Pihlajasaari is actually a group of islands, consisting of Itäinen Pihlajasaari, Läntinen Pihlajasaari, Vadelmakupu and a number of small islets. There is a protected herb-rich forest area on Läntinen Pihlajasaari, nestled between the rocks. The island also features a coastal meadow, which is a protected habitat type. There is a pond between the herb-rich forest and the shore, which is directly connected to the sea during high tides.
Pihlajasaari boast a diverse range of bird species. The islets are off limits and protected during the nesting season, from 1 April to 15 August. Coming ashore is prohibited during this period. The nearby islets are used as nesting sites by eiders and Arctic terns. The islands’ range of bird species also includes a wide variety of other waterfowl and plenty of forest-dwelling species. The islands are also favoured by bats due to offering a diverse range of feeding sites as well as daytime hiding and wintering spots. Bat species found on the islands include the northern bat, the Daubenton’s bat, the whiskered bat and the common pipistrelle.
One of the best ways to explore the islands’ nature and history is the approximately two-kilometre-long Pihlajasaari nature trail that circles both the western island's section Läntinen Pihlajasaari (1.8 km) and the eastern island's section Itäinen Pihlajasaari (1 km). The trail’s points of interest are marked with numbered posts in the terrain. The trail can be walked in any order or only partially.
The western island’s trail includes difficult-to-navigate rocky sections that are not marked in the terrain. Please note that the rocks are also very slippery in rainy weather. You can also skip the rocky sections and simply follow the paths.
The sheltered lagoon on Itäinen Pihlajasaari used to serve as an ideal harbour for fishing boats. Fishermen also constructed a hut in the northern part of the island, which is also called Lasimestarinsaari, as the area’s open fields and smooth rocks were ideal for spreading out bait. From the 1840s onward, the fishermen’s hut was used by sea captain A.F.J. Brenner (1813–1870). Brenner also hunted birds on the nearby islands together with painter and ornithologist Magnus von Wright.
After Brenner’s death, the City of Helsinki rented out the western Pihlajasaari island for use as villa plots. One of the villas built around this time was Villa Hällebo, completed in 1883, which nowadays houses the restaurant Pihlajasaari. After the leases ran out, the island was made into a folk park in 1929. Itäinen Pihlajasaari was added to the park in 1950.
The Pihlajasaari islands were fortified during the First World War, and the fortifications were also used in the Winter and Continuation Wars as part of Finland’s anti-aircraft defence system. The concrete structure bordering the current camping area is not part of these fortifications, however, but rather a remnant of the Nobel-Standard company’s large petrol tanks.
Learn more about the nature of Pihlajasaari island at citynature.eu.