Along the coast from Risør to Grimstad
Distance: 100 kilometers
Time: Minimum 1 hour and 30 minutes
Following the varied coastline around Arendal provides a great sample of southern Norwegian towns and countryside.
The National Cycle Route 1 extends all the way from the Swedish border to Kristiansand.
A good place to start is Risør, with its magnificent chamber music festival in late June, as well as festival for wooden boats in July/August. Risør is perhaps the most impressive of the white towns along Southern Norway's coastline. The white, wooden houses sparkle in the summer sun, lots of little art galleries open up their doors and summer escapees from Eastern Norway and further afield seem to be competing with the locals in a smiling contest when summer season sets in and the glorious summer of Southern Norway is a reality.
In Risør, there are several possibilities for active pursuits lsuch as renting a boat, rock climbing or sea kayaking, contact Risør Tourist Information Office for details.
From Risør it is a short drive to the massive potholes, thought to be used for cooking by trolls in earlier days. The potholes south of Risør are some of the largest in Northern Europe, and for a day out it is a great place for a swim.
South of the potholes is beautiful island of Risøya, site of Music & Mission, a Christian-themed rock festival every July.
As you pass the small inlet of Gjeving, a good idea could be to take the frequent ferry-boats to Lyngør, a beautiful conglomeration of typical, white-painted houses spread out on four islands. On summer weekends, the little outport becomes packed with pleasure boats.
Further along the coast you will reach the town of Tvedestrand, where houses seem to be climbing on top of each other in the hills surrounding the little harbour. This is possibly the most beautiful of the "white towns" along the coast, an excellent place for a stroll and a peek into one of the many bookshops, which the town is famous for.
As you leave Tvedestrand, take a left towards Kilsund and Narestø, two quaint inlets popular with summer escapees from the Oslo area. Further along the route to Arendal you will pass the former working-class town of Eydehavn, with its little museum portraying life for workers in the factories nearby.
Further on, at Saltrød, the short detour around Skibvig is a nice diversion from the main road. The road hugs the coast into and past Arendal, where the landscape flattens out before Fevik, where the functionalist Strand Hotel Fevik commands a beautiful position by the beach.
After Fevik you will pass shipyards at Vikkilen before entering Grimstad.
Arendal to Tovdal - from festivals to foothills
Distance: 120 kilometers
Arendal is famous for its festivals and many activities during the summer, inland you will be driving on quiet country roads and hiking along deserted and wonderfully wild trails in the hilly countryside.
Following fv. 42 out of Arendal brings you to Blakstad, where a bridge spans across the Nidelva River, where timber was floated in earlier times. A right turn towards Bøylefoss and Flaten leads past old timberslides, dams and power stations to Kiland.
As you continue on fv. 42 you soon pass Frolands Verk, the home and resting place of Niels Henrik Abel, without a doubt the greatest mathematician of Norwegian descent. There is a museum here which is open during the summer months, as well as a beautiful beach, perfect for a picnic and swim.
Onwards you pass Mykland, and turn on to fv. 413 which crosses Tovdalselva River, a great river for fishing or swimming. If you follow the road running parallel to the river for another 15 kilometers you will arrive at Hillestad, with its galleries of local handicrafts as well as a conglomeration of luxurious holiday cabins.
Back on fv. 413 you soon reach Dølemo, where a small shop sells "lefse", a traditional, sweet pancakeish snack eaten with butter and sugar. Some fifteen minutes after Dølemo you reach Åmli, where a museum provides an insight to the hydropower industry in Norway, much debated and discussed, and once the source of the cheapest electricity in Europe.
Further on from Åmli, a left turn to Gjøvdal provides a taste of the mountains with a day hike from Vindilhytta Cabin via Mjåvasshytta Cabin to the road.
Returning southwards along fv. 415, you eventually arrive at Nes Verk, where you find the interesting Næs Jernverksmuseum, giving an insight into the iron ore mining history in the Arendal Region, as well as providing a fun day for kids, as the museum is very interactive. Nearby is Nes Verk Golf Course, one of the best in Norway. A few minutes onwards along the coast lies Tvedestrand, a beautiful coastal town packed with bookshops and cafés.
Gjerstad to Vegårshei - into the deep forests and lakes
Travelling into Gjerstad and Vegårshei reveals a rarely visited region of woodlands and lakes. Gjerstad and Vegårshei are often areas "driven through", rather than visited, but hidden in these deep forests is a magnificent network of trails for hiking in the summer and cross-country skiing during winter.
There are plenty of lakes for swimming and fishing. Old farms, such as Holmen Gård in Gjerstad, provides a interesting place to stay as well as a sample of delicacies from the area.
When travelling towards Lake Vegår, you will pass potholes. At the western end of the lake, you will find Kilsloftet, where local handicrafts can be bought. Cabin and canoe rental is also offered here.
South of Vegår lies Storelva River, which during spring and fall provides river kayaking up to level 5. The company Hest i Villmark arranges riding trips in the area, contact the tourist offices in Arendal or Risør for more information.
A short walk around Tyholmen in Arendal
Distance: 1,5 kilometers
Time: Minimum 5 minutes, the walk is easily completed in 20 minutes
A walk through the quaint alleyways of Tyholmen is the perfect introduction to Arendal, as it used to be.
During the seventeenth century several fires destroyed large parts of Arendal town center. The broadest of the former town canals protected the largest island, Tyholmen, from these fires. Led by Christian Poppe, local enthusiasts fought for preservation of the old architecture throughout the years and most of Tyholmen is today considered a protected area of historical significance.
A walk brings you past the towering Trefoldighetskirken Church, open during summer months, before a climb up the hill and the residential part of Tyholmen. This area has been rejuvenated and you descend to the sea through cobblestoned alleys surrounded by old, wooden houses painted in bright colours.
As you reach the marina, you will see a tall, strikingly white building rise above the marina. This is the old Town Hall and the tallest wooden building in Norway. Inside you can enjoy the ceremonial hall "Festiviteten" including several portraits of important Arendalites - inhabitants of Arendal. As you near Pollen, the lively quayside, you will pass several cafés, restaurants and bars perfect for a coffee, drink or meal.
Arendal to the island of Merdø
Time: 30 minutes by boat
Merdø is a beautiful, small outport half an hour by boat from Arendal town center.
Every day during the summer months small ferries shuttle sun-seeking tourists and locals to the wonderfully quaint outport and island of Merdø. You depart from Pollen in Arendal and head through the Galtesund, a beautiful sound, where grand homes and old yards from the shipping era dot the landscape.
On Merdø you will during the summer season find a small café serving fish soup and waffles, as well as a small museum presenting the life of a wealthy ship-owner who lived in the 1700s.
Of course, Merdø also provides several opportunities to find your own spot in the sun.
The ferries leave from Pollen in Arendal approximately every half hour from mid-morning till late afternoon during the summer months.
Boat trip around the island of Hisøy
Time: Approximately 2 hours
This popular outing takes you from the Nidelva River out to the open seas, past lighthouses and old outports before returning to Arendal.
Arendal is spread out on several islands. Hisøy is the second-largest of them and it used to be the snootiest in Arendal, not least due to its important residents and grand homes built during the shipping era. Cosy, little, white wooden houses extend all the way to the water, representing the typical architecture of Sørlandet.
Along the Nidelva River you also find two of the largest pleasure boat factories in Norway. As you enter the waters between the two islands Gjervoldsøy and Hisøy, there is a greater distance between settlements and soon the open sea will unfold, with crashing waves and beautiful views towards the Torungen Lighthouses, where one can stay overnight.
After a quick stop at Merdø, you continue through the lovely Galtesund Sound to Arendal town.
There are two departures daily, if you take the early departure you can get off at Merdø and continue the journey to Arendal three hours later.
Cycle to Tromøy from Arendal
Distance: 30 kilometers
Time: Minimum 45 minutes
The largest of the islands around Arendal is the home to one of the largest music festival in Norway, as well as rural treats.
From Arendal, the coastal route 410 towards Eydehavn brings drivers and cyclists to the Tromøy suspension bridge, with airy views of the Tromøy Sound towards Arendal and the former working-class town of Eydehavn. Turn left towards Kongshavn just after the bridge, and follow the signs towards Tromøy Church. The road will take you through leafy forests, past several small farms until you arrive at the Tromøy Church, built in 1150. On summer evenings there are frequent concerts here; a stones throw away from the crashing waves of Skagerrak.
As you continue along the route you will reach Hove. This is where the popular Hove Music Festival is held, drawing some fifty thousand spectators. At other times of the year, Hove is a natural beauty spot with quiet cycling/walking paths along the coast and through coastal pine forests.
Soon after Hove, turn left at the main road, and another left towards Rævesand, and you will be on a wonderful, narrow road, passing little inlets giving way for grand views of other islands and the town center. Soon you will reach Skilsø, where regular ferries make the short crossing to Arendal town center.
Cycling along the Nidelva River
Distance: 40 kilometers
Time: Approximately 3 hours
Four times daily the local train from Arendal to Nelaug brings passengers up through the countryside of the Nidelva River. From Nelaug, there are little red signs all along the forty-kilometer route to Arendal.
The first part of the route brings you down the Nidelva River, passing streams by Kilandsfallene, shortly after Flaten, as well as river dams at Flaten and Bøylefoss. The route continues through the forests around the Granestua Cabin to Lake Longumvannet, where there are several bathing possibilities.
Soon afterwards you arrive at the outskirts of Arendal where roads lead down to the town center.
There are several possible picnicking spots along the way. Bicycles can be rented at the guest marina in Arendal.
Wannado, a company based at Skare on Tromøy, can arrange kayaking trips in the area of Nidelva. There are possibilities for kayak rafting, as well as more leisurely trips on the more quiet stretches of the river.