Schiermonnikoog: An island in the Wadden archipelago

If you look at a map of the Netherlands, you’ll see a long string of small islands rising out of the sea all along the northern coast, and extending beyond into Germany.

As a lover of maps, this geographical curiosity has always fascinated me. I was even lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in real life when I flew regurlarly to Stockholm from Paris.

I went there in 2020.

A fabulous island with an unpronounceable name

After two months of confinement between Paris and Amsterdam, we needed to get away from it all and recharge our batteries. We had to find a place that was easy to access and didn’t require quarantine.

When I spoke to my Dutch colleagues about it, they said “goes to Schiermonnikoog. You’ll see, it’s fabulous. It’s a car-free island. On foot or by bike“. After having the name repeated to me three times, “Chir – Monique – Hogue”, and then spelling it out, I managed to spot it on the map! So, bingo! This is one of the Wadden islands I wanted to visit so badly.

Then I went through a little web research to find out how to get there. We would have to reach the port of Lauwersoog. Not too convenient by train, since the nearest station is in Leeuwarden, 45 km away. We decided to rent a car and we would be there in less than two hours, with the bonus of seeing the famous Afsluitdijk dam along the way.


But big disappointment: everything’s full!

With Covid, the Dutch are staying at home in their own country, and they’ve all rushed off to the Wadden islands. But with a bit of tenacity in our web searches, we eventually found an apartment at the Graaf Bernstorff Hotel. A sign that Schiermonikhoog is a little paradise known only to locals: the hotel’s website exists only in Dutch.

Here we go! To reach the island, we take a ferry across the Wadden Sea. The sea is so shallow that the boat has to zigzag nonchalantly to follow a channel… This gives a foretaste of the languid, tranquil feeling we’ll find at our destination.

Ferry between Schiermonnikhoog and Lauwersoog
Transparent sailboat on the Wadden Sea

The only village on the island

Our hotel is located in the center of the island’s only town. To get there, you have to pass through an arch made of two whale jaws! A distant legacy from the days when fishermen used to hunt it.

Hotel Graff Bersnstroff and its whale jaws

In the village, what strikes the mind, and even more the ears, is the calm. The island’s electric buses only run when the ferry arrives. The rest of the time, all you can hear is the noise of bicycles and groups of pedestrians chatting. This is where we realize that automobile traffic is a permanent source of noise pollution in the vast majority of the inhabited world.

The village is relatively large, with its center dating from the early 18th century.

Alignment of houses in Schiermonnikhoog

The beach is a festival of the senses!

But the main reason for coming to Schiermonnikoog is the beach. It’s huge, and boasts one of the largest, if not the largest, in Europe! The paradox is that the island is small and easy to explore on foot or by bike.

The beach is a festival of the senses! Sight, with its endless expanses; smell, with the iodine that permeates the nostrils; touch, with the sensual wind that can be cuddly, tender, or violent. The taste with sea salt.

Except for a small central part of the beach between posts 2 and 7, you’re free to walk or swim completely naked. The Dutch are comfortable with nudity and you won’t offend anyone. The feeling of freedom is increased tenfold.

The best way to enjoy the beach is simply to walk for hours along the sea, playing with the waves, seagulls, puddles, and shells that the tide has left behind.

Stretch of beach at Schiermonnikhoog

Behind the apparent monotony lies incredible diversity. If only for the weather! During summer or even spring holidays, you’ll be able to enjoy some hot moments in the sun that will make you wish you’d forgotten your high-protection sun cream, hat, and sunglasses.

But the next day, or even later, you’ll need to protect yourself from the wind or rain with a warm fleece and a good parka. Schiermonnikhoog is temperamental and not easily discovered. But whatever the weather, the island will win you over.

As far as we’re concerned, we had plenty of sunshine at the end of May, but also a sometimes violent wind. We took a long bike ride along the beach, which felt like going up a steep mountain slope on the way out, and on the way back we rode electric bikes! We also went swimming, something we’d never thought possible at this time of year.

The author on his bike on the beach at Schiermonnikhoog
Fanning your feet on the beach
Dunes on Schiermonnikhoog beach

A national park, a bird’s paradise

A national park covers a large part of the island’s interior, a true paradise for birds. It can be crossed by several hiking trails. In our case, we had to be pleased with observing the birds from a distance. In fact, during the spring breeding season, much of the territory is off-limits.

Swamp on the island of Schiermonnikhoog
Cyclist on a wooden dam

So we took the opportunity to go for a walk in the beautiful pine forest with its heady scents located just outside the village.

Pine forest on the island of Schiermonnikhoog

Take your time!

The real pleasure of the island, in my opinion, is taking your time, observing nature, people enjoying themselves, the ever-changing sky and sea… Schiermonnikhoog is above all an art of living. That’s why you need to stay for several days to fully appreciate it.

We had the impression that it was mostly regulars who came to Schiermonikhoog. And, for some, the chance to make it their vacation home. It’s a place where we’d love to have grown up as children or teenagers. It’s a huge playground just waiting to be discovered, in complete safety, as the island is small and car-free.

And we ended each day with a glass of beer, a great Dutch tradition, on the terrace of our hotel!

We were delighted with our 4-day stay in Schiermonnikhoog. Confinement seemed a long way off. A complete change of scenery not far from home. By car, it’s 7 hours from Paris, less than driving to the south of France.

We’ve been wondering whether we shouldn’t buy a house here and come back more often. We really liked this one! What do you think?

thatched house and white lighthouse

Practical tips for your stay in Schiermonnikhoog

A good place to start finding out more about Schiermonnikhoog is the tourist office website.

Ferry schedules from Lauwersoog are available on the following website. In high season, it is advisable to book your place early. There’s a large, safe parking lot at the port, where you can leave your car while you’re on the island.

Finally, for the most reliable weather forecast, it’s best to look at a Dutch site. I recommend this one:

The map below is the most detailed I’ve found on the island.


It is advisable to rent a bicycle and book well in advance. An electric bike is not essential unless you’re not in top physical condition or the wind is forecast to be strong.

We stayed at the “Graaf Bernstorff” hotel in a two-bedroom apartment. Spacious, quiet, we liked it. We also liked being able to cook for ourselves, as restaurants in the Netherlands are often disappointing. Gastronomy is not part of the local culture. There’s a well-stocked supermarket opposite the hotel.

In our opinion, the best restaurant on the island is “de 4 dames”.

Goede reis!

Bon voyage!

By Janwillemvanaalst - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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