Ulsteinvik received town status on 1 July 2000.
The town is built on a natural harbour (in fact, the town's name means "Ulstein cove" or "Ulstein inlet"), and has an industry driven largely by shipbuilding, with two major shipyards: Ulstein Verft and Kleven Verft.
The Ulstein Group includes the Ulstein Verft shipyard and a growing number of other marine-related companies, the largest of which are Ulstein Power & Control AS and Ulstein Design & Solutions AS. The town has dozens of other maritime-related firms of all sizes, including the global head office of Rolls-Royce plc's marine division. The strength of this industry through the middle of the first decade of the 21st century has led to significant expansion and new construction, both residential and commercial.
In 2012, Ulsteinvik was the winner of the most attractive town in Norway.
The Sjøborg theatre, on Ulsteinvik's waterfront, has both film and live theatre venues. It shows a mixture of "global" and Norwegian feature films (3-5 different films at a time over 10-12 showings per week). In addition, it welcomes a mixture of local and touring live acts, including big band, operatic revues, English- and Norwegian-language dramatic productions and stand-up comedy.
Ulsteinvik is the home of IL Hødd, a multi-sport club that includes a Norwegian First Division (as of 2011) football team. The team has a large local following, and generates strong attendance at their stadium, Høddvoll. Hødd also offers several other sports, including handball and rhythmic gymnastics. In 2012, Hødd became national cup champions of Norway, beating Tromsø IL in the final of the 2012 Norwegian Football Cup in the Ullevaal Stadion in Oslo. In addition, Ulsteinvik is the home of smaller clubs in each of basketball and rugby union (Sunnmøre Rugby). It is also the home town of Norway's first-choice football goalkeeper in the Beijing Olympics, Erika Skarbø whose father Dag is a director at Rolls Royce Marine.
Ulsteinvik is the birthplace of the underground cartoonist Øystein Runde.
Ulsteinvik is the headquarters of the local subscription-based newspaper Vikebladet Vestposten (commonly known by only the first name), formed by a 1989 merger of two previously-existing newspapers (Vikebladet & Vestposten). The community is also served by the free regional weekly RegionAvisa and the Ålesund-based daily Sunnmørsposten.
Norwegian County Road 61 runs along the south edge of the town centre, and is the major route connecting Ulsteinvik to points northeast (Hareid Municipality and Sula Municipality, with connections to Ålesund Municipality) and south (the villages of Eiksund and Haddal as well as the municipalities of Herøy, Sande, and others). The Eiksund Tunnel, the world's deepest undersea tunnel, completed in 2008, connects Ulsteinvik by road to the mainland via Norwegian County Road 653.
Ulsteinvik is served by one bus company: Nettbuss Midt-Norge. However, the express route that connects Ulsteinvik directly to Oslo is operated under the Nettbuss express brand.
Ulsteinvik is 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the Ørsta-Volda Airport, Hovden, which has several-daily flights to Oslo Airport, Gardermoen and Sogndal Airport, Haukåsen. It is also served by the Ålesund airport, 60 kilometres (37 mi) away, but with a broader selection of national and international flights.