Baltic Coast Beaches
Although Germany may not be the first place on your list of beach destinations, a shore vacation on the Baltic never disappoints. The coast here ranges from the remote bucolic shores of Usedom to the chic beaches of Sylt.
Be sure to rent a Strandkorb, a kind of beach chair in a wicker basket, which gives you all of the sun, but protects you from the wind and flying sand. You can rent these chairs by the hour, half day, or day. There is usually an office near the chairs; look for the kiosk that sells sundries and beach toys nearest the chair you want.
A blue flag on the beach indicates that the water is safe for swimming. But, be aware that water temperatures even in August rarely exceed 20°C (65°F). There's a Kurtaxe (a tax that goes to the upkeep of the beaches) of €1.50–€5 for most resort areas; the fees on Sylt average €3 per day. Fees are usually covered by your hotel; you should get a card indicating that you’ve paid the tax. You can use the card for discounted services, but don’t need to present it to visit the beach.
It is believed that about 40 million years ago a pine forest grew in the area that is now the Baltic Sea. Fossilized resin from these trees, aka amber, lies beneath the surface. In fact, this area has the largest known amber deposit—about 80% of the world’s known accessible deposits. The best time for amber "fishing," dipping a net into the surf, is at low tide after a storm when pieces of amber dislodge from the seabed.
Baltic Coast Best Beaches
If you’re partial to the bucolic and tranquil, head to the car-free island of Hiddensee, Rügen’s neighbor to the west. With a mere 1,300 inhabitants, Hiddensee is the perfect place to look for washed-up amber.
Germany’s largest island, Rügen has picture-perfect beaches, chalk cliffs, and pristine nature. It also served as the stomping ground for the likes of Albert Einstein, Christopher Isherwood, and Caspar David Friedrich. An easy day trip from Berlin, the town of Binz is the perfect Rügen getaway. Binz has a nice boardwalk, a pretty beach dotted with Strandkörbe, and fine mansions.
You’ll find a wonderful white-sand beach at Prora and a smattering of artists' studios; the hulking abandoned resort here was designed by the Nazis to house 20,000 vacationers in the Kraft durch Freude (Strength Through Joy) program.
Germany’s northernmost island is the granddaddy of all beach resorts and by far the most popular seaside destination in Germany. Sylt is chic and trendy, but, despite being overrun by tourists, it is still possible to find your own romantic abandoned stretch of beach. Westerland is the most popular beach, with its long promenade and sun-drenched sand. The "Fun-Beach Brandenburg" bursts at the seams with family-friendly activities, volleyball, and other sporting contests. Farther afield, the red cliffs of Kampen are the perfect backdrop for a little mellow sun and schmoozing with the locals. It’s a lovely place for a walk along the shore and up the cliffs, where the view is spectacular. The best beach for families is at Hörnum, where a picture-perfect red-and-white lighthouse protects the entrance to the bay.
The towns of Ahlbeck and Herringsdorf are the most popular on Usedom Island, with pristine 19th-century villas and mansions paired with long boardwalks extending into the sea. For the true and unspoiled experience, head west to Ückeritz, where the beach feels abandoned.
A resort town popular with German tourists and local day-trippers from Rostock, the 20 km (12 miles) of windswept white-sand beach can’t be beat. A fun promenade stretches the length of the beach and features daily music performances and restaurants ranging from high-end dining to fish shacks where you can get a paper bag filled with fried mussels.
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