The Norwegian coastline is littered with lighthouses. Many of them are simple, uninteresting modern lighthouses, but the older ones often have a story to tell. If you’re doing the Jæren Scenic Drive in Southern Norway, there’ll be some great lighthouses to see. Obrestad lighthouse is one of them!
I visited Obrestad Lighthouse in September 2020. Here is my overview of the lighthouse’s history and present-day use.
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Location & Building Style
The Obrestad lighthouse sits on a promontory about 5km (3.1 miles) west of the town of Nærbø. The name of the lighthouse comes from the farm it is sitting on. ‘Obre’ means ‘float’ or ‘flow’ and ‘stad’ can mean ‘place’. It is close to Obrestad, a small farming village. A harbour was constructed here in 1874 and is still in use today. The Obrestad Harbour is the first artificial harbour in Jæren. Moreover, 1845 a sea rescue station for seafarers opened here, and it was in use until 1977. During the war, the harbour was a meeting place for the resistance movement, and boats transported people to Scotland.
Obrestad is mentioned in the Viking Sagas. Erik Bjodskalle, a known chieftain, had his farm here around 950 AD. He is the father of Queen Astrid, who is the mother of the famous Viking King Olav Tryggvason. Astrid and Olaf sought refuge in Obrestad before heading east.
The present structure of the lighthouse is from 1950, though it was first built 1873. The square granite tower is 16.5m (54ft) tall and is next to a 1.5m granite lighthouse keepers home. It’s rare to find a lighthouse keepers home built in granite in Norway. The reason for this is that when it came time to built Obrestad lighthouse, the lighthouse service was tired of maintaining small wooden houses. Small wooden houses were continuously damaged by the elements, and maintenance was expensive.
Granite was an experimental construction material. Additionally, they used brick and concrete. When the building was finished, they quickly realised that the materials are very cold and damp to live in. The new lighthouse keepers home is from 1905.
The lighthouse sits at an elevation of 39m (128ft) above sea level. The light emits a continuous white light with an intensity of 129,900 candela with a more intense white flash every 30 seconds. The lighthouse emits a racon signal: the morse cod letter O.
History of Obrestad Lighthouse
The North Sea is rough around the Jæren coast, and the rocky Varhaug Beach is notorious for shipwrecks. The waves are so strong that in told times the waves were a great way to turn ships into scrap. If you need to get rid of your ship, simply leave it on the beach in autumn. Throughout winter, the storms will take care of it. When you return in spring, you’ll have a pile of scrap ready to sell.
Obrestad Lighthouse was originally built in 1873 to make the coast safer. For the first thirty years, the light source was an oil burner with a wick. In 1902 a petroleum glow burner replaced the oil burner, giving a far stronger light. In 1916, the lighthouse was electrified and they added a fog signal.
During the Second World War, the lighthouse was part of the Germans’ defence. They built a lookout tower and bomb shelters. Additionally, military personnel lived in the homes.
After the war, the granite building became the machine house. The lighthouse was moved to a concrete tower. After being decommissioned and automated in 1991, it was empty until the municipality bought it.
Obrestad Lighthouse Today
In 2006, the Hå Municipality purchased the lighthouse from the Norwegian Coastal Administration. The goal is to preserve the history and culture of the facility.
Today Obrestad lighthouse is a lighthouse museum. It’s possible to rent out the keepers home or three other units as accommodation. There’s also one house that is available to rent for parties. The buildings consist of a lighthouse keepers house, outbuilding, service house and family house. They are around a square yard.
The lighthouse is close to the Hå gamle prestegard. This is a historic vicarage from at least 1637, though possibly older. Since 1997, the municipality owns the property. It is a gallery for contemporary artists from Norway and abroad. Close to the prestegard is a burial ground from the Viking Age.
Obrestad lighthouse is on ‘Kongevegen’, an old royal road. It is a marked coastal path that passes attractions, burial grounds and ancient traces of settlement. Obrestad lighthouse is also part of the coastal pilgrims route to Trondheim.
I enjoyed visiting this lighthouse. The surrounding area is especially scenic and great for photography. The road to the lighthouse is very narrow and a little confusing. While many may skip this lighthouse and go to the more famous Kvassheim lighthouse, I am glad we stopped at Obrestad.
Opening hours: Open daily mid-June to mid-August. Open Sundays rest of year
Address: Håvegen 282, 4365 Nærbø
Parking: Free parking
Signs: No information boards about the lighthouse
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