North Sea Coast Attractions

North Sea CoastNorth Sea Coast

The German North Sea coast, some 300km/185mi long as the crow flies, is divided into two parts, the East Frisian and the North Frisian area, by the estuary of the Elbe.

North Sea Coast National Parks

The whole of the North Sea coast from the Danish frontier to the Elbe estuary, together with the North Frisian Islands, now form the Schleswig-Holstein Wattenmeer National Park. Southwest of this extends the Lower Saxon Wattenmeer National Park, which takes in the East Frisian Islands. Thus the German North Sea coast is an almost continuous protected area, interrupted only by the main shipping lanes.

North Frisian Islands - Wattenmeer National Park

The North Frisian Islands, off the coast of the Eiderstedt Peninsula, form part of the Wattenmeer National Park.
The tidal flats are home to a diverse variety of sea life and host an extraordinary variety of birds. The islands, especially the sand dunes and beaches on Amrum and Sylt, are also very attractive. The best time to observe birds is in spring and autumn.

The Watt

"Watt" is the name given to a coastal strip of land which at low tide is dry and at high tide is covered by the Wattenmeer. Along the German North Sea coast the Watt is between 7 and 10km (4.5 and 6.5mi) wide, most of it lying inshore of the North and East Frisian Islands.
At low tide the Watt may look a tempting area for a walk, but it can be dangerous. In some parts of this flat coastal area the tide comes in with incredible speed, and visitors can easily be caught by the advancing waves, which move fast. Walking in the Watt, therefore, should only be undertaken with a knowledgeable guide, or at least after consulting the local tide tables.
Flora and fauna
The unusual natural conditions in the Watt have given rise to an abundance of highly specialized forms of life. The Watt bottom consists of recent marine deposits (sand, silt, clay) with a high proportion of organic substances, which form the first link in the food chain. The Watt has little in the way of plant life: near high-water mark there are glassworts (Salicornia europea), farther seaward eelworts (Zostera), and occasionally also algae and seaweed. Most forms of animal life, therefore, have adjusted to the movement of the tides, either burying themselves in the ground at low tide or living permanently there. Only a few shellfish manage to survive above ground by storing water in their shells. Most of the denizens of the Watt (worms, shellfish, crustaceans) feed on organic substances floating in the water or lying on the bottom which they absorb in the water they breathe in or take in on the surface of the Watt. Some shellfish, shrimps and bristle worms are predators or scavengers.

Heligoland, Germany


North Frisian Islands

The North Frisian islands of Sylt, Föhr and Amrum, lying off the northwest coast of Schleswig-Holstein, are ridges of sandy heathland (geest) which have escaped erosion or drowning by the sea. Sylt and Amrum have been partly overlaid by dunes. While Sylt and Amrum have only narrow strips of fenland along their east coasts, Föhr has a considerable area of fens.

Numerous prehistoric tombs bear witness to early human settlement. The islanders maintained their independence against the kings of Denmark. Then in the 19th century seaside resorts began to develop on the islands, with their healthy oceanic climate and unrestricted sunshine.


Föhr, the second largest of the North Frisian Islands (12km/7.5mi long and up to 8km/5mi wide), lies south of Sylt, some 11km/7mi from the mainland. Sheltered from the open sea by Sylt, Amrum and the Halligen, Föhr is surrounded by mud-flats. The southern part of the island is geest country, with no dunes; the north is fertile fenland, drained by canals and protected from the sea by a stone wall built in 1890. The islanders live mainly from tourism and agriculture.


In the southeast of the island is the little town of Wyk, whose mild climate makes it a popular holiday resort (ferry service from the mainland port of Dagebüll), with a sandy beach and a seafront promenade. The Frisian Museum documents prehistory and the early historical period, domestic life, natural history, shipping).

From Dunsum, on the west coast of the island, it is possible at low tide to cross to the northern tip of Amrum on a track over the mud-flats (2km/1.25mi).


Amrum, the most southerly of the three North Frisian Islands, is 10km/6mi long and up to 3km/2mi wide. The main bathing beach is the 1km/0.75mi wide Kniepsand on the west side of the island (heavy surf).


The chief place on the island is the health resort of Wittdün (ferry service from the mainland via Föhr).

From Wittdün, a road runs north passing the 67m/220ft high lighthouse (view; off the road to the right, at Steenodde, Bronze Age tombs), to the old Frisian village of Nebel, with richly decorated 18th century tombstones in the churchyard. To the west is a seventh century Viking cemetery excavated in 1845. To the north of the village of Norddorf is the starting point of the walk over the mud-flats to Föhr.


The island of Nordstrand, lying off Husum, is connected to the mainland by a 2.5km/1.5mi long causeway. A 24km/15mi long dike surrounds an area of fenland, which until a devastating storm tide in 1634 was part of the mainland. Odenbüll has a 13th century church (pulpit of 1605).


To the west of Nordstrand is the little island of Südfall, one of the Halligen, which is used for the grazing of sheep (bird sanctuary).


Still farther west lies Pellworm, an island of fertile fenland enclosed by dikes. In the center of the island is the Baroque New Church (1622), on an artificial mound (warft) the Romanesque Old Church, with a ruined tower.


The Halligen are the small islands lying between Föhr and Amrum in the north and the Eiderstedt peninsula in the south. In the narrower sense, the group includes only the islands of Oland, Langeness, Hooge, Gröde-Appelland, Habel, Nordstrandischmoor, Norderoog, Süderoog and Südfall; but in the wider sense it is taken to include also the Hamburger Hallig (now linked with the mainland) and the larger islands of Nordstrand and Pellworm.

The Halligen are the remains of an area of fenland which in prehistoric times was part of the mainland. In a storm tide they are flooded by the sea, apart from the houses and farmsteads on the man-made warften. As a result the soil is too salty to permit arable farming, and the land is used for the grazing of livestock.

Langeness Hooge

The largest of the Halligen are the two diked islands of Langeness (causeway to Dagebüll on the mainland) and Hooge. On the large Hanswarft on Hooge is the Hansensches Haus (1766), with the Königspesel (parlor), the finest example of an old Frisian house.



East Frisian Islands

The seven East Frisian islands of Borkum, Juist, Norderney, Baltrum, Langeoog, Spiekeroog and Wangerooge, which extend in a chain between the Ems and Weser estuaries, are now popular seaside resorts. Cars are allowed only on Borkum and Norderney.


Borkum, lying 12km/7.5mi off the coast (ferry service from Emden), is the most westerly and the largest of the East Frisian Islands (8km/5mi by 4km/2.5mi). At the west end is the town of Borkum, a seaside resort with a Kurhalle, a seafront promenade, two beaches (Nordstrand and Südstrand, part of which is a bird sanctuary), sea-water baths (artificial waves) and a 63m/207ft high lighthouse. In the eastern half of the island is the village of Ostend. There is a light railroad from the harbor to the town of Borkum.

Lütje Hörn

To the east of Borkum is the Lütje Hörn sand bank (bird sanctuary).


East of Borkum is Juist (ferry from Norden-Norddeich), a long narrow island (17km/10.5mi long by up to 500m/550yds across) which is a popular holiday resort (no cars). The beautiful sandy beach on the north coast (Nordstrand) has a fringe of dunes. Half way along the south coast, the little town of Juist has a seafront promenade, a museum (shipping, fishing, natural history, prehistory and the early historical period) and an art gallery (temporary exhibitions).


Off the west end of Juist is the island of Memmert (bird sanctuary).


Norderney (ferry from Norden-Norddeich) is the largest of the East Frisian Islands after Borkum (14km/8.5mi long, up to 2km/1.25mi wide). It is the only island in the group with any great area of woodland (deciduous and coniferous). At the west end of the island lies the town of Norderney, the oldest seaside resort in Germany (founded 1797), with a beautiful Kurpark and sea-water pool (artificial waves). In the Argonnerwäldchen ("Little Argonne Forest") is a museum in a typical Norderney fisherman's house. There is a golf-course on the dunes.


Baltrum (ferry from Nessmersiel) is the smallest of the East Frisian Islands (6km/4mi long by up to 1.5km/1mi wide). It is a quiet and relaxing resort with a sea-water swimming pool (artificial waves).


Langeoog (ferry from Bensersiel) is 14km/8.5mi long by up to 2.5km/1.5mi wide. From the landing stage a light railroad runs to the resort of Langeoog (sea-water pool with artificial waves) at the west end of the island. Near the town is the new observation post of the German Sea Rescue Association.


The main feature of Spiekeroog (ferry from Neuharlingersiel) is a great expanse of dunes, partly covered by trees. In the eastern half of the island is a sandy beach more than 5km/3mi long and 2km/1.25mi wide, most of which has been formed only in the second half of this century - an illustration of the slow but steady eastward movement of all the East Frisian islands. The church (1696) in the little town of Spiekeroog contains fragments salvaged from one of the ships of the Spanish Armada which was wrecked off the island in 1588. The carriages of the light railroad which runs west from the town are once again drawn by horses as they were originally.


Wangerooge (9km/6mi long by up to 1.5km/1mi wide; ferry from Harle) is the most easterly of the East Frisian Islands. The little town of Wangerooge, in the center of the island, is the second-oldest German North Sea resort, founded in 1804; the older town was destroyed by a storm tide in 1854. Features of interest are the Old Lighthouse (Heimatmuseum), the new lighthouse and the West Tower. To the west of the town, in the coastal dunes, is a heated open-air swimming pool (sea-water). At the west end of the island is a narrow-gauge railroad. Several bird sanctuaries.

Wilhelmshaven, Germany

Wilhelmshaven, situated on the west side of Jade Bay, a 5km/3mi wide inlet on the North Sea coast, was until 1945 primarily a naval port. It is now an important oil terminal and has a variety of industry (chemicals, metalworking, engineering, textiles). It has a Marine Biological Research Station belonging to the Senckenberg Society and an Ornithological Institute.

Town Hall

The Town Hall is a handsome building in clinker brick (by Fritz Höger, 1927-29). From the 49m/161ft high tower there are panoramic views.
To the east is the Kurpark.

Coast Museum

On the north side of Wilhelmshaven's Rathausplatz is City-Haus, with the interesting Coast Museum (natural and cultural history of the North Sea coast, shipping; ship models).


Wilhelmshaven's extensive port installations lie to the south of the town. On Bontekai are a number of museum ships. On a disused section of railroad track can be seen an old steam engine.
Beyond this, on the South Beach, is a sea-water aquarium.

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