised at the Mustasaari event centre, such as meetings and weddings. The island’s webpage offers you more information. This island should not to be confused with Iso Mustasaari Island, which forms a part of Suomenlinna.

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    Vallisaari Island

    A favourite destination for nature travellers, right next to Suomenlinna

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    Vallisaari Island, opened to the public in 2016, offers magnificent nature, fascinating sights, and summer cafés full of great atmosphere. It’s accessible from spring to autumn via ferries going from the Market Square and Suomenlinna, as well as by water bus. The early history of the island is connected to the Suomenlinna Fortress. After Finland's independence, the island was long used by the Finnish Defence Forces alone. The easiest way to get to know Vallisaari is by taking the Alexander Tour, 3 kilometres long in all. This tour allows you to see, among other attractions, the old village road, the historical Alexander Battery, and various unique natural sights, such as meadows full of butterflies. The southern side of Vallisaari continues to be closed to tourists. Here, nature runs wild. Those trespassing in the forbidden area could even face punishment. From the south-eastern part of Vallisaari, you can access the nearby Kuninkaansaari via a heaped-earth path. There’s a small beach there.

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    Vartiosaari Island

    An island southeast of Helsinki, offering many forms of recreation

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    Vartiosaari Island, situated next to Laajasalo, is, in many ways, one of the most exceptional destinations in Finland. There are historic villas, rentable allotment gardens and an almost unsurpassed number of valuable natural sites on this island. Apart from private yards, the entire island is open to all – allowing everyone to trek as they wish and experience deep relaxation. In the summers, there’s also, for instance, a pop-up café and a popular zoo. The villas of the island are mainly owned by the city of Helsinki, and have been rented, for example, to various municipal instances and associations. On the southern tip of the island, there’s the only occurrence of Petasites spurius in Finland, which led to this area's designation as a nature protection zone. From the centre of Helsinki, the easiest way to reach Vartiosaari is by taking an island travel ferry from Hakaniemi. It travels this route generally at least twice a day.

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    Harakka Island

    A favourite location for birdwatchers off of Kaivopuisto

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    The small island of Harakka hosts a nature centre, some beautiful beachside rocks and a large number of birds. It’s easy to reach by taking a boat from Kaivopuisto wharf. There are boats travelling this route at approximately 30 minute intervals in summertime. You can also take a guided tour of the island’s nature, as well as partake in hosted children’s island adventures. Further information on these alternatives, and contact information for the guides, can be found on the webpage of the Helsinki Environment Sector's Environmental Protection Unit. During the nesting times of various bird species, the southern part of Harakka is a protected zone and closed to travellers. The closed zone is marked by a rope that goes across the island. Due to the presence of the birds, no dogs are allowed on the island. If you want to learn about the island’s history, plants and animals, stop by at the Harakka nature centre. Due to its location, this island is an excellent destination for daily trips.

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    Pihlajasaari Island

    A small island near Hernesaari, known for its beach

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    Pihlajasaari Island is a beautiful little island, with, among other things, a popular beach, a restaurant that operates in an old villa, and a BBQ roof and two saunas open by reservation. Approximately a third of the island’s shores consist of sandy beaches – there’s guaranteed to be enough space for everyone. There are also several historical villas on the island. In addition to the restaurant, these are rented by several organisations. The villas alone are reason enough to visit this island. Next to the main island is the smaller Itäinen Pihlajasaari. Among its attractions are a nude beach and a lean-to. You can reach Pihlajasaari by waterbus from Merisatama and Ruoholahti. It’s also possible to spend a night at the island in a cabin you can rent or in a tent (the latter is only allowed at Itäinen Pihlajasaari).

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    Uunisaari Island

    Go for a swim or a picnic on historic Uunisaari

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    Uunisaari Island, near Kaivopuisto, is an excellent choice for a short break from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s only a few dozen metres from the shores of Kaivopuisto – swimming distance, if the weather is warm. An easier way to get there is taking a boat from Merisatamantori Square, though. The main attraction of Uunisaari is the beach on its western side. People have used the beach for bathing since 1934. There’s also a restaurant in an old industrial building, some saunas that can be booked for use, and a wide selection of great places for a picnic. From the southern part of the island, you can visit the neighbouring Liuskasaari Island across the breakwater. The locations found there include a stylish restaurant pavilion. The Uunisaari boat connection operates from March to November. In wintertime, the island can be reached by a pedestrian pontoon bridge.

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    Isosaari Island

    A vacation island offering great variety, far away at sea

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    Isosaari Island, one of the outer islands of Helsinki, was only opened for travellers in 2017, but has quickly become a true traveller magnet. For a long time, the island was only used by the Finnish Defence Forces, who continue to operate on the island -- though their operations are smaller in scale than previously. Isosaari is uniquely wealthy in terms of nature. There are plenty of irreplaceable types of flora, rare birds, and bats of many varieties. Even though the use of the island for recreational purposes has only just begun, there are already two restaurants, saunas, beaches and a 9-hole golf course. Some well-known landmarks include the historical fortress of Isosaari and the grave of British seaman George Quinnell, buried here in 1855 during the Crimean War. As the island is undergoing rapid development, the best way to check the currently offered services and other things is online. Isosaari is reachable either by your own boat or on a ferry leaving from Market Square. The ferry’s travel time is a bit over half an hour.

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