Wangerooge, Frisian Islands, Germany
The smallest of the inhabited islands, Wangerooge is part of Lower Saxony and a holiday (or weekend-break) destination that those on the mainland Germany don't want you to know about. Sometimes referred to as "the Hawaii of the North Sea", this car-free island is a go-to for superlative dune-backed beaches, watersports, well-kept cycling trails and a natty little train that carries visitors around the island.
This is a place to go for blowing out the cobwebs, embracing nature and destressing. If you're in search of somewhere where a slow pace of life is de rigueur, consider Wangerooge's slogan: "God created time, but he never mentioned haste."
This pocket-sized island is ideal for walkers and bikers, who can embark on the easy 8km journey from east to west - make a point of spotting the Wangerooge's three lighthouses as you explore; the Alter Leuchtturm has a great viewing platform and museum. Should you fancy giving your legs a break, hop on the century-old, narrow-gauge railway that carries visitors between the harbour and the village station.
The shore is popular among sunbathers and sports enthusiasts alike, with a gentle breeze and opportunities for volleyball (look out for the island's tournament held in early August), windsurfing, sea canoeing, sailing and other watersports. Low tide reveals the Wadden Sea, a Unesco-protect biotope rich with plant and animals - keep your eye out for the famed Wadden worm.
Make your way inland, and you'll discover shops hugging Zedeliusstraße as well as B&Bs and restaurants where menus are populated with seafood fresh from the North Sea.
Worn out? Head to the health and spa centre - perhaps the island's biggest draw - to rejuvenate body and soul with thalasso treatments. Come evening, low light pollution makes Wangerooge a particularly good spot for stargazing.
Where to stay
The island enjoys a wide range of accommodation options, including hotels, self-catered homes and apartments plus glamping and camping. Try Parkhotel Wangerooge, nestled between parkscape and beach, where guests can make use of the on-site Finnish sauna and sanarium.
Where to eat…
Cafe Pudding. Set on the top of a shoreside dune, this bunker was used as part of Wangerooge's military fortification in the Second World War. A baker leased the place when it was decommissioned and, since 1949, locals and visitors have congregated here for coffee, homemade pastries and sea views.
Who to take with you?
Just about anyone who loves the sea, sun, sand and the great outdoors, plus lovers of wildlife.
When to go
Between June and August are the warmest months, with temperatures reaching 20°C, though this is also the busiest time; in summer, Wangerooge's normal population of around 1,200 people is joined by as many as 7,000 visitors each day.
Most likely to bump into…
Seals, mute swans and other seabirds.
Essentials to pack
Keep clothing casual but be prepared for a cool sea breeze. Pack outdoor activity clothes, walking and boating gear, as well as this eco-friendly Dock & Bay towel which combines classic blue-and-white beach stripes with quick-dry technology and folds down into a convenient pouch - ideal for throwing in a carry on or beach bag.
How to get there
Many of us are, understandably, currently reluctant to fly, so why not drive? The north coast of Germany is a day's drive from Calais. A quick trip through the Channel Tunnel, an easy drive across the flatlands of Belgium and The Netherlands puts you in Harlesiel where your ferry awaits. (Enter "26409 Harlesiel Hafen" on your Sat-Nav). Ferry times are dependent on tide times so do check before planning your journey.
No cars are allowed on the island so do travel light. Car parking for all ferry guests is provided at the harbourside.
An alternative to using the ferry is to take your own sea kayak and paddle across the 10Km between Harlesiel and Wangerooge Habour. This is not a trip to take lightly so should only be attempted by experienced sea canoeists. Fast flowing tides and a plethora of mudflats make for interesting navigation with many seals keeping an eye on you. (For any queries please email [email protected])
Trains via Bremen and light planes via Harle Airport can also get you there and full details of how to arrive in Harlesiel plus information on accommodation of all sorts can be found on www.wangerooge.de. This is a German-language site but Microsoft Edge or Google Translate will help.