There’s an excellent chance that you’ve never heard of Juist Island. There’s no reason to feel guilty about that though, unless you’re German it’s not a well-known place. That’s one reason of many why I wanted to visit after having seen a photo of Germany’s incredible islands a few years ago. Working with Germany Tourism, I visited several spots around Northern Germany, but Juist was just a little more special than the others. I honestly had such an incredible experience on Juist that today I want to share more about it and why it should have a firm place on everyone’s travel bucket lists.
Feels remote, but easy to reach
The East Frisian Islands are a chain of islands in the North Sea, just off the Coast of Lower Saxony in Germany. Seven of these islands are inhabited, including the 11-mile long island of Juist. On one side is the North Sea and the other is the UNESCO-protected Wadden Sea, These unique conditions have created a small spit of land that really is an oddly located paradise. It’s also very easy to reach. I drove to the town of Norddeich, where I bought a ferry ticket and waited to board. The trip is about 90 minutes, and the views along the way are picturesque and the service onboard friendly. It’s actually the perfect introduction to the laid-back spirit found throughout Juist.
Juist is one of those magical places where no motor vehicles are allowed. That’s right, on Juist the only way to get around is by foot, bike or horse-drawn carriage. Arriving onto Juist, the absence of cars immediately adds to the ethereal feeling of being there. The first thing I noticed was the lack of noise. I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed before just how noisy the background noise of modern life can be, but on Juist it’s just the crashing of the waves and the whinnies of horses. Renting a bike is easy and there are a number of companies that cater to the thousands of tourists who visit every year. I rented my bike from the outfitter Fliegender Hollaender on the town’s main street and within just a few minutes I was set up and ready to explore the island on two wheels.
Incredible scenery and experiences
Almost immediately I felt at home on Juist. Everyone seems so relaxed and happy, a feeling that the island itself inspires right away. It was apparent to me within a couple of minutes why it’s such a popular vacation spot for Germans, and I was thankful for the opportunity to explore it myself. To be fair, most people visit Juist to do very little except relax by the beach, which is perfectly reasonable. I wanted to go exploring though, so with a map in hand I set off on my bike to see more of the island. I’m not great with directions but, luckily, Juist isn’t huge and, you know, it’s an island so I knew I couldn’t get lost. I picked a direction and started biking, following along what I call bike highways that spread out across Juist.
The novelty of being on a car free island is perhaps what amused me the most. It was such a fun feeling to just bike around, waving at people as you passed them and enjoying the weather. There are though a number of short walks and hikes to enjoy on this small island. One of the most notable is to the inland lake called the Hammersee. The hike through dense forestlands is honestly why most folks make the trek to see this oddly formed lake, but they also go to admire the unusual birds that flock to it. On the other side of the island is another notable hike that follows a nature path, meant to educate visitors about the unique natural qualities of Juist. Then there’s the beach. Bordering the North Sea, this seemingly endless beach is truly massive, not just in length but in its width thanks to the unusual tidal patterns of the island. It’s the main draw and why so many people decide to spend a week or two on the island, but it’s not the only reason.
Ultimate laid back vibe
I struggled to write this post at first because it was genuinely difficult for me to put into words the feeling of utter contentment I felt during my far-too-short time on Juist. Walking down the main street in town, everyday life seemed normal except it was so much calmer. People parked their bikes along the curb so they could do some grocery shopping, restaurants were bustling with activity and kids zoomed past on their bikes with broad smiles emblazoned on their faces. The sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze that brought along with it the salty air of the sea and the only sounds were those of gulls looking for a meal. It was the perfect day; one that is so rare in the travel experience and it’s for that same feeling of ease that has made Juist so very popular to visit. Whether it’s their commitment to creating a sustainable future, the raw force of nature evident at every turn or just its quirky personality, there’s a lot to love about Juist and I hope my first visit wasn’t my last.
The Practical Stuff
How to get there
As I mentioned, it’s very easy to reach Juist via ferry. You can purchase tickets from FRISIA in advance, but I bought them at the terminal and was fine. You can bring luggage of course, but check it before boarding by placing it in one of the large luggage carriers lining the dock. It’s the same process for retrieval on Juist. As soon as you arrive on Juist, you must visit the Tourism Information booth in the ferry terminal in order to pay a nominal arrival fee. You won’t be allowed to leave the island without paying the fee.
Where to stay
Juist is intended for extended stay visits. As such, the most popular form of accommodation are condos and houses available for rent throughout the island. There are a number of other options including hotels located “downtown” and guest houses or B&Bs, including the one where I spent the night. The BIO Hotel Haus AnNatur is a holistic establishment devoted to personal well-being and offer any number of services, including the always popular yoga. They also have a talented chef who whips up mostly vegetarian meals for guests. The great thing about the guesthouses is that most rooms have small kitchenettes, so if you’re staying for a few days you can buy groceries and cook for yourself.
How to get around
The island is flat and very easy to walk around if that’s what you want to do. For convenience though I very strongly recommend renting a bike, as most visitors do. I used the outfitter Fliegender Hollaender, but there are many who offer this and other services. You can get a normal bike, e-bike or bikes with a variety of storage options depending on your needs. There are also special vehicles for people with mobility issues, and horse-drawn carriages are available for scenic rides or to transport your luggage.
Where to eat
Like most great vacation destinations, there are a great number of restaurant and bar options throughout the island. My best advice is to just explore and see what interests you the most. There’s a variety of establishments from coffee shops to higher-end cuisine and everything in between.
Have you heard of Juist before?