West Sweden, with its beautiful preserved archipelago, cold and salty waters and quiet coves make Bohuslän the perfect destination for shellfish lovers. The Bohuslän coast, north of Gothenburg, stretches 170 km to the Norwegian border with several tiny fishing villages, pretty towns, smooth waters for sailing, narrow fjords and an abundance of seafood in clean, mineral-rich waters. Read more about shellfish safaris in West Sweden.
While most people visit Sweden in the summer months (June, July and August), the autumn is far better if you want to go on a shellfish safari looking for mussels, crabs, lobster and oysters when Bohuslän is staggering beautiful. Thanks to the abundance of fresh, local seafood, you won’t be surprised that food journalists have gone mad for the west Swedish coastline.
Related: Scandinavian Shellfish and Molluscs
You can hire a car and drive to quiet and secretive places, join the locals and sail along the coastline. Most of the islands here are linked by bridges or ferry crossings and are easily accessible. Places worth stopping at includes Tjörn, a short drive over the Skåpesund bridge from Orust. Orust Shellfish organizes shellfish safaris, and we recommend a stay at Strandflickorna Havhotellet in Lysekil
Shellfish safaris have become one of the most popular activities in the region, and a mussel- and oyster safari in Lysekil is a real adventure. Mussels are caught by hanging nylon stockings out of big pipes in the water. The mussels are ‘sown’ into the stockings and the dangled into the sea where they grow for 2 years in the nutrient-rich waters until mature enough to be harvested.
The definition of a safari is a journey or expedition for the purposes of hunting, exploration or investigation. When you embark on a shellfish safari in West Sweden, you combine all of those aspects into one unforgettable trip. In Lysekil there is also an interesting museum of marine life, Havets Hus.
On the first Monday in September every year something magic happens in the county of Bohuslän. It is the beginning of the lobster season and countless boats leave the dock at the same time ready for the big catch. Lobster season is mid-September through December.
Whether you come in September or later in the oyster season, you can learn everything there is to learn about fishing for the black gold. In recent years, both hotels and private boat owners have begun offering safari-type shellfish voyages to visitors eager to experience fresh seafood.
Don’t miss Marstrand island with its ornate wooden houses and the impressive fortress Carlstens Festning.
On the rolling waves of Kosterhavet, outside the tiny car-free enchanting Koster Islands, you can Join a fisherman and help him land the cages filled with the “black gold”. The islands are populated by more birds than people and is perfect for cooking fresh seafood on campfire in specially designed areas. On Sydkoster Hotel Ekeneäs you can enjoy a 4-course lobster menu.
The organic restaurant Kosters Trädgårdar is a must. It sums up why the Koster islands are so unique. Everything cooked in this restaurant is either caught that day or harvested from their own gardens, epitomizing the naturally laid-back atmosphere of the islands.
The lobsters fight often with one another and with the crabs too, gnarly little sods; this is why they often lose a claw, then grow a new one, leaving them with one claw bigger than the other. They’re incredibly lively when fresh and the claws need to be banded quickly, as they can take a finger clean off no problem. We saw lobsters as big as 2kg but they’re not good to eat at that age – less sweet.
While the entire Bohuslän offers excellent lobster fishing, Sea Lodge Smögen is a special gem thanks to its own pier and certified gourmet restaurant. Enjoy your own catch cooked to perfection by the gourmet chefs after having joined the local fishermen on their boats at sea. In Smögen you’re sure to find it all; crayfish, oysters, langoustines, mussels, lobsters, crab and shrimps. If you want to enjoy them as a local, there are certain traditions you should know about.
Langoustines, for example, should be drunk with Aquavit while prawns are best eaten from a paper cone on the pier or harbour wall and washed down with a cold beer. Shrimp are delicious in a sandwich, but try them smoked and eaten out of a bag as you stroll the boardwalk of pretty Smögen.
With all this talk of wildness and water, you’ll be itching to know what’s on the menu on this coast. Name a northern-waters fish or shellfish and it’s a fair bet you’ll find it here: mackerel and herring. To enjoy them like a local,
If your favorite shellfish is oyster, head for Grebbestad. An astonishing 90 per cent of Sweden’s oyster supply originates here. At Everts Sjöbod you can take part in a two-hour oyster opening class in the 19th century boat house. Per Karlsson from Grebbestad has been selling oysters for almost 25 years and says that the oysters of Sweden are considered by experts to be some of the best in the world, and the best way to enjoy them is fresh from the sea.
At Handelsman Flink hotel, located on the island of Flatön, you’re offered a package that begins with a gourmet lunch followed by a boat voyage in which guests take turns pulling lobster traps from the water.
Most closely associated with Sweden, however, is perhaps the crayfish, because of the traditional crayfish parties that take place in August every year. At Fjällbacka you can go on an oyster trip with local fishermen.
A top tip is to visit Bohuslän during the autumn or spring. The shellfish season has then kicked off properly but you’ll avoid the crowds. Moreover, there is plenty to do before that shellfish safari: between nature walks, boat trips and kayaking, you can be sure that all your nature, adventure and culinary desires will be seen to.
Shellfish Safari in West Sweden, compiled and written by Tor Kjolberg