Sõrve Peninsula

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Map of communes on Saaremaa. The Sõrve peninsula lies in Torgu Commune and part of Salme Commune.
Landsat satellite photo of Saaremaa, with Sõrve Peninsula in the south.

Sõrve Peninsula (Estonian: Sõrve poolsaar) is a peninsula which forms the southernmost section of the Estonian island Saaremaa. Its length is 32 km, and its maximum width 10 km. South of it lies Irbe Strait, the main entrance to the Gulf of Riga of the Baltic Sea.

Administratively, it comprises Torgu Parish and Salme Parish, both in Saare County

Historically, the peninsula had considerable military significance, dominating the Irbe Strait and the sea route to Riga. In the first half of the 20th century strong coastal batteries were installed on it by Imperial Russia up to 1917 and then by the Soviet Union after 1940. In the course of World War II, the peninsula saw major fighting between Soviet and German forces, first in 1941 with the Germans attacking and the Soviets defending, and again during the Moonsund Landing Operation in 1944 with the roles reversed.

Even now it is dangerous to walk in undeveloped forest areas because a lot of unexploded ordnance remains from the fighting.

The Sõrve peninsula is also known for its unique and special natural attractions. Many rare species of birds, flowers and insects can be found throughout Sõrve.

About 400 people live there throughout the year, but most of the people are retired. Before the war, Sõrve was the most densely inhabited rural area in Estonia.

Since 1947, Estonian expatriate organisations in Australia run an annual youth summer camp called "Sõrve", named after Sõrve peninsula.

Panorama of the southern tip of Sõrve Peninsula with the lighthouse in the center. Round feature in the lower left is the remains of an Imperial Russian 12-inch gun emplacement captured by the German Army in 1917.


View on Sõrve lighthouse from the tip of the peninsula.

The current lighthouse on Sõrve säär (tip of Sõrve), a cylindrical concrete tower, was built in 1960 to replace a square stone lighthouse built in 1770 and subsequently destroyed during the fighting between the Russians and the Germans in 1944 during World War II. On 1945 a temporary wooden lighthouse was built to serve during the period between two permanent lighthouses.

Coordinates: 58°10′43″N 22°15′29″E / 58.17861°N 22.25806°E / 58.17861; 22.25806