Have you ever heard of the tiny islands dotted along Germany’s North Sea coast? They are known as the East Frisian islands, with all of them providing the idyllic location for a stress-free holiday. I’ve been a huge fan of them for more than 20 years and have been fortunate enough to have visited most of the islands.
What I love about these islands
Whenever I spend my holiday by the North Sea, I’m always relaxed. It really doesn’t matter what time of year I go as every season has its own special atmosphere. Today, I’d like to take you on a journey to the island of Juist. You might have seen some recent pictures and videos on my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter timeline but I’d also like to give you some more information in this blog.
Saying goodbye to our hectic lives – Töwerland here I come!
Our holiday always begins as we arrive at Norddeich Mole to catch the ferry across to the island. And once we’ve parked the car, bought our tickets (currently 33€ return for adults, 11€ return for dogs) and loaded our luggage onto the containers – I’m in full holiday-mode! I can literally feel the tension leaving my body as I make my way to the top deck and breathe in the fresh sea air.
There are normally one or two ferries a day, depending on the tide and weather. The journey usually takes around an hour and a half – certainly enough time to enjoy the slower pace. Juist also has its own small airport, which is served by FLN Frisia Luftverkehr GmbH from Norddeich Airport. It’s a great experience to fly across to the island in a small Cessna or one of the Britten-Norman island planes. We’ve done it once and we’ll certainly be doing it again one day.
However, our usual mode of transport is the ferry – and I have to say, just as impressive. As soon as we arrive at the little harbour, we grab our suitcase and make our way to our accommodation on foot. The other option would be to jump in one of the horse taxis as there aren’t any cars on the island. It certainly makes a nice change to hear the click clacking of hooves rather than the roar of traffic. Only then do I know that I’m on ‘my’ island, which is also known as Töwerland – literally meaning wonderland!
Making the most of simple pleasures
As soon as you set foot on the island, you can feel the tension drift away. It’s almost as if the clocks on the island run differently to everywhere else! Children have the space and freedom to run around and do what kids love doing. The stunning scenery and the wide sandy beaches make it the perfect destination for families and outdoor enthusiasts. In the summer, you’ll always see families discovering the island either by bike or on foot – or even just relaxing the time away by the sea on one of the colourful beach chairs. Children will enjoy just being by the sea, building sandcastles, flying a kite or playing football. It’s not always possible to take your own bikes to the island due to space limitations but you’ll find plenty of places to hire out bikes (or trailers if you have little ones). Pedal go-karting is also another activity popular with families. When the weather isn’t so good, visitors to the island can have an hour and a half free use of the public swimming pool with their island guest card (Töwercard). Located in the same building is a recently refurbished wellness area, which includes saunas, a steam bath, a relaxation area with a fantastic view and a bistro. Another option for those rainy days is the very interesting Wadden Sea National Park museum or the small local museum, which shows the history of the island and the importance of the Wadden Sea.
Treat yourself to the best raisin bread in the world
I’m sure my nose can smell the delicious aroma of freshly baked raisin bread long before I arrive at the Domäne Bill café. This family-run café, on the west side of the island, will make you feel welcome and seriously offers the best raison bread in the world. After a long walk or cycle ride, there’s nothing better than diving into a thick slice of it! I know I always do!
Hooray – a child-free break
One New Year’s Eve we took a rare child-free break to the island and stayed at the amazing Hotel Pabst. We were truly spoilt with the hotel’s top-class cuisine. To our delight, the hotel offered extended breakfast times on New Year’s Day – giving us the luxury of a much-needed lie-in! We also enjoyed the very special atmosphere at this time of year on the island. After Christmas and a few days into the New Year, most of the hotels, shops, cafés and restaurants are open and the island gets quite busy. The very impressive winter sun and the island’s natural beauty are absolutely fascinating and I can highly recommend visiting this time of year. We usually go for long walks along the coast, absorbing the refreshing sea air before treating ourselves to lunch or a hot drink in one of the typical East Frisian style cafés like Lütje Teehaus or Loogster Stuv. Having been lucky enough to have stayed in a 4-Star hotel, the afternoon was often spent relaxing in the wellness area or treating myself to a beauty or wellness treatment.
Top class cuisine
Food is always a big part of anyone’s holiday – and we are no exception. There’s nothing better than relaxing over a meal while taking in an impressive view. Juist Island has an amazing choice of restaurants and cafés, all serving fresh, regional cuisine. One of our favourite restaurants is Hohe Düne, which has a fantastic view over the sea. The interior is well-designed and the food is simply divine. There are also some more traditional places, serving incredible fresh fish and typical regional meals.
Protecting our beautiful nature
While I was on Juist Island at the end of May 2017, I attended a fascinating lecture by the Deputy Mayor, Thomas Vodde, who is also responsible for tourism. The lecture, entitled ‘Courage and Sustainability’, addressed the issues around sustainability. Thomas Vodde explained how Juist’s local government, the tourist board as well as residents and tourists all work together to ensure that the island’s natural beauty is protected. In a nutshell, the island has committed itself to having a net zero carbon footprint by 2030. This isn’t an easy task as it involves so many aspects from protecting the environment to looking at how best to develop the island’s infrastructure.
In fact, many British resorts are facing the same challenges. For example, Cornwall is a very popular region for holiday homes and is therefore so important to find the right balance between local residents and the tourists who come to the area.
I’m convinced Juist is going the right way in terms of its approach to sustainability. It’s even made me start thinking about my own habits. Maybe next time we could take the train to the port instead of the car? It’s certainly well-connected to most major towns, so there really isn’t any excuse.
Juist is certainly not just Juist
To really understand the special atmosphere and feel of this tiny island, you really need to experience it for yourself. It’s not surprising that the island gets so many repeaters – some families carry on this tradition over generations. I can only say that we, as a family, are addicted to it and love coming back to this wonderful retreat that offers an antidote to our hectic lives. I’ve always found that being around nature helps me to relax as well as giving me the perfect opportunity to bond with my family. We’ll be definitely coming back to this wonderland! Next time, I’ll take you on a journey to the island of Norderney, which is very different in comparison to Juist but just as beautiful. So, stay tuned!