Between continental Europe and the North Sea´s Frisian Islands, located in Netherlands, Germany and Denmark lies the so-called “WATTENMEER” (Wadden Sea). This intertidal zone is on the UNESCO´s World Heritage List and it´s a favourite spot for a unique experience – walking to an island! Yes, you heard it right – when the tide is low, one can walk several kilometres on muddy grounds until reaching the island. On the way back you have to take a boat. We tried it out last summer when we walked from Neßmersiel on the mainland to the island Baltrum.
HOW TO GET THERE
If you don´t live in Germany like us, you can consider combining visiting HAMBURG, BREMEN and the NORTH SEA COAST. It will take about 4 hours driving from Cologne and 3 from Hanover or Hamburg. There are a few camping places around NEßMERSIEL (the place where you start to walk to ISLAND BALTRUM) where you can spend the night. The most hotels are in Norden which is 20 km to the west. We were with the camper so we simply stayed at a bigger parking lot at the beach in Neßmersiel, which was very convenient!
BEFORE YOU GO
If you are planning on doing this tour in the summer and on a weekend then you should better BOOK IN ADVANCE! You are not allowed to wander off on your own as it can be dangerous. There are many channels cut in the surface (for the ships to pass) and those fill up with water very quickly. It´s also easy to lose orientation because at one point it all just looks flat in every direction. So, do take a GUIDE! We always prefer to do stuff on our own, but sometimes there is no other way than joining a group. There are many guides listed on the internet and once you are in Neßmersiel at the beach parking just find the right stand. It was quite informative actually and having someone to explain things to us turned out to be a great thing! Children under 8 are NOT ALLOWED TO JOIN, also all who suffer from heart diseases or similar. We paid 12€ per person.
As you see on the picture below, there will be lots of MUD and it´s really a funny feeling walking for hours on such soft surface. Sometimes you will also have to cross stretches of water which can be up to the waist, so be prepared for that (WEAR SHORTS!) In the end you reach Baltrum where you can take the socks off and if you cross to the other side of the island there is a beautiful long white sand beach waiting for you!
Some people wear old sneakers, but many simply go with SOCKS– which I would recommend also. It´s easier to walk in the mud, plus you don´t ruin your shoes. You can throw them away once you are back on mainland at the end of the day. Going barefoot could be painful, because there are many sharp shells. Don´t forget SUNSCREEN because you will be exposed to sunshine for hours and take enough water with. Oh and, don´t wear anything white! You will be dirty and wet, so don´t bother with how you look ;).
Neßmersiel is just a small village with a stretch of beach and a marina for the sailing boats. From the pier there are ships connecting the mainland with Baltrum, but instead of taking the ship both ways, you can choose to WALK ONE WAY. We spend the night in the CAMPER on the parking and had a wonderful evening on the beach dotted with those famous “Strandkorb” with a couple of cold beers. The next morning we were all set to go after coffe & breakfast at the beach 😉
A short introduction from our guide and the walking finally began! First a few minutes along the GRASSY COASTLINE and then off to the mud! There were many groups on the way that day, but because of the open space you don´t feel that it would be crowded – each group eventually finds its own path and you feel like you are on your own.
You will stop a few times along the way when the guide explains a few INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE WADDEN SEA, so don´t wander to far away from the group – there´s much to find out about this fascinating place and the best source of information is somebody who has been doing this and living here for years!
The landscape is amazing – it really feels like you are on a different planet!
There are many LITTLE CREATURES living in the mud and the area is a very important natural habitat for some endangered species also. Our guide successfully searched for worms, crabs, oysters and other. Not only in the mud, the fauna here is interesting also in the air – look up from time to time and observe the birds. This is also an important habitat for the seals and many other fish species.
When you are getting closer to Baltrum (the whole island covers only 6,5 km²), the landscape changes and so does the colour of the mud! From grey tones to brown ones, you start seeing sailing boats stuck in the mud waiting for the water to come and the first signs of RED BRICK HOUSES appear. Now you know you almost made it!
The best thing you can do now is to walk on the other side of the island where you are welcomed by this great WHITE SAND! The brave ones can take a SWIM– personally, I feel this water is freaking cold every time I´m at the North Sea, so I don´t enjoy swimming there that much, but that was also not the point of this trip. I rather walk on the beach for another kilometre or two, it´s just really beautiful and so much different to the Mediterranean beaches I´m more used to 😉
Even if the water is cold, the kids don´t care! For them the beach is like a huge SANDBOX and the love it here. Many German families come to the islands for the weekend, but many also spend their main summer holidays here.
Because of the strong winds (which are the reason for the cold water) this place is perfect for water sports like KITESURFING or surfing!
Eating good, renting bicycles, swimming, fresh air, water sports or just collecting shells, shopping and strolling around without a specific goal – it´s a great place to unwind and relax! There are also no cars on the island which makes it great for kids!
After spending a couple of hours on the island it was time to head back to Neßmersiel, as we had no intentions on spending a night here. The water level is high now, so it´s impossible to walk back – you will have to take the BOAT. After a short ride you return to the same place you started in the morning.
A beautiful day was coming to an end and as almost everybody was gone by now we enjoyed THE PEACE AND QUIET in front of our camper with a glass of wine on a warm summer evening with a view on the sea, still under the impressions of this amazing adventure! It was one of those rare weekends where Lu was at grandparents and we could do something we could not have done it (yet) with him. If you are ever in the area this is really something you can consider doing as it´s a very unique place and experience!
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