Ferry crossings are everywhere in Norway. It is sometimes just easier to boat around the mountain than build a tunnel through it. Some crossings are time-savers so you don’t have to drive in and out of fjords, and others are a link to the outside world.
The Fosen ferry route between Flakk and Rørvik is very busy (above). They get a lot of traffic travelling to and from Trondheim and sometimes need three ferries to cope with the demand.
Picture: Oslo Docks
There are many different ferries to catch from Oslo. There are the local ferries that take passengers from island to island in the Oslo fjord. (The dome shaped ferry above.) There are international ferries such as the Colour Line boat that travels to Germany (as above) and then there is the famous party boat from Oslo to Copenhagen. This trip is popular with the Norwegians. The trip itself is more important than the destination. It is the norm to stay up all night to play at the casinos or dance at the discoteks only to land in Denmark to buy a pizza for the trip back.
Below – the ferry from Tromsø to Harstad
Above and the three pictures below – Ferry from Sommarøy to Senja
On the ferries you can certainly see some wonderful sights – great white mountains and little coastal villages, even the Northern Lights if you’re lucky. Above in the background is Håøya near Sommarøy, a mountain sticking high out of the water. It is a wildlife nature reserve for sea birds.
The ferry from Sommarøy to Senja takes you past some lovely islands and coastal villages.
Above – Ferry from Harstad to Tromsø
Many ferries are needed to connect small island villages to the mainland. In Norway they are really conscious of making everything accessible. Having a good network of ferries places emphasis on the value of rural communities. The route between Tromsø island and Harstad island is quiet busy as these are two of the largest cities in the north. However, out on the Troms coast there are small farming islands that only have a once-a-day service so when visiting you have to plan to stay over night.
These pictures above and below are of Breivikeidet, the last village before the first ferry crossing on the RV91, Tromsø to Alta. The crossing takes you to Lyngen, famous in the area for alpine skiing and glacier hiking.
Most ferries carry cars and trucks on a low deck. On some ferries the bow of the boat opens up to allow the traffic on and off. In the Summer, you can see many cyclists on a biking tour of Norway riding the ferries.
There are usually waiting lanes for the ferries and sometimes I get nervous when we are the last car in the fifth lane and there are a whole bunch of buses that are jumping cue but somehow we all squeeze on. I don’t think I’ve seen any car left behind.
Ferries certainly make a road trip more exciting. You have time to stretch your legs, de-psycho the kids, look at the other travellers, go outside and take in the fresh air and watch the scenery go by, or eat pølse and waffles. We always bring some home-made hot chocolate and fresh boller, or a tourist brochure.
Between Tromsø and Alta there are two ferry crossings very close together. When the first ferry bow is opening everyone drives like a bat-out-of-hell to get to the next ferry. I have no idea why (as everyone always makes it onto the next ferry) but everyone bunny-hops each other along the small country road as it winds around the fjord and mountains to get ahead. Sometimes I too get caught up in all the nervous driving energy.
It’s normally cold out on the water, especially when there is snow on the mountains. The crew usually waits until almost the last moment before calling everyone back to their cars. You have to move fast – out the cafe, down the stairs, between the trucks and buses, key to your car, belt up, start the car just in time for the speedway out. Sometimes we don’t make it as we have a baby and toddler in tow, but we are also the ones who like to pull over to the side on the mainland so everyone can pass us. This way we can enjoy a slow and relaxing tour through the Norwegian wilderness.
The most famous ferries of all are the Hurtigruten cruise boats. This is one of the major ways that tourists travel round to see the country. The cruise boats travel from Oslo and the fjords just above Bergen to the top of Norway and North Cape. The route stops at many ports and cities along the coast where many people end or begin their journeys. It is common for the locals to use this method of travel to get to the next town when bussing or flying isn’t practical. The Tromsø library Norwegian language reading group for women often have excursions on the ferries. A lovely way to relax and discuss their books.
The Hurtigruten cruises are actually seen as a Norwegian icon in Norway. The cruise boats connecting the North and South of Norway have been opperating for over 115 years. You can read about the Hurtigrutens history from their webpages.