On the go on the island of Neuwerk with Volker Griebel
The island, with its 40 inhabitants, is Hamburg's northernmost district and lies in the Hamburg Wadden Sea off the Elbe delta, about 100 kilometres from Hamburg City Hall. A breeze always blows here and you can enjoy the vastness of the sea. Moin, my name is Volker Griebel. I grew up on the North Sea island of Neuwerk (freely translated: “new facility”). With its 40 inhabitants, it is Hamburg’s northernmost borough and located in the Hamburg Wadden Sea in front of the Elbe estuary, about 100 kilometres from the Hamburg city hall. As a local warden, I bridge the connection between the island of Neuwerk and the borough of Hamburg-Mitte. But that does not mean I have to go to the city often, which is a good thing, because I love the island life, where a breeze always blows and you can enjoy a lot of fresh air and the vastness of the sea. Please join me to explore the beauty and specialness of this island.
A walk over the seabed
The most beautiful way to reach the island is arguably through the mudflats - on foot or by Wattwagen (mudflat vehicle). The excursion starts either in Cuxhaven-Sahlenburg or Cuxhaven-Duhnen. Hikers need a good three hours for the ten kilometres; a horse-drawn carriage needs only one and a half hours. The exact start depends on the ebb and flood. Visitors travel through the mudflats in long caravans. In the summer, sometimes there are 500 per day, mostly day travellers. The island of Neuwerk is well-prepared with pensions, hotels and a campground for those who want to stay for more than one day. The mudflat hike starts with a low tide. If you start too late, for example, when the water reaches its lowest level, you will meet the fast approaching tide directly. In such cases, refuge beacons are set up along the marked path - small perches that hikers can use to escape the water masses. At high tide, a ship travels between Cuxhaven and Neuwerk, the MS Flipper of the shipping company Cassen Eils.
Snatch loot from Hamburg's last pirate
Neuwerk is a car-free island with five hotels and restaurants where you can recharge after a mudflat hike. Culinary offers range from fish sandwiches to multi-course meals. Delicious fried potatoes and sumptuous fish and meat dishes are served at Zum Anker in the Hotel Nige Hus (Nigehus 21). Rumour has it that one or two freighters are stranded on the island, with plenty of loot aboard. That may also explain why the inhabitants of Neuwerk seem so happy and relaxed. The lighthouse watches over everything. Built in 1309, it is the oldest building in the Hanseatic city of Hamburg. To explore the 3-km2 island, you should go around the ring dyke. With a bit of luck, you can see seals in August, which rest at low tide on the island's sandbankse (Kleiner Vogelsand). Cows and horses graze on pastures dotted with moats. To learn more about the island, we recommend a visit to the Nationalpark-Haus in the south of Neuwerk. From here, it is only a few steps to the island grocer - a mix of mini shop, bistro and beer garden (Neuwerk 29).
Illuminated ships in the starry sky
After the evening tide, islanders, tourists and animals have the island to themselves once again. If you book a hotel room, you can look forward to a quiet night. Neuwerk has beds for about 150 guests - and there are no exuberant parties nor evening events as in many other North Sea resorts. A popular meeting place in the evening is Zum Anker or hotel bars like Wolkenlos at Hus Achtern Diek (Neuwerk 8), with a well-stocked wine list and cocktails - vespertine sea view included. Alternatively, you can take another walk to the lighthouse, which also offers guest rooms. Open around the clock, you can watch the imposingly illuminated cargo and cruise ships pass by in the distance.
Did you know?
In the past, Neuwerk’s lighthouse was used to protect the shipping industry on the Elbe from pirates. After a fire around 1376, the tower was rebuilt. The "new facility" (English for Neuwerk) became the namesake of the island.