It was a sunny morning so we packed up a picnic and decided to take one of the small ferries to the outlying island of Pihlajasaari. It’s a former villa island and is now a popular outdoor recreation area which is located 3 km offshore from the centre of Helsinki. There are piers in two parts of the city to take the waterbus from, we travelled from the pier at Ruoholahti but regular ferries also depart during the summer months from Merisatama (behind Cafe Carusel) in Eira. Both piers are operated by JT Lines and tickets can be bought on board the boats. Further details are available here.
Ruoholahti is located in the south west part of Helsinki with easy connections between the city centre and neighbouring Espoo to the west along the Länsiväylä motorway. The name Ruoholahti means Grass Bay but nowadays it has many glass fronted office buildings and modern apartment blocks.
Boats run hourly with more frequent services at busier times. We paid for our tickets as we boarded the boat and enjoyed some good views as we motored across to the island. Pihlajasaari is actually two smaller islands, a western and eastern island which are connected by a pedestrian bridge.
Pihlajasaari consists of rocky outcrops, woodland and wide sandy beaches which are accessed along gravel paths making it ideal for summer picnics, sunbathing and taking a dip in the sea. There are several places where you can barbecue with covered shelters, wooden tables and benches to enjoy grilled food. Wood is usually provided at barbecue areas but do remember to bring matches and cooking utensils and after you have finished using the barbecue the fire needs extinguishing unless someone else is waiting to use it.
The island has a restaurant, Ravintola Pihlajasaari which is located in a 130 year old wooden villa called Hällebo and it has been operating on the island for over 80 years. Several other villas are set amongst the woodlands and the beach in secluded spots. There is also a cafe / kiosk where snacks and drinks can be purchased and a cluster of brightly coloured beach huts adding to the seaside charm.
We settled down for our picnic sitting on some rocks watching the waves gently ripple on to the shore. It was very tranquil there and we stayed quite sometime before returning to Ruoholahti by boat.
Strolling along Ruoholahti’s canal boardwalk we were only a short distance away from the city centre yet life along the canal is very tranquil with only the occasional sound of a motor boat chugging past. Several cafe bars have outdoor terraces which are perfect for a relaxing drink in the summer sunshine. Flower boxes hanging from bridges looked gorgeous, adding a vibrant splash of colour as we strolled along.
Heading towards the sea we came to the huge Cable Factory, a local landmark close to Lauttasaari bridge. Cable production ceased in 1987 and since then the building has been transformed into a cultural centre and the home of three museums, the Finnish Museum of Photography, the Theatre Museum and the Hotel and Restaurant Museum. Alongside these museums there is also a restaurant and coffee shop.
We then crossed the Crusell bridge, its steel frame gleaming in the sunshine. This bridge spans the Ruoholahti canal and connects Ruoholahti with the western shore of Jätkäsaari. The bridge is one of Finland’s highest, its pylon rising to a height of 49 metres. It is 173 metres long and has lanes for cyclists, pedestrians, motor vehicles and trams.
From here we returned by bus to our accommodation in Espoo after a day relaxing on Pihlajasaari Island.