Fishing crabs at Tjøme. Photo: Kim Abel,

Outdoor recreation areas

In Norway there is easy access to natural and forested areas as well as green structures in Norwegian towns and built-up areas. The statutory access rights give everyone access to and passage across all uncultivated land in Norway, but they do not prevent development or other kinds of land-use changes from making these areas unsuitable for outdoor recreation. The municipalities designate areas for outdoor recreation as part of their land-use planning and, in certain instances, may apply for government funding in order to protect outdoor recreation areas for the general public. 

Examples of outdoor recreation areas with financial assistance from the state include Verdens Ende in Vestfold county, Saltstraumen in Nordland county, Grønneset in Sør Trøndelag county as well as Solstranda and Romsaøyene in Rogaland county. Find outdoor recreation areas near you by searching the Nature Base by municipality or country. 

The Norwegian Environmental Agency has overall administrative responsibility for state-designated outdoor recreation areas.

What is a designated outdoor recreation area?

For over 50 years, the Norwegian state has secured public access to outdoor recreation areas by purchasing land or entering into agreements with landowners regarding its use. At present there are over 2 000 outdoor recreation areas that have been set aside through municipal-state cooperation for general outdoor recreation.

The Norwegian state, via the Norwegian Environment Agency, has the overall administrative responsibility for state-designated outdoor recreation areas. The municipalities and outdoor recreation boards may apply to the Agency for funding to acquire new or continue adjustment of existing outdoor recreation areas.

Acquiring recreation areas

Recreation areas are acquired by the state through property purchase or agreements on their use with landowners. Priority is given to applications for recreation areas that can be used by large population groups, such as green spaces in towns and built-up areas. Coastal areas are also given high priority. Administration of the recreation areas has largely been delegated to the county governors, the county authorities, the municipalities and intermunicipal outdoor recreation boards.  

Not all areas used for outdoor recreation are to be designated as official sites. Areas of value for outdoor recreation are primarily to be targeted in land-use planning pursuant to the Planning and Building Act. The principal responsibility for this lies with the municipalities.

Where are the outdoor recreation areas?

In recent years, the state has designated 40-60 new outdoor recreation areas annually. The total number of designated areas is currently close to 2 300. Most new areas lie along the coast between Østfold and Hordaland counties, an area given priority. Vest-Agder county has the most outdoor recreation areas, with a total of 300. The State of the Environment Norway website lists the distribution of outdoor recreation areas by county.

The proportion of the population living in towns and built-up areas is steadily increasing, creating a greater need for green spaces and trekking opportunities close to residential areas. The environmental authorities are working to increase the availability and variety of everyday and holiday outdoor recreation activities through access to green spaces, footpaths and cycle paths, large uncultivated areas and bathing and fishing areas. This will contribute to better well-being and better physical and mental health among the population.

There is also a positive impact on the climate when it is possible to reach a recreation area that is nearby without using a motor vehicle. In years ahead, investments in valuable areas for outdoor recreation in towns and built-up areas will increase through measures such as a separate local recreation initiative. (see link at right).

Adapting areas for use

Outdoor recreation areas can range from relatively undisturbed areas to highly adapted sites. Adaptation measures can include open-fire pits, quays, footpaths and cycle paths, WC facilities, notice boards, rubbish bins, tables and benches. It is a goal to increase the use of universal design in outdoor recreation areas, making them accessible to all. Another goal is to ensure that adaptation activities are in harmony with the natural environment.