Wattenmeer bei der Insel Neuwerk
© Mediaserver Hamburg / Ingo Bölter

North Sea route

  • Moving in nature
  • Amazing views
  • Seaside recreation

An outing to Hamburg‘s island in the Wadden Sea

Embarking on this route, you will escape city life and travel to the island of Neuwerk. Situated in the Wadden Sea northwest of Cuxhaven in the Elbe estuary of the North Sea, Neuwerk is more than 100 km away from Hamburg’s city centre. Surprisingly, though, the small island of Neuwerk belongs to the municipal district of Hamburg-Mitte: about 800 years ago, Hamburg merchants built a mighty tower on the island of Neuwerk to protect the mouth of the River Elbe from pirates. Ever since then, Neuwerk and the surrounding tidal flats have been an outpost of Hamburg. The lengthy journey from Hamburg to Neuwerk is well worth it as the unique Wadden Sea lets you immerse yourself into a whole new world.

North Sea route: Neuwerk, Hamburg’s island in the Wadden Sea
© Hamburg Tourismus GmbH

Hamburg's Wadden Sea is always worth a trip

The RE5 regional train will take you to the North Sea spa of Cuxhaven in just under 2 hours. From Cuxhaven station, you can take the bus to the quarter of Duhnen or to the Alte Liebe port. Depending on the tides, you can reach the island of Neuwerk on foot, by boat (April–October, departing from Alte Liebe) or by a horse-drawn wagon; experienced riders can also get there on horseback. Be sure to find out about the tide times in advance and plan your trip carefully. Due to low and high tide, it is not always possible to travel to and from the island in the matter of one day, but then there are lovely accommodation options available on Neuwerk.

Download map here
Download map here

The route in a nutshell

The hike across the mudflats between Cuxhaven-Duhnen and Neuwerk takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. On your return trip you may want to take the boat or a horse-drawn wagon. It is highly recommended that you set out in the company of a certified mudflat guide who will lead the way. If you deviate from the marked route ever so slightly, you may be exposed to silt fields, tideways with sudden drops in depth as well as mussel beds where you can easily injure yourself.

The amazing world of the Wadden Sea national park

 Das Wattenmeer zwischen Cuxhaven und Neuwerk
© Mediaserver Hamburg/Ingo Boelter
Horse-drawn wagons in the Wadden Sea
Wattenmeer auf der Nordseeinsel Neuwerk
© Adobe Stock
Wadden Sea
Wattwandern auf Neuwerk
© Mediaserver Hamburg / Bernd Schlüsselburg
hiking in the Wadden Sea
Menschen im Wattenmeer
© Mediaserver Hamburg / Ingo Bölter
hiking in the Wadden Sea
Seehund auf Neuwerk
© Werner Fock
Seals in the Wadden Sea

In Cuxhaven you can choose between different modes of transport: the MS Flipper, a small ferry, calls at the island of Neuwerk once a day; the crossing takes two hours. Alternatively, you can board one of the horse-drawn wagons, which will get you there a bit faster. Or you can hike all the way to the island – right through the mudflats. As this can be dangerous due to rising tides, you should be well prepared or have a mudflat guide accompany you. That way, you can also learn more about the Wadden Sea, this unique ecosystem and UNESCO World Heritage site. Geologically speaking, the Wadden Sea is fairly young; it was formed by a post-glacial sea-level rise and strong currents. Today, this current landscape and submarine seascape has a remarkable wealth of flora and fauna.

Thanks to its abundant food supplies, 10 to 12 million migratory birds from around 400 different species stop over in the Wadden Sea each year. This part of the North Sea provides the habitat for 140 species of fish as well as hundreds of seals, and you may also spot the odd grey seal or harbour porpoise while you are there. All of these are governed in a distinct way by the tides, currents and air movements. This unique natural environment lets you experience phenomena such as mudflats, tideways, sandbanks, and migrating islands. Here you can enjoy the relaxing expanse of the national park, with the soft seabed, muddy silt or the clear water of the tideways underneath your feet.

Peaceful and idyllic: the island of Neuwerk

Ostbake Insel Neuwerk
© Werner Flegel
Ostbake at sunset
Luftaufnahme der Nordseeinsel Neuwerk
© Mediaserver Hamburg / Bernd Schlüsselburg
Neuwerk Island from above
Anleger auf der Insel Neuwerk
© Christian Griebel
Pier on Neuwerk
Nigehus auf der Nordseeinsel Neuwerk
© C.G.
Hotel Nige Hus on Neuwerk
Schleuse auf der Insel Neuwerk
© Christian Griebel
Watergate on Neuwerk

Once you arrive on the island of Neuwerk, you may find your sense of time and space is instantly rewired, with grazing horses on green meadows, swooping seagulls, the top of the dike on the horizon and nothing else but pastures, salt marshes and a few scattered houses. The island is car-free so all you can hear is the howling wind, the crashing waves, screeching birds, horses’ hooves and the occasional hum of a tractor that takes arriving guests to their place of accommodation. The island has a total of 21 permanent residents, who run two shops, four hotels, two school hostels and one letterbox that is emptied depending on the tides. Neuwerk used to have its own school as well. Founded in 1827, it was closed down in 2020 because the island’s only two primary school children had moved away with their parents.

Neuwerk is simply a peaceful, timeless experience. When the tide is low, a small sandy beach emerges on the island. The sea water is incredibly clear, enabling you to observe and admire small fish, crabs and crayfish. If the water is too cold for your liking, why not build a sandcastle – or go amber hunting: every now and then, pieces of amber, sometimes of considerable size, have been found in the Neuwerk mudflats. The late Hans-Georg Backhaus, the island’s school teacher for many decades, gathered an impressive collection over the years, which can still be viewed today at the local Haus Bernstein.

Cultural excursions to the lighthouse and the Nationalpark-Haus

Leuchtturm auf der Insel Neuwerk
© Christian Griebel
Neuwerk lighthouse
Austernfischer vor demLeuchtturm auf Neuwerk
© Werner Flegel
Oystercatcher in front of the lighthouse on Neuwerk
NP Haus auf der Insel Neuwerk
© Peter Körber
Ausstellung im NP Haus auf Neuwerk
© Peter Körber
Exhibition in the Nationalpark-Haus

Two cultural highlights are not to be missed on the island: one of them is Hamburg’s oldest building, the Neuwerk lighthouse, a listed building completed in 1310. Unlike most other lighthouses, it doesn’t have red and white stripes, but is made of brick and has a copper roof. Back in the days, guards on the tower would be on the lookout for pirates, securing the mouth of the Elbe and the entrance to the port of Hamburg. In 1814, a beacon light was installed and the tower was thus transformed into a lighthouse. The building, which also includes a guesthouse and a viewing platform at a height of 40 metres, is currently undergoing extensive renovations. Works are scheduled to be completed in 2025, i.e. soon you will be able to spend the night there and visit the platform once you’ve successfully climbed the 138 steps to the top.Another highlight is the NationaIpark-Haus, the information centre of the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park. Admission is free. On 180 m² of space, an exhibition provides insights into the history of Neuwerk and the formation of the Wadden Sea. Through eight interactive stations, visitors can learn about domestic animals and plants of Neuwerk and the Wadden Sea. Here you can examine details of crab shells and snail shells through a microscope, experience a dune simulation demonstrating how the sand is shaped by the wind, and a seagull quiz lets you put your knowledge about different seagull species and their appearance to the test. One of the exhibition’s most popular features is the large tidal aquarium that simulates high and low tides.

Once you have left the island of Neuwerk behind and you are back in Cuxhaven, the RE5 regional train will take you back to Hamburg in just under 2 hours.

As a route planner, we strive to put together particularly diverse routes through Hamburg's most beautiful areas. Did you like our North Sea route? We look forward to receiving your feedback. To discover even more unique places in Hamburg, take a look at our city map.

Discover Hamburg's versatile places On the road in and around Hamburg

© Lucas Pretzel

Hamburg public transport association (hvv)

With the Hamburger Verkehrsbund (hvv) and the Hamburg CARD you can get from one end of the city to the other without any problems. Even to the North Sea coast.

Café Johanna
© Café Johanna

Gastronomy & shopping

Small as the island of Neuwerk may be, no need to have a fear of going hungry: the local hotels offer good quality regional dishes. As regards shopping, you might want to postpone this until you get back to Hamburg’s city centre after your relaxing time on the island.


This might interest you as well

Hamburger Ecken entdecken
© Alamy Stock Foto / Boelter

Insider tips and suggested routes Discovering new corners in Hamburg

Explore Hamburg's neighbourhoods and enjoy the most beautiful city in the world away from the centre. Be inspired by our twelve routes with different focuses such as scene, nature, street art or shopping.

Discovering new corners in Hamburg


With its 40 inhabitants, Neuwerk is Hamburg’s northernmost area. It is located in the Hamburg Wadden Sea at the mouth of the Elbe, about 100 kilometres from the Hamburg city hall. There is always a breeze blowing on Neuwerk and you can enjoy a wide view over the sea.

Neuwerk Island
Ausflugslokal Entenwerder 1 in Hamburg
© Thorsten Baering

Discover. Sustainability. Green Hamburg

Hamburg is not only among the world's Top 10 greenest cities. Its residents are also tops in sustainable use and management of their city.

Green Hamburg

FOLLOW US @hamburgahoi

We need your consent to load the social media service!

We use a third-party service to embed social media content. This service may collect data about your activities. Please read the details and agree to use the service to view the content.

More information


Google translator for other languages

Please note that this is an automatic translation.
For better information, you can always switch to the German or English version

Add to watchlist