The local boat or ferry is the lifeline for small communties. For the visitor, they offer a chance to meet the locals and see fabulous scenery few others get to see.
Nothing is more rewarding than going off the beaten track in Northern Norway. The best way to experience a remote area is find yourself a local boat or ferry route. They typically make a round trip from a bigger fishing village or settlement to small or minuscule settlements on islands or mainland locations with no road connection. Even settlements with 1 or 2 inhabitants get a boat call a few times a week. We have also mentioned the accommodation we know of on the islands and local communities.
LangfjordXpressen is as remote as you get it
The Tanafjord is a wide and open fjord surrounded by low hills, found in the far north of Norway. Strewn around the fjord, there are several tightly knit settlements. More than 30 people live in Nervei, but only a handful live in Langfjordnes and Laggo. Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday you can do a “cruise” out of Sjånes. If the weather is good, you can get off the boat at a stop and amble around a bit. If well planned, you can also stay the night in Langfjordnes.
MåsøyXpressen and RolvsøyXpressen sightsee the furthest north
Just west of the North Cape there is an archipelago of small islands, all with a long history of fishing. The biggest settlement is Havøysund, with some 1000 people, at the end of the Norwegian Scenic Route. From there, there are boat routes to Ingøy (20 inhabitants), Rolvsøy (80) and Måsøya (40) people. From Ingøy you can take a stoll to Fruholmen fyr, the world’s northernmost lighthouse. Some days a week, you can go to an island in the morning, and get back to Havøysund in the afternoon. There is accommodation in Ingøy and Rolvsøy (Tufjord).
Bygderuta takes you to seaviews and camels
Hammerfest, which is a real city surrounded by almost empty coastal landscapes, the trip with the SørøyXpressen, informally known as “Bygderuta” (The county route”). The big island of Sørøya has a number of minuscule communities under steep mountains along a barren coast. The route takes some 2 hours,and calls at the various ports in a different order depending on the day of the week. Make a sightseeing cruise out of it, or get off at Akkarfjord for a hike to lovely Kjøttvikvarden. You can stay in Akkarfjord, either in the school or on a camel farm.
AltafjordXpressen plies the mighty fjord
The island of Seiland is one of Norway’s biggest islands yet has less than 150 inhabitants. The scenery is dramatic, with towering peaks, deep valleys and a big glacier crowning it all. If you take the AltafjordXpressen, you can see all this natural beauty from the boat. At Altneset, a converted boarding school provides upgraded accommodation. Or you can study all the beaty from the boat.
LoppaXpressen runs between the glaciers and the ocean
The coast lining the might peaks of the Øksfjordjøkelen glacier is full of drama. Yet, in small coves there are several settlements. Nuvsvåg, Bergsfjord, Sandland, Sør-Tverrfjord and the island of Loppa are all connected with the main centre of Øksfjord with the LoppaXpressen. Glimpses of the glacier, mighty peaks and a surprising amount of greenery; the variation is endless. There is accommodation in some of the settlements, or you just do the cruise for the landscape and local life.
The Skjervøy-Burfjord boat crosses the fjord under the glacier
The boat route going between the busy fishing town of Skjervøy and Burfjord is the lifeline for small communities with no road connections. From Valanhamn, you see the Øksfjord Glacier across the fjord, whereas in Reinfjord you’re right under the mighty mountains. Spildra is a historic island in the middle of the fjord. You can do the boatride as a landscape tour, or stay at Spildra island overnight.
The Bellvik ferry takes you to abandoned islands
The ferry from Bellvika, a short drive west of Tromsø, to Vengsøy Island makes a detour a couple of times a week. It calls at the low lying cluster of islands called Musvær, at the bird sanctuary of Risøy and the minuscule settlement of Mjølvik. Most passengers are tromsøites with roots and summer houses on the islands. On the way, you see a hundreds of islands, peaks and mountains on the bigger islands and houses and huts in a landscape that was more much more inhabited. There is no accommodation out here, except on Vengsøy. Experience campers can camp on the island of Sandøya.
Bring the bike to the Viking islands
The Bjarkøy archipelago is a cluster of smaller and larger islands, mostly low-lying with agricultural land, sandy beaches, seacliffs, a kittiwake colony and colourful settlements strewn around. The old church, the local museum and lots of Viking graves are among the cultural attractions. The tourist board of Harstad hires out bikes you can use for the day, and you can visit the coffee nook of local shops on some of the islands. There is also good accommodation on several islands.
How do you book?
The boats listed here are seldom full. In fact, most of them could need more passengers. You can use your Troms og Finnmark summer ticket or pay via the apps Snelandia (LangfjordXpressen, MåsøyXpressen, RolvsøyXpressen, Bygderuta, AltaXpressen and LoppaXpressen) or Troms Billett Skjervøy-Kvænangen, Bellvik Ferry and the Bjarkøy boat. Usually, you can also pay cash and credit card on board too. There is, however, no pre-booking.
How do you stay on the islands?
Many of the mentioned places have accommodation. We have tried to link to the ones we know of. There might be others, simpler places and air bnb. In small communities, you should always prebook accommodation. This is because they might close if they don’t expect anyone. Or maybe it’s full, and you have no alternative. If you just want to stay for a few hours, it can be possible some days of the week at some location. Study the schedule carefully, and maybe double check with the local tourist board before setting off.
How do you find the schedule?
The schedule is found on Snelandia.no ( LangfjordXpressen, MåsøyXpressen, RolvsøyXpressen, Bygderuta, AltaXpressen and LoppaXpressen ) and Troms Fylkestrafikk.