#032 North Gotland Coastal Route
Family Tour on the Ultimate Summer Island of Gotland
Distance: 267 km
Height: 1123 m
Percentage: 45% gravel 55% road
Style: Quiet roads and gravel
Rider: Paul Ferris and Family
Paul and his family are just back from a picture perfect family bikepacking trip on Gotland.
Here are his thoughts and discription of his family biking trip.
Gotland offers near perfect conditions for relaxed, laid-back bike packing and touring. While the island is a Mecca for local tourists in the summer, there’s enough quiet, car-free roads and endless opportunities for wild camping that mean you can still get away from the crowds and enjoy a stretch of coast all to yourself – especially if you visit early or late in the season.
This tour explores the northern part of the island, including a ferry ride and loop around the separate island of Fårö, and mostly sticks as close to the coast as possible for the entire trip, while keeping everything rideable on a gravel bike. We did the tour over 6 days pulling a bike trailer with a 1 and 3 year old, and never riding more than 3-4 hours a day. With a lighter load, it could easily be ridden in a 2-3 days, or stretched out for more beach and sightseeing time.
The ride starts in the walled medieval city of Visby (with excellent, bike-friendly ferry connections to Stockholm), following bike paths and rough trails along the coast out of the city. This is actually some of the more challenging riding of the tour, and you might occasionally find yourself pushing your bike to get through the loose rocks on the seashore. Taking the main road instead (with its separate bike path) all the way to Lumelunda is an option if you want to keep the riding easy. If you want to make it more challenging, you can technically ride the coast the whole way up to Lickershamn or beyond – but then you will definitely be in mountain bike and hike-a-bike territory.
The route then heads somewhat inland on quiet roads and some gravel, before looping around the northern coast of Gotland. A highlight of the ride is Stenkusten between Bläse and Ar, where a rough gravel road (or riding on the stone beach itself) winds itself right alongside the rocky shore. That is followed by Blå lagunen, an old quarry that makes for an excellent and popular swimming spot.
After some gravel riding and a stretch of pavement, a short and free ferry ride takes you over to the island of Fårö. There is slightly more pavement here, but the gravel that does exist is wonderful riding. If you’re up for it, it’s possible to switch out some of the roads for riding on the island’s sandy beaches, especially at Sudersand and then Auren on the eastern tip. The island is home to many of Gotland’s unusual rock stacks known as rauk, including one stretch (and a short detour on the route) known as “Rauk road”.
Following Fårö, the route follows quiet roads and gravel along the eastern coast down to the outskirts of the industrial town of Slite, with plenty more beaches, lagoons, and rauks along the way. From this part of the tour onwards, all the way back into Visby, expect to see less restaurants and supermarkets than you’ve seen until now (except for in the town of Slite itself), so make sure you have enough food with you. There’s generally plenty of spots to fill up on water, however.
From Slite it’s about 40km across the middle of Gotland to get back to Visby where the ride ends. Much of this part of the ride follows the St Olofs trail, an ancient pilgrimage route on Gotland, and so manages to mostly avoid major roads, with some long sections of gravel and also quieter paved roads all the way until you hit Visby’s small airport on the edge of town. From there it’s only a short ride down to the town for an ice cream by the harbour to end the ride.
Many of the services on Gotland are only open for the summer months, from about the beginning of June until the beginning of September. Early June can be a great time to visit if you can, and is when we did the tour – the weather is generally good, the days are long, and the crowds have yet to arrive so you’ll have almost everything to yourself.
Make sure to have decent water-carrying capacity (we had capacity for 4 liters per adult) if you’re planning on riding slowly and/or wild camping, as Gotland has limited fresh water so filtering isn’t an option, and it can be a way between fill-up spots. Restaurants, organised camping sites and churches are generally the best places to fill up.