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Two children by the sea at Bragdøya in Kristiansand
Children at Bragdøya island.
Photo: Adam Read / Visit Sørlandet

You don’t have to travel to the Mediterranean to go island hopping. In the southernmost parts of Norway, thousands of islands are waiting for you.

Text: Petter Løken

Waves, laughter, and seagulls yelling. The salty smell of the ocean and seaweed. Feel the pulse drop even a few notches further when you hear the soft, steady beat from the engine of the typically Norwegian “snekke”, or small wooden boat.

The Southern Norwegian “skjærgård”, an archipelago consisting of thousands of small islands and islets along the coastline, is the Norwegians’ own summer paradise. Here you can enjoy lazy days and let the hectic everyday life become distant memories.

Summer, bathing, bare rocks in the sea, boat life, small white-painted wooden houses, and the calm temperament of the region. That’s the real Southern Norway, head of sales and marketing in USUS Elisabeth Høibo sums up.

“Southern Norway is suitable for everyone, and maybe families with children in particular. The distances are short wherever you want to go, and it’s easy to get around”, she says.

The Southern Norway expert has no doubt when it comes to what foreign tourists should see.

“Every Norwegian, including the crown prince and princess, travel to the archipelago to spend their summer holiday here”, Høibo says.

Sunny islands

The southernmost parts of Norway tempt with a comfortable climate and many sunny days. In the archipelago, you can amongst other things typically enjoy small white-painted wooden houses.

Whether you have your own boat or are renting a kayak, you can go ashore on almost every islet or island you find.

The right of access

As in other parts of the country, the right to roam includes the archipelago in Southern Norway. This means that everyone has the unrestricted right of free access in the outlying fields, regardless of who owns the land.

“The municipalities are actively working against privatisation and development in the coastal zone. Still, you’ll find private properties in some places, and they should be respected”, Høibo clarifies.

Nevertheless, with thousands of islands, islets, rocks, and reefs, you have free access almost everywhere.

    Island hopping in Southern Norway

    With such a multitude of exciting islands, it can be helpful to get some good advice about where to go. Here are Elisabeth Høibos tips of which islands to visit. They can easily be combined as a varied and rewarding round trip.

  • Sandøya

  • Sandøya close to the town Tvedestrand provides beautiful bays and bare rocks in the sea for bathing, surrounded by cosy white wooden houses. Other things to do include a visit to the local craftsman, enjoying a cinnamon bun at the bakery Brød og Vind, and tasting the delicious fish soup at Cafe Bastehaven. You can get to the island by ferry.

  • Merdø

  • Merdø is located furthest out on the archipelago near the city of Arendal. Here, you’ll again find the typical white-painted wooden houses with flowering gardens, long beaches, and great ocean views. Throughout the summer there’s a cafe at Merdøhus Museum worth visiting. Bring your bathing suit, a packed lunch, and money for ice cream or soda. If you want to stay the night, you have to bring a tent.

    The island is easily accessible by ferry, departing from Pollen in Arendal city centre. In the high season, the ferry runs every half hour.

  • Bragdøya

  • Located just outside of Kristiansand city centre you’ll find the beautiful Bragdøya, with the county’s finest beach and most shallow water. If you want, you can rent a boat or go hiking on one of the islands great trails. Tenting is allowed. In the summer the “bathing boat” runs daily.

  • Ny-Hellesund

  • In Søgne not far from Kristiansand, you’ll find the old harbour Ny-Hellesund. The island has one of Southern Norway’s finest examples of a building environment typical of this area. Spend the night in nice and modern apartments at the guesthouse Verftet at the waterside and eat at the restaurant Bølgen & Moi with its breathtaking view.

    In Ny-Hellesund you can also walk the coastal path from Verfet to Olavsundet. The trip is suitable for all ages. You can pitch your tent at Olavsundet, and don’t forget to visit the exciting coastal fort from the Second World War.

    A liner runs all year round, and you can debark at Monsøya, Helgeøya, and Kapelløya.

    View over the harbour of Ny-Hellesund, Southern Norway
    Ny-Hellesund.
    Photo: Morten Teinum / Visit Sørlandet
  • Ryvingen

  • Ryvingen lighthouse is situated outside the city of Mandal, which makes it the southernmost lighthouse in Norway. And, it’s not too expensive to stay the night. On the mainland, Tregde Ferie offers ocean rafting, which is a fun and exhilarating ride.

    The tourist office in Mandal provides information about boat rentals with or without a skipper.

  • Hidra

  • At Hidra, the largest island in the county of Vest-Agder, situated just outside of the small town Flekkefjord, people have lived for thousands of years. 600 people live on the idyllic island today.

    Spend the night in the cosy guesthouse Skipperhuset, and visit the exciting gift and interior store Fruenes Hus in Kirkehamn. Here you can also taste some typical Norwegian cakes. Kongshamn pier restaurant, a restored ice-house and fish-landing facility from 1886, contains a bar, a restaurant, and art made by the famous Hidra artist Olav Omland.

    The ferry to Hidra runs from Kvellandsstrand, a ten-minute drive from the centre of Flekkefjord. It’s also possible to take a bus from Flekkefjord to Hidra.

Explore the coastline of Southern Norway
Sandøya close to Tvedestrand has beautiful bays and bare rocks in the sea for bathing. Read more
Sandøya
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In Søgne not far from Kristiansand, you’ll find the old harbour Ny-Hellesund. Read more
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