Bodø, Nordland's largest town, was founded in 1816 as a trade centre, then turned to fishing in 1860 during an especially lucrative herring boom. The town centre, rebuilt after being almost completely levelled by WWII bombing, is unexciting architecturally – and in summer it can reek of the fish that sustain it – but it's open, tidy and has a pleasant marina. The city's main charm lies in its backdrop of distant rugged peaks and vast skies. Dramatic islands that support the world's densest concentration of white-tailed sea eagles – not for nothing is Bodø known as the Sea Eagle Capital – dot the seas to the north.
Many holidaymakers bypass Bodø in their rush to reach the far north or simply leap on a ferry to Lofoten. However, it's a great place to spend a day or two and acts as the gateway to Norway's true north; only 63km west of Fauske on the Arctic Highway, it's the northern terminus of Norway's railway system and marks the northernmost point of the staggeringly beautiful Kystriksveien coastal route.