Utö rose from the sea as a series of small islands after the end of the Ice Age around 10 000 years ago. There are records of a residential population from the years 550 – 1050 in the grave fields at Skogsby on the south side of the island. Towards the end of this period, the entire island had a permanent, settled population. According to finds made in Visby, mining began in the iron ore mines on the island as early as the 12th Century.
It is quite likely that the mines on Utö were the oldest and some of the most important in Sweden, with intensive mining continuing for more than 700 years. The mining operations on the island continued until 1879, and apart from exploratory mining carried out in the 1950s, there has been no more mining on the island since that time. In the early 20th Century, the era of happy summer visitors to the island began, including many famous people such as artist couple Georg and Hanna Pauli and the authors Gustaf Fröding, Gustaf Hellström, Henning Berger, Alice Lyttkens and, of course, Hasse Z visiting the island.
Skärgårdsstiftelsen, the Archipelago Foundation, has set up both bathing areas and service facilities, constructed paths for walking and cycling and managed the forests on the island in an active way intended to encourage nature conservation. The nature reserve provides scope for a wide variety of different leisure activities. The child-friendly bathing area with shallow waters and a sandy beach (“Barnens bad”, Children’s bathing) gives way to beautiful bathing at the foot of the cliffs (Rävstavik and Södra Sandvik), fitted out with facilities for campers and permanent barbecues.