FAMILY SUMMER AT LAHOLM BAY
Europe’s highest sand dunes, bright pink ice cream kiosks, shallow water and cosy camping nights. We set out on a road trip along Laholm Bay and discovered a Swedish summer holiday perfect for families.
The lush trees arch like a roof over the river. The roots wind their way down into the glistening water, and we are reminded of tropical locations in the Caribbean. Instead, I am in Halmstad on the west coast of Sweden. Or, more correctly, on the Fylleån river, which has a tendency to flood in the springtime. Today we are floating down the river on an SUP board, an activity that has become increasingly popular over the last few years.
“It's not hard. You can probably stand up,” calls twelve-year-old Dennis, waving his paddle in the air while avoiding some stones in the river.
I have been joined by the Eno family from Halmstad. They had been wanting to rent SUP boards from a local company, Kitekalle, for several years, and it was finally happening. Dennis jumps and plays on the board as if he were born on it. Mama Jenny Eno falls off with a splash. Laughing. The sun is hot, and the cool, calm river is a pleasant break from the salty sea a stone's throw away.
“The best thing about Halmstad is its proximity to the sea. And then all the different nature. Like this! It feels like we’re abroad,” says Jenny, smiling.
It is peak summer in August, and my road trip will take me along Laholm Bay, from Tylösand to Hovs Hallar at Bjäre peninsula. This stretch has not only one of Sweden's longest continuous sand beaches but also impressive sand dunes, varied nature and charming swimming spots. Laholm Bay is also called Sweden’s swimming paradise, and it is no secret that many of Sweden's most beautiful beaches are here in Halland.
HOMEMADE IN HALMSTAD
In the summer, Halmstad offers cobblestone streets, cosy cafés, leafy forests and fun playgrounds. It is also close to the beach, with high sand dunes just begging to be slid down. A walk along Vallgatan, lined with quaint, half-timbered houses, is like stepping 500 years back in time, and if you follow the Nissan river southward past the castle and down to the sea, you can eat lunch at Söderpiren while digging your feet into the smooth sand.
There is a long queue winding its way out of Tivolikiosken and bright-pink Glasskiosken – two fairy-tale worlds side by side that enchant both adults and kids. My Feldt is a mother of four, a baker and an entrepreneur. She has appeared on TV, written books and enticed visitors to Halmstad with sugar buns, colourful toys, games of Memory and luscious ice cream.
“We want to make things that make people happy! I view life as an amusement park, with a haunted house and roller coasters – peaks and dips that tickle the tummy. At an amusement park, the air is always sweet, like it is here,” says My, laughing.
PIRATES AT SUMMER PARADISE
Tylösandsleden is a 25 km cycling trail that takes you from Halmstad Castle to Tylösand’s rolling beaches and Galgberget’s leafy forest. The trail is perfect for bikes and cars, and hikers can follow Prins Bertil´s trail, an 18 km easy hiking trail that starts from the castle in the middle of Halmstad and continues along the coast, all the way to Tylösand. A stop at Möllegård Café and Riccardos Glassfabrik will make you think of northern Italy, with gelato and wood-fired pizza ovens. Families with slightly older children can check out Halmstad Wake Park in scenic Grötvik – an adventure park on water!
People began to seek out swimming areas for relaxation at the beginning of the 1900s. Prior to this, Tylösand was frequented by smugglers and pirates, which is evident in the names of it beaches, such as Tjuvahålan (Den of Thieves). Today, Tylösand is a summer paradise with 4 km of sandy beach, a pulsing after beach and great golf courses.
The golden afternoon sun embraces me as I wander barefoot along the expanse of golden beach. Some robe-clad locals are heading down for an evening dip, while a group of volleyball players prepare for the Swedish championships that will be played the coming week. On a hot summer day, today’s almost-empty beach can be filled with up to 50,000 visitors.
A bit further north lies Haverdal, which has one of Scandinavia’s highest sand dunes, Lynga. Pack a picnic in your rucksack and challenge the family to a bum slider race down the hill! The family campsite Haverdals Camping and its well-maintained adventure golf is close by, and anyone wanting to watch the sun set can simply drive up the coast and cut across the field with grazing sheep to the Skallen viewpoint.
NOT JUST HOCUS POCUS
Gullbrannagården is located south of Halmstad just outside of Laxvik. The Christian community Svenska Alliansmissionen bought it in the 1960s as a conference venue. In the 1970s, they chose instead to focus more on camping, and they were one of the first to start arranging programmes and activities. Today, Gullbrannagården is one of the most popular camping, conference and camp venues along Halland’s coastline, with a capacity of 1,500 visitors.
“You should have seen the magic show this morning! It was so popular we did not have room for everyone! And tomorrow is the bottle race in the river. You’re coming, aren’t you?” asks Ewa Bylander, site manager at Gullbrannagården. I have checked in for my stay in a caravan. The campsite is full, and there are families with kids everywhere, but it doesn't feel crowded. The greenery, the hill and the different areas create a pleasant atmosphere. Around 400 activities are offered in the summer, and one high point is the Gullbranna festival that attracts artists from around the world.
A short bike ride brings me to the sea, where the Gullbranna nature reserve and the Gullbranna beach appear to be a pristine oasis untouched by tourism. I meet the Ucar family from Unnaryd here; they are on a road trip from Lysekil to Laxvik. They have been coming to Gullbrannagården for five years. “We love the surroundings, the beaches and the kids’ activities. Tylösand is beautiful, and the Gullbranna festival is fun for the kids. We feel at home here!”
SWIMMING SPOTS WORTH THE TRIP
Halland’s swimming holes dot the coastline. The expansive beaches at Mellbystrand and Skummeslövsstrand attract summer guests to Sweden. At the end of the 1800s, a steam boat began to take visitors across Lagan to Åmot to go swimming. The journey then continued on horse and cart to untouched Mellbystrand. Today, the coastal road parallels the entire beach, past Mellbystrands Camping where you can stay with 14 km of sandy beach outside your door.
Continuing south is Skummeslövsstrand and its kid-friendly shallow water, and only a stone’s throw inland is Laholm, Halland's oldest city with a cosy city centre, a dreamy park and a creative drawing museum that has a studio where visitors of all ages are welcome to let their creativity flow.
RURAL AND URBAN IN SYMBIOSIS
A short side trip from the coast is Lögnäs Gård, an old renovated farm that is home to Barnens Lögnäs, a kids’ oasis with cute sheep, goats, pigs and rabbits interspersed with don’t-touch-theground obstacle courses, lianas among the hay bales and a café in the stall.
“We are the light version of country! It is only 10 minutes to Båstad, but you still get to feel like it’s the country,” says Linda Andersson, who runs the farm with her husband.
I go through the stall and out through the paddocks where there are kids everywhere playing gently with the animals. There are obstacle courses and swings. Goats are grazing freely, and the atmosphere is electric. Continuing on towards the Bjäre peninsula, I stop by Skottorps Mejeri, which sells cheese made with their own milk. Visitors are welcome to watch production through big glass windows. I also make a quick stop at Kungsbygget Adventure Park – a Wild Kids world and the perfect amusement park for a cloudy summer day only a thirty-minute drive from Båstad.
“Yes, you can't just lie on the beach,” laughs Tony Carlsson, who has come here from Ljungby with his two daughters.
They eagerly climb up to the new high ropes course, which allows visitors of all levels to climb, swing and zipline through the forest. I catch a glimpse of the Swedish prince Carl Philip and his family as they head toward the summer toboggan pass. The enthusiasm in the line infects others even from far away.
EMBRACED BY THE SEA
The Bjäre peninsula is also called the Provence of Sweden thanks to its rolling hills with vineyards, leafy forests and expansive meadows. Båstad has earned its reputation as a summer metropolis thanks to tennis, but at the beginning of the 1900s it was already a popular spa destination for visitors seeking fresh air and the salty seaside. From here, you can take a boat to Halland’s Väderö island, visit the hiking paradise Hovs Hallar, or wander through Norrviken's gardens, a green oasis for both young and old.
My trip is nearing its end. I wander out on the dock in my bathrobe on my final night to visit the cold bath house Båstad Kallbadhus. The original from the 1800s was destroyed by storms, and the new one opened in 2009. Waiting for me there is a warm sauna, a pool, and the cool sea that embraces Laholm Bay so beautifully.
ACCOMMODATION in Halland