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 of Juist island on my Facebook, Instagram or Twitter timeline or in my Pinterest boards ‘German islands’ 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 34€ return for adults, 11.50€ 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! Soon, 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!
Fantastic accommodation – whatever your budget
Juist has something for everyone, whatever your budget – or party size. We’ve stayed in a variety of places – from exclusive 4-Star hotels to friendly B&Bs.
My personal accommodation tips and opinions:
Pabst hotel: Cosy, family-run 4-Star hotel with a warm atmosphere, friendly service and great location (in the city centre and only 7 minutes to the beach). The day starts with a high-quality buffet breakfast and the dinner being of equally high standard and absolutely delicious.
The 4-Star Achterdiek hotel is located on the edge of the city centre and only a 15-minute walk to the beach. It has a stunning garden, a relaxation area that overlooks marshland and serves excellent cuisine – providing the peace and tranquillity that holidays are made for. This family-run hotel has a cosy and warm atmosphere. I personally like the interior design, which combines a traditional East Frisian style with a modern twist. The day starts with a high-quality buffet breakfast and the delicious cake is a very tempting treat in the afternoons. I was impressed with the quality of the evening meals – included in our half-board. Overlooking marshland, the new 60m² penthouse is my absolute favourite room (sleeps two).
Ankerplatz (part of the Achterdiek hotel):
In May 2017, the Achterdiek hotel had just opened some incredible new accommodation opposite the hotel (Ankerplatz). The accommodation consists of good-sized double rooms, five of which are located on the ground floor – great for dog owners! As dog lovers themselves, the hotel owners really have thought of everything to make your dog’s stay as comfortable as your own! While I was there, I had a look at most of the rooms and I was really impressed by the small details and the tastefully designed rooms. Each room has a large dog bed (wipeable), two bowls and even a box of dried dog food. Guests can still enjoy all the facilities in the main hotel opposite but dogs aren’t permitted in the area of the hotel.
We enjoyed our stay at the Achterdiek hotel so much when we stayed there in 2013 that I’m itching to try out their new place next time so that I can take our dog Charlie with us as well! Many people do take their dogs to the island but it’s always recommendable to check with your accommodation in advance. It’s also advisable to book early as the island gets very busy during German school holidays – sometimes places get booked up a year in advance!
We also looked at this 4-Star (child and dog-friendly) hotel, which is located at the heart of the city centre. In my opinion, the interior design lacks a little bit of character and charm. I can recommend the terrace for al fresco dining in the summer though. Sometimes they offer a barbecue and buffet for a set price. Here I was introduced the first time to one of my favourite red wines called Ursprung, which is nice Cuvée.
Haus Köbesine B&B:
I can also highly recommend Haus Köbesine, a small, elegant B&B located right by some sand dunes, which some rooms overlook – giving you a free view all the way to the sea. We stayed here with our son and his cousin and although we had a fabulous stay, it’s probably not ideal if you have young children. The couple running the place were welcoming and really helped make our stay very special. We’d definitely go back at some point but it would be when we don’t have our son with us or once he’s older.
We’ve always found it better to rent a house or an apartment when we travel with our son or our dog. There’s a fantastic selection of self-catering places available to suit any budget. Here are some of my favourites.
Köbesinchen (part of Haus Köbesine):
Köbesine also has a house and an apartment available to rent out. We stayed in their very spacious house, which sleeps up to 6 people. The house has a decent sized garden (including garden furniture) and ideally located close to the beach – perfect if you have children (or a dog).
Lohbaums Hus Oost (cottage):
We stayed in this beautifully designed cottage in May 2017 and were delighted to know that our little dog was also very welcome. The cottage is located right in the centre of Juist and only a 20-minute walk to the beach. Decorated in the typical Frisian style, it has two bedrooms (including two ensuites), a fully equipped kitchen, a decent sized hall (perfect for storing coats, beach stuff etc.), a living room and a small terrace with table and chairs.
‘Mitten in Juist’:
These tastefully decorated apartments sleeps up to 5 people and are located in the centre of Juist – only a 7-minute walk to the beach. Dogs aren’t allowed here and I wouldn’t recommend staying here if you have young children as the bunk beds are located on the ground floor with the main bedroom being situated upstairs. The apartments have a small well-equipped kitchenette (including a 2-ring hob and a dishwasher) and a bathroom with a bath. We certainly enjoyed our stay here.
The Bracht apartments:
Our family often stay in one of these apartments, which are located right in the centre (opposite the Atlantic hotel) and only a 20-minute walk to the beach. Apartments vary in size with some being very well-designed.
If you’d like some advice or need help planning your trip to Juist island, don’t hesitate to contact me either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via my social media accounts. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you!