Hiiumaa is the second largest island in Estonia, separated from the mainland by a 22 km wide strait. The island has a low elevation; its highest point being 68 m above sea level. Hiiumaa emerged from the sea about 8500 years ago. Located in the eastern part of the Baltic Sea, the island of Hiiumaa and a number of small islets cover an area of more than 1 000 square km.
All over the island the limestone is covered by loose deposits from the last ice age and by marine sediments, beach ridges and dunes from the different phases of the Baltic Sea. Thus, the landscape provides examples of pine forests, mixed spruce- and deciduous forests, swampy thickets and juniper shrubbery, coastal meadows and dunes, peat moors and bogs. One can find about 1 000 species of higher plants in the rich flora of Hiiumaa. Over 50 rare species are protected. Elks, red deer, roe deer and wild boars live in the forests. There are also foxes, lynxes, martens, etc. The bird fauna of the island is also worth mentioning. Among nesting or migrating birds one can see black storks, golden eagles, cranes, avocets, swans, etc.
Hiiumaa, due to its location in the Baltic Sea, has a varied history. Beginning with Mesolithic settlements on the Kõpu peninsula, man has changed the landscape of the island for over seven thousand years.
In 1228 the island was first mentioned in written annals under the name Dageida. In 1254 Hiiumaa was divided between Livonian Order and Saare-Lääne bishop. In 1563 Hiiumaa got annexed to Sweden. In 1710, as a result of Great Northern war island goes under the Russian Empire. German military forces occupy Hiiumaa in 1917. In 1918 - 1940 Hiiumaa was part of the Republic of Estonia, then until 1991 occupied by Soviet Union, now recovering again in free Estonia.
Churches are undoubtedly among Hiiumaas oldest preserved architectural monuments. One of the oldest stone churches was built in Pühalepa in 1259, destroyed in 16.-17. century and rebuilt in 18. century. Oldest manors of total over two dozens are Putkaste and Lauka. Most beautiful is Suuremõisa palace in Pühalepa, late barock from 1755 - 1772.
On demands of the Hanseatic League a lighthouse was built in Kõpu in the beginning of 16. century. It is considered the third oldest continuously operating lighthouse in the whole world, still showing its light up to 35 miles overo the sea. In 1874 and 1875 two metal lighthouses were built in France and put to northern and western tops of Hiiumaa.
The best part of the farm architecture comes from the 19. century. Best examples are Mihkli farming complexe and Soera farm-museum with all the old national artefacts.
The islanders have always been a seafaring and farming people. Besides these occupations, the people of Hiiumaa have been engaged in tar-making, lime-burning, salt-working, shipbuilding, construction and carpentry. The last few centuries on the island have witnessed the existence of a glass-foundry, a cloth manufactory and an artificial silk factory. After the World War II and during the Soviet occupation, the main industries were based on large-scale agriculture and fishing.
Most recent trends in Hiiumaa economy have been towards smaller farms and tourism, also small industry, such as plastics and medical instruments. Service sector is widening due to development of tourism. Creation of IT based jobs is essential for offering new possibilities for young people to remain in island.
Hiiumaa is an island that has a relatively small population, and is relatively far from the Estonian economic centers, most importantly Tallinn. This enables the to offer a very safe environment for the business development. Hiiumaa is also characterized by large exports of fish, wood, and other products; import of most primary goods and necessary equipment; growing tourist potential and a favorable position near major shipping lanes in a Baltic Sea.
In the primary sector, which includes fishing, farming and forestry, about 800 people are employed. The biggest employer in the island is also the biggest fishing company nation wide - Hiiu Kalur. The processing industries, those that add value to raw materials, employ about 850 people.
The official homepage for Hiiumaa, active since 1995. The new version is currently under development.
Hiiu County Government
Hiiumaa facts and figures
Island and Coast Research Centre Arhipelaag