For us, like for many others, this year was a year of domestic travel. We have been using our motorhome for short trips, spring, summer and autumn. One of the highlights was the Ostrobothnia road trip we took in early summer.
The main reason was to meet family, and in addition we enjoyed what the region offers.
Ostrobothnia road trip in a motorhome
Ostrobothnia, Finland, is very much a nature destination. So on the way up we looked for nature and went to national parks and places like that.
In addition, Ostrobothnia has many old red buildings and postcard-pretty coastal towns. So on the way back we went to see those. And walked on beaches and sand dunes that line the coast.
So that’s what Ostrobothnia, the Finnish west, offers tourists. To put you and the map I will first show you our itinerary:
Our Ostrobothnia Road Trip Itinerary
On the way up we took the inland road where some great national parks exist, and hiked a duckboard loop:
Hiking in Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park, Finland
After that we headed north to the small town of Kokkola and took the coastal main road 8 back.
Here you can see it on a Google Map:
Our Ostrobothnia road trip itinerary on the map
So it was mainly good, straight main roads but not always. At whiles the roads were like this:
Is this road drivable, or is it not?
On this forest road one of us walked ahead to check how the road was. Should we just give up and turn back?
We went on, however, all the way, and got here:
Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park
Kauhaneva, one of Finland’s 40 national parks
As we have mainly been traveling abroad for years we had never even heard about this national park. Until I found it on Instagram. We just had to see the place!
So off we went and left our motorhome in the middle of the forest, just a short walk from the northern park entrance. As it was not late yet there was still time for an evening walk around Kauhalampi lake, the biggest lake of the national park.
Hike around Kauhalampi, Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park
In addition to Kauhalampi the park contains hundreds of really small lakes that are like small marshy ponds.
The trail is 4.5 km long plus 1 km to the starting point and back. Most of it is duckboards and very good to walk.
Afterwards we took a dip in the dark lake, they had built a perfect little swimming place for that purpose.
Photos from the hike and the campsite, close to which we stayed overnight:
Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park in photos
For more information about this South Ostrobothnian national park, check out the Finnish National Park website Luontoon.fi. The same website also contains a Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas park map and information on the other national park nearby, Lauhanvuori.
Nummikangas campsite, Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park
Routes and Trips contains two more posts about Finnish national parks, a summer post on the Central Finland Southern Konnevesi National Park and a winter post about Urho Kekkonen National Park, Lapland.
Ostrobothnia Road Trip: Katikankanjoni
Katikankanjoni, Ostrobothnia: sand ridges and old forest
Then the next morning was cloudy and even rainy. Therefore we left for a separate part of the same national park, half an hour away by car.
Katikankanjoni (Katika Canyon) is an ancient fairy-tale forest with high, narrow ridges created by the ice age. Between the ridges exist deep gorges and lowest down runs a wild stream.
To see the forest there’s a 2 km loop hike along ridges and canyons. To places like this:
Katikankanjoni forest hike in photos
The highest point is called Kolmentuulenlakki, Three winds cap. The Three winds cap sits on a high, triangular sand ridge with steep sides (photo up left).
The Three winds cap like the whole gorge has long traditions as a magic place for the locals.
Even in light rain the 2 km fairy-tale forest hike was great fun, except for the hundreds of mosquitoes that kept bothering us from the beginning to the end. As, however, no mosquitoes existed the evening before we were not prepared for this.
The magic stream of Ostrobothnia: Katikankanjoni
The canyon has a large enough car park at the forest edge where the trail begins, yet it’s not really where I would prefer to camp overnight. Therefore we went on and soon came to a long green valley:
Green fields of Hyypänjokilaakso, South Ostrobothnia
The Kauhajoki region hides in it a wide valley with rolling fields, red farmhouses and quiet villages. The map says more canyons exist in the valley, smaller however than the one we went to.
We liked the valley we found by accident. There was a sign that said Hyypänjoki Valley is a heritage site for its traditional landscape.
Then the valley ended with some more heritage buildings:
Ostrobothnia by motorhome: two Ostrobothnian grain sheds
This is the old Hämes-Havunen farm, today no more a living farm but the location for local food markets. All farm buildings are painted red, something very typical of Ostrobothnia, all Finland and all Sweden.
Red wooden buildings of Hämes-Havunen, Kauhajoki
The specific paint they use is called Falu red after the pigment that originally comes from Falun copper mines in the Swedish Dalarna.
Traditionally they cook the paint outdoors mixing rye flour, linseed oil, water and pigments. Today, however, most painters buy their paint.
Falu red lets a house breathe and keeps it healthy, and what’s best with it, repainting houses is super easy. You just brush away any loose paint and paint after that.
Apple blossoms and Falu houses of Ostrobothnia, Finland
Now begins the real Ostrobothnian flatland and Seinäjoki is the flatland’s main city. Right north of Seinäjoki, between main roads, hides a swampy outdoor area, Paukaneva:
Paukaneva Nature Area
Paukaneva bird-watching tower just north of Seinäjoki
Park your car off the main road, then walk a few meters and you’ll enter another world! Birdsong instead of traffic noise, boardwalk instead of asphalt road, a wild bog around you.
At its edges the Paukaneva bog is a forest with tall pines and spruces. After you dive in, trees get smaller until in the center part there are no trees at all. That’s just what Ostrobothnian bogs are like.
Ostrobothnia road trip: Paukaneva boardwalk and bog plants
You will see all different bog landscapes on a 5 km hike that’s all boardwalk or duckboards. Or hike a 7 km loop to get round the whole swamp, or just choose to walk a short way and back, like to the bird-watching tower for instance. In that case it’s accessible all the way.
From the bird tower you can see hundreds of birds at the time they are migrating (spring and autumn).
In summer there are less birds but even more marsh plants like dwarf birches, cloudberries and black crowberries. In addition Tussock cottongrass and marsh Labrador tea grow here as well.
Ostrobothnia road trip: hiking in Paukaneva
Paukaneva is a protected area and a part of EU’s Natura 2000 conservation networking program.
To plan your trip, a map of Paukaneva: Paukaneva at retkikartta.fi
Now, that was the nature part, now about Ostrobothnian towns:
Ostrobothnia Road Trip: Kokkola
Finland by motorhome: Neristan, Kokkola
The coastal town of Kokkola (Karleby in Swedish) is an old one that proudly celebrates its 400th birthday. Founded by the Swedish king in 1620, Kokkola has a long and important history as a seafarer, ship-building and tar trading city.
Neristan (downtown) is where the seafarers lived. 12 blocks of well preserved wooden houses where wild poppies line the basements in summer:
Neristan, Kokkola is one of the biggest old towns in Finland.
The tradesmen again lived in Oppistan (uptown). That’s the modern part where not many old buildings exist. Instead many of the old tradesmen’s villas still stand outside the town center.
Kokkola boasts large communities of pretty wooden villas. That’s where tradesmen and the wealthy spent, and still spend their summers.
Ostrobothnia road trip in a motorhome: Tankar lighthouse, Kokkola
Moreover, the Ostobothnian coastline has a chain of lighthouses to help seafarers find their way back home. Therefore, as a seafaring city Kokkola also has a lighthouse, located on the remote Tankar island.
In summer you can cruise to the barren Tankar island, see the red and white lighthouse and walk around the island where seal hunters and fishermen used to live and work.
More about Tankar: Tankar Kokkola
More about Kokkola: Visit Kokkola
Ostrobothnia: Where to Stay Overnight by Motorhome
Highlights of motorhome travel: evenings in remote harbors
So where did we stay overnight then? We preferred remote fishing harbors and sandy beaches.
Because I like that kind of places. Staying the night next to the sea I can sit wave gazing in my motorhome. I wake up with the fishermen and seagulls in the morning. But above all, nothing beats the sunsets and sunrises you can see in these places.
The only problem, however, is to decide which way to park the vehicle for the best views, considering what you want to see from the kitchen, sofa, dining corner and bedroom.
As Finnish summer nights are white you will just want to look at the views, maybe all night long. Don’t do that, try to sleep a little bit as well!
For instance, this was our night view from Öja, west of Kokkola:
Night view of Öja in the 7 Bridges Archipelago
Öja is a rural community in the islands off Kokkola and Jakobstad, called the 7 Bridges Archipelago.
The small seaside village has a guest harbor and sandy beach that both have some old buildings, brought from elsewhere as a community project. In addition Öja has a forest hiking trail.
Ostrobothnian summer night
They even have a summer cafe that’s open until late. Cafe Bryggan serves coffee and other things in a traditional lumberjack’s home:
Cafe Bryggan in a traditional lumberjack’s home
The next town south is Jakobstad (in Finnish Pietarsaari).
Jakobstad, too, is a town of maritime traditions and has a well-preserved old town district with wooden houses. In addition the town center contains some nice well-kept parks.
From Jakobstad we headed to the town’s sandy seaside. First to walk and then to stay overnight.
The soft sands of Fäboda, Jakobstad
This is what Fäboda looks like. It’s a seaside recreation area 10 km from Jakobstad, dominated by three big beaches, one of them like a lagoon. All beaches, Storsand, Lillsand and the cafe beach are clean and shallow and perfect for family outdoor days.
In between there are cliffs where paths and carefully landscaped boardwalks have been built. Walking along them you will get amazing sea views and breathe fresh, clean sea air, and in the forest you can walk more.
Fäboda, a highlight of any Ostrobothnia road trip
All this makes Fäboda a favorite of the locals and it can get very crowded at whiles. But come here mid-week outside the peak seasons and you will find a dream spot to stay overnight.
How would you feel about waking up a sunny morning in a place like this? With views like this?
Fäboda in photos
In addition Fäboda has some culture. There’s a museum: Nanoq – The Arctic Museum. Nanoq means polar bear in Greenlandic and the museum itself looks like a a turf house, directly from North Greenland!
Summer morning at Fäboda: To travel is to live!
More about Fäboda and Jakobstad: Visit Jakobstad Pietarsaari
Sunset dinner on Storsand dunes, Ostrobothnia
Southward there’s another beach with the same name, Storsand. This Storsand (large sand) located between Nykarleby and Vaasa is even bigger and wider.
The Nykarleby Storsand consists of long, wide sand dunes backed by a pine forest and marked trails. Here the parking area makes a perfect setting for staying overnight in a motorhome.
The only minus is the long drive from the main road 8 on narrow, winding roads. Despite that Storsand really is worth a stop.
More about these massive dunes and other Finnish motorhome destinations on Facebook: Routes and Trips on Facebook
And now about red Ostrobothnian houses and traditional buildings: Klemetsgårdarna, Strömsö and Pörtom:
Ostrobothnia Road Trip: Klemetsgårdarna
Klemetsgårdarna, Ostrobothnia, Finland
Between Jakobstad and Vaasa you will see red Falu houses, maybe less by the main road but even more along any back road.
Wherever we travel, we always look for things typical of the region. That’s why we always try to take the back roads.
Typical Ostrobothnian two storey houses
Klemetsgårdarana, however, is right off the main road so there’s no chance to miss it.
Klemetsgårdarana is a cluster of 18th century houses made a homestead museum by the local community association.
You’re free to stroll between the old houses. Wonder why these Ostrobothnian houses are so high compared to what they build in any other part of Finland?
Ostrobothnia road trip to small museums
This small homestead museum is located in Maxmo between Jakobstad and Vaasa. Then, north of Vaasa follows Strömsö:
Ostrobothnian villa style: Strömsö, Vaasa
The decorated villa of Strömsö, again, is not by the main road. To see this villa and its gardens you will have to make a side trip to a small coastal village called Västervik.
Famous from a TV show on household, cooking and gardening, this tastefully decorated villa stands on a hill and looks into the surrounding garden and on to the sea.
Greetings from Strömsö and Västervik!
Strömsö, the villa, is some 160 years old. At the time of building the villa was one of the first outside Vaasa.
For almost 100 years Strömsö was the summer residence for a merchant family. So generations of the family spent most of their summers here. They always came before Midsummer and left before end August.
Strömsö door with carvings
Think about all those carvings they made, and look at these door carvings! This dreamy villa is like an Ostrobothnian dream, neat, well painted and well kept.
Read more about Vaasa and Strömsö: Visit Vaasa
Exploring Ostrobothnia in a motorhome: Pörtom local history museum
Then, more old buildings will follow, this time right off the main road 8. This is at Dahlbacken, 3 km north of the tiny village Pörtom.
It’s a local history museum with typical buildings of the area brought to one place. All buildings have been moved from nearby locations, such as Ahlholma manor and Småttgården farmhouse. In addition there’s an artist studio and school museum.
Some details of Pörtom local history museum:
Old wooden buildings of Pörtom local history museum
Read more about Pörtom and the town south of it, Närpes: Visit Närpes: Pörtom local history museum
Ostrobothnia Road Trip: Närpes
Some of the 150 Närpes church stables
Närpes is a town famous both for its tomato production and church stables. A landmark is the old church that originally dates from the 15th century, since when it has been enlarged many times.
What’s even more special about the church are the many stables around it. Red wooden stables exist all over, in long neat rows. Närpes church stables are 150 in number and they all look the same:
The 150 church stables of Närpes
What are these stables for? Horse shelters. They were built for that purpose in the 18th century.
How I would love to have one of these stables shelter our motorhome instead of horses! Just one, and they would have 149 of them left here. Never mind, these stables are not even big enough for a motorhome.
Coffee break in Närpes: church stables
More about the church stables and things to see in Närpes: Visit Närpes
Now our rur road trip has to continue, and we will visit two idyllic seaside towns: Kaskö and Kirstinestad.
Kaskinen in Finnish, Kaskö in Swedish, bilingual like all coastal Ostrobothnian towns. Kaskö is an island town, located on Pukkisaari island. Finland’s smallest town and pretty like a postcard. So some postcards from Kaskö:
Kaskinen, the smallest town of Finland
Kaskinen was founded in 1785 and still looks the same. Long, wide, quiet streets lined with wooden villas with big gardens.
No traffic on a sunny summer day, just occasional bikers and a lazy cat sleeping on main the street.
Kaskinen seaside and the next island, Järvön
As Kaskinen is an island town, the sea is present everywhere.
More about Kaskinen, Kaskö: Visit Kaskinen
Ostrobotnia Road Trip: Kristinestad
Kristinestad Ulrika Eleonora Church
Then our last road trip destination Kristinestad (Kristiinankaupunki in Finnish), home of 6 800 people. Kristinestad is even older than Kaskinen, founded in 1649 it got its name from the Swedish queen Kristina.
As Kristinestad has avoided fires that destroyed many wooden towns, its historical district is exceptional. Everything is so well preserved, almost 300 old buildings are left, all of them protected.
Kaskinen has wide streets but Kristinestad doesn’t. There only exist narrow lanes, some of them so narrow that you can almost reach the house walls on both sides when you walk in the middle. The most famous lane is Kattpiskargränden (in three of the photos below):
The idyllic small town of Kristinestad, Ostrobothnia, Finland
Kristinestad was the first Finnish town to join the international Cittaslow network, a network of cities founded in Italy.
Cittaslow aims at improving life quality in towns and slowing down. Slow food, less traffic and slow movement. Just like the blades of this Kristinestad windmill:
A Kristinestad windmill
Learn more about Kristinestad on the Visit Kristinestad website.
Kristinestad ends our Ostrobotnia road trip. Hope you liked joining our motorhome trip through Finland’s west and hope I gave you inspiration and travel ideas for the future!
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