In the Baltic Sea just off Germany’s northeastern coast lies the island of Hiddensee, an island known for its beautiful nature and for the fact that there are absolutely no cars on the island. As the island is long and thin with an area of 19 square km (7.34 square miles), the 1300 inhabitants and visitors to the island bike everywhere instead. The roads running up and down the island as well as to the beaches, through the towns and nature reserves are for biking (and are brick rather than asphalt).
We started our journey from Schaprode on the island of Rügen to the eastern side of Hiddensee by taking a 25-minute ferry journey to the southernmost town on the island, Neuendorf. Neuendorf consists of the harbour area (which allows for the ferry to dock and a few private boats and that’s it) with a few shops around the harbour (most notably a restaurant and ice cream parlour and bike rental shops).
We had decided that we would also rent a bike for the entire day and the shop that seemed to be the most promising was ‘Fahrradverleih Leschner‘ (link in German). For those that do not speak German, the owner speaks and understands enough English to rent a bike as well as to give you information as to what to do if something happens to that bike.
The rental price for a day was €6. If you do not have the money (for whatever reason), you can leave a deposit of what you have with them and pay afterwards (we thought we didn’t have enough cash between two of us to make €12 but we did so everything was fine in the end. Still a good idea to bring cash with you everywhere, at least in eastern Germany). The only place to take out cash is in Vitte, the largest town on the island, which is about 7 km (4.3 miles) to the north.
In our minds, the logical thing to do was to start at one end of the island and work our way to the other end over the course of the day. As we had just stepped off the boat at 8 in the morning in the south and we would be returning to Schaprode that evening by way of the ferry from Neuendorf at 6, we decided that we would bike to the very north of the island (as we were fresh rather than trying to do it at the end of the day when exhausted) and then work our way south. So the first thing we decided to do was bike the 12km to the northernmost point of the island where bikes are allowed. At least, this was our intention. We naturally were sidetracked along the way.
Stop #1 – The Spiders
Our first stop on the way up was on the side of the bike freeway at the Dünenheide nature reserve because we saw what looked like frost on the grass and trees. It definitely hadn’t been cold enough the previous night to warrant that amount of white so we stopped to have a closer look. Upon further inspection, we found it was actually dew on spider webs. This site was very impressive and the spiderwebs went completely to the coast in some places (about half a kilometre).
Stop #2 – We need money!
Our next stop was at the local bank in Vitte (a Sparkasse Vorpommern), which is the only place you can take out money on the entire island. Our final break on this ride up was not due to being tired but rather due to a rumbling stomach, which was a good excuse to stop before the hills. If you need a break before starting the small ascent, I can recommend a bakery in Kloster known as Backerei Andreas Kasten. We stopped to have a small something and had a great experience. From reading reviews on Google (which I am doing while writing this article. Our visit there was entirely spontaneous) it seems that the best time is to go is in the morning as their wares are not refrigerated and seem to dry out over the course of the day.
The majority of Hiddensee is flat (which is fortunate for me as I haven’t been on a bike in years!) with the exception of the very northern part. The island’s hills and heights begin at the northernmost settlement, Kloster, and continue to the northern coast. The island therefore has a slight incline when biking from the south to the north, rising sharply when you reach these heights (which is good because I thought I was out of shape and was having problems biking in the beginning, but now that I know I can blame it on the terrain!). Above Kloster lies a nature reserve (although the entire island is actually part of the Vorpommersche Boddenküste National Park [Google Maps]) where bikes are prohibited but there are parking places for bikes next to the signs that prohibit the two-wheelers from going any farther.
Stop #3 – The northern lighthouse
This northern reserve holds the main rocky beaches of Hiddensee as well as the main lighthouse for the island. Known as the Leuchtturm (meaning Lighthouse) Dornbusch, it warns ships of their impending approach to the island. The current lighthouse has been in its place since 1888 and stands as a sentinel over the island. As one would expect for a lighthouse, this vantage point offers beautiful views of the coast and surrounding sea, which is extremely calm as it is the Baltic. The land in this area is mostly grassy and shrubby but there are some forested areas as well which ave larger wildlife. While we were around this area, we saw two deer (doe and her fawn) but I was unable to take a picture of them before they bounded off.
What really impressed me about this area of the island were some of the beaches, which can be accessed through stairways that have been made in the cliff-face. The beaches here, unlike the rest of the island, are rocky in nature and there is a lot more birdlife here than other places with one exception (which was at the end of our bike tour). When the tide is out you can almost walk around the bottom of the northern cliff faces. Unfortunately at the very top of the island, the rocky beach is swallowed by the sea and beach wonderers cannot continue on. Nevertheless, it was certainly not a wasted journey as this part of the island seems to be the most peaceful and relaxing for nature lovers.
Stop #4 – Kloster Harbour
After hiking around the few kilometres of trails in the northern reserve, we returned to our bikes and had a quick look around the harbour area in Kloster. Like in Neuendorf, it also had small shops and restaurants catering to those staying in the small Bed and Breakfast places in the town. As a ferry had just stopped when we arrived so the place was flooded with people so we decided to continue to Vitte, the largest and most central settlement on the island. It was simply a matter of taking the bike highway.
Vitte has been around since at least 1513 and the name most likely comes from Vit, which referred to a place where fish is sold. The town is set up along two nearly parallel bike streets with small connecting streets (usually just flattened grass) between these two and which go to the western coast (the width at this point of the island is approx. half a kilometre, so not very far at all). In the midpoint of the town on the eastern coast is the harbour, which also has small shops and restaurants.
Stop #5 – Lunch
As we were there around lunchtime, we decided to have lunch and try a local delicacy. Fish is a big part of the traditional diet in northern Germany, especially on the coast. Many of the coastal cities have famous markets, like the Fischmarkt in Hamburg. Different varieties of fish are usually eaten with another German staple food, potatoes, or as something called Fischbrötchen, which is fish on a bread roll. In the Baltic area the major fish group is herring so we decided to try a herring sandwich. We order Bratherringbrötchen, which is a herring that has been marinated and then lightly fried, stuffed in a bread roll and served with onions, lettuce and a bit of mayonnaise. It was so good we went back seconds!
After lunch we saw the other attraction in Vitte, an old windmill used to grind flour. It supplied the island’s bakeries with a base to make bread for over a few hundred years. It fell into disrepair until the 20th century; a family purchased and renovated it to restore the building and one of the heritage sites of the island to its former glory. Today it serves as someone’s house.
This area is also big for tourists for the sandy beaches. Many older people take the ferry from Schaprode or Stralsund to visit the sandy beaches here. It is also an FKK-Strand (FKK means ‘Freikörperkultur’, which in English translates as a nudist beach). This is why I do not have any pictures of the beach in this post.
After our time in Vitte, we headed back to Neuendorf and the southern part of the island. We saw some more of the landscape we had seen in the morning.
Stop #6 – Neudorf
Neuendorf itself is a collection of houses with a harbour and has no special features to the town. However to the south is another nature reserve, this time for birds. While there are some bike paths through this area, most of the area is wilderness; leaving the trails is strictly forbidden. This region, known as Gellen, is also home to the second lighthouse on the island, known as Leuchtturm Gellen. It is near a white sandy beach just above the part of the Gellen nature reserve that does not have any paths. In this area, we also saw jellyfish that had swum into the coastal waters on the eastern side of the island (the sandy beaches are on the western side).
Stop #7 – The Beach
After spending some more time on the beach, the day was coming to an end and we headed back to Neuendorf. There we returned the bikes and waited for the ferry to go back. All in all, we hiked/biked a total of 70 km (43.4 miles) and we were dead afterwards!
I would highly recommend visiting Hiddensee. I would also recommend renting a bike for a day as otherwise, you will be walking these distances, which will take some time to go between each town. There are bus stops and even a ‘bus’ (horse-drawn cart) but it rarely runs and only during the week. Do as the locals do and use a bike. The rental bikes also have built-in locks; you won’t have any problems of leaving it in the many bike parking areas.
As to get to Hiddensee, the ferry company operating lines from Schaprode and Stralsund to Kloster, Vitte and Neuendorf is Reederei Hiddensee. The ferry from Stralsund takes approximately 2 hours (depending on your destination) and the ferry from Schaprode takes between 25 minutes and 1 hour (again, depending on your destination).
Here are some more photos from Hiddensee: