"So, to the islands?" Says one Vladivostok resident to another. It is a phrase full of meaning. And it is nothing like "let's go swimming." An excursion to the islands is an adventure that could turn epic. Because first, not everyone is chosen for the boat run, and second, because of storm warnings the scheduled boat run could always be unexpectedly canceled. Canceled: this is when you need to leave Reyneke Island (think by submarine) make it back to Vladivostok, to make it to work...
If heading out "to the islands," plan to spend at least an overnight, but preferably about five days, to soak up the sun and the very salty water. Dive until you're shivering. But how do you get out of the water when you dived in off the rocks? Underwater a whole world opens up, invisible to the shallow bays of the city.
On the islands everything is rather far from the coast. There may not be water, and you'll have to twist someone's handkerchief and stick it in the crevice between the rocks in order to extort from it, drop by drop, a whole canister.
The islands - and with those words many other Russian coastal areas are beginning to envy Primorye. Ironically, the islands are a rarity and something unique and special. Khabarovsk region also has a large coastline, Magadan region as well, but no islands nearby.
The whole group of South Primorye Islands is just like the tropics. And they are all close to the mainland, which is very important. Russian Island is so close to Vladivostok, from the lighthouse on Nazimov Peninsula you could almost skip a stone all the way to Elena Island.
A foreigner is surprised: How is it that I set out for Russian Island and ended up at Elena? Oh, just a channel separates the islands.
The northernmost Petrov Island is connected to the mainland by a scythe. At low tide, you can walk to it, though the water is waist-high. The islands of southern Primorye are the continuation of the mountain ranges which descended into the sea. Valleys submerged and washed away.
There is an island for everyone. There is a "gingerbread" (Skrebtsov Island) right in Amur Bay. Too small for leisure, but people fish off the coast.
Halfway between Vladivostok and Nakhodka is the rugged and relatively remote Askold Island. Where two hundred years ago gold was sluiced. And closer to mainland - Putyatin Island, with a lotus lake and beautiful coves on the east side. Here at one time stood a splendid estate with a large garden and even a spotted deer farm. A merchant by the name of Startsev came to the island in search of coal, and finding clay instead begun producing brick and porcelain.
Petrov Island is famous for its yew grove. They say yew trees do not grow, but here they grow. The park ranger for the local nature reserve can even tell you that the island was a pirate base, and the yews did not grow, but were planted in such a way that they formed a hieroglyphic inscription.
The largest islands nearest to Vladivostok are Russian, Popov, Reyneke and Rikord. There is now a bridge to Russian Island, and the island is open; it was previously a military base. The island almost cuts Novik Bay in half; remnants of military depots, arsenals, and military installations dot the southern shore. This was home to the famous and one-of-a-kind Voroshilov battery and the battleship "Poltava" with its two towers and 305 mm caliber guns. There is an entire town of artillery, and climbing all the floors, the hours fly. In the evening you can shoot a cannon. The cannon is loaded, and the tourists are given a chance to fire. There are several forts of the island, underground vaults with an extensive network of tunnels and rooms dug right into the hill. It is a great place for a family outing.
Popov Island is very habitable, as it is part of the marine reserve with scientific bases. The sandy beaches of Pogranichnaya Bay are some of the best on the coast.
Reyneke Island can be circumnavigated in around four hours, each bay is different from its neighbor: Shtukin has gray sand and a pebble beach, and then on the opposite side are red wave-smoothed boulders. A ship's skeleton stands on the cape, which for many years served as a navigator for the Pacific Fleet. Sheer cliffs stand here, and one must either sail on or climb them to go further.
The west coast of Ricord Island is home to a "sea garden," with a great scallop plantation. The eastern side has a large deep bay and a long beach.
And there are still Klykov, Pakhtusov, and Zheltukhin Islands, which make up the end of the Vladivostok Island chain. And further, Slavyanka and Poseta Islands. Each of them, like new worlds, with their bird colonies, seal rookeries...
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Like Hanami, the cherry blossom viewing tradition in Japan, lotus flower viewing is big in Primorye.
It is home to the rarest cat on Earth.
A place known throughout Russia thanks to Mumiy Troll's eponymous album; a 30 to 40-minute drive from Vladivostok awaits this large, sandy beach.