If you’ve been following my posts about our week in Norway last week, you’ll know that we stayed in a wooden fisherman’s cabin beside a fjord, about 30kms from Tromso. It was cosy, yet spacious but kind of in the middle of nowhere, so you could be forgiven for wondering what there was to do. Surely we must have got bored?
To be honest, we worried about this ourselves before we got there but we needn’t have. There was plenty to do.
First of all, I have no idea how, but they have reliable WiFi in the cabins. This means that tablets, phones and computers still work and provide a fallback for if things prove too quiet. This was helpful for both adults and children in our family. The TV had a good selection of channels as well, many of them were in English.
The immediate area surrounding the cabins lies between a very quiet narrow road and the water. While we were there, there was a foot of snow lying and another couple of inches fell one night, so our kids spent a lot of time playing in the white stuff. They slid down the banks in their snow gear, borrowed sleds from the main house and raced each other down the drive way, built snow forts and also made a snow penguin they christened Penguiy.
When we weren’t relaxing in or around Lauklines Kystferie, we spent our time exploring the tiny coastal roads that followed the contours of the fjords, by car.
One day we drove up to the frozen tip of the fjord we were staying beside and around the other side, went through a tunnel, then across a one lane replica of the bridge from Tromso, to a little island called Sommeroy. There wasn’t much there, even the shop/ cafe was closed but we did find a lovely snowy/sandy beach for the kids to explore. Afterwards we had a car picnic as we drove home through small clusters of houses dotted around hidden inlets.
We even spotted our cabins across the water.
Another day we embarked on an even longer trek through the mountain pass of the convoluted ‘mainland’ and drove North to follow another coastal road. We literally drove until the road ran out.
The fjords were like mirrors but the lakes were completely frozen over and snowed on and had snow mobile tracks all over them. Everything was covered in snow and we felt like proper arctic explorers. Even the small fishing villages we passed through seemed deserted but the scenery was stunning.
We finished the day on yet another beach where it was so cold that even the rock pools had turned to ice.
Most days we had to venture into the Eurospar supermarket just out of Tromso for more provisions as this was our closest shop. This was a 40 minute journey each way, so we tied it in with other outings when possible.
And we visited Tromso itself a few times. I didn’t enjoy driving our hire van around the city very much to begin with. It’s on an island and is basically one big hill; right handed hill starts proved to be a bit of a challenge for me. On our second visit there we discovered the ‘swiss cheese’ network of tunnels beneath the town. These are extensive and include several roundabouts and a parking area and made getting from A to B much easier.
Tromso has an interesting little Polaria which houses an Arctic aquarium, some locally based exhibits, a panoramic cinema, and the ubiquitous gift shop. The kids liked the seals and the little bubbles beneath some of the exhibits which allowed you to get up close and personal with the seabed.
Another day we visited the Polar Museum which has many interesting displays about the history of the area, and attempts to give you a feel for the hard lives that people endured not so many years ago. It’s in a very old, wooded house as well, so a bit crowded, but they have done the best with the limited space they have.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of information about the history of hunting which was something the kids found a bit traumatic. I would have liked to spend more time here but the kids were getting freaked out by the stuffed seal pups so we had to rush a bit. I did manage to get a picture of a Walrus skeleton though, I’ve never seen one before and love the way the front flippers look like they are on back to front.
Our main problem in Tromso was finding somewhere to eat that was suitable for the kids. When asked for a recommendation, the guy selling tickets in the Polaria suggested Burger King but we wanted a proper meal. In the end we walked 10 minutes down the main road to Pastafabrikken, which did perfectly good pasta and pizza. It was a bit flash for us though and there were no other children to be seen.
Another day we went to Peppa’s Pizza which was more our style. It is an American style chain, with a kids’ play area and our lot met a couple of other British kids there which pleased everyone no end. The food was nothing special but the chips were good.
So there you go, Tromso in February is not all cross country skiing and husky sled rides, although these are certainly available if that’s what you are after.
We met several groups of people staying in Tromso and although they enjoyed the city, they were envious of our having had the chance to explore a little. My advice is, if you are going to go all that way for a bit of adventure, then see if you can hire a car, even if for just a day. We liked the city but on the whole preferred being able to drive around and get out into the wilderness when we felt like it.