Driving along the Atlanterhavsveien, or Atlantic Ocean Road, is an experience never to be forgotten. It is number one on the list of the UK’s Guardian newspaper best of the world’s road trips, plus it was awarded the title Engineering Feat of the Century in 2005.
This five-mile stretch of road along the Atlantic coast of Norway takes in some dramatic scenery and links together a series of small islands, each with its own story to tell. It’s a great trip for adventurers, with many challenges to be found along the way, yet it also offers a serene escape from everyday life that’s a high point of any Scandinavian driving vacation.
Most people opt to drive north when first discovering the Atlanterhavsveien. Approached this way, it begins in the hills southwest of Kristiansund and travels across Averøy, with its meadows full of wild flowers and its fascinating archeological sites. It links Vervang, Strømsholmen, Skarvaya, Halvågen, Flatskjeeret, Lynghalman, Eidhusaya, Geltaya, Starhalmen and Litllauvøy before coming to an end near Molde. This means crossing the Hustadvika, a stretch of water notorious for its wildness, and in stormy weather huge waves crash up against the sides of the road, showering it with spray. In calmer weather, seals and even whales can be seen there.
The wildness of the sea is a big attraction for some visitors to the Hustadvika, with windsurfers keen to take on the big waves. Others go diving near Strømsholmen, where the water is very clear and there’s a great deal of sea life to observe. Angling is also popular and anglers use several of the rest stops along the road. It’s possible to hire boats from some of the villages to go sea fishing, and there are good spots for fishing from the pebble-strewn beaches.
Secrets of the islands
There are many intriguing things to discover on the islands themselves, from the 13th century Kvernes Stave Church on Averøy to the Bremsnes cave in Bremsneshatten Mountain, where the Fosna people lived some 10,000 years ago. The Kvernes Rural museum tells the story of the area over the last few centuries, while medieval villages like that on Håholmen provide an opportunity to see some of it first hand. Molde, at the end of the road, is known as the City of Flowers and is famous for the jazz festival it hosts each July.
Driving in Norway
Arranging a car rental in Norway is easy to do and driving a hire car is the ideal way to get around, especially in the north. The speed limit on most roads is 50mph, seatbelts are compulsory and all cars must have dipped headlights on at all times, even in full daylight. Gas is often expensive but because it can be a long way between gas stations in the mountains, it’s important to make sure the tank stays topped up.
There are many fascinating places to visit in Norway, but the Atlanterhavsveien offers one of the most spectacular and unusual journeys in the world.