East from Kristiansand, the Norwegian coastline of the Skagerak strait is made up of islets, skerries and coves. It is relatively protected but with rocky rather than sandy beaches. The Norwegian Skagerrak contains some of the busiest shipping routes in the world, with vessels from every corner of the globe. It also supports an intensive fishing industry
The principal centers along the coast, in order, are Risør, Lillesand, Grimstad and Arendal.
Risør – The Tree House Town
Risør (today called the Tree House Town) was struck by fire in 1861 and the entire center of the town was destroyed. However, Risør was quickly rebuilt with white wooden houses, and new regulations should prevent fires in the future. Vertical wooden paneling, straight roofs and windows with three panes are the norm today.
You can experience the special character when walking through the town’s picturesque center. Some of the town’s oldest houses which survived the fire, including Tanggata 28, built in the 1720s, can be seen in the Tangen neighborhood, The local tourist office provides a self-guided walking tour which can be downloaded as an app that can be used offline.
Risør is the sunniest spot in Norway, with an average of 266 hours of sunshine per month in June and July.
Lillesand – a popular holiday town
Lillesand is located in the most famous part of the archipelago along the Skagerak coast. It is a popular holiday town with a lively harbor overlooked by white clapboard houses. Once a major shipbuilding center. In the summer the population increases significantly, due to tourism and the many summer homes in the municipality.
The Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder refers to this town in several of his books, for example in Sophie’s World, where The Solitaire Mystery refers to Lillesand.
Grimstad – surrounded by small islands
Grimstad has some of the most atmospheric pedestrian streets on the Skagerak coast. It is a pretty laidback town, indelibly associated with Henrik Ibsen, who served his apprenticeship to a chemist here. Dating to 1916, the Ibsen Museum is Norway’s oldest museum.
Grimstad was struck by fire in 1863, and lost the houses on stilts that had earned the nickname “Little Venice”, but the town still enjoys a lovely setting, surrounded by small islands and features many restored wooden buildings.
Arendal – the liveliest town on the Norwegian Skagerak coast
Arendal is one of the liveliest towns on this stretch of coast, founded on the industries of shipping, forestry and mining. It developed into one of the wealthiest towns in Northern Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Walking through the old part of town, Tyholmen, you can still feel the spirit of the town’s golden days.
The Arendal Town Museum has extensive displays, delineating local history, and the Town Hall, previously the home of a merchant, is said to be one of the largest wooden buildings ever constructed in Norway.
The Norwegian Skagerak Coast, written by Tor Kjolberg