Isokari Lighthouse reflects the might of an empire

When Finland became an autonomous part of the Russian Empire in 1809, a new lighthouse was needed in Kustavi, located in the outer archipelago of Uusikaupunki.

The seafarers of the Ostrobothnian region had to be redirected to a new sea lane so that they no longer needed to travel the old route across the Swedish archipelago and pay their pilotage fees to the Swedes. Isokari Island was chosen as the location of the new lighthouse, where piloting had been practiced since the late 18th century.

The lighthouse was designed by Pilot Major Gustaf Brodd, who admired the Tolbuhin lighthouse off Kronstad, Russia. The Isokari Lighthouse, completed in 1833, was the third and tallest lighthouse ever built in Finland at the time. It was considered to reflect the power and might of the new Russian motherland.

However, the lamp of the lighthouse was not lit until 1838, when the measurements and route markers of the new sea lanes passing nearby were completed.

The landscape of Isokari in 1981.

A lighthouse keeper by chance

The lighthouse designer, Gustaf Brodd, was taking a brisk carriage ride to his home in Helsinki. The driver, aged only 26, was a talkative young man called Ernst Timén. Soon after, Brodd offered him the position of lighthouse keeper on Isokari Island.

Timén was a little surprised by the offer because he had no previous experience with lighthouses or even seafaring in general. Nevertheless, he accepted the position. On reaching Isokari Island, he enjoyed his stay there.

The lighthouse keepers lived in the same small village around the lighthouse as the pilots. After a few years, Timén was promoted to lighthouse master and the post remained in his family for five generations, from the 1830s, until it was abolished in 1990.

Three women in front of the old pilot station on Isokari Island in the early 20th century.

Isokari lighthouse island as a tourist destination

The almost 200-year-old lighthouse is still in operation and there are guided tours. The village of the pilots and lighthouse staff is well preserved and is a great reflection of the change in the life of the archipelago society.

Built in 1858, the pilot’s house is one of the best preserved pilot buildings in the archipelago. Some buildings have been altered and some of the former lighthouse workers' living quarters are now residential.

There has also been a military base on the island in the 20th century, the traces of which can still be seen in the landscape, e.g. barracks foundations, cannon, and a protective cave. During the war, it was intended to blow up the lighthouse to avoid it being used as a visible sea mark and so would not direct enemy aircraft into nearby cities. The bricked up holes at the base of the lighthouse in which the explosives were placed can still be seen this day. Fortunately, the plan was abandoned at the last minute.

In addition to the buildings, you can also find old rock carvings and nautical signs on the island. There are also many different types of habitats on the island, from rock outcrops on the coastline polished smooth and flat by glaciers to deciduous forests and marshes in the inner reaches. Numerous nature trails criss-cross the island and you can see different animals.

Special nature and seal excursions are organised on Isokari Island. The island’s speciality is the event known as “Shepherd's Weeks” when visitors can experience the life of a shepherd for themselves.

Read more from the Isokari Island webpages!

View from the shore to the lighthouse.

How and why is this location protected? 

On the whole, Isokari is a very valuable cultural environment location, where visitors can become acquainted with the lifestyle and work of the people who lived on the island. This is why the Finnish Heritage Agency has defined it as a nationally important cultural heritage site. In addition, a part of Isonkari Island belongs to the Bothnian Sea National Park.

Read more about the protection of Isonkari Island in Finnish Heritage Agency's pages!


Day trips to the island are organised from both Kustavi and Uusikaupunki during the summer. Private boats can be moored on the island's pier.

Read more about visiting from the Isokari Island webpages! 

Finnish Heritage Agency's mapservice

N: 6746317, E: 173549 (ETRS-TM35FIN)