Everyone in Norway enjoys the right of access to and passage through uncultivated land in the countryside. This originally traditional right has been set out in legislation since 1957. It is based on respect for the countryside, and all visitors are expected to show consideration for farmers and landowners, other users and the environment.
Pressure on the right of access
Public access to the countryside is being threatened by certain types of development and privatization measures. Fences and other barriers erected to prevent public access are not permitted under the Outdoor Recreation Act. Piecemeal developments along the coast, particularly by the Oslo fjord and in popular areas of Southern Norway, have gradually reduced public access to the shoreline. As a general rule, building and partitioning of property is prohibited in the 100 m zone closest to the sea, but local authorities in many areas have made liberal use of their ability to grant exemptions from this rule.
In freshwater areas such as rivers and lakes, the fishing rights belong to the landowner. Sports fishing is thus not included in the right of free access.. Norway distinguishes between government property, state common land and private property, but regardless of who owns the land, fresh-water fishing activities may only be conducted with the permission of the landowner or by those in possession of a fishing licence.
In salt-water areas there is free access to sports fishing using boats or from the shoreline. All fishing is subject to legislation to protect biological diversity, etc., and this legislation stipulates rules regarding the use of gear, seasons, bag or size limits and more. The local tourist information office in the municipalities can provide updated information about applicable rules.
Hunting rights belong to the landowner, and thus hunting is not included in the right of free access. This means that hunting is not allowed without permission from the landowner, and a hunting licence or similar permit must be obtained before hunting activity is initiated. The only exception applies to hunting in salt-water areas, where hunting can take place using a row-boat within 2 km from any shoreline (all islands included). Motorboats may only be used for hunting at a minimum of 2 km from any shoreline.
Norway has a hunting proficiency test, but persons resident abroad need not take this test provided they satisfy the conditions for engaging in the same type of hunting in their home country. The minimum age for small-game hunting is 16 years, while the age for larger game is 18 years. All hunting is subject to legislation to protect biological diversity, etc.
A national target
The authorities wish to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to take part in outdoor activities. One of Norway's national targets is to ensure easy accessibility to environment-friendly recreation areas in proximity to people’s homes.