The coast is riddled with evocative villages oozing charm and character, which makes choosing a single place to stay difficult. Although Kungälv is a good option in the area if you have time for only one stopover, Marstrand is the most evocative island in the archipelago. The resort town, formerly frequented by the Swedish king Oscar II, boasts little shops, art galleries, and idyllic scenery that's reminiscent of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Part of the fun of Marstrand is the ferry journey here; it lies 25km (16 miles) west of Kungälv.

To reach the island, drive north along E6 from Gothenburg, exiting at the signs pointing to Marstrand. These lead you to the village of Koön, where you'll park your car. (Only service vehicles with special permits are allowed on the island, thereby creating an islandwide zone that is basically reserved exclusively for pedestrians and bicyclists.) From the wharf at Koön, ferryboats depart every 15 minutes for Marstrand. Round-trip ferryboat passage costs 20SEK ($4/£2) per person. For ferryboat information (no advance reservations are necessary) call tel. 0303/603-22.

Another alternative is the no. 312 bus, which departs from Gothenburg's Central Station. Between May and September, buses leave every hour; the rest of the year, depending on business and the weather, they're less frequent and no advance reservations are necessary. For 110SEK ($22/£11), you can purchase a combined bus and ferry ticket to the island. The bus stops first in the hamlet of Tjuvkil and then continues on to the wharf at Koön.

Young people from Gothenburg and its environs flock to Marstrand on weekends, filling up the clapboard-sided hotels. The town, quiet all week, comes alive with the sounds of folk singers and the twang of guitars. The major historical site is the 17th-century Carlsten Fortress (tel. 0303/602-65) that towers over the island. After you climb up Carlsten's hill, visit the chapel and then walk through the secret tunnel to the fortress, which dates from 1658, when Charles X Gustav decided that it should be built to protect the Swedish west-coast fleet. The bastions around the lower castle courtyard were constructed from 1689 to 1705, and then completed during the first half of the 19th century. Admission is 70SEK ($14/£7) for adults, 25SEK ($5/£2.50) for children 7 to 15, and free for children under 7. It's open March to October daily from noon to 4pm, and on a limited basis the rest of the year for clients who prearrange their visits a few days, or even hours, in advance.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.