Checked Off My Norway Bucket List: Drive the Atlantic Road!

I’ve been fascinated by the Atlantic Road on Norway’s west coast since I learned about it a few years ago. It looked like a real life rollercoaster ride hopping from island to island along the outermost edge of the coast. Bad weather seemed to make it even more extraordinary.

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The road is one of Norway’s 18 official national tourist routes. It opened in 1989, and in 2005, it was voted Norway’s “Engineering Feat of the Century”. It is built on several small islands, skerries, and landfills and is spanned by seven bridges. Many consider it one of the world’s most beautiful drives as well.

We came at it from the north via Kristiansund after a visit to Trondheim. We drove through Atlantic Ocean Tunnel (an undersea tunnel about 3.5 miles long) from Kristiansund to the island of Averøy and made our way along Route 64 with a final destination of Molde.

A quick Internet search of the Atlantic Road will tell you it is a 5-mile stretch between Kårvåg and Vevang along Route 64 (WikipediaGoogle Maps, various articles). However, as you can see on the official site of National Tourist Routes in Norway, the full route is actually about 22 miles and goes all the way to Bud from Kårvåg on a series of smaller roads (Roads 64/242/663/238/235). The most dramatic stretch, however, is probably the 5-mile section between Kårvåg and Vevang.

Due to time constraints, we were unfortunately only able to drive the 5-mile stretch. Bad weather during our stay in Trondheim meant we had to use the morning of our departure for some must-see sightseeing and so we got on the road much later than planned. Also, we were delayed by an unexpected ferry ride which added some down time to our drive.

We didn’t get to the start of the Atlantic Road until 6:30PM! Yes, it stays light late during summertime, but we still had to get to our hotel in Molde that day and the kids could only handle so much in a day. And our stomachs were getting hungry for dinner as well.

For us, the weather was neither good nor bad. It was cloudy and drizzled on and off. In one way, that was good because it allowed us to get out of the car without getting soaked. But, on the other hand, a beautiful evening sun and clear skies would have added greatly to our enjoyment of the area.

Despite the constrained time and lackluster weather, it was an interesting experience to drive along the Atlantic Road and I’m glad we went out of our way to do it, but I was a little underwhelmed and feel it merits a revisit. Part of the reason I felt a little underwhelmed was that 5 miles is a very short stretch after 4 ½ hours of driving from Trondheim. Had we had time to drive and explore the full route I’m sure we would have felt it much more worthwhile.

The family along hiking path on Eldhusøya with Storseisundbrua in background

For us, the highlights were a short walk around the island of Eldhusøya and the drive over the main bridge Storseisundbrua. The island of Eldhusøya has an elevated path that goes around the island and provides views of the open ocean beyond. Along the path, there is a memorial to those lost at sea (and even a geocache!). Storseisundbrua is the longest bridge on the route and the route’s symbol. As you hit to crest of the bridge, you get a wonderful view of the road and the many little islands ahead. Too bad there wasn’t a stopping point there. Another interesting bridge we crossed was Myrbærholmbrua. It has specially built fishing walkways on either side. Had we had more time I would have liked to park and walk along them to see what kind of fish they were pulling in.

At the top of Storseisundbrua with a view of road and small islands ahead

The rest of the tourist route after we turned off for Molde seems to have some interesting attractions as well: Hågå with the broken-looking serpent-like marble sculpture called Columna Transatlantica, Askevågen at the end of the breakwater with glass walls for protection against the weather and spray, and Kjeksa with paths and steps leading down to the edge of the sea. They all seem worthy of visits. (Photo credits for images below: Nasjonale turistveger)

Once back in Los Angeles, my aunt shared with me a Norwegian article and video from Møre og Romsdal Reiseliv’s website describing seven “fresh experiences” you should make time for if you’re visiting the Atlantic Road.

As seen in the video, they recommend making time for the following activities:

  1. Float 550 meter around Eldhusøya (walk the elevated path)
  2. Go deep sea fishing with an expert (or fish off the walkways on the bridges)
  3. Visit the coastal town of Håholmen (and eat clipfish and experience Viking culture)
  4. See the artwork Columna Transatlantica
  5. Bike or hike the coastal trail at Farstad
  6. Windsurf or kitesurf on Farstadstranda
  7. Hike to the top of Stemshesten for an alternate view of Atlantic Road

One of those experiences, the Eldhusøya visit, we did have a chance to do, and others would not have been appropriate for our family, but I would have loved the opportunity to visit Håholmen, hike the coastal trail at Farstad, and see Columna Transatlantica with our own eyes (does it really look like toothpaste as my kids believe?). Those activities are on my list for next time.

My tips for travelers headed to the Atlantic Road – make sure you have lots of time to enjoy and explore and plan to drive the whole 22-mile route. If I have the opportunity to return to the area, driving the whole route with time to spare will be top priority. I would even consider bookending my visit with nights in Kristiansund and Molde (or maybe even on Håholmen) so that I could have a whole day along the route. The Atlantic Road deserves so much more time than we were able to give it, but I really enjoyed the introduction to it.

Checked Off My California Bucket List: See the Poppies!

My wish to see the yearly California poppies finally came true. Every spring for years, when news of the upcoming poppy season and then pictures of the current bloom (some years better than others) would come out, I would yearn to see them in person. It wasn’t until we recently had a soccer tournament in Lancaster that I realized the poppy fields weren’t as far away as I had thought.

The Lancaster tournament was about a 75-minute drive north, and actually a beautiful drive once we got onto the Antelope Valley Freeway (Route 14). From Lancaster, Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve was then only about 15 miles west. Our soccer tournament was too early in the season (end of February) to catch the poppies, but I knew then they were within reach.

We stayed in Los Angeles for Spring Break (first week of April), and I made a vow that we would see the poppies this year. The kids weren’t overly thrilled about the plan. They thought I should just be happy with the random poppies that had popped up around town along the roadsides. I powered through with my wish for the whole family to go, and as luck would have it, a friend of Sonny’s came along for the trip as well which was a nice distraction.

There had been news that poppy blooms were expected to be “moderate” this year and not the “jaw-dropping orange carpets” last seen in 2008 and 2010, but that didn’t stop interested people from making the trek. The park was advising visitors to come on weekdays instead of weekends due to the crowds and congested parking, so we headed to the reserve on a Thursday. The traffic cooperated and we were there in the minimum time anticipated. It was windy, as the park’s website had warned it often is, and cloudy, so we were grateful for sweatshirts we had brought along.

We began our visit at the interpretive center. It has an orientation video, some wildflower and wildlife exhibits, a gallery of botanical watercolor paintings, and a gift shop. Here I picked up a map of the trails. I also received one of the newly arrived park brochures that staff members were very excited to be able to hand out. I asked if they had a route to recommend, and of course they did, and then we were on our way.

Map from brochure by The Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association

The reserve consists of eight miles of trails through hills and fields of wildflowers with benches along way to enjoy the views. Our hike was a 3-mile loop on wide dirt paths with gentle to moderate slopes, nothing difficult at all. From the interpretive center, we headed to Kitanemuk Vista Point. Off in the distance, we saw fields of yellow and orange; and along the trail, we saw a wide variety of colorful wildflowers.

poppies and other wildflowers

The most amazing stretch of poppies was after the vista point and along the Antelope Trail Loop (between North and South trails). It was not a long stretch, but the poppies were close to the trail and abundant and beautiful. We felt lucky to have been guided to this particular area because it made the whole trip worth it.

The poppies weren’t as overall abundant and awe-inspiring as we were expecting, but I believe that was partly due to the weather that day. Since it was windy and cloudy and cool, all the poppies weren’t as open as they could be. Poppies curl up in cold weather.

At the reserve, there are strict rules to stay ON the paths and OUT of the poppy fields. Sadly, many people ignored or were unaware of those rules, and new paths had been created upon trampled flowers and grasses. In particular, I was deeply disturbed by two girls taking pictures of each other doing yoga poses in the field. For people who really want to traipse among the poppies, there’s a stretch along the main road leading to the entrance to the reserve where people can just park off the road and head onto land filled with poppies.

The California poppy was named California’s state flower in 1903, and coincidentally, April 6, the day we visited the reserve, is officially “California Poppy Day” (declared in 2010). “On California Poppy Day, all public schools and educational institutions are encouraged to conduct exercises honoring the California Poppy, including instruction about native plants, particularly the California Poppy, and the economic and aesthetic value of wildflowers; promoting responsible behavior toward our natural resources and a spirit of protection toward them; and emphasizing the value of natural resources and conservation of natural resources.”

Here’s some more interesting historical information about California’s state flower from the reserve’s brochure:

From brochure by The Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association

Staff members anticipate the bloom to possibly last until late April or early May depending on rain fall. Make sure to check Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve’s website for bloom status updates before heading out or call Poppy Reserve Wildflower Hotline at
(661) 724-1180.

Ideally, while in Antelope Valley, I would have liked to have added a visit to Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland to our outing. The woodland is just seven miles west of Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve. According to its website, it “protects and preserves an impressive stand of native Joshuas and junipers which once grew in great abundance throughout the valley.” Beautiful and interesting pictures can be seen on the Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park Pinterest page. I’ll keep it mind for my next trip to see the poppies.

Have you seen the poppies?

Checked Off My California Bucket List: Hike to the Hollywood Sign!

A hike to the Hollywood Sign has been on my California bucket list for a long time. About two years ago, our family attempted, but we failed. It was a new area to us and we started our outing too late in the day. I chalked it up as being a reconnaissance mission for a future visit.

This past holiday season I finally had a chance to try again. My family was in town for the holidays, and my 11-year-old niece expressed an interest in getting a good view of the sign. Quickly, a little group was assembled for an excursion to the sign. We were my sister, my niece, and my father (in the best attire he had for a hike—slacks and loafers!).

The view as we drove up Beachwood Canyon Drive, approaching what we thought would be the start of our hike

The view as we drove up Beachwood Canyon Drive, approaching what we thought would be the start of our hike

We had a little hiccup in the beginning. I began by taking them to the trailhead at the top of Beachwood Canyon, which I had figured out on our reconnaissance mission was a good place to start. I knew there had been some issues between neighbors and hikers/tourists and faintly remembered that the trailhead had been closed for a while, but I thought that was over. Turns out it wasn’t. The parking at the trailhead was still closed, but there were handouts that suggested we go to Griffith Observatory and begin our hike from there. We had no time constraints so we headed over there. Continue reading