island and municipality in Friesland, the Netherlands

Schiermonnikoog (West Friesian: Skiermûntseach, local dialect: Schiermonnikeig) is the easternmost of the inhabited West Frisian Islands, that being the Dutch islands in the Wadden Sea.

Understand edit

As cars are mostly banned on Schiermonnikoog, a bike is your best way about. In the background Schiermonniksoog's lighthouse.

Schiermonnikoog is the smallest of the West Frisian Islands, as well as the least populated one. Since the entirety of the island is a municipality as well, the island is also the least populated municipality in the Netherlands, counting just shy of a thousand inhabitants. In addition, Schiermonnikoog is also the municipality with the lowest population density. This last title is mostly due to more than half of the island being a national park.

History edit

During the Middle ages, Schiermonnikoog was a dominion of a Cistercian monastery based near Dokkum on the Frisian mainland. The monks on the island oversaw the damming of the island, which made it fit to be inhabited on the long term. It's also these monks that the island is named for. "Schier" is an archaic term for the colour grey, with "Monnik" meaning munk, and "Oog" meaning island. Schiermonnikoog's first mention dates to 1440. The island turned protestant in 1580, which disconnected it from the monastery, becoming a part of the Lordship of Frisia instead. A monastery wasn't found on Schiermonnikoog again until 2019, when a former estate was repurposed into one.

Due to a lack in funds, the island was sold off, and remained in private possession from 1638 to 1945. By far the most notable of its owners was the Stachouwer family, which owned the island from 1640 until 1859. They were succeeded by John Eric Banck, who had a new dike erected to protect the island from the sea. In 1893 the island came into the possession of German count Berthold Hartwig Arthur von Bernstorff, who acquired it for the sum of 200.000 guilders. During his ownership, many pine forests were planted for wood production. Upon his death in 1939, his son Bechtold Eugen inherited the island.

Being part of the Nazi German Atlantikwall, some fortifications remain on Schiermonnikoog, such as the Wassermann-bunker seen here.

During the Second World War, the island came under Nazi German occupation on May 16, 1940, shortly after its mayor requested German protection. A small bomb strike on the island the year after hit three houses and killed five people. In 1943, seven more would die to a bomb strike. The occupier built a radar post northeast of the town and constructed a short narrow gauge railway for transporting the necessary building supplies. When the province of Groningen was liberated in April of 1945, a group of around 120 SD and SS members fled to the island, which was still held by a German garrison at the time. The last 600 of the German forces present on the island were removed from the island on June 11th, making Schiermonnikoog the last holdout of Nazi Germany.

As the Dutch state ended up confiscating German possessions in the Netherlands directly after the war, the Count von Bernstorff, the private owner of the island, ended up losing the island, despite being a popular ruler. From 1951 onwards, he tried without success to get the island back, but eventually settled for a financial compensation in 1983.

Geography edit

With almost all of the island being a National Park, the island is rather dense with wildlife, like this adolescent buzzard.

Schiermonnikoog borders the North Sea to its north, and the Wadden Sea to its south. To its west lies the island of Ameland, and to its east the uninhabited island of Rottumerplaat and sandbank Balg. The island measures in at 18 kilometres (11 mi) in length. Its size, however, is not consistent. Due to deposition and erosion of the beach, the island is slowly moving east. While landmasses moving usually takes a lot of time, Schiermonnikoog has moved so quickly that the border between Friesland and Groningen had to be updated twice in the 21st century alone: First in 2006, then again in 2018. The island is, like most of the Netherlands, pretty flat. Its highest peak is a sand dune of 20 metres (66 ft). The highest peaks of the Frisian islands are found on Vlieland (West Frisian, at 45 metres (148 ft)) and Sylt (all Frisian Islands, at 52 metres (171 ft)).

Get in edit

Monnik, one of the regular ferries in service.

Schiermonnikoog can only be reached from Lauwersoog on the mainland. Ferry operator Wagenborg operates two services: A 45-minute ferry, and a more expensive 20-minute express ferry. It is possible to bring a bike or cart on the regular ferry. The express service is for passengers only. To bring a different vehicle onto Schiermonnikoog, you need a good reason and permission from the municipality, as the island, being a national park, is very restricted in motorised transport.

By car edit

Lauwersoog in turn can be reached from Leeuwarden using the N355 towards Hurdegaryp, after which you take the N356 northwards towards Dokkum. From Dokkum, the N361 continues to Lauwersoog, with the ferry terminal being located alongside this road.

From Groningen, use the N361 to get to Winsum. There, stay on the N361 which continues towards Lauwersoog.

By public transit edit

Lauwersoog does not have a train station. The nearest stations are found in Buitenpost, Zuidhoorn and Winsum. Coming from anywhere in the country, your quickest access will be via Leeuwarden, from where you can take Arriva's RE1 service towards Groningen, getting off at Feanwalden. Here, switch onto bus 155 (Lauwersoog via Dokkum). The ferry terminal is found at the "Lauwersoog, Veerhaven" bus stop. Counting from Leeuwarden, this journey usually takes just shy of an hour. Bus 155 does originate from Leeuwarden, and you can take the bus from there if you'd rather omit the modal change, in which case the journey time comes out at 67 minutes.

Should Groningen be the easier access point on your journey, then you can use bus 163 (Lauwersoog) from the main train station. It takes 59 minutes to reach Lauwersoog, Veerhaven.

For public transit information,[dead link] or their app is recommended, though alternatives exist too.

Get around edit

Map of Schiermonnikoog (town and Westerstrand).

Cars are banned on the entire island, barring those for services like the coast guard and delivery vehicles for companies based on the island. You can apply for an exemption to the ban, but for it, you need to either be a permanent resident on the island, or need to operate a business off of the island which requires a motorised vehicle. There is no way in which tourists can get their car onto the island. Therefore, you'll be designated to one of three ways for getting around the island:

By public transit edit

Though this one found its way into the dunes, your normal bus on Schiermonnikoog will take you close, but not quite onto the beach.

Public transit on Schiermonnikoog consists of five bus lines, operated by Arriva[dead link]. Like the rest of the country, you can use buses using the OV-Chipkaart or an accepted bank card. Any and every journey has a flat rate of €2.27 through these means. You can also buy physical tickets onboard buses, which cost a bit more but also allow for some slight discounts, most notably a 10-ride card for €15.80. Subscriptions are also valid, and might be a viable cost saver if you're visiting Schiermonnikoog by public transit.

The bus lines on Schiermonnikoog are as follows:

  •  1  — Veerdam - Strandhotel
  •  2  — Veerdam - Oosterreeweg; via Centrum/VVV.
  •  3  — Veerdam - Centrum; via Zwarteduinenweg.
  •  4  — Veerdam - De Monnik
  •  5  — Centrum/VVV - Badstrand

Lines one and five connect to the beach at posts 3/4 and 6/7 respectively. All lines originate from Veerdam (the harbour), and all meet line five somewhere along their route. Lines two and three stop at line five's terminus, Centrum/VVV. Line one meets it at Langestreek/Molendyk, and line four at Reddingsweg/Aisterbun.

Taxi edit

Two taxi companies operate on Schiermonnikoog. They are:

Taxis are considerably more premium of a mode of transport than your average bike or bus, but they do come at a cost. Generally speaking, using taxis is only really worth the money when travelling in large groups, or when you need to move a lot of baggage along with you. Another case in which they can be useful is as a mode of transport for people with reduced mobility. Do take into consideration though, that buses are accommodating to wheelchair users. On top of that, specialised bikes exist for a whole sleuth of disabilities, and are likely worth your time investigating. The most varied offer of accessible bikes is found with Soepboer (see below).

By bike edit

Bicycles are by far the most used mode of transit on Schiermonnikoog.

You do not need to own a bike in order to cycle on Schiermonnikoog. The island has two rental companies which are all to eager to lend you a bike in exchange for some money. A list of them and their dependencies is found below. The prices listed are the daily rates for a generic city bike and, if available, an e-bike. The average person will suffice with a regular city bike, but some rental agencies have more specialised bikes like tandems and fatbikes on offer too.

  • Bike Rental Soepboer, +31 519 531 700. 08:00 - 18:00. A long-term staple on the island, having been in business for well over half a decade. Their rental pool consists of some 4000 bikes, including tandems, e-bikes, mountain bikes, fatbikes, and more. In addition, Soepboer has a depot at the ferry harbour as well, though it doesn't stock the speciality bikes that you'll find in their main location. €7 / €20.
    • 1 Soepboer (Paaslandweg) - Paaslandweg 1 (Near Centrum/VVV  2   3   5 )
    • 2 Soepboer (Veerdam) - Paaslandweg 1 (At the ferry harbour, next to the coast guard's office (KNRM))
    • 3 Soepboer (Noorderstreek) - Noorderstreek 32 (Between Duinzicht  1   3  and Langestreek  1   2   5 )
  • Bike Rental Schiermonnikoog, +31 519 531 104, . Present on the island since 2006, the Badweg rental agency prides itself in its low prices. The bikes can be reserved in advance, and even delivered to your holiday address free of charge. €6 / €17.50. All prices found here..
    • 4 Bike Rental Schiermonnikoog (Badweg) - Badweg 6 (Between Duinzicht  1   3  and Langestreek  1   2   5 )
    • 5 Bike Rental Schiermonnikoog (Middenstreek) - Middenstreek 10 (Near Centrum/VVV  2   3   5 )

Maps for getting about, as well as recommended routes, and information on where to stay can be obtained at the VVV (tourist office), Reeweg 5.

See edit

In town edit

  • 1 Schelpenmuseum Paal 14 (Conch Museum), Martjeland 14 (About 250 metres (820 ft) west from Langestreek west  2 ), +31 519 531 663. 14:00-17:00, from May to October also 20:00-22:00. A small museum focussing on molluscs and their shells. The museum is owned and operated by the De Boer family, who have themselves collected the entirety of the over 1500-piece collection on display. For groups of more than ten people, they are willing to open outside of their conventional hours, as well as organise a conch-excursion on the beach. At their desk you can also present your own beach finds and have them identified. Adult €2, child (-12) €1.  
  • 2 Zuidertoren, Torenstreek 22. Sa Su 11:00 - 14:00. A 31.5 metres (103 ft) tall lighthouse near the town centre. The all-white "Soutern Tower", as it is called in English, was built in 1854 alongside the still active Noordertoren. The Noordertoren was equipped with a rotating light in 1910, making this lighthouse redundant. The building was instead repurposed into a water tower by 1950. This use it lost in 1992. Telecommunications provider KPN acquired it in 1998, and used it as a radio tower for two decades. Since 2018, the tower is owned by a non-profit set up by several islanders, who have restored the lighthouse and its grounds, and operate it as a small museum. Alongside the lighthouse you will also find the former lighthouse keeper's house named Duinoord, as well as a small oil shed. The lighthouse is also used as an event venue from time to time.  
  • 3 Rariteitenkabinet Gribus (Gribus Cabinet of Curiosities), Badweg 67a (Strandresort  1 ). Tu-Th Sa Su 10:30-12:00; W Th only during summer season.. Originally occupying the entirety of its building, the cabinet of curiosities is a small museum displaying items that pique the mind. Amongst its collection you'll find items like an alleged mermaid foetus, the foot of a mammoth, and many seafaring and island-related items. Free.

Among the dunes edit

  • 4 Bunkermuseum Schlei, Prins Bernhardweg (Near Badstrand  5 ), +31 519 531 701, . W Su 13:00-16:00 (excluding Wednesdays between Christmas and mid-February). €3.  
  • 5 Wassermann-bunker, Badweg 145 (along the Cornelis Visserpad near its intersection with the Prins Bernhardweg). The Wassermann-bunker is one of two bunkers of this type. Its counterpart can be found on Terschelling. The 27 metres (89 ft)-long bunker was erected during Nazi German occupation and was equipped with a type S (Schwer (Heavy)) radar. Both bunkers were a part of the Nazi German coastal defence line, the Atlantikwall. The radar at Schiermonniksoog's bunker has never been operational, but a replacement was placed in the nearby dunes instead. The bunker opened to the public in 2004.  
  • 6 Noordertoren, Vuurtorenpad 28 (In the dunes between pole 3 and Vuurtorenpad/Boszicht  1 ). Counterpart of the aforementioned Zuidertoren. Where it is all white, the Noordertoren is completely red. The 37 metres (121 ft) tall lighthouse is, unlike its counterpart, still operated. Its dome has been replaced in 1979, equipping it with a radar antenna as well. Like the Zuidertoren, the lighthouse is a national monument, though unlike it, only the Noordertoren's stonework is registered as a monument.    

Do edit

Sunset at Balg, the sandflats on the far east end of the island.
  • Beaches — Schiermonnikoog has one of the bigger beaches among the West Frisian Islands. There are three distinct lengths of beach on the North Sea side, whereas the Wadden Sea side has mostly marshlands. The beaches of Schiermonnikoog are the 1 Westerstrand (poles 1 to 3), 2 Noorderstrand (poles 3 to 8) and 3 Oosterstrand (east from pole 8).
  • Hiking and Cycling — Being a mostly car-free island, Schiermonnikoog is perfect for exploring by foot or bike, even for the most timid of cyclists. There isn't much elevation, and the only workout you'll get is from one leg of your journey (or both if you're unlucky) having a strong headwind. For hiking especially, you can set out a journey to the two capes of Schiermonnikoog; 7 Kaap Kobbeduinen and 8 Kaap Willemsduin. If you do venture east on the island, make sure that you do so during low tide, as much of the eastern half of the island consists of tidal flats. The further east you go, the worse the roads will become because of this, so you might not be able to bike the entirety of your route. If you want to play it safe though, the VVV (tourist office) in town has a good inventory of cycling and hiking routes on offer.
    • A good route for all cyclists is Rondje Schier, which takes you around most of the island without delving into the potential dangers of being caught by the tide, is documented and has downloadable GPX trails found on the ANWB's website.
  • Boat rides — An island isn't an island without boats around it. There is a decent offer of boat trips that you can take, from seal-spotting trips to sandbank visits and sailing, there's a bit of everything on offer. The best overview of the offer is found on the Dutch website of the VVV Schiermonnikoog, which also lists several options for mudflat hiking.
  • Film by the Sea — A film event that has its home on Vlissingen, but has also found its way onto Schiermonnikoog. During several days in January, movies will be shown on the beach.
The Spoonbill colony in the Westerplas.
  • Wildlife and nature photography — Being a national park, the island has ample places for wildlife to thrive. To find birds in specific, the mudflats, eastern half of the island and, closer to the town itself, the Westerplas will be your go-to spots. Do keep in mind that you're restricted in where you can and can't go in a national park, so stick to pathways and don't interfere with wildlife.
    • 1 Vogelkijkhut Westerplas. The Westerplas used to be an inlet for the sea, but was dammed off in the 1960s. The water slowly desalinated, and became a hotspot for birds. The lake is also the main potable water supply for the island. The dune valleys surrounding it bloom up in colour during spring, due to different types of orchids, sea-lavender and violets popping up. The Westerplas is also home to a spoonbill colony.

Buy edit

  • 6 SPAR Brunekreef, Middenstreek 2, +31 519 531 254. M-Th Sa 08:30-18:00; F 08:30-19:00; Su 09:00-13:00. The only supermarket on the island, located in the middle of town.
  • 7 Bakkerij Donders, Middenstreek 12, +31 519 531 265. Tu-Sa 08:00-16:00. Bakery found in the middle of town.
  • 8 Vrouwe Jakoba, Badweg 4, +31 519 531 173. Jul-Aug: M-Su 08:00-21:00; rest of the year: M-F 14:00-21:00, Sa Su 08:00-21:00. Calls itself "The Netherlands' smallest supermarket". The shop, however, is a small shop telling tapas, nuts and alcoholic beverages.

Eat edit

Beach pavilions are found mostly on the Noorderstrand.

Restaurants edit

Fastfood edit

Beach pavilions edit

Drink edit

  • 1 Toxbar, Reeweg 7, +31 519 531 373. Café/terrace from 12:00, disco: Sa from 21:00 July + August daily from 21:00. The only discotheque on the island.
  • The island has its own brewery. The beer, called Schierse Hippo, can be purchased from the supermarket, and at most of the notable beach pavilions, restaurants and bars.

Sleep edit

Hotel van der Werff might be one of the most striking buildings on Schiermonnikoog...
...Although Graaf Bernstorff across the street's whale jaw entrance is definitely a striking sight in and of itself.

A lot of private residences on Schiermonnikoog are rented out during the summer. You can find many of these on sites like AirBNB. Other than that, a decent amount of hotels and several campsites also call the island home:

Campsites edit

Connect edit

Go next edit

  • If you're looking for another island like Schiermonnikoog, that has a general ban on motorised traffic, and is dominated by dunes and coast, Vlieland is your best bet.
  • The nearby cities of Leeuwarden and Groningen are worth visiting, if even for a day, though they are probably best visited when entering or leaving the island, as to save on unnecessary costs for the ferry.
  • Friesland has many small cities (though some of them have a similar population as Schiermonnikoog) are a staple of the region. A visit to the charming cities and towns like Sneek, Stavoren and Hindeloopen are likely worth your time.
  • The Afsluitdijk is an icon of the Netherlands, closing off the former Zuiderzee (Southern Sea) from the Wadden- and North Sea and, if travelling by car or bus, is an impressive way to access North Holland.
  • Germany and Denmark's Frisian Islands are possibly also of interest. Most notably, these include Borkum, Heligoland and Sylt.

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