Kherson is pleasantly situated at the mouth of the Dnipro River, but the main reason to come here is, rather, for what lies around it. The city is a popular, if not terribly convenient, jumping-off point for the Askaniya Nova Reserve, and there are also several less-ballyhooed excursions closer at hand.
One such excursion is to the Swedish village of Zmiyivka, whose first citizens begged Catherine the Great to move them here to escape serfdom in Russian-governed Sweden in the late 18th century. Zmiyivka remains a quirky enclave of Swedishness in today's Ukraine. To get to Zmiyivka take a marshrutka to Nova Kakhovka, which is about a 20-minute taxi ride from Zmiyivka (70uah).
From Kherson it's a pleasant 50-minute ferry ride south to Hola Prystan (two per day, April to October), the last town of any significance on the Dnipro. A seldom-travelled road leads west from here along the border of the bird-infested Black Sea Biosphere Reserve to Heroyske, an old Cossack settlement with a famous salt mine. You can do this beautiful drive on your own in a hired vehicle, but to enter the reserve you'll have to take an organised tour – inquire at the Fregat hotel in Kherson or at the reserve office in Hola Prystan.
Hotel Fregat clearly has Soviet skeletons in its cupboards but the renovated rooms are comfy enough for a night or two. The in-house travel agency organises tours to various locations in the area, including Zmiyivka, Heroyske and Askaniya Nova. Another decent place to kip is Meridian which has sublime views of the Dnipro delta, so ask for a room with a view (and air-con).
Marshrutky depart every half hour to Mykolayiv (15uah, 1¼ hours) and every hour or so to Odesa (40uah, 2½ hours) until about 7.30pm. Trains and public buses to Odesa are more sporadic and take about twice as long. Buses also serve Simferopol (90uah, five hours). Kherson lies on the main train line between Kyiv (12 hours) and Simferopol (seven hours), and there are also five buses per day to Kyiv (120uah, 12 hours).