East Frisian Islands

The chain of the East Frisian Islands off the coast of Lower Saxony

The East Frisian Islands (German: Ostfriesische Inseln) are part of Lower Saxony, and part of the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The area is located within the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park.


View of Spiekeroog
  Island Population
1 Borkum 5.437
2 Kachelotplate
3 Lütje Hörn
4 Memmert
5 Juist 1.766
6 Norderney 5.919
7 Baltrum 479
8 Langeoog 1.972
9 Spiekeroog 804
10 Wangerooge 985
11 Minsener Oog
12 Mellum


While many of the inhabitants still speak Plattdeutsch (low German) at home and among other people from the region, people in the tourist industry will all have a firm grasp of standard German, though sometimes with a slight "Missingsch" (northern accented standard German) tinge to it, as well as the "dry" humor, that is often associated with it. As this region carters primarily to Germans don't expect to much in the way of foreign languages, although you should get by reasonably with Dutch (very similar to Plattdeutsch) as well as English (widely taught in schools)

Get in

By boat

Most islands have one ferry-port that connects them at least once daily to the mainland. Because of the tides departure times may be uncomfortable especially when coming from far away. As most of the islands are car-free there are parking lots close to the ferry for those arriving via automobile.

As shown in the map at the top of the page, each island has one harbor that primarily connects it to the mainland. You can take a boat from Eemshaven (Netherlands) or Emden to Borkum, from Norddeich (Mole) (Served by regular Intercity trains under this precise name) to Juist and Norderney, from Neßmersiel to Baltrum, from Bensersiel to Langeoog, from Neuharlingersiel to Spiekeroog and from Carolinensiel to Wangerooge. There are sometimes connections from/to other harbors but those are mostly for day trippers visiting another island than the one they are staying at. That means in essence that while "island hopping" is technically possible, it requires a bit of effort on your part (boat tickets, short term accommodation etc.) and isn't all that common.

Be sure to research the departure time of your boat in advance, as they can only sail during high tide which changes day to day and also year to year.

By train

Deutsche Bahn offers some through tickets including ferry service or at least the bus up to the ferry. As you cannot use a car on most of the islands anyway this might be the most practical and - in some cases - the cheapest option. The boat and bus on the last leg of the trip are usually scheduled to wait for each other in case of delays.

As the ports connecting the islands to the mainland are - with the exception of Emden and Norddeich (Mole) - only served by regional trains, you will need a change of train onto a regional train for the last leg in most cases. Sometimes you will even have to take a bus for the last few kilometers to the boat.

On foot

There are guided tours to some of the islands that take you there through the mudflats that are exposed as the sea recedes during low tide. Only do this with a licensed guide in your group, as it can be very dangerous (not to mention illegal) to go alone because the flood has trapped more than one hiker and fog is an ever-present danger to lose your orientation.

By plane

While most of the islands do have a spot where small planes can land and most even have scheduled flights to Emden and other nearby spots on the mainland, flying is a rather uncommon and expensive way to get to any of these islands. Furthermore, you won't save all that much time compared to the boat, as the thing that most determines time of arrival is when transportation is scheduled and not its speed

Airlines that serve one or several of the East Frisian islands include Norden Air, OFD and FLN.

Get around

Catholic church Zu den heiligen Schutzengeln (To the Holy Guardian Angels) in Juist

By boat

There are numerous ferry connections between the islands and from individual islands to the mainland as well as to Helgoland. These are mostly intended for day trippers, but if you book the accommodation in advance "island-hopping" is doable though uncommon.

On foot

Most islands are small enough (and apart from dunes very flat) to make walking a viable alternative for the untrained as well as marathon runners, especially since in some of the island-villages this is your only option, as both bicycle and car are forbidden.

By bike

Outside of the villages proper this is a terrific way of seeing the islands and the flat terrain aids a lot in this, however keep in mind that it can get very windy and the predominately westerly winds rarely change direction, especially if you had the wind in your back on the way to a destination, which might make the way back strenuous and unpleasant.

By train

Some of the islands have small (often narrow-gauge) railways mostly connecting the main settlement with the harbor. Often the use of these is included in either the ferry-fare or the Kurtaxe (hotel surcharge in most sea-baths in Germany)

By car

Apart from Norderney and Borkum, cars are not allowed on any of the islands.


Water tower on Langeoog with Lale-Andersen-Monument




While this is by no means a party destination, there are places where you can have a quiet beer or other alcoholic beverages.

A word concerning water: While the water is perfectly save to drink and there is usually enough for everybody, you should economize, as most islands are not connected to the mainland water grid and thus draw from a "bubble" of fresh groundwater that "swims" atop the salty water and is only replenished through rainfall. If too much fresh water is drawn, the salty water starts mixing in, making the water unusable for years and probably decades to come. So far this hasn't happened, and local authorities are sure to intervene if the situation becomes dire, but your cooperation can go a long way in letting it never come to that. On some islands there are salt water showers and cleaning devices at or near the beach. Be sure to use them if your are very sandy to save fresh water.


When inquiring about the going rate for a room, do ask whether prices include Kurtaxe, the German sea-bath surcharge

Stay safe

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 08, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.