Anne-Laure Murier - Rodolphe Ragu - 2012-06-14
Is Tourism in the Far North possible? The answer is an emphatic yes on the Island of Sommarøy, north of the Arctic Circle and 22 miles west of Tromsø, where travellers soak up the good vibrations of midnight swims and boat trips on the Norwegian Sea.
Sommarøy seems so inaccessible that it could also be called the ‘Island-at-the-End-of-the-World.’ To get there from Tromsø, itself 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, you first have to cross a bridge connecting the island of Tromsøya with Kvaløya, Norway’s fifth largest island. You then follow a road taking you through beautiful sea and mountain landscapes of ever increasing wilderness until you get to "Sommarøybrua" - Sommarøy Bridge.
But even when you get to the crossing point, further advance is uncertain. In winter, the wind can interfere with the traffic lights, making the 522 metre crossing somewhat difficult. After another hour’s drive, covering a distance of only 21 miles, we finally come to Sommarøy, the village from which the island is named (or maybe vice-versa.) Sommarøy, means "Summer island." But the name is no joke: with its white sandy beaches and blue water lapping its shores, the island is indeed a small piece of paradise. And you won’t find any crowds here since there are only 200 inhabitants.
However, a "Summer Island" wouldn’t really deserve its name unless you can swim there. So a midnight swim in June in Sommarøy is of course possible; but you’ll have to brace yourself – the sea temperature is 6°C! The faint-hearted are advised to refrain! Even though the sun never sets here in summer, the Norwegian Sea still reminds you that Arctic glaciers are not far away.
The two typical activities of Sommarøy: Fishing and Boat trips
At Sommarøy, besides contemplating the midnight sun and northern lights, a trip in a fishing boat is an obvious choice. Fishing is indeed the island’s main activity. When it operates at full capacity, Sommarøy’s fishery is the largest in Northern Norway, with 450,000 kg of fish per day. The main icon of this industry, is the skrei - or migratory cod -, which makes up some of the best dishes in restaurants such Emma's Drommekjokken in Tromsø.
So if you decide to set out, fishing line in hand, on a boat trip we recommend that you do so aboard the Skaaskjaer. With its circular bridge protected by a low ship’s rail, a cosy living room equipped with bench seats, sonar and a powerful engine that turns at speeds of up to 27 knots, this latest acquisition of Sommarøy Cruise company is luxurious enough to have welcomed aboard the King and Queen of Norway. You’ll therefore have the most privileged conditions for an excursion on the Norwegian Sea. Ketil Voll, the ship's captain has a natural ease in making his guests feel welcome. For those who are motivated, he gives lessons in how to throw a line and hook a catch, before warming everyone up again with coffee served at the table.
Getting there: 50 minutes by road from Tromsø airport, link-up in summer by ferry from Botnhamn.
Sommarøy Arctic Hotel: a welcoming modern building with restaurant, summer seaside area, but also a base for viewing the aurora borealis in winter: www.sommaroy.no