Ticket to Adventures

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Island Escape in Helsinki Archipelago: Former Military Island Isosaari

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A couple of weeks back in mid June another former military island called Isosaari was opened to the public in Helsinki archipelago. Isosaari island was in military use for over a century until it was abandoned in 2012.Together with the other recently opened former military islands of Vallisaari and Lonna, Isosaari island is a great addition to the recreational islands of Helsinki archipelago. All these islands make a great day trip from Helsinki and the rest of southern Finland.

I was so excited when I heard that Isosaari island was going to be opened to the public and wanted to be among the first ones to visit.Isosaari Island is located on the southern edge of Helsinki archipelago south of the garrison island of Santahamina. You can get to Isosaari island by private boat or you can take a tour boat by Suomen Saaristokuljetus from Helsinki Market Square.

Boats leave once an hour and the journey from Helsinki Market Square to Isosaari Island takes 40 minutes. You can either book your ticket in advance or just arrive and buy your ticket (15 € return) at the pier like I did. However, I was a bit worried about the boat already been booked out, but I did manage to get onboard.I took the first boat of the day departing at 9:30 am. It was a sunny, warm and calm morning with no waves. We passed many pretty islands in the archipelago such as Lonna, Suomenlinna and Kuninkaansaari. As soon as we got to the open sea passed Santahamina island it instantly got colder and windier. After a 40-minute boat ride we arrived at Isosaari island and were welcomed by a watchtower right by the pier.There is so much to see and do on Isosaari island and it was difficult to decide where to head first. I collected a map from the restaurant, Upseerikerho, only a couple of hundred metres from the pier. The restaurant looked very cosy and they had a large outdoor terrace area overlooking Suomenlinna Sea Fortress and Helsinki city centre in the distance.For those who prefer a picnic or wish to pitch a tent, there is a designated picnic and camping area on the island.Nature on Isosaari island is wild and lush. Most of the island is covered by forests. If you are lucky you may spot some rare birds here. At some places, it was evident that the animals on the island were not used to having people around as some of the birds got very hostile defending their territory aggressively. Wild flowers were in full bloom all over the island making landscapes colourful and beautiful.On the northern side of Isosaari Island there are two nice sandy beaches together with a public sauna.A 2 km long sandy road circles the island. The main road is in good condition. In addition there are countless smaller trails and paths that were not indicated on the map.

The best thing to do on Isosaari island is to explore off the main road as majority of the most interesting spots were located off the beaten path. If I had only stayed on the main road I definitely would have missed the most captivating parts of the island.First I headed to the eastern part of Isosaari island which seemed very secluded. It was very quiet and I had the place all to myself. I found an old school building, an abandoned marina, and some grey bunkers behind fences.The grave of George Quinnell, an English sailor who was killed here in 1855 during the Crimean War is also located in this part of Isosaari island.Views from here over the calm blue sea were spectacular.Possibly the most exciting spot on Isosaari island is still closed to the public for safety reasons: torpedo test station, which is located at the very north-eastern cape of Isosaari island.Then I was back on the main road again and headed southbound. Right there lies a small village of row houses built in the 1960s to accommodate military personnel and their families. Nature has totally taken over and most of the houses were surrounded enormous shrubs. No gardening done here for a while.On the other side of the main road I stumbled across exciting casemates B and C with tunnels, artillery weapon and all sorts of odd details and unique structures.Rikama Control Station standing behind fences on top of the cliffs by the sea is a massive complex surrounded by secret tunnels and casemate A. This place was certainly one of the highlights of my day on Isosaari island, very exciting!Passing casemate A I found a huge weapon on top of a rock and some mysterious buildings.On this side of the island cliffs and rocks provide a perfect spot to enjoy a quiet moment and just listen to the waves crashing in. Nothing else in sight than just open water and beautiful rugged coastline. Some people even did fishing here. On Isosaari island there are a total of 7 fenced areas that are closed to the public with clear signposts. Hmmm…I am still wondering what thrilling stuff can be found inside those fences. I want to go and explore those secret places, too!Some other fascinating places that I encountered on Isosaari island include a shooting range and a barracks area which unfortunately is closed. What is unique is that there is even a golf course in Isosaari.In the center of the island there is a monument to the 300 prisoners of the Civil War in 1918, who were killed in the concentration camp located on the island.After 5 hours of exploring and 15 km of walking I had covered most parts of the island. It was a really active day discovering the best bits of the island off the main road climbing rocks and cliffs and hiking in the middle of the wildest nature. What a fantastic and exciting adventure! On the boat back to Helsinki Market Square I could not help but having a huge smile on my face.If you are into discovering new places in Helsinki or if you get excited about military stuff, Isosaari island is a must! For more photos take a look at this: Photo Tour of Isosaari Island.

In case you have not yet explored the other two former military islands of Helsinki, Vallisaari and Lonna, you should definitely give them a go, too.

Isosaari Island | Helsinki Archipelago

You might like to read more about Helsinki:

Photo Tour of Isosaari Island

5 New Places to Visit in Helsinki 2017

Green Getaway in the City: Lammassaari Island

Sightseeing Cruising in Helsinki Archipelago

Helsinki: 6 Unique Summer Cafes

Hidden Secret of Helsinki: Presidential Palace

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Author: Ticket to Adventures

Captivating travel stories from around the world, near and far, by an experienced traveller and adventurer.

13 thoughts on “Island Escape in Helsinki Archipelago: Former Military Island Isosaari

  1. This is very unusual! Looks intersting though!

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  2. Hii thank you for this great review! Lovely pictures as well! I was wondering, do you think it’s possible (roads safe enough) to walk there with a babypram or using a babycarrier? Are the roads maybe comparable with Suomenlinna? Thank you in advance! 😀

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    • Hello Fanny, thank you for your kind words and valid questions. The main road + other smaller roads are in a good shape and ok with babyprams, it is like walking in the countryside. Still a couple of years back when the island was occupied by the military, there used to be cars and other vechiles on Isosaari island. However, there are no paved roads, all roads/paths are sandy, no cobble stone streets like in Suomenlinna. The day I visited Isosaari, I saw plenty of families with small children and prams, so the island is manageable with prams. But clearly the seaside cliffs and and some of the casemates and other structures can be explored by foot only. I am sure you will love it, enjoy!

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  3. Could you please scan and post your map of this beautiful island?

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  4. Wow, what a fascinating place! Great mix of history and nature. I have added it to my list of places to take my parents when they visit us in Finland!

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  5. Lovely photos Piia. We arrived here on Thursday evening and almost got blown off our feet yesterday! This afternoon we went to Hernesaari and we wished we had jumpers on as well as coats! Hope summer returns to Finland soon!!

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