We, as a family, love visiting the small islands on Germany’s North Sea coast. We particularly enjoy the fresh, salty air, the wide, sandy beaches and wonderful dunes. In our view, they are beautiful all-year-round. I should know because I’ve been there in January, March, May, June, July, August, September and December! One of our favourite islands is Juist, which is one of the East Frisian islands and only three and a half hours from where I originally come from (Düsseldorf). So don’t be surprised if you meet lots of people from the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Great getaway over New Year’s Eve
In 2012, we decided to spend a week with our son in a family hotel in Bavaria and then a week on Juist Island as a couple. If possible, I think most parents should treat themselves to some time alone every now and then.
We had never been to one of the German islands in winter before and we knew it was something we needed to try out without our son as there isn’t much to do with a toddler at this time of year. Whenever we spoke to regular island visitors, they often recommended that we should go around New Year’s Eve. They would frequently speak of the special atmosphere that surrounds the island at this time of year or the fascinating light.
Couple time needed
So, after a lovely family holiday staying at the Kinderhotel Oberjoch family hotel in Bavaria, we were looking forward to treating ourselves to some relaxing down time. We headed off on 27th December after spending Christmas with our family close to Düsseldorf. We took the A31 motorway north to the ferry port of Norddeich.
The crossing to Juist Island usually takes around one and a half hours but do bear in mind that the ferry is dependent on the tide and may only run one, two or three times a day – so don’t miss it! Rarely, the port at Norddeich can be covered in snow and ice. On these occasions, you may find you won’t be able to get on or off the island. However, visiting Juist’s neighbouring island, Norderney, for example, is different, and can also be reached by ferry from Norddeich. For Norderney, you have a little more flexibility regarding the departure times, which is why the island gets more daytime visitors.
The holiday begins
For us, it always feels very special when we arrive at the port, park the car and get our tickets (currently 34€ for an adult return). We then store our suitcases in one of the numbered containers (you’ll need to remember the number when you disembark). The moment we get on the ferry is always exciting and my husband is already looking forward to some crab soup and a cold Jever Pils lager on board. Sometimes it’s the little things that make us happy. We certainly enjoy and appreciate these little moments.
Clocks tick differently on Juist Island
Arriving on Juist means to arrive in a different world. Seriously! As soon as the ferry docks, you immediately get a sense of its calmness. After collecting your suitcases, you then need to decide how to get to your accommodation – either on foot or by horse-drawn carriage. This 17km island is practically car-free and only has a handful of electric cars to transport goods around the island. A few years ago, a petition was signed asking for the horse-drawn carriages to be replaced by electric cars. You can imagine that this wasn’t popular with the islanders and many people (including us) signed a petition opposing the idea. We were very pleased to hear that the horses still remain and this 16th century tradition continues to be the island’s main form of transport.
Join the slow movement
We always opted to walk to our accommodation from the port – sometimes taking advantage of the transport service to deliver our suitcases. On this occasion, our hotel was right in the centre of the island and easy to walk to. Mind you, there are only two villages on Juist – the main centre and a village called Loog.
We had booked the Pabst hotel, which is one of the traditional family-run hotels close to the main beach in the centre of the island. They have a great menu with extended breakfast times (until 12pm) – perfect for us as we’re not early risers! The hotel also had a lovely spa area, which included an indoor swimming pool.
First things first – the beach
Knowing our suitcases would be safely delivered to the hotel, we decided to go to one of our favourite restaurants located close to the beach. The Hohe Düne Restaurant and Bar is a cosy place to be if you enjoy having a nice meal with a sea view. I started with a hot Glühwein and enjoyed sitting by the fire while watching the rough sea and absorbing the mystical atmosphere outside. Now, the holiday had begun! We returned to this restaurant several times during our holiday, particularly after a nice long walk along the beach.
Less is more
I don’t know what type of holiday person you are but I’m more of the itchy feet type! Whenever I go anywhere new, I always have the urge to get out and discover what is around me. Whereas, my husband finds it easy to relax and is quite happy not to go sightseeing at all. After two or three days, I get itchy feet and need to start searching for some the must-see places to visit.
I was completely different on Juist Island. Apart from visiting two museums, a public swimming pool, a very sweet, traditional cinema and a community centre, where you are able to do some sport or listen to a reading, there’s not much else going on in winter but take some time to relax!
Whether you enjoy wandering around the shops (which are all open between Christmas and New Year’s Eve) or being active in the fresh air, there’s something for everyone.
So, all in all, Juist really is a secret place where we can escape our hectic lives. The only way to be on this beautiful island is to be mindful, relax and just be.
In my next blog, I’ll continue talking about our winter holiday on Juist Island. In the meantime, you might want to check out my page for some facts about this hidden gem on Germany’s North Sea coast and you’ll find more information about Juist Island here. You can also sign up for my weekly newsletter, which will arrive straight to your inbox every Sunday.