In the coastal town of Hanko (Hangö), you'll find long stretches of beach—about 30 km (19 mi) of it—some sandy and some with sea-smoothed boulders. Sailing abounds here, thanks to Finland's largest guest harbor. A sampling of the grandest and most fanciful private homes in Finland dot the seacoast, their porches edged with gingerbread iron detail and woodwork, and crazy towers sprouting from their roofs. Favorite pastimes here are beachside strolls; bike rides along well-kept paths; and, best of all, long walks along the main avenue past the great wooden houses with their wraparound porches.
This customs port has a rich history. Fortified in the 18th century, Hanko defenses were destroyed by the Russians in 1854, during the Crimean War. Later it became a popular spa town for Russians, then the port from which more than 300,000 Finns emigrated to North America between 1880 and 1930.