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How to Visit the Oslo Fjord Islands in Norway: the Perfect Island Hopping Guide

How to Visit the Oslo Fjord Islands in Norway: the Perfect Island Hopping Guide

What would you think if I told you there was a fjord in Oslo? You will undoubtedly have heard about cruising the mighty Norwegian fjords, a bucket list experience for many, but I bet you haven’t heard of Oslofjord.

I will let you in on a secret. Oslo is where you will find Oslofjord, a stunning waterway in southeast Norway, home to several stunning Fjord islands.

And what might interest you is that you can reach the islands of Norway’s inner Oslo fjord on a short trip. Yes, that’s right; a significant European capital has fjord islands that can be reached in under 10 minutes by ferry.

You can go fjord sightseeing on an Oslo fjord cruise or spend your time island hopping in the Oslofjord. It is one of the fun things to do in Oslo and a great way to see the beauty of these Norwegian islands.

In this post, I will tell you how to travel to the Oslofjord islands from Oslo and what you will see on each island.

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view to sea from the island of Hovedøya

Are there fjords in Oslo?

If you have ever wondered if Oslo has any fjords, the answer is yes; the nearest fjord to Oslo is a huge one called Oslofjord (Oslofjorden).

Oslofjord is a stunning 100km long waterway accessible by ferry from Aker Brygge in Oslo and home to the inner fjord islands.

Don’t expect huge mountains to rise from inky waters, as is the case if you go on a Norwegian fjord cruise, as there are no mountains in Oslofjord; however, it is surrounded by forested hills so there is still plenty of beautiful scenery to see.

What is a fjord in Norway?

A fjord is the name given a long, narrow stretch of sea or lake that has land at three sides and an inlet to the ocean. Fjords can have steep mountains or cliffs rising from the water, making them a truly phenomenal sight.

Norway has over 17000 fjords, mainly to the west coast, with two listed as Unesco heritage sites; Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord.

What is there to do in Oslofjorden?

There are plenty of things to do in Oslo, and visiting Oslofjord on a day trip is one of them. You can organise your own Oslofjord island-hopping day trip or book an Oslo fjord cruise.

From exploring the holiday island of Lindoya, with its pretty red and yellow wooden cabins and beautiful coastal area, to walking around Hovedøya, home of Norway’s best-preserved medieval ruins and a protected flora reserve, there is lots to see. And, of course, there are a multitude of water activities to do on Oslofjord, including kayaking, paddle-boarding and swimming.

One of the most popular things in Oslo is going on a fjord cruise.

The best Oslo fjord cruise takes you sightseeing on a sailing ship to channel your inner Viking and view the islands from the water.

Other experiences include a 2 hr silent Oslo fjord cruise in an electric boat or an evening cruise to the fjords, including a seafood buffet.

Or you can combine a Grand Tour of Oslo with a Fjord Cruise

By booking your cruise through Get Your Guide, you can be assured that you can cancel within 24 hours if you need to.

coastal area with small houses and yellow wild flowers in one of the Oslo fjord islands

Getting to Oslo fjord by ferry

At first glance, it seems pretty confusing to find where to board the Oslo ferry, which ferry to get on and which islands are best to visit in one day, but don’t worry; I have you covered.

First, you must download the Ruter App to buy your ferry tickets. You can also use this app to purchase tickets for the trains and buses in Oslo. It might seem like a faff having to download an app to buy travel tickets, but it is pretty easy to use once you have it.

You can buy a one-day pass in the app if you plan to visit more than one fjord island on your day trip.

Aker Brygge, by the Nobel Peace Centre, is where you will find the main ferry terminal in Oslo. Each ferry stop has an information stand showing the route number for your destination.

If you have arrived in Oslo by Metro, get off at Nationaltheatret and walk straight towards the water.

If you plan to island hop around Oslofjord, you can catch different ferries from each island. They are as regular as clockwork, so you never have to wait long for one to arrive.

Travel Tip: When you arrive on an island and are off the ferry, take a photo of the timetable on the information board to help you plan your schedule.

ferry sailing across the inner Oslo fjord

Map of Oslo Ferry Routes

Oslo Ferry B1 is the ferry you can take to five main islands and runs throughout the year. The B2 ferry only takes you to Hovedøya, Gresshølmen and Langøyene in summer.

The Oslo ferries are on time and fast to load and unload passengers, so be aware that if you are not there on time, even by a few minutes, the ferry will have gone!

infographic of ferry routes

Best Islands to Visit in Oslo

There are six main islands in the Oslo Fjords, and I visited three of them in one day. It is one of the best things to do in Oslo (apart from seeing the city’s street art!), and I recommend adding an Oslo fjord cruise to your itinerary.

My Oslo island hopping itinerary was as follows:

Aker Brygge to Hovedøya takes 10 minutes. I spent 90 minutes exploring Hovedøya.

From Hovedøya to Lindøya takes 6 minutes, and I spent 90 minutes on Lindøya.

From Lindøya to Gresshølmen took 15 minutes, and I spent 60 minutes on Gresshølmen.

Travel Tip: I would advise arriving at the ferry point at least 10 – 15 minutes before the ferry is due to come, as on our last island of the day, the queue was long, and I nearly didn’t get on due to passenger capacity.

Visiting Hovedøya – my first Oslo island of the day

Hovedøya is uninhabited and the closest fjord island to Oslo. It is the one I would recommend you see first. It takes 10 minutes to reach and is where you will find peace and solitude away from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

The island has a little harbour where the locals from Oslo keep fishing boats and a few pleasure vessels. It is also home to Norway’s best-preserved medieval ruins, the 12th-century Cistercian monastery, and a protected site for flora and fauna.

One of the reasons for hopping over to Hovedøya is to enjoy an island walk through quiet woodland and past secluded beaches and rocky coves. The island has a sandy beach, and the water is excellent for swimming in summer, so don’t forget your costume.

Hovedøya marina in Oslofjord

Exploring the island of Hovedøya

Once you arrive in Hovedøya, head towards the harbour; you will see a sign pointing toward the beach and the Hovedøya walking path.

If you need the conveniences before you start exploring, you will find them in a small red building in the harbour.

Sailing boats in Hovedøya

Soon after leaving the harbour, you will arrive at Hovedøya’s beach. It was all but empty on my early morning visit; however, when I passed by the beach aboard the ferry to Lindøya, I could see it had become jam-packed with visitors.

If you want to experience Hovedøya in summer without the crowds, ensure you get here early. I arrived at 10 am and had the island pretty much to myself.

Hovedøya beach in the inner Oslo fjords

There are lots of craggy coves in Hovedøya. This is the perfect escape if you enjoy being alone and at one with nature. I had brought a pastry and drink and sat at this spot to enjoy them.

rocky inlet in Hovedøya

Historic Hovedøya

Even though the island is small and indeed walkable in an hour or so, Hovedøya was once a military base and was in use until 1939.

After the war, Hovedøya was named the “island of the lost girls” by locals. This was a reference to women who had been in relationships with German soldiers who had been banished there.

House with arched windows in Hovedøya in inner Oslo fjords

The island is covered in woodland, and you will see many coastal wildflowers on your walk. Several areas are roped off, as these are part of a protected nature reserve on Hovedøya.

wild flowers

Following the pathways around the island will lead you to a cute cafe nestled under mighty oak trees and next to the medieval ruins for which the fjord island is most well-known in Norway.

If you want to bring food to Hovedøya, you can barbeque in designated areas.

red building in grassy area with information board in Hovedøya

Hovedøya’s 12th-century monastic ruins are some of the best-preserved ruins in Norway. The monastery was once home to a band of English Cistercian monks who swore an oath to silence and communicated only by sign language.

In the 16th century, the monastery was burnt down due to reforms, and debris was transported to the mainland to help build Akershus Fortress, one of Oslo’s most visited attractions.

monastic ruins in Hovedøya

After visiting the medieval ruins, you will be almost back at the harbour and ready to hop back on the fjord ferry.

Next stop, Lindøya!

red roof building in Hovedøya

Visiting Lindøya – the second island stop of the day

The island of Lindøya is a stark contrast to Hovedøya as it is Oslo’s hotspot for local holiday homes. You will see many red, yellow and green wooden houses with local families and a few lucky visitors enjoying the warm summer sunshine in beautiful surroundings.

A perfect place to go swimming is off the wooden pontoon or take out a kayak or paddleboard and enjoy the calm waters of Oslofjord.

Every turn you take on Lindøya makes you smile because this small island is so picturesque, and on a summer’s day, it makes you realise why so many visitors love Oslo and its unique fjord islands.

Things to See in Lindøya

red wooden building with the sign Lindøya ost on it
ferry coming towards the dock in Lindøya

Once off the ferry, you can follow the path into the shaded woods and past several traditional houses. You’ll notice that the properties are all the same three colours; red, green or yellow; this is by law and makes for a charming feel to the island.

A large open field with grazing cattle and a gravel pathway leads you further into the island.

cows in a field in Lindøya
yellow house in Lindøya

Exploring Lindøya

After a short walk, you will come across the island’s cafe/supermarket. It’s a place to stop for a cold beer or ice cream and seems to be at the hub of island life. It’s also where you will find the island’s only public conveniences.

Many locals were in the shop buying groceries and fishing provisions, and kids were choosing bags of sweets. It had a real old-fashion feel to it, which I loved. I also loved the matcha ice cream I bought!

colourful houses in Lindøya in the inner Oslo fjord

Continue walking until you come to the water’s edge and find somewhere to sit to enjoy the views. I found a bench to sit on and watched the small fishing boats bobbing about on the water; it was idyllic.

Further around the cove are a wooden pier and a swimming pontoon. On my visit, a few local kids were using it. They were having fun jumping into the water, which reminded me of simpler times. I wished I had brought my costume for a swim. Make sure to pack yours!

pebble beach in the island of Lindøya
Angie standing on a wooden pier in Lindøya

The views from every part of Lindøya are magical, and the wildflowers in the fields are a reminder of the untouched beauty in the Oslofjord.

The nearby little white church could almost have been put there as a prop, as it made for such a beautiful image.

wildflower field in Lindøya
red house with bench in a large grassy area in Lindøya

After about an hour or so, I arrived back at the ferry dock and agreed that Lindøya was our favourite island. It has got such a calming vibe I didn’t want to leave; however, it was time to island hop over to our next stop Gressølmen.

Please note that if you want to go to Nakkholmen from here, you must go to Lindøya Vest ferry dock on the other side of the island.

Red wooden building at the dock in Lindøya

Visiting Gresshølmen – our last island of the day

When I reached Gressølmen, it was mid-afternoon. There were considerably more visitors on the ferries than earlier, another great reason to get up early and explore the Oslofjord without the crowds.

It took 15 minutes to sail from Lindøya to Gressølmen, and after I disembarked, I followed the stream of visitors up the unmade path through the woods and to the restaurant.

Things to See in Gressølmen

Gressholmen Kro attracts tourists, day trippers, and local workers who visit the restaurant for lunch. What an idyllic place to spend your lunch hour!

It was buzzing when I arrived in the afternoon, and I had to wait a few minutes for a table. As I hadn’t brought any food, I chose to visit this island in particular as I had heard it had a great restaurant.

The menu is only in Norwegian, so you will need help deciphering it from one of the staff. Many diners opted for fresh mussels with bread and relish; however, I am not a lover of mussels, so I went for a ham baguette, chips, and beer. Not very adventurous, but tasty as a quick snack.

Red wooden building on Gressholmen

The seascape from Gressølmen is tranquil. However, I felt it didn’t have the same special feeling the other two islands had and felt a bit neglected and unloved.

To reach the water, I had to walk through woodlands and across rocky terrain, and once I arrived at the main point of the island, I was greeted by loud music being played.

This part of the island seems to be where the younger Oslo community congregates to party. It was not the calming vibes I expected after visiting the other two islands.

view of church from Gressholmen island
boat on the water in Gressholmen

I didn’t hang around for too long and followed the trail back to the ferry port via the flower fields (which I did like).

The ferry queue heading back from Gressølmen to Oslo was insane, so make sure you head to the ferry terminals in plenty of time to get on the ferry. Once they are full, they shut the gates and go!!

Angie in the middle of a wildflower field in Gressholmen

How much time do you need in Oslofjord?

On my day trip to the islands in Oslofjord, I spent five hours but could easily have spent longer. I went purely to explore the walking paths and sights on each of the three islands but didn’t spend time on the beaches or swimming.

If you want to enjoy the water, I suggest adding another two hours to your travel itinerary. Also, be on one of the early ferries from Oslo to see the islands when they aren’t too busy.

Can you camp on the Oslo Fjord islands?

You can camp in the Oslo fjord on Langøyene, which is free.

Langøyene is a big island with a nudist beach; it also has areas for ball games. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, all the islands are very different!

Two other Oslofjord islands you can visit.

Bleikøya is a tiny island with just one family living on it. It is a nature reserve and is an essential haven for nesting birds.

Nakkhølmen is another tiny island with a few cottages and a beach.

Angie’s Final Thoughts

When visiting Oslo, a day of island hopping in Oslofjord should be at the top of your itinerary. Exploring a part of Oslo far removed from the busy city center is fantastic, and I loved it.

Oslo’s fjord islands are at their best in summer but can still be visited in winter; remember that the ferry service will be less frequent, and some routes may stop altogether. You can check ferry timings on the website.

Please Pin for Future Travel to Norway

Are you looking for further Oslo travel inspiration? Please check out the following posts:

Grünerløkka: 10 Best Things to Do in Oslo’s Quirky Neighbourhood

Tjuvholmen: 8 Best Things to See in Oslo’s Modern Art Neighbourhood

Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo: Norway’s Most Unusual Tourist Attraction

Are you looking for further Norway travel inspiration? Please check out the following posts:

16 Great Reasons Why Tromso in Summer Is Worth Visiting

Senja Norway: How to Spend One Day on Senja Island in Summer

14 Great Reasons To Visit the Lofoten Islands in Summer


Sunday 4th of June 2023

Such an awesome and thorough guide on the Oslo Fjord Islands! Thanks!


Thursday 1st of June 2023

Norway has been tossed around a lot lately for our next family trip. Pinning this for later!

Jennifer Record

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Great recommendations.. I always love to travel an sightsee by boat whenever possible..unique way to see popular spots


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

This is the first time I heard about a fjord and it sounds amazing! So many cool things to do and to see. It’s like a haven of green and seas! Definitely, saving for future travels!


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

That's great that I have highlighted the fjords to you. I hope you get there one day.


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Having visitors Oslo, I was unaware that the Fjord was so close to the capital.


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Yes its amazing that the fjord is a quick ferry ride from Oslo.