Visiting the second largest German island was a big wish of mine since a long time, but there was somehow never the right opportunity. All up to this summer when all other plans fell apart and we decided to do a longer road trip on the German Baltic and northern coast. The point was really to visit all of those places I haven´t seen yet since I moved to the country almost 10 years ago. Usedom, a popular beach destination amongst Germans, was our first stop at the coast – it is a great choice for everybody who enjoys long walks on sandy beaches, bicycle rides, boutique hotels and interesting culinary experiences, but also for those who like to visit different theme parks and museums.
Kraji: Peenemünde, Trassenheide, Zinnowitz, Koserow, Bansin, Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck, Rankwitz, Lütow
How: our LR Defender
Stayed in: Naturcamping Usedom
We visited Usedom while doing a longer road trip in northern Germany with our LR Defender. In 4 days we got to know the island next to the Polish border pretty well, but we could also have stayed longer and not be bored. In this post, you can read more about what you can see and do on the island.
PEENEMÜNDE | the best quiet beaches on the island
We loved the more relaxed and peaceful pace on the SW side of the island, there seemed also to be less tourists. The most busy place was TRASSEHEIDE, where we just drove by but stopped later on – a few minutes drive to the north and you´ll find AWESOME LONELY BEACHES which even in high season remain less crowded. We parked the car at KIENHEIDE PARKING, the beach is just across the road. Also great for dogs, but be aware that there is no possibility to buy food and drinks so bring your own.
I know you must be wondering now, is it too cold to swim here? Yes, it is cold (especially for my spoilt Mediterranean soul), but yes you can swim here if you are brave enough. For the locals and Germ tourists this is not a big deal and they all swim. During my many visits of the Baltic I have never done it so I figured this is it, I have to do it on this road trip. I did it a few days later and it was realy not all that scary, so go for it while you´re there.
If you drive totally up to the tip of Usedom you can check out an OLD AIRPORT, you can even book a scenic flight or have some fun on the GO-CART TRACK. The ones interested in more technical things should not miss visiting the TECHNICAL MUSEUM, PHÄNOMENTA house of phenomena and the SUBMARINE MUSEUM U-461 in Peenemünde
ZINNOWITZ | one of the largest tourist towns on Usedom
We stopped in Zinnowitz the day we arrived and walked around its lively streets all the way to the beach promenade, had a lovely fish lunch, admired the beautiful hoses and villas, dipped our feet in the sea and got the first taste of the island. Slightly too much going on here to stay the whole week but for a short stop it was nice. If you arrive by train or are looking into staying at a hotel and enjoying the atmosphere this might be a good choice.
As in many other places on the Baltic coast, you can admire this interesting construction at the end of a typical wooden pier (SEEBRÜCKE), called TAUCHGONDEL on German. When you enter it, it submerges under the sea surface and you can watch the underwater life. Probably nothing too spectacular will swim by, but it´s still a fun thing to do especially if you are there with your kids.
THE BEACH is long and sandy here as well, as in pretty much all other city beaches you can enjoy the sun protected from the wind in one of the so-called STRANDKORB beach baskets. There were many many people on the beach that day, mostly families with kids. Kids can have much fun besides swimming as here are lots of trampolines, surf schools, Merry-go-rounds and similar.
KOSEROW | restaurant and open air museum “Koserower Salzhütte”
In a smaller town called KOSEROW there is also a slightly more quieter SANDY BEACH, but we stopped here for a completely different experience. Koserow is well-known for its SMOKED FISH SPECIALITIES. Around the year 1900 smoking fish was the main source of income for many villagers, who were using the salt which came from Lüneburg, Stettin and Świnoujście to prepare the fish.
Close to the beach in the walking zone we visited the famous KOSEROWER SLAZHÜTTE, a smaller open air museum with little WOODEN HUTS, where you can see the traditional way of smoking fish. There is also a RESTAURANT on spot, offering dishes made by old traditional recipes, but it is only opened in the evening and you might need a reservation. In case you are there before the evening you can always grab a FISCHBRÖTCHEN fish sandwich, they are delicious as well.
BANSIN, HERINGSDORF AND AHLBECK | “Dreikaiserbäder” wonderful spa coastal towns
The coastal towns BANSIN, HERINGSDORF AND AHLBECK are geographically very close to one another and are therefore often referred as the DREIKAISERBÄDER. The German word “Bad” is used for TOWNS WITH SPA CHARACTER, usually such towns are also known for very nice buildings and distinguished architecture. All three towns are similar in many ways, they all have a promenade, posh shops and nice hotels, restaurants and of course a sandy beach dotted with the traditional STRANDKORB beach baskets.
There is also a wooden pier (SEEBRÜCKE) in each of the towns – the one in HERINGSDORF IS THE LONGEST OF SUCH KIND IN GERMANY (it is 508m long) and the one in AHLBECK IS TE OLDEST OF SUCH KIND. It is nice to walk through all three of these towns, but it is also true that in the end they all look a bit alike. I suggest cycling through as it is sometimes also difficult to get a free parking spot. We liked AHLBECK the most (on the collage below), it is the last one before the Polish border and it seemed to have a more relaxed vibe and more peaceful beach at the time of our visit.
And did you know that THE LONGEST BEACH PROMENADE IN EUROPE takes place exactly here, on Usedom? It stretches from Swinemünde in Poland, through Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf, Bansin and all the way in the direction of Peenemünde, which in total is a bit over 40km. Quite impressive and needless to say this is perfect for cycling.
SAND SCULPTURES EXHIBITION | impressive sand sculptures near Ahlbeck
Probably the last attraction before the Polish border, near AHLBECK town is set in a 4000 m² large covered hall and hosts some really AMAZING SAND SCULPTURES. The theme of the exhibitions varies and usually changes every winter and summer so there is always something new to see. The sculptures are HAND CARVED on spot by artists and despite the entry fee of 10€ I can say it was worth the visit.
Even though this place is something I wouldn´t normally visit, especially when I travel without Lu, I still liked it as it was somehow special and not something I´ve seen before. So many details and so many hours of work put into it, it is really impressive (also because of the size of the sculptures).
SWINOUJŠCIE | popular tourist beach town on the Polish side of the island
Crossing the BORDER BETWEEN GERMANY AND POLAND that runs on the island was a bit more difficult due to the Covid-19 situation at the moment, but otherwise driving or cycling over to SWINOUJŠCIE town on the Polish side is a nice day trip. There is a 12km long PROMENADE, conecting AHLBECK on the German side with Swinoujšcie in Poland.
RANKWITZ | smoked fish culinary journey
To be honest, we wanted to go eat to another place, REMISE RESTAURANT in STOLPE town, which got famous for its POMMERN TAPAS. These are traditional dishes served in small cups, just like the Spanish tapas would be. Unfortunatey it was closed so we chose our second option, which turned out amazing!
We drove off to RANKWITZ which is a smaller town with a peaceful MARINA and this great restaurant ZUR ALTEN FISCHRÄUCHEREI nearby. Those of you who understand German probably guessed it right, here it is all about SMOKED FISH. So we simply had to order a TRADITIONAL PLATE FOR 2 and got really tasty smoked SALMON, TROUT, COD and HERRING, served with refreshing CUCUMBER SALAD. Accompanied by 2 cold beers and a desert, it was an excellent lunch for around 40€.
MELLENTIN CASTLE | nice spot for a coffee or lunch set in the geographical center of Usedom
In the geographical center of the island there is a nice castle, MELLENTIN CASTLE, where you can also sleep at or just treat yourself with a piece of cake, a coffee or something stronger. There are GUIDED TOURS every full house in the main season but unfortunately only in German language so we skipped it and only took a look from the outside. It is a pretty stop on the way inyou feel hungry or thirsty.
BOCKWINDMÜHLE | windmill in Pudagla
There are a couple of WINDMILLS ON USEDOM and we stopped at one as well. BOCKWINDMÜHLE is a windmill from the 18th Century and you can see how it looks like inside as well (2€ admission fee). We´ve seen many similar ones last year in the Netherlands and later on in Estonia, but if you haven´t seen one in a while, or never, this is a great stop, also for the kids.
SÜDSPITZE GNITZ | one hour hike around Gnitz peninsula
Our camping was situated near GNITZ PENINSULA, which stretches out in the ACHTERWASSER LAGOON. We couldn´t miss doing the LOOP WALK around the peninsula, which atkes about an hour and takes you through Lütow town as well. CLIFFS, PINE FORESTS, SWAMPS and little BEACH BAYS are perfect for a peaceful afternoon. Also nice sunsets from the southernmost tip of the peninsula.
NATUR CAMPING USEDOM | our base near Lütow
At the end I want to mention where we stayed during our visit – NATURCAMPING USEDOM near a smaller town called Lütow. It seemed to be mission impossible to find a free space in the middle of high season in this part of Germany, but we were lucky and got one here just a few days before we arrived (booked over the phone). It is not situated at the main beach, but still at the sea lagoon. We loved it cause there was lots of shade and possibilities for various sports and walks, its location was also okay for exploring the island and day trips around.
The only „problem“ was that we´ve gotten a place in a so-called unmarked area, which meant our plot had no number and everybody could park and put up the tent where they wanted. In general I like this ides, but when you sleep in a car and want to do day trips it means you have to find a new space every evening when you come back as you have no tent or such to leave behind. So we ended up sleeping on 3 different spots (once in teh first row at the sea, which wa sthe best one obviously). Despite this, I can only recommend this place, we paid 66€ for 3 nights including hot showers.
Usedom didn´t dissapoint us, but besides many things we did like, there were also some we didn´t. To point out the positive ones first, I cna mention the wonderful beaches, pine forests, lovely culinary delicacies with a pinch of Poland taste, great cycling ways, nice architecture of the coastal towns and more. What we absolutely didn´t like was the number of themes parks of all sorts. From ZOOs to circus and such. I understand some people are into such attractions, but here there are simply way too many for our taste. Not to finish this post on a too much negative note, all in all we loved our stay here and would definitely recommend coming here to anyone who would like to see the Baltic coast – besides, you can still easily avoid the crowds and find your own secluded spot on the beach or in a forest.