Watertravel & Waterside Destinations Tourists arriving at Helgoland go ashore on ships' tenders.

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Germany’s North SeaIsland of Helgoland

At various times in its history, Helgoland has been a possession of Britain and Denmark. Today it belongs to Germany.

Actually an archipelago of two islands, only the larger is permanently inhabited. The smaller island, known as “Dune,” was once connected to the main island by a natural isthmus, but the two were separated by a storm flood in 1720. Today, Dune is mainly used as a summer resort. In addition to small bungalows, campgrounds and sandy beaches, Dune has an airport with a 400 m/1300 ft concrete runway, suitable for small airplanes. A recent plan to fill the area between Helgoland and Dune to make one contiguous island was voted down. Except for the few who arrive by private watercraft or small airplane, most people going to Helgoland arrive by ferry from one of the various ports on the mainland. They then use local water transport if continuing on to Dune.

Not unlike the Baltic island of Ruegen, Helgoland has an especially sunny climate in comparison to mainland Germany. It’s a favorite destination for people with allergies and other respiratory conditions, as the air off the North Sea is particularly clean and fresh. Helgoland is a recognized North Sea Spa Resort, the climate being mild enough to grow figs.

The biggest draw for many, aside from the chance to take a pleasurable boat ride to an unusual island, is the duty-free shopping in town. There’s a limit to what you can bring back to the mainland, but the savings on a small number of purchases can more than offset the cost of the trip.

Information in English is available at the Helgoland Tourism Office website.

Ferries anchor offshore at Helgoland, the smaller island of Dune in the distance.

Copyright Don Douglas