The Atlantic Road: Angles of Beauty

Norway's infamous Atlantic Road
Norway's infamous Atlantic Road

The Atlantic Road. Or as they say in Norway, Atlanterhavsveien. Worthy of the grand finale in our mini-series of memorable roads.

Magellan and I spent twenty-four hours angling around The Atlantic Road, even though it’s short, zigzagging only 8.3 kilometres over an archipelago of islands.

You may recognize this road of islet-hopping causeways, viaducts, dams and eight sinuous bridges that jut out over the sea. Named Norwegian Construction of the Century, it’s been around since 1989. The Guardian called it the world’s best road trip. It’s been voted Norway’s best cycle route many times. A hotspot for ads for Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Ford GT and a bunch of other snazzy luxury vehicles, it’s also been called “the world’s best place for car testing.” Although considered one of the ten most extreme roads in the world because of sudden fierce storms in the Norwegian Sea, Hjulrundt, our rented motorhome, caught it on a pleasant weekend. I like this description of the road’s undulation: “like the tracks of a roller coaster looping high over bridges between the small islands that sit close to the mainland, only to descend again to hug the coastline alongside the brooding, steel-gray, furious waves of the ocean.”

At the four stopping points, Magellan and I tramped for hours on coastal paths and inland trails through heath-covered hillocks, photographing the road from different angles and, as on every scenic route in Norway, enjoying the amenities.

Like the Eldhusoya project that has an elevated walkway meandering around the island of the same name and a 360-degree view of the Storseisundet Bridge (the grandest one), the sea and nearby skerries.

Walking along a coastal path, we spotted a giant crab perched over a crevice. Students from a school in Averøy led by the Norwegian artist Eirik Audunson Skaar collected plastic garbage from the shoreline to build this sculpture of a snow crab—how perfect an art piece is that? As was the funding for Plastic Crab, which came mainly from an environmental fee on every plastic bag sold in Norway.

On the coastal path at Hågå on the island of Vevang, we saw what looked like Greek columns of white marble that had fallen from the sky and smashed into pieces scattered among the tussocks and ponds. What a clashing dissonance between this artwork and its environment: manmade classical beauty in pure white marble contrasted with nature’s pristine landscape in muted colours. It was jarring, a discord, like bagpipes in a mosque. To some people, these pieces of white marble look like fluted whipped cream dispensed from a can. Others see them as the vertebrae of mythical marine creatures, stark-white bone stripped of all flesh by the savage sea.Toothpaste? Apparently that’s another interpretation.

Struggling to understand this unusual piece of environmental art (as the Norwegians knew many visitors would), we found the explanatory signage.

Jan Freuchen’s Columna Transatlantica represents Norway’s communication, a reminder that the sea has been Norway’s connection with the outside world since ancient times. The piece also references mythology, specifically the Norse Midgard (World) Serpent that grew so large it surrounded the earth and grasped its own tail—perhaps like the Atlantic Road coiling among the islands?

We’ve mentioned this before but I’ll say it again—Norway, like no other country we’ve been in, caters to campers. After an afternoon on the Atlantic Road, we drove a few kilometres to Kårvåg on the island of Averøy, where we camped at Atlanterhavsveien Sjostuer, in spot #1 on a Saturday night!

Watching the quiet sea mirror the light of day, we postponed dinner until the reflection surrendered into the obscurity of night.

As beautiful the next morning, the light was more watery, a pirr of wind ruffling the waves. Not a stormy sea for dramatic photos and adventurous driving like Magellan may have been hoping for, but perfect for fishing.

Eager to bring out his collapsible rod and spinning reel, Magellan drove us to Myrbærholmbrua, the Myrbærholm Bridge that our guidebook said was the best place on the Atlantic Road to cast from. The buckets of fish alongside each reeling-them-in fisherperson proved our guidebook was correct, that here “a great catch of cod is all but guaranteed even for just hobby fishers.” Magellan raced down to join them.

Standing on the bridge walkway in her sporty red coat, an outdoorsy-looking grey-haired woman I’ll call Bodil, which translates as leader, was catching a fish every two minutes. She had multiple hooks on her rod and was casting at the edge of the current. Magellan, with his single hook, angled over to a spot near the centre of the current. Not a bite. Meanwhile Bodil had added a dozen more fish to her bucket. “Come over close to me,” she beckoned to him. Within a few minutes, he’d snaggled a little coalfish in the belly.

The time for angling for fish and photo-ops was over. We had one last drive of The Atlantic Road, arching our heads back for final views until Road 64 straightened ahead and we stopped to cook his coalfish—despite its unappetizing name, Magellan angled us a tasty lunch.


Here’s the story behind Norwegian artist Jan Freuchen’s Columna Transatlantica.

And here’s a CBC story beyond Eirik Audunson Skaar’s Plastic Crab.

9 Responses

  1. Well, being a Scot my first thought is, “At What Cost”
    Architecture is very pleasing to the eye as the whole project looks to well constructed, I am hopeful we are looking at stainless steel to weather the storm, so to speak.
    At your birthday local, ?????? I was wandering if there was such a road connecting you to the mainland?
    The drone adds a whole new level of photographic knowledge to the tour, very awesome.
    Are you allowed to walk on the land, or only the metal trails?

    I will assume they have patrols on this road to alleviate any breakdowns as there certainly is not room for such events.

    As always not sure the art in the water is to my liking, the star fish, sadly, is at least realistic to any beach stroll in the world, garbage as art, “Thought provoking”, interesting.
    Worthy of a drive, I am sure.
    Thanks for sharing 👍👍🎣

    1. The cost in July 1989 was 122 million NOK, 25% of it was financed with tolls and the rest was public grants. Yes, you can drive to the mainland from Lofoten via bridges and tunnels as we did or take the ferry from Bodo. And on the islands around the Atlantic Road, there are lots of pathways in addition to the elevated walkways. They’ve done an amazing job of making it inviting.

  2. We have heard about this highway for years (the Swedes I worked with talked about it as well). The pictures and descriptions of the route are (as usual) excellent. I was wondering about the phrase “It’s been voted Norway’s best cycle route many times” as it looks pretty narrow and from what I have heard can be subject to crazy weather. I was also wondering about walking – did not see any pedestrian access across those bridges. Loved the video with your drone at the end – Dallas and Pat

    1. We were hoping for the “crazy weather” when the waves break right over the the road. But that would have been extremely poor conditions for driving in a motorhome.
      Although the lanes on the bridges didn’t have a shoulder for cycling, the max speed is 80 km/h on most of the highways, so reasonably safe. The “fishing bridge” had a pedestrian walkway.

  3. Wow! What a journey. Love the photos and video. It makes me wonder if the islands ever get flooded during storms or high tides? Would the road be closed?

    1. A reference I found states “The bridge becomes a truly treacherous drive during storms. Many people have a fear that when they drive over a bridge, they’ll end up in the water… Rain or shine, even during a storm, the road is open.”

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