Herring fishermen inhabited the rugged outer island of Selkä-Sarvi

The island of Selkä-Sarvi is located in the Bay of Bothnian, near the Finnish-Swedish border, and about 20 kilometres from the city of Kemi. Fishermen and hunters of the Alatornio and Kemi coastal areas have used Selkä-Sarvi as a base since it first appeared above sea level due to land uplift in the 16th century. The fishing village of the southern tip of the island served as a seasonal fishing base during the summer months, allowing fishermen to live on the island for months.

Buildings and racks for drying nets on the southern shores of Selkä-Sarvi.

By the advent of the 18th century, herring fishing was one of the most important livelihoods in the entire Gulf of Bothnia. This tradition continued for centuries in Selkä-Sarvi. During the peak period, the island had as many as 300 inhabitants and there was plenty hustle and bustle in the crowded fishing village.

During the 20th century, the village began to quiet down as motorised fishing boats became more common offshore, overtaking hand fishing from the shore. However, the island was not completely deserted. During the Prohibition Act, lasting from 1919 to 1932, the island’s secluded location was perfect for alcohol smugglers to use as a base and a hiding place.

This well-preserved historical complex invites you to explore

Located in the beautiful scenery of the Bothnian Bay National Park, the island of Selkä-Sarvi is a camping destination maintained by Metsähallitus (Finnish Forestry Administration). The island can only be reached by private boat. Moreover, the rocky shores present a challenge to safely approaching the island. The highest point of the island is just four metres above sea level. It is characterised by a strong land uplift over the centuries. The island's diverse and fascinating nature can be further explored along one kilometre-long nature trail.

Of the hundreds of fishermen's cottages built previously on the island, only eight remain. In the ruins of the dense settlement, net racks, fish huts and cellars tell of fishing livelihoods in days gone by.

At the southern end of the nature trail is the original Ailinpieti fishing hut, which was built in the 1860s and is open to visitors. This cabin is named after its first owner, Arvid Ailinpieti. Nearby is an old barrel day-beacon or “pooki” , i.e. a navigational mark consisting of a pole with a barrel at its top. In addition, markings and engravings from various periods can be found on the island's rocks and bedrock. These were made when the inhabitants had free time on an otherwise rugged island when the weather and sea conditions did not allow them to leave.

The island has a sundial and, according to tradition, a labyrinth or “giant’s garden” (Fin. jatulinarha), which is still waiting to be discovered. A modern look to the island is provided by a steel observation tower, a helicopter landing area, and National Park scout’s hut.

Near the island one can dive into an underwater world

There are many shipwrecked ships in the rock-infested waters surrounding the island of Selkä-Sarvi. More information about them can be accessed through the Cultural environment service window.

A diver on the underwater trail.
Scenery of the Bothnian Bay viewed from the Selkä-Sarvi observation tower.

Why and how is this location protected?

The island of Selkä-Sarvi is part of a nationally significant built cultural environment, called “fishing harbours and fishing bases of the Bothnian Bay”. The location is an important cultural heritage site due to its diverse and layered history.


There is no scheduled traffic to the island of Selkä-Sarvi from the mainland, but you can get there by private boat or by canoe. At the northernmost tip of the island is a marked boat lane from the northwest leading into the Sarvi camping harbour. The island also offers accommodation in a wilderness hut or in a tent area.

Finnish Heritage Agency's Mapservice

P: 7279170, I: 370791 (ETRS-TM35FIN)