Have you ever heard about the East Frisian islands? And what about the island of Juist? While Norderney or Wangerooge might ring a bell, Juist is definitely not as well known. It’s one of the 12 East Frisian islands off the German coast in the North Sea and is not only famous for the Wadden Sea – extensive mudflats between the mainland and the islands – but also for it’s slow pace.
And if we say slow, we truly mean slow.
The island is completely car-free, and the locals take this rule very seriously. In other supposedly “car-free” towns you’ll see one hundred exceptions from the rule. But not on Juist. Even if you want to build a house all the materials have to be transported by horse carriage or by bike. The only exceptions are the ambulance and the police.
But let’s start at the beginning! The reason we made it from Vienna all the way North to Juist is the 50 year anniversary of “Romantik Hotels” – a collective of European boutique and family-owned hotels dedicated to individual hospitality. On Juist there’s one of their long-standing establishments called “Romantik Hotel Achterdiek” and that’s where we were invited to stay.
In this post we want to give you an overview about the island of Juist, but also share our experiences at Romantik Hotel Achterdiek alongside tips for what you can do while your stay.
Let’s start with some practical information.
How to get to Juist
From Vienna it’s a bit of a journey to get to Juist, but it’s well worth the trip. We flew into the (recently renovated and cute little) airport in Bremen, then rented a car to drive to Norddeich from there. That’s around a 2 hour trip. On the way you can stop in Greetsiel and take a stroll through the beautiful harbour village with it’s 18th-century brick houses and windmills.
At Norddeich you have to park your car on what they call the “Inselparker” parking lot (costs around 5 Euros per day) and then walk up to the large commercial harbour. From here you have three choices – you can either take a small airplane, the large slow ferry (that comes with a bar, snacks, drinks and amenities) and takes about 1,5 hours to arrive on Juist. Or you take the speed boats, which take between 30-45 minutes. We opted for the speed boat version.
One thing is important to know:
The arrival on Juist depends largely on the tide, so make sure to check the ferry schedule ahead of time and book your tickets, so you can arrange your travel times accordingly.
How to travel around on Juist
Once you step off the ferry at the harbour on Juist you’ll notice the vibe of the island immediately. There’s dozens of bikes parked at the harbour, the hotel staff comes to pick up guests with bikes and hangers for the luggage and a salty breeze is greeting you. The slow pace starts upon arrival.
We decide to walk to our hotel, which is just 5-10 minutes away from the harbour. And so we stroll through the small village, pass by some shops, the pharmacy, and a bike rental and arrive at Romantik Hotel Achterdiek. Speaking of the bike rental. We recommend to pass by there on your first day already to rent your bikes for the duration of your stay. You’ll do everything on the island by bike. We opted for one regular and one e-bike and would recommend the e-bikes if you come in autumn like us, where it’s often a bit more windy and you’ll have to face headwinds (and the island is 17 km, so about 11 miles long!).
What to do on Juist
There’s a couple of must do’s when you’re on Juist:
- Explore the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park (you can even take a guided Wadden Sea tour where you walk through the mudflats)
- Bike all the way to the West of the island and eat “Rosinenstuten” (a raisin brioche) at “Domäne Bill”
- Visit the viewpoint on top of a dune at “Aussichtsdüne Hammersee”
- Drink the typical East Frisian Tea (“Ostfriesentee”) at “Lütje Teehaus”
- Sit in one of the traditional beach basket-chairs and enjoy the views of the wide beach and dunes
- Try out anything made of sea buckthorn – the local delicacy
- Take a boat tour to see the seals
- Check out the landmark “Seezeichen Juist”
1. Explore the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park
Did you know that the Wadden Sea is the second most productive eco system on planet Earth – just after the rain forest? We had no idea before our visit on Juist. You can learn all of this during a visit and see the intricate network between the tide and living beings like worms and mussels who keep the Wadden Sea alive.
2. Bike all the way to the West of the island and eat “Rosinenstuten” (a raisin brioche) at “Domäne Bill”
First and foremost: The bike paths on Juist are a dream! Nowhere else you can ride between the Wadden Sea and the dunes with such ease. The paths are wide and well paved, there’s no other traffic (except for the occasional horse carriage) and it’s just a lovely way to explore the island.
All the way to the West you can find the “Domäne Bill” (Domäne Bill 1, 26571 Juist, Germany), which is a local institution. Even at the end of the season (we visited in early October) the lines at the restaurant can lead all the way through the restaurant outside in the garden. But it’s worth the wait for the famous “Rosinenstuten”, a glass of sea buckthorn juice or a vegan potato soup.
Our tip: Try and arrive before noon for a shorter line, and don’t forget to climb over the dune to also visit the beach!
3. Visit the viewpoint on top of a dune at “Aussichtsdüne Hammersee”
Hammersee is the only sweet water lake of the East Frisian islands. Along the bike path to Domäne Bill you can pass by a viewpoint. So park your bikes and walk a few minutes through dense bushes to then climb up the dune for an expansive view of Juist and it’s ecological treasures.
Our tip: If you’re up for a longer hike there’s a sandy hiking path all the way from the village of Juist to the West (it’s more than 6 kilometres one way, so plan enough time if you want to walk instead of taking the bike).
4. Drink the typical East Frisian Tea (“Ostfriesentee”) at “Lütje Teehaus”
Stupidly enough we were in the mood for something else and ordered a Grogg (which had way too much alcohol in it). So better opt for the traditional “Ostfriesentee” at “Lütje Teehaus” (Dünenstraße 2, 26571 Juist, Germany). You might have to wait in line to get a table here, but the cozy atmosphere makes up for the hype!
Our tip: Come hungry and also order a waffle with cherry compote and ice cream!
5. Sit in one of the traditional beach basket-chairs and enjoy the views of the wide beach and dunes
The real reason why you have to visit Juist is the quietude and relaxation you can get here. People call it “Töwerland” which can be translated to “Magic land” – and the magic is all in it’s incredibly calm atmosphere. And the best way to experience this atmosphere is by renting one of the wicker beach baskets and just unwind while watching kids raise kites and dogs digging in the sand.
Our tip: Be aware that the beach season ends in October, so we got lucky to still be able to use the beach baskets at the beginning of October, but saw that they started transporting them off to their winter quarters during those days.
6. Try out anything made of sea buckthorn – the local delicacy
If you walk (or bike) around Juist you’ll notice the sea buckthorn quickly. It grows like a weed, everywhere! On the dunes, alongside the bike paths – the orange berries are colourful and ripe in October. So, naturally, you’ll want to try them out.
There’s two things to know: First and foremost it’s not allowed to pick sea buckthorn for commercial use on the island of Juist. So if you pick it yourself then only for your personal use. But secondly you’ll notice the taste is quite bitter. So you have to know how to best create something out of those berries that also tastes good. Our personal favorite was the sea buckthorn juice – but only when mixed with either apple or orange juice, not pure. The jam can also be quite delicious!
7. Take a boat tour to see the seals
One thing was on the very top of our To Do list – and that was to book a boat tour to the seal colonies on Juist. Luckily we came at the right time and the tour happened right on our first day on the island. So we hopped on the ferry alongside some families and very excited little kids and off we went alongside the Southern coast of Juist.
We passed by the Western tip and all of the sudden a small black button came out of the Wadden Sea next to us – the head of a seal! Once you get closer to the sand banks you’ll see the whole colony – with two types of seals – just sunbathing and watching you just the way you’re watching them. You’ll learn about their behaviour and distinct features when you take the tour.
Pro tip: Make sure to bring a long zoom lens if you want to take photos!
8. Check out the landmark “Seezeichen Juist”
You actually cannot miss this landmark, as it’s located right at the entrance of the harbour. So once you arrive you’ll already see the “Seezeichen”, that looks like a giant buoy (or a mini-version of the famous Burj Al Arab). If you’re up for it you can climb up there for views of the harbour.
Where to stay on Juist: Romantik Hotel Achterdiek
To understand Juist and it’s infrastructure you have to go back in time. Around 100 years ago Juist was already flourishing as a cure destination for wealthy guests seeking a health retreat at the beach. And it’s around that time that the first grand hotels were established on Juist.
Romantik Hotel Achterdiek is one of the hotels that date back to those glorious times (formerly known as hotel Classens).
A lot has changed since then and the hotel has grown and been carefully developed by it’s owners. Today it’s owned and run by the Danzer family, who took it over from the previous family owners after working in the hotel for over 15 years themselves. And that’s one of the core elements of the hotel, it’s family-owned and run and you can feel that sense of family throughout the whole house.
From traditions to today
Over 70% of the guests on Juist and at Romantik Hotel Achterdiek are repeat visitors, so the island and the hotel have a very unique appeal, that draws people to come back over and over again. Nowadays family Danzer is carefully renovating the hotel year after year, step by step. The way they are incorporating the traditional elements and a modern maritime design is reviving the hotel in the best possible style. We especially loved the fireplace in the lobby and the cozy nooks to relax in, as well as the new winter garden and the updated restaurant.
A Chef’s kitchen
When it comes to the kitchen, then Stephan Danzer himself is in charge. He’s the head chef at the hotel’s very own restaurant and his signature style defines the creative and delicate cuisine. And that’s what Romantik Hotels are all about – culinary traditions mixed with innovation and the personal touch of the owners, that’s what makes a place come to life.
A few reasons why to stay at Romantik Hotel Achterdiek on Juist:
- Family-owned traditional hotel with a cozy atmosphere
- Location just minutes away from the harbour and right behind the dam with views of the Wadden Sea
- Creative local cuisine with a strong focus on regional products and also a good vegetarian offering
- Spa, indoor pool and saunas, relax rooms and steam baths for those gloomy days at the North Sea
Interested in a trip to Juist, but not right now? Pin this post for later:
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post as part of a collaboration with Romantik Hotels. The views in this blogpost are our own.