Yes, we love Sandøya

Sandvika på Sandøya .
Sandvika på Sandøya .

The car-free island gem in Southern Norway, just outside Tvedestrand, is so idyllic and charming that you get into holiday mode almost before the scheduled ferry has docked.

Sandøya .
Sandøya .

The actual boat trip from Hagefjordbrygga only takes a few minutes and then we are there, on the summer paradise of Sandøya, at the far end of Tvedestrandsskjærgården, where the associations with the TV series "Vi på Saltkråkan" immediately make themselves felt.

Here we stroll on a graveled country road that takes us past small and sheltered coves, white sandy beaches, beautiful wooden houses, gardens with colorful hammocks in the trees, grazing sheep and meadows full of fragrant wildflowers.

Sandvika er ei nydelig og langgrunn badestrand på Sandøya i Tvedestrand

The village road winds around the entire island, and it is delightfully free of motorized vehicles. Well, apart from the country postman who uses a four-wheeler, "Little Car" who drives goods for the grocery store and the occasional tractor. The most common sight here is people on foot or on bicycles, and everyone greets them with a "hello" when they pass each other.

A big talking point

The island's permanent residents number just under 200, but when the summer holidays begin the number increases tenfold. Then the cabin people and tourists come in droves to relax, soak up the sun and enjoy the very special Sandøya atmosphere.
At that time, the various workshop outlets and eateries also open to the full, and the scheduled boat - Sørlandets Maritime - runs a shuttle service across the Hagefjord with expectant passengers on board. They can jump off at three different municipal piers: Haven in the middle of the island, Hauketangen on the island's west end, or Sandøykilen on the island's east end.
In the latter harbor is the grocery store Sandøya Mat, and the restaurant Lille Hilda. Most of the businesses on the island are members of
the Made on Sandøya network, which today counts 14 local small businesses with a focus on food, art, crafts and experiences. The actors all have a burning desire to deliver quality in everything they do, and to put the island they hold so dear on the tourist map.
They have really succeeded in that. Because Sandøya has become a big talking point among adventurous and travel-loving Norwegians, precisely because of the vibrant society and everything that the creative and hospitable islanders achieve here.

Sandøya is a car-free island, but tractors for transporting things must be allowed.

Sandøya er ei bilfri øy, men traktor til å frakte ting med må være lov .
Photo: Tove Aargaard
Sandøya er ei bilfri øy, men traktor til å frakte ting med må være lov .
Photo: Tove Aargaard

Organic baking

At Mose, vis a vis the grocery store and Lille Hilda, Kristin Andersen designs and sews the most beautiful garments for young and old, while Sølvi Johanne Kikvik, who runs Kikvik Vevmakeri on the left at the crossroads below, stands for handwoven carpets and exclusive bath towels in vibrant colours. Here in what used to be Sandøya's own "post office", you will also meet Gro Lygre, who runs Fjong Fajanse. The most beautiful jewelery is conjured up precisely by old faience, preferably Egersund and Figgjo. And not only that - in the summer of 2023 there will also be a photo exhibition by both Erik Garaventa and Oddrun Irene Bø.
From here, just follow the whirring smell of needles eastwards around "Nullen" to Klåholmen, where the bakery Brød og Vind is located, and where people often queue in the morning to secure the signature Klåholmen Spesial bread, as well as fresh croissants and lukewarm blueberry muffins.
- The first customers usually show up an hour before we open, with a good book and coffee in a thermos. It's so nice to sit here and enjoy the morning and the lovely view of the sea gap, says Tove Hage Aargaard.
She bakes everything from scratch, with organic ingredients of good quality, and never resorts to quick solutions. Here, the dough must be left to rise for a long time, and the vanilla cream in the famous school bowls must contain real vanilla pods.
- Sandøya is just so cool. The contrast between the leisurely pace that prevails here and the busy life we usually live in Oslo is great. We enjoy ourselves, say Fanny Sjøtveit and Patrick Andreassen, who are sitting on the edge of the quay at the Kriveligheten cafe below the bakery and taking life easy. Kriveligheten is also run by Brød og Vind owner Tove. She has converted the ice house at the old fish reception into a rustic and inviting café, with the original brick walls intact and large sliding doors facing the sea. Here, sandwiches, mussels, bruschetta and various salads are served to the sound of lapping waves, seagulls' cries and woodpeckers chugging past, while Tove's retired mother makes the cakes.


Tove Hage Aargaard bakes day and night throughout the summer in the bakery Brød og Vind.

Bakeriet Brød og Vind .
Photo: Camilla Høy / Visit Sørlandet
Bakeriet Brød og Vind .
Photo: Camilla Høy / Visit Sørlandet

Diverse nature

- Summer means hard work for many of us who live on Sandøya. But oh my, it's so much fun with all our guests who are so happy and cheerful when they come here. It gives motivation to keep going, smiles Tove, as she serves ice cream in biscuits and frozen yoghurt to a group of young people who are on their way to take a cooling dip in the heat.

On Klåholmen, it is nice to swim from the many smooth-cut rocky outcrops, while Sandvika and Ingers Bukter, which we pass when we go back around "Nullen" again, are well suited for families with smaller children who prefer long, shallow sandy beaches.

TIP! Feel free to bring a bicycle to Sandøya if you want to cover everything in one day. If there are many of you in the travel party, you should make an agreement with the scheduled boat in advance.

The stretch from the east side to the west side of the island is approximately three kilometers long. If you also choose to take some detours, it can be the longest if there are small children in the traveling party.

- Tralla is my best friend. I've hauled a few tonnes of kids, food and bags of earth in the 14 years we've lived here. Board? Noooo. I rather choose to look at what I get; a lot of free exercise and many wonderful nature experiences that I would otherwise miss if I got into a car every day, says Juliane Josephsen, who is coming towards us on the road pulling a trolley with lots of fresh vegetables and berries in it. Juliane is cookbook author with a burning desire to inspire people to make more sustainable food choices. She is also a co-organiser of yoga and food retreats on Sandøya and the neighboring island of Lyngør, and she holds green food courses for families, groups of friends and companies in collaboration with Inni Granskogen.

This is a small farm in the middle of the island, which offers accommodation and tailor-made experiences for smaller groups throughout the year. The farm is located close to the quiet freshwater Østertjenn. Here you can take your cup of coffee down to the jetty for a delicious and refreshing morning bath, and really feel the peace and quiet, with the Nordskogen Nature Reserve as your nearest neighbour.

Tip! In addition to the main road, there are paths crisscrossing all over Sandøya, where you can move around on foot, and experience how the surroundings change from knotweed to troll forest. The trails are well marked by the tour team, and the grocery store sells orienteering maps for those who want an extra challenge.

Juliane Josephsen er dama bak matkonseptet "Julianes kokebok"

Authentic Italian food

At Østertjenn, along the main road, there is also another accommodation, La Locanda di Marie is a charming guest house with four rooms in what was once Sandøya's old prayer hall. The owners are Kristin Njaa Eriksen and her Italian husband, Giovanni. The two delight many palates with exquisite Italian food and drink, such as pizza, lasagne, cheese, cured meats, tiramisu and panna cotta, as well as wine from their own vineyard in Tuscany, to name a few.

In the La Locanda di Marie restaurant, authentic Italian cuisine is served.

Giovanni er pizzamesteren på La Locanda di Marie på Sandøya .
Photo: Adam Enochsson/NewsLab
Giovanni er pizzamesteren på La Locanda di Marie på Sandøya .
Photo: Adam Enochsson/NewsLab

From La Locanda di Marie we almost roll on towards Sandøya's school and kindergarten where there is a nice, small playground, and an enclosure for a flock of turkeys. We pass Løvøens Lam, Elisiv's workshop that knits the softest garments, pillows and blankets in cashmere and alpaca. And we pass ceramist Eyvind Hermansen, who has lived on Sandøya and worked here since 1980.

At the crossroads that leads down to Haven, Ole Schøning stands under a huge tent cloth and is tying ropes. When Ole was a small boy, he sat on his grandfather's lap and was served one story after another about huge snakes, pirates, lions, cannibals and South Sea islands, while he learned the first knots, knots and stitches from the man he thought must be a real pirate.

Ole is keen to take care of old experience and traditions related to life on and by the sea, so after a few years as a wooden boat builder, he therefore resumed his interest in rope work.

In the summer, he ties too hard for life, and sells off fenders, door mats, pot mats and wine bottle holders that's all. In the summer of 2023, Ole plans to move his "sales tent" to the crossroads at Sandøykilen.

- It's nice to be back on Sandøya. I moved home almost 17 years ago, and settled near my childhood home. Now it houses a small candle foundry, a cozy cafe and a sausage maker, says Ole, who believes it is a must to taste the local homemade donuts if we decide to visit.

Ole Schøning driver med taubinding på Sandøya

At Ragnvalds pølsemakeri, the world's best sausages are made according to regular customers

Pølseproduksjon hos Ragnvalds Pølsemakeri på Sandøya

Ragnvalds pølsemakeri på Sandøya utenfor Tvedestrand .
Photo: Erik Garaventa
Ragnvalds pølsemakeri på Sandøya utenfor Tvedestrand .
Photo: Erik Garaventa

The world's best sausages

We are weak for monks, so in a little while we find ourselves in the garden of Linn and Ragnvald Zwilgmeyer, where the outdoor dining area is decorated with wildflowers, colorful tablecloths and pennants. Inside the house, Linn has an interior shop, with, among other things, self-produced lights, while her husband Ragnvald makes proper artisanal sausages based on local ingredients in an attached production room. These are sold over the counter, or straight from the grill, and taste just like the donuts - heavenly!

- We are staying with friends on Sandøya for the seventh summer in a row now. A visit to Ragnvald and Linn is clearly one of the big highlights of our holiday. The sausages here are simply the best in the world, say Anita and Andrew Lloyd, and say that they are full of admiration for all the enterprising people in the Made on Sandøya network, which is constantly developing.

Linn and Ragnvald invite, among other things, to themed evenings and concerts, and the couple arranges barbecue evenings and pleasant gatherings in a separate function room. They also like to start a sausage course, in addition to a big beer and sausage party in the spring.

- Many people think that it is only in the summer that something happens on Sandøya, but that is wrong. Among other things, we have our own food festival in September, and an atmospheric autumn and Christmas market in November, says Linn.

A number of the Made on Sandøya companies offer courses and experiences for groups all year round, while Kote Null stands for activities at sea and in the archipelago. Outside the high season, many of the workshops and eateries stay open for up to one or more days a week.

Linn og Ragnvald Zwilgmeyer

Spectacular sunset

- All the seasons here on Sandøya are worth experiencing. They are so beautiful, says Linn.

Yes, perhaps most beautiful on a warm September day, with pink rocks, clear air and the sun still warming. Or a cold January day with a starry sky, crackling snow and a cozy Saturday cafe at school.

Yes, thank you, we understand that we will have to come back here again soon.

What an absolutely beautiful day is soon about to ebb, and we are not yet quite done exploring the west end of Sandøya. Silly, because we would have liked to experience Loshytta on Hauketangen and the spectacular sunset.

Also here at Vestergården, as it is called, it should be nice to take a bath. On the way to Sandøy Båtbyggeri, you simply follow the path out to Paradisbukta, and the name of this shallow sandy beach speaks for itself.

Idylliske viker overalt på Sandøya

How to get to Sandøya

It is easy to get to Sandøya. From Tvedestrand, it is approximately 15 minutes' drive, and you leave your car in designated parking spaces at Hagefjordbrygga. From here, the scheduled boat runs regularly from morning to afternoon, and in the evening you can order a taxi boat.

Sandøya has three municipal wharves where you can go ashore. They are called Hauketangen (west end), Haven (middle) and Sandøykilen (east end)

Check www.sorlandetsmaritime.no for timetables.