Western Norway's Secret Island: Utsira

Read on for the complete guide to Utsira Island off the coast of Haugesund in Western Norway.


If you’re following my blog for a while, you know that I love love love to explore places in Norway that not many visitors know about just yet. I prefer a hike on a hidden local trail over Pulpit Rock any day and I also rather spend a weekend on an island in the North Sea than a weekend in crowded Oslo.

Said and done - back in June this year, I spent a weekend on Utsira Island an hour off the coast of Haugesund (2 hours from Stavanger by car or bus) here in Western Norway. Despite my tendency to get seasick, I had an amazing time on Utsira going hiking, eating fresh Norwegian lobster and playing board games in the evenings.

Have a look at my detailed guide to Utsira in the following with all you need to know to spend some days on this remote but surprisingly exciting island yourself!

All you need to know about Utsira - Western Norway's Secret Island in the North Sea

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What you need to know about Utsira

Utsira is a small island in the North Sea, approx. 18 kilometers from Haugesund. With its only 200 inhabitants, it’s the smallest municipality in all of Norway as Utsira has its own mayor.

There might very well be more sheep than inhabitants on the island as many people still pursue agriculture and sheep herding, however, many people are also employed in the local administration, in the fishery sector and, of course, the local petroleum industry off Haugesund.

The average temperature in July is 14 degrees and it usually rains most on the island between August and March.

 

How to get to Utsira

There’s only one way to get to Utsira and you might not like it if you tend to get seasick yourself: You have to go by boat. And it’s not a very big one either, BUT the new Utsira boat has stabilisers! Yes, that actually is news and cannot be taken for granted as the old Utsira boat that ran until 2005 did not have stabilisers…

The boat departs from North-Risøy in Central Haugesund - depending on the day of the week, 3-4 times a day. The journey takes 70 minutes and costs around 80 NOK (unless you bring a car, in that case it’s around 300 NOK). The boat will usually arrive at Utsira’s northern harbour but might also go to the southern one if the weather is bad, instead.

utsira boat

You can find more information as well as the detailed timetable in English here.

 

Accommodation on Utsira

For an island of only 200 inhabitants, Utsira actually has a surprising amount of accommodation options to offer. Ever dreamt of your own little cabin with a view of the ocean? Or maybe staying in a converted fish factory (that does not smell like it anymore) will tickle your fancy?

Here are all options:

 

1. Sildaloftet

The old herring factory/warehouse now turned into accommodation for groups and families is where I spent my weekend on the island and what I can say? I loved my room with a view!

Sildaloftet is situated at the southern harbour, a 2 km drive or walk from where the Utsira boat usually arrives. There are 15 rooms (30 beds) spread over 3 floors (all of them with ocean view!), as well as a gigantic kitchen/living room area, 8 toilets and 4 showers.

sildaloftet utsira

The former factory is best suited for groups but can also be booked by individuals. You can find available rooms and current prices here.

 

2. Utsira Lighthouse

While you can’t sleep in the lighthouse itself, there are 4 ways to sleep right next to it.

THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S RESIDENCE

The lighthouse keeper’s residence (Fyrvokterboligen) has 2 apartments - one with 5 bedrooms (10 beds) and one with 3 bedrooms (6 beds). Both apartments have their own private kitchen and bathroom, as well as a living room, and are situated right next to the lighthouse, cafe and art gallery.

Severin’s residence left - the Lighthouse Keeper’s residence in the middle - the Artist’s residence right

Severin’s residence left - the Lighthouse Keeper’s residence in the middle - the Artist’s residence right


THE ARTIST’S RESIDENCE

The artist’s residence (Kunstnerboligen) comes with 2 bedrooms (4 beds), as well as kitchen, living room and bathroom in the same building as the cafe of Utsira Lighthouse. Artists can even stay here for free if they apply for the artist residence program of Rogaland County (deadline is the 15th of March).

You can find more information here.

SEVERIN’S RESIDENCE

Severin’s residence (Severins hybel) is a small one bedroom apartment with kitchenette in the same building as the art gallery. A bathroom is available at the adjacent lighthouse cafe. At 600 NOK a night, this is the cheapest option to stay at the lighthouse, together with the small cabin Nyperosa at the same price.

You can book the residence here.

NYPEROSA

Nyperosa is the pink one in the set of 2 cabins with ocean view right in the backyard of the lighthouse station. While the blue cabin consists of a desk, a chair and a bench, and is open to anyone to sit in and take in the view, the pink cabin has a double bed and can be rented for the night. Bathroom and meals are available at the nearby lighthouse cafe.

You can book the cabin for 600 NOK a night here.

 

3. Bølgen

Bølgen is a modern apartment block with loft apartments of 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms. They all come with a fully equipped kitchen, living room, bathroom and balcony overlooking Utsira’s northern harbour. While the only store on the island is 2 km away, there’s the option of renting bikes (and even ordering your groceries to be delivered!), and the island’s only pub and restaurant is just around the corner.

 

Things to do on Utsira

Hiking

One of the first hikes you should do, unless you choose to stay at the lighthouse, is going up to it. The lighthouse (Norway’s highest lighthouse light, might I add) is situated more or less in the middle of Utsira Island, making it a nice and easy hike on the main roads up to the lighthouse and its cafe and art gallery.

utsira lighthouse

Another hike you should definitely do is the Viking Path (Vikingløypa) which leads you over rocks and marshland (careful, though: I hurt my ankle when jumping off a rock!), past several stunning bays that invite for a swim in the summer to remains of Iron Age settlements.

The hike starts in the neighbourhood above the grocery store and leads to the lighthouse. It takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on where you depart and whether or not you choose to stay in one of the bays for a swim and picnic.

Last but not least, the so-called “troll’s path” Trollstien goes from Utsira’s north to east, leading you to the wind mills of the island.

All trails are marked by use of signs and symbols, but as the island is only 6 square kilometers large, it’s unlikely that you get lost.

Bird-Watching

Over 300 bird species have been registered on Utsira and there’s even a forest entirely dedicated to marking the birds, so bring your binoculars and see how many you can spot!

Discovering Street Art

You probably wouldn’t expect any street art on an island in the North Sea but alas, Utsira has murals and sketches everywhere you look!

In 2014, the local tourist association invited 8 artists to participate in UtsirArt and the very first pieces developed - legally, as Utsira locals provided house and barn walls. You can still find the art on the island today, so grab a bike or go for a walk to try to discover it all!

Geocaching

Another way to explore the island is by means of geocaching. Register yourself at geocaching.com and use your iPhone or GPS device to find some of the caches that are hidden on the island.

Fishing

Bring a rod and head to either of Utsira’s two harbours for a chance of catching mackerel. You can also rent fishing equipment at Sildaloftet.

 

Where to eat and drink on the island

There’s only one grocery store (called Joker) on the island and it’s situated close to the southern harbour. Unlike grocery stores on the mainland, however, this one is open 7 days a week (but only between noon and 2 pm on Sundays!) which should make your stay a lot more agreeable.

And if you don’t bring a car or bike? No problem - the store even delivers your groceries to your accommodation if you want! Simply send them an email for more information: joker.utsira@joker.no

fresh seafood utsira norway

Other than that, there’s also a cafe at Utsira lighthouse that’s open between mid-June and mid-August - every day from noon to 3 pm - and the cafe Dahmsgård, which is open every Saturday between 2 and 4 pm.

If you’re looking for a pub/restaurant, head to Utsira’s northern harbour where you can find Dalanaustet. Located in an old fishermen’s home from sometime prior to 1850, the pub serves Norwegian cuisine to very decent prices. Fancy fish cakes for dinner? This is (the one and only) place to go!

 

What to bring when spending a weekend on Utsira

Waterproof clothes for sure! I guess this goes without saying but an island in the North Sea is prone to experience bad weather. Definitely pack:

  • a rain coat and rubber boots or waterproof hiking boots

  • a fleece jacket or woolen sweater

  • hiking pants

  • a scarf and hat or headband (the wind out on the island is no joke)

  • binoculars and camera

It might look like the weather was great all weekend but actually, it got cloudy only half an hour after this picture was taken and it did rain all of Saturday evening and night…

It might look like the weather was great all weekend but actually, it got cloudy only half an hour after this picture was taken and it did rain all of Saturday evening and night…

As goes for Norway in general, you don’t really need cash as you can pay everywhere with credit/debit card (even the smallest amounts).

 

Utsira Insider Tips

  • The pub Dalanaustet has 4 electric scooters for rent

  • You can find street art in the old tower close to the lighthouse

  • Sildaloftet rents out a fishing boat for anyone with a boat license and provides rescue vests

  • Utsira Church is open to visitors between noon and 3 pm during the summer months

  • There’s a street art gallery of JPS at Hovlandsvegen 36

  • Utsira has an indoor swimming pool that you can rent! Get your keys at the grocery store

  • There are public toilets at the waiting room of the northern harbour and at the southern harbour

 


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