Paradise on Earth, says polar explorer and adventurer Børge Ousland about the island of Manshausen in Steigen. He decided to just go ahead and buy the whole island in the north of Norway, an area with hundreds of small islands, white sandy beaches and spectacular mountains. Now he wants to share it with the rest of the world.

Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Steve King

Steigen has a very special place in his heart. No matter how much he travels he never forgets how fantastic Norway and Norwegian nature is, especially in Steigen.

Manshausen is a 13.5 acre island which used to be a transport hub in Lofoten and the rich fishing areas in Steigen, and it’s also in the Grøtøyleia shipping lane with its strong connection with the sea faring culture in the north of the country.

When Børge Ousland bought the island he intended to keep it for personal use, but over time he was inspired to share the wonderful experiences he had there with others. In the summer of 2015 he opened a hotel and adventure centre Manshausen Island Resort, where outdoor activities and experiences are paramount. Guests can walk, dive, climb, fish, learn to kayak, or visit one of the white coral beaches or the small artificial lake on the island to snorkle, bathe or swim.

Distinctive architecture
Manshausen Island Resort consists of several houses and huts. The four huts or seacabins on the stone jetty, on rocks and shelves in the landscape are stunning with their glass fronts giving 180 degree panoramic views. This allows guests to be close to the elements and still be safe and warm behind the glass wall. Tromsø architect Snorre Stinessen won no fewer than four first prizes for the Manshausen project at the Architizer Awards in New York, an award that is often called the Oscars of architecture. The huts also won first prize in the Iconic Awards in Germany in the Best of Best category and have been nominated for several other architectural awards. Snorre Stinessen has seen the pictures of his huts go around the world, and many guests come specifically to see the very unusual architecture. There are plans to build another two which will be finished in 2017.

The main building, or Bødtkerboligen, originally from the 1800s, has been carefully renovated with a new environmentally friendly and maintenance free façade, but even that has got a glass front with magnificent sea and mountain views. Downstairs there is a dining room and open kitchen, upstairs there is an airy Polar Library reaching up to the ridge of the roof. There is also an Expedition Loft, built onto the existing boathouse and creating a natural yard between it and the main building. Besides equipment storage space the Loft has six double sleeping alcoves, bathroom and a kitchenette.

Lots to do
One area of the island has been dug out and closed off with a dam, creating a small lake with fresh seawater. This is a good place to just paddle, learn to swim or get that first diving lesson. There is also a big outdoor tub for 12-14 people and stairs down into the dam for a refreshing cooldown. The island also has a great marina with new jetty and guest mooring.

At Manshausen the menu follows the seasons and consists mainly of locally sourced produce like seafood, reindeer, moose, lamb and poultry – its specialities are bacalao, lutefisk or lye treated cod, fresh cod and wild sheep from Steigen. Manshausen also serves all its guests breakfast every day, and coffee and tea are always available in the kitchen in the main building. In the evening the cozy bar is open to guests.

Manshausen Island Resort is suitable for courses and conferences. The landscape and area are an experience in themselves, but Ousland also offers kayak instruction and paddling trips, freediving course, climbing and abseiling activities, peak bagging and cave visits.

There is a wealth of options in Steigen’s magnificent surroundings, which won Børge Ousland’s heart … and undoubtedly the hearts of many of his guests too.

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