Utsira, Norway: Your Ultimate Guide to This Enchanting Island (2024)

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With its wild and rugged landscape, Utsira Kommune in Rogaland, Norway, embodies an incredible community spirit.

Utsira Island, the smallest municipality in Norway with a permanent population of around 200, is a haven for birdlife and an open-air canvas for international street art.

Our adventure hiking through Norway brought us to Utsira, revealing a fascinating and lesser-known part of this beautiful country.

Join us as we traverse this enchanting island, uncovering all you need to know about visiting Utsira Island, located west of Haugesund.

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Page Contents

QUICK LOOK: TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO ON UTSIRA ISLAND

🌅 Visit Utsira Lighthouse — Norway’s highest lighthouse, offering panoramic views and a rich history. Best visited at sunset for stunning photography opportunities.

Enjoy coffee and waffles at The Utsira Lighthouse Cafe — Traditional Norwegian treats with sea views, perfect for relaxing after climbing the lighthouse.

🛏️ Stay in the ‘Love Hut’ or ‘Conversation Hut’ — Unique accommodations offering a cozy, intimate experience with spectacular ocean views.

🌱 Discover the Green Hut — An eco-conscious art installation made from marine debris, a striking reminder of the need for ocean conservation.

🚲 Borrow a bike from the Utsira Community Hut — Explore the island at your own pace with free bikes available for visitors.

🎨 Go on a Street Art Treasure Hunt — Uncover diverse artworks across the island, each with a story, turning your visit into an adventurous cultural exploration.

😱 Visit the Street Art ‘Scream’ Gallery — Delve into expressive artworks in an unexpected gallery setting, always open and free to the public.

⛰️ Climb to the old Seapilot Hut — For the adventurous, this hike offers some of the best views on the island, suitable for those in good physical condition.

🏆 Find the bust of Norway’s first female mayor — Learn about Åasa Helgesen and her pioneering role in Utsira’s history at the local museum.

Step inside the 1785 Utsira Church — A beautiful, historically rich building with a unique interior design reflecting the island’s maritime heritage.

🐦 Birdwatch in this bird spotter’s paradise — Bring your binoculars and enjoy one of the best bird-watching locations in Norway, with over 300 species recorded.

🔍 Find the many geocaches hidden on the island — A fun activity for families or groups, combining hiking with a treasure hunt.

🥾 Hike the island’s trails — Explore Utsira’s rugged landscape on well-marked trails suitable for various fitness levels.

🚢 Explore historic Utsira Harbour — A must-visit for history enthusiasts, featuring old buildings and tales of sea pilots and fishermen.

Utsira Travel Tips:

  • Haugesund-Utsira Ferry: The only public transport to Utsira is by ferry from Haugesund, a 70-minute trip each way. Check the schedule on the Rutebåten Utsira Facebook page.
  • Community Spirit: Experience the tight-knit community where locals look out for each other and contribute to various art and conservation projects.

Utsira Accommodation Options:

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Discovering the Island of Utsira

We hadbeen living inSkudeneshavn, on the southern tip of the island of Karmøy, Norway, for almost three months. We’d already explored well-known local attractions, such as Priekestolen, Kjeragbolten, Stavanger and the Sognefjord area.

However, Utsira hadn’t been on our radar. The island still remains relatively undiscovered by tourists making it an even more attractive destination in our books!

I have no idea why this charismatic and breathtaking island is not on everyone’s lips when travelling through Western Norway.

Planning a Trip to Norway?

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How to Get to Utsira

The only form of public transport to Utsira is by car ferry. The ferry trip from Garpaskjærdkaien Quay, Haugesund, to Utsira takes about 70 minutes each way and is free from 1st June 2024.

The voyage can sometimes be rough, but fortunately, the ferry has stabilizers and roll control, which helps in rough seas.

Rutebåten Utsira runs the ferry from Haugesund to Utsira. Check out theirFacebook pagefor the Utsira Ferry’s running times and to see if it has been cancelled due to bad weather.

Our Welcome to Utsira

We’d arranged to meet a local on our arrival, Atle Grimsby, to find out more about Utsira.

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Atle originally came to the island for a birdwatching visit twenty-six years ago, and he stayed here when he met and fell in love with Tove, his now-wife.

One of his hobbies is being a guide for Utsira, “This issomething I do for the community,” he tells us.

We discover that that sentiment runs through the veins of the 200 or so residents of Utsira, who all “…look out for each other.

About Utsira

Utsira, Norway’s smallest municipality, is a quaint island with just 200 people. It’s 18 km west of Karmøy and you can only get there by boat—a true hidden gem.

Haugesund is just a 70-minute ferry ride from Utsira. While popping into town isn’t all that easy, Utsira has the essentials—a grocery store, school, library, and a restaurant. But for a haircut or dentist visit, it’s back to the mainland!

Utsira’s tight-knit community is a vibrant mix of young locals and families from places as diverse as Somalia, the Philippines, and Denmark, all adding to the island’s rich cultural tapestry.

Utsira Fyr (lighthouse) is just the start. Wander past old harbour walls and heritage buildings, find top spots for bird watching, or stumble upon unexpected street art around every corner.

Hop on the ferry at Haugesund’s Garpaskjærdkaien Quay for a lovely 70-minute ride to Utsira. The island is small—just 2 km by 3 km—so you might want to bring a bike instead of a car. Bikes ride the ferry for free!

14 Things to Do in Utsira

1. Utsira Lighthouse

There are two heritage-listed lighthouses on the island, the only remaining twin lighthouses in Norway. Only one of the two is working and sends weather recordings to Oslo six times a day.

The lighthouse’s lantern, first lit in 1844, shines its light routinely once a month and on special occasions. Although the second lighthouse is no longer in use, it does harbour some secret street art.

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Utsira, Norway: Your Ultimate Guide to This Enchanting Island (7)

From the top of this lighthouse, which sits at the highest elevation of all of Norway’s lighthouses, at 68m above sea level, you can see Utsira’s striking, wild landscape. From here, if you are keen-eyed, you may also spy some of the street art.

The lighthouse is open during the school holidays and by appointment.

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Utsira, Norway: Your Ultimate Guide to This Enchanting Island (9)

2. Utsira Lighthouse Cafe

Just before you arrive at the Utsira Fyr, the lighthouse, you’ll come across the Lighthouse Café. Treat yourself to coffee and warm waffles served in the typical Norwegian style with sour cream and jam.

Note: It’s only open during the summer from mid-June to mid-August from 12-3 pm.

3. The Love and Conversation Huts

Near the iconic lighthouse, you will find two cabins, one pink, and one blue. They were both created as part of the Utsira Community Art Project.

They seem a stark contrast to the weathered, remote landscape, but the brightly coloured huts give Utsira a modern, vibrant touch, inviting you to relax and take in the spectacular view over the ocean.

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The blue hut isthe ‘Conversation Hut’ (Havsula). In this little retreat, away from the pressures of life, you can enjoy the peace and serenity of your surroundings.

The pink hut, the ‘Love Hut’ (Nyperosa), isavailable for booking. It has a double bed and looks over the rugged landscape to the ocean beyond.

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Have a peek inside the huts in this short video:

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4. Ocean Pollution Green Hut

Across the other side of the island, you’ll find this ‘green’ hut. It’s made from pieces of plastic collected from the sea and is a timely reminder of the need to protect our precious oceans from plastic pollution.

5. Utsira Community Hut

Another combined art and community project on the island is the workshop cabin. The residents of the island dismantled it in Haugesund and reassembled it plank by plank.

An interesting reflection of how the Utsira community work together.

Here, you can find free bikes available to the community and tourists alike. Inside the cabin lies a small workshop for fixing bikes or small carpentry projects. I was particularly drawn to the indoor rope swing.

You can just sit here, swing and think about life”, Atle adds when he notices my interest in the swing. Yet another demonstration of how important community is to this diminutive island.

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6. Utsira Street Art

The amazing pieces of art around the island tantalize and surprise; you are never quite sure where they will pop up next.

TheUtsirart Project, ‘Street Art on the Island Without Streets’, began in 2014. Street Artists came from around the world to paint their murals and designs across the island. Since then, various other artists have also contributed to the growing street art found on Utsira.

The map belowdetails all of Utsira Street art locations and the artists.

One of the most famous artists, whose characteristic stick figures stand tall and proud on this small island, was street artist Stik, from the UK.

He began painting in 2001, in his hometown of Hackney, East London, to, “Wordlessly tell the story of his community”.

His26-metre-tall figures are on the two wind turbines on the island. Installed in 2004, the turbines were the world’s first wind and hydrogen energy project. They supplied energy to ten of the island’s houses.

Stik continues to do a lot of work with charities and creates artworks with communities around the world.His bookfeatures many of his unofficial street murals spanning over a decade, telling the stories and motivations behind them.

The other artists who have contributed to art on the island includeJPS, Ella and Pitr, LaStaa, 3F, ATM, Pichi&Avo and children’s author and illustrator, Sarah McIntyre.

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The large mural by Borondo, captures the idea of the island residents all being in the same boat and working together as a community.

This reflects the essence of Utsira’s community spirit perfectly.

7. Utsira Street Art Gallery

Another of the street artists, JPS, inspired by Banksy, has a gallery of his art in Utsira’s old-school basem*nt. The theme is ‘Scream’, and the art here definitely leaves a gruesome impression. The gallery is free and always open.

You’ll find it atGamleskolen Ovlandsvegen 39.

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8. Utsira Sea Pilot Station

On the top of the hill to the east of Utsira, you can find a square, yellow building, Utsira’s last remaining Sea Pilot Station.

Before 1922, seven families, over five generations, had built their own huts on the peaks of the hills and competed to pilot the incoming ships to the harbour. When the incoming sailboat lowered its flag, this was a signal requesting a pilot to come out and guide them safely into the harbour.

The father and grandfather would be watching in the station and the kids would be in the boat at the harbour ready for the race to begin. Whoever got their hand in the boat first, got the job of guiding the ship into the harbour. This was at the time, an ultimate display of manhood.

It is a bit of a climb to this vantage point, but you get a spectacular view across the island and can see both the North and South Harbours.

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9. Norway’s First Female Mayor – Embarassment or Pride?

Historically, Utsira was ahead of its time when, in 1926, it established its first council of eleven women and one man. Moreover, this event marked the inauguration of Norway’s first female mayor, Åasa Helgesen.

Their very first policy was lowering their own wages to help the island’s economy. Next, they built roads so the children did not have to arrive at school with wet feet.

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It is extremely interesting that places such as Mexico and Venezuela sent telegrams congratulating the island on its first female mayor.

In contrast, locals and those on mainland Norway mocked the island being run by women, nicknaming them the ‘Petticoat Council’. For a whole two generations, it was not talked about outside of the island because of the shame that was felt.

Today, though, that shame has been replaced by pride.

Åasa Helgesen was both a midwife and farmer. Back in the day, the men would be out fishing for months, only coming back at harvesting time. Consequently, the women on the island ran the farms and raised the children.

This meant that the community had to work together and help each other.

A legacy that continues in the thriving community spirit of Utsira today.

10. Utsira Church

This timber church was built in 1785 but underwent renovation in 1870. However, the original pulpit is still in place. The inside was very different from the decor in most churches we have seen.

Moreover, the choice of pink, blue and white colours was unusual. In line with the nautical connection of the island, a ship hung near the altar.

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11. Utsira Bird Haven

Over 300 bird species have been recorded on this internationally known birdwatcher’s paradise. Twenty-six of them are extremely rare. Utsira also has its own ringing hut (where a bird can be tagged with a ring on its leg for recording purposes).

We didn’t see anyone bird spotting, but we definitely saw plenty of birdlife. Interestingly, the main bird-watching hotspot is in a local resident’s garden, which used to be the house of the first female mayor.

Until 1945, seagull catching was popular on the island. This is because the gullswere poaching from the spring herring shoals, so the islanders set traps.

Once caught, the seagull feathers were used to fill quilts, with about 80-100 bird feathers required to fill one quilt. Also, if food was scarce, the seagulls became food and a source of nutrition.

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12. Geocaching on Utsira

Although we were not so good at bird spotting, we did know how to spot and find geocaches. Unfortunately, we were short on time, so we only managed to search for three.

However, we could easily have spent a day hunting the many hidden caches across Utsira’s diverse landscape.

Here’s a map that shows all the geocaches you could find on Utsira.

13. Utsira Hiking Trails

Three main marked hiking trails throughout the island provide plenty of opportunity for exploring the rocky coastline and wild terrain. The island is believed to have had inhabitants dating back to the Stone Age. Some of the walking trails take you past the remains of Celtic settlements.

  • Austramarka/Trollstien– The eastern side of Utsira Island (3.2km)
  • The Viking Trail/Utsira Trail– The Western side of Utsira (4km)
  • North Sea Trail – Part of a larger hike around North Sea countries. The Utsira partof the trail goes past the Utsira Bird Station and includes the path from Nordvikvågen to Utsira Lighthouse.

Utsira Hiking Maps

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Utsira, Norway: Your Ultimate Guide to This Enchanting Island (35)

14. Utsira Harbour

Western Norway has undergone a few booms and busts in regard to herring fishing.

Around the mid 19th century, during one of the good periods of herring fishing, you could find up to a thousand fishermen on Utsira.

Sleeping under their upturned boat in freezing conditions was the only option for many who would head to the island hoping for their share of the spring herring.

The North Sea could be treacherous, and the cold, dark conditions were dangerous. Most had simple wooden boats with oars and sails, so there was a need for a safe harbour.

Consequently, in 1866, the inner harbours on the island, which still stand today, were built by about 100 stonemasons. Completed In 1870 they are now heritage listed.

Today, having both the North and South harbours ensures that there is at least one safe port into Utsira to protect incoming vessels from the strong, buffeting winds.

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Where to Eat in Utsira

  • Lighthouse Cafe (near the Lighthouse)
  • Dahmsgard Restaurant (Tel. 986 61 981)
  • Dalanalstet (Pub Restaurant – Tel. 418 52 330)
  • Island Supermarket – Joker (Tel: 52 74 92 20)

Accommodation in Utsira

* Our Bonus Blooper Video on Utsira

Finally, here is avideo we filmed whilst at Utsira … and then something happened…

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Things to do on Utsira Island … That’s a Wrap

If you are visiting Norway, then this enchanting, alluring and charismatic island must be on your Norwegian bucket list.

Have you already visited? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

🇳🇴 More Information for Your Trip to Norway

NORWEGIAN FJORDS AND HIKES: Begin your adventure with our comprehensive guides to Norway’s best hikes. Discover the breathtaking views from Ryten in Lofoten, the thrill of Kjeragbolten, or the iconic Pulpit Rock. Each guide offers essential tips and stunning locations to explore.

LOFOTEN ISLANDS: Plan an unforgettable road trip through the Lofoten Islands with our Lofoten Road Trip Guide. Learn about each must-visit spot and how to make the most of your journey in this picturesque region.

CULTURAL EXPERIENCES: Dive into the rich history and vibrant culture of Norway. Whether it’s exploring ancient stave churches in our Stave Churches Guide or celebrating with the locals during the 17th of May National Day, there’s something for every traveler.

CITY EXPLORATIONS: Discover the urban charms of Norway by visiting its beautiful cities. Whether you’re strolling through Trondheim or exploring Bergen, start with our guides to Trondheim to Bodø and the vibrant city life in Stavanger.

EXTENSIVE ITINERARIES: If you are beginning to plan your journey, take a look at our Two-Week Norway Itinerary for diverse ways to experience the country, from the fjords to the northern lights.

For a full exploration of what Norway has to offer, visit our comprehensive Norway Travel Guide.

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Planning Your Travels?

These are the travel resources we recommend and use when planning our trips.

For a morethorough list, visitourTravel Resources page here.

Utsira, Norway: Your Ultimate Guide to This Enchanting Island (2024)

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