A road trip from Oslo to Kristiansand through the southern coast of Norway, stopping in smaller towns and camping in beautiful landscapes along the way.
We have been living in Norway since 2014 and we had never traveled south from Oslo.
We had 4 days vacation in May and we decided it was time to get to know the southern coast. We rented a car with Nabobil, packed our tent and there we went.
Click HERE for the map with pins
Driving along the coast, stopping whenever something caught our attention
The plan was to drive from Oslo as far as the city of Kristiansand and then from there turn back to Oslo. This way we were sure we would reach Kristiansand and then depending on how much time we had left, stop in other towns on the way back.
Wild camping in Norway
We decided to camp because it is something we really love to do because it gave us more freedom to choose where to go and because it is a very cheap alternative to hotels or Airbnb, which can be quite expensive in Norway.
The yellow pins in the map above are the places we decided to camp for the night. I will talk a bit more about them later on in this post and you can open the map to see exactly where they are located.
Norwegians are very outdoorsy people and camping is a big part of their culture.
In Norway, you can put up a tent anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains, as long as you keep at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house and you show respect for nature. If you want to stay for more than two nights in the same place, you must ask the landowner's permission.
The biggest city in the south
Kristiansand is the fifth largest city in Norway and it's very popular in the summer season due to its good weather and nice beaches.
From Oslo to Kristiansand we took about 5 hours (it would have taken around 4h without traffic)
Kvadraturen is the city center. It was built on top of a sandy plain and has a very geometrical plan with rectangular squares, long blocks and cross streets, something that is not very common to find in Norway.
There you can stroll along Markens Street, the main pedestrian street filled with nice stores and restaurants. We were surprised how many restaurants had a lunch deal! We managed to have an amazing lunch at a reasonable price.
In Kvadraturen my favorite part was definitely our walk along the fjord in the city promenade that ends in Bystranda, a huge city beach with nice places to sit close to the water and an amazing view.
We heard that the Forest north of the city it's also an amazing place to visit, surrounded by nature, lakes and incredible viewpoints, but unfortunately, we didn't have time.
Fiskebrygga was my absolute favorite part of Kristiansand. It is a former fish landing on both sides of the Gravane Canal, which separates the city center from Odderøya.
It just felt so typical Norwegian, with wooden colorful buildings, a wooden deck to relax closer to the water and tones of restaurants and shops.
It has a famous fish market that unfortunately was closed when we were there. The canal is still heavily used by the fish industry and you can see fisherman's boats and loading docks everywhere.
Just around the corner, it's the Kilden Performing Arts Center. An amazing new building by ALA architects. I strongly recommend a quick visit to see the wavy roof and the cool interiors.
The island of Odderøya is a former fortress now used for recreational purposes. It is within walking distance from the city center. We came across Odderøya totally by chance but I'm so glad we did!
It is like a small nature paradise. It has everything! Several small beaches, grass plains to lay in the sun, picnic tables, small forest areas and stone paths along the water that take you to secret little beaches.
Lillesand & Justøya
We found a secret place to camp!
We left Kristiansand and started heading back to Oslo. Our first stop was Justøya.
We heard about Justøya from a Norwegian friend and for me, it was my favorite place of our trip!
Justøya or Justøy is an Island in the Lillesand municipality. It is connected to the mainland by a very long and narrow bridge. We drove along the main road, through farms and big beautiful houses with the most perfect gardens I have ever seen, until we reached the old outport, Brekkestø.
There isn't much happening in Brekkestø, we couldn't even find a proper restaurant, but the view from the port is incredible! From there we could see other smaller islands, some of them super small with only one house. We realized that many people live on these islands and can only reach them by boat from this port.
We decided to spend the night in Justøya and we needed to find a spot to camp. I knew there where several small "hidden" beaches and I had marked on my map one I thought would be nice but we didn't have much information about it and we weren't sure how to reach it.
We drove on a very narrow curvy road that ended in the forest. We walked a bit through the trees and finally reached the beach. It was just perfect!
We had it just for ourselves and everything we needed was there: a small toilet, a place to make a fire, a breathtaking view and even an abandoned canoe that we ended up using.
We mounted our tent, made dinner in our little oven, fell asleep watching the sun setting in the water and on the next day we spent the whole time sunbathing.
I still think of this day as one of the best days of my life! It was so relaxing and romantic.
We weren't planning to visit Lillesand but after our day camping we wanted to get some food in a restaurant and so we decided to stop there. The city surprised us (in a good way) and we ended up ordering pizzas and eating outside in the sun sitting in a small beach near the port.
I fell in love with the traditional white wooden houses, the crafty local stores, and the cute port. The weather was so nice, like a true summer day! We even bought the most delicious ice-cream in Lillis Gelato Cafe.
Arendal & Hove national park
You need to taste Munkers!
We drove for 45min from Lillesand to Arendal. On the way, we made a quick stop in Kaldvell, a beautiful park with waterfalls.
The Disney film Frozen is set in a fictional kingdom named Arendelle, which is loosely based on the city of Arendal. Me being a big Disney fanatic I was so excited to visit the city but ended up being a bit disappointed. Arendal is very pretty, don't take me wrong, but it has nothing to do with the city you see in the movie.
A nice area to visit in the city is Pollen, the inner harbor of Arendal where the fish market, pubs, and restaurants are located. Here you'll find Strand Cafe where we ate for the first time a Munker, one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life! It was so delicious that we had to go back and buy more.
Another area I really liked was Tyholmen. It is in the highest part of the town and dates back to the 17th century with cute wooden houses.
Hove national park
Our camping spot for the night was on a beach in Hove national park. You can camp there for free if the summer season hasn't started and the official Camping grounds are still closed.
Hove is mostly nature: sandy beaches with shallow waters on one side and long stone beaches with big waves on the other. The landscapes are truly beautiful!
It is a very popular place for families during summer but in May we were basically the only ones there which just felt so special.
Kragerø & Kill
The oldest fisherman's settlement!
Our last Stop before Oslo was Kragerø. To get here from Alesund we took a bit more than 2 hours because of all the traffic.
Kragerø was one of Norway's largest port cities and one of the oldest fisherman's settlements. Now it is a popular place to go on summer vacations for people that live in Oslo. It is also famous from the paintings of Edvard Munch.
We had a lovely walk around the city center, through narrow and crooked cobblestone streets and colorful wooden houses.
We visited Gunnarsholmen Kystfort og Badeplass, a fort and a beautiful pool that's connected to the fjord.
We also crossed the bridge to Øya (that literally mean the island) and did a small hike up to Veten viewpoint, which I totally recommend!
Before getting back to Oslo we stopped in Kil and had lunch at Wesselgården Brygghus. The food was amazing! I recommend the blåskjell and the apple pie.
Someone told us that Kil was the first agglomerate of houses before Kragerø existed. It is very small with only a handful of big houses with their gardens to the water.
All in all the trip was just perfect! I loved the close relationship every town had with the ocean and how authentic Norwegian everything was. The landscapes are beautiful and camping was such a great decision. There was a lot left to see so we will need to come back one day for sure.
Watch the VIDEOS from our trip here: