The East Frisian island group is one of Germany’s hidden gems. Perched in the North Sea above the municipality of Lower Saxony, the quaint seaside community of Norderney comprises just 6,000 people, and has become a hotspot for tourists seeking stunning coastal vistas away from the beaten track.
Now designated a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, Norderney combines vibrant island culture with a diverse array of marine wildlife, making for the perfect destination for a few days’ break away from the bustle of the city.
How to get there
The nearest major city is Hamburg in the north west, from which you can drive or a take a train to Norddeich and board the car ferry to the island. Hamburg Airport is a major international hub with connections to destinations across Europe and the US, while the city is accessible by rail from major cities across Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.
What to see
Norderney prides itself on its unique blend of traditional German architecture with modern, contemporary touches scattered liberally across the resort.
Visitors shouldn’t miss the Kurtheater, an art-deco cinema showing classical German and international movies and some modern independent films too.
The summer months always call for a day at the beach, and visitors won’t be disappointed on Norderney. A hot day brings sunbathers, watersports enthusiasts, walkers and cyclists to the fine sandy beaches, although with 14km of beach in total, there’s still room to get away from the crowds for a quiet afternoon.
If hiking’s your thing, there’s an entire landscape of salt marshes, coastal wetlands and sand dunes to explore. Or if you’d rather just relax, you can head to Germany’s largest seawater therapy centre, where you can make use of a wide range of seawater pools, saunas and wellness treatments.
The island is a nature lover’s paradise; the eastern half comprises the Wadden Sea National Park, home to 4,000 species of plants and animals including shelduck birds, geese, ducks and gulls. Seals can sometimes be seen on the sandbanks and salt marshes, and sea holly and sea lavender bloom across the marshes in summer.
Visitors flock to Norderney in September for the ISLANDMAN triathlon, a gruelling series of competitions in which the toughest athletes undertake a 1.5km swim, followed by 40km of cycling and then a 10km run. There are a number of shorter distance triathlons for non-professional athletes, and all are open to the public.
If you don’t mind splashing out a little, you can charter a pilot and small plane to take you on a bird’s eye tour of Norderney and surrounding islands, a unique way of viewing the island’s natural beauty and an experience you’re unlikely to forget.
When to visit
The island looks its finest in high summer; daytime temperatures typically vary from 11-14 degrees Celsius between May and September, with average highs of 19 degrees in August. Most restaurants and attractions remain open until November or December.
Where to eat (and drink)
Norderney cuisine is based largely around seafood. Hotel Seesteg is home to island’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, and offers an ever-changing menu of local dishes, including locally-sourced sole and sea bass, and stunning views of the North Sea.
Milk bars are an old tradition of Norderney – places visitors can order pancakes, milk shakes and chill out in a relaxed environment. Milchbar Norderney, located on the beach promenade, has recently expanding its offering to include fresh rolls from Inselloft, its partner bakery, jam and nougat cream, sausage and cheese. All overlooking the rolling waves of the sea.
The Attelier Art&Bar, meanwhile, is a bar and event space in an old, converted cinema, and holds regular lives music nights, barbeques, and events for the community. It’s well worth checking out.
Where to stay
There are a number of options for quality accommodation around the island. Many visitors love the Strandhotel Georgshöhe, a spa and resort hotel located right on the beach. There’s also an excellent restaurant and fitness centre on site too.
A slightly more budget-friendly choice is Hotel Ennen, a modern, friendly hotel that also offers a wellness centre and restaurant. It’s also only a short drive from the ferry port so it’s easily accessible when visiting for the first time.
Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, there are several campsites scattered around island with nightly rates unlikely to break the bank.