Have you heard of Schiermonnikoog? I hadn’t heard of it before I headed to the tourist office in Groningen on Sunday. The lady who chatted me through my options for the area was very informative and was happy to take her time explaining the possibilities to me. She explained that as Monday was a day which saw the museums close and other places have limited opening, I was better off getting out of Groningen city for the day. We checked the weather, options, times and prices. Every question I asked was answered with knowledge and efficiency. All in all, I received great customer service which helped me make my decision for the next day and to also trust in her recommendation.
From Groningen, I took a bus for an hour either from the central station or Grote Markt to Lauwersoog which cost me €10 for return tickets. It was a very foggy morning, so there wasn’t much to see out of the bus windows apart from the flat fields along the way. As we got further North, there was less and less traffic and more open landscape and I prepared myself for the island of Schiermonnikoog which I was told would be quiet and peaceful. A welcome change after my 5 nights in Amsterdam.
The bus drops off and collects right in front of the harbour office which was very welcome on a cold and foggy morning. One of the other guys going to the island for a couple of days told me that on a clear day, you can see the island from the harbour but not today. Although, I could have bought my ferry tickets at the tourist office in Groningen, I didn’t so I bought them at the harbour ticket office instead and they were only €13.05 for a return. Another couple travelling to the island for a couple of days were eager to make sure I found my way and made it onto the ferry and chatted to me as we scanned our tickets through the ticket gate.
The crossing only took 45 minutes and it was as calm a crossing as I could have hoped for. In the passenger lounge there are toilets, comfortable seating and a café to keep you fed and watered. As I had taken the first bus from Groningen at 8.02am, I was able to catch the 9.30am ferry although there is also a later one at 11.30 if tourists wish to go later. The lounge was full of chatter and laughter amongst the travellers who knew each other and the crossing was therefore more pleasant than if it had just been quiet.
On arrival at 10.15, I took one of the buses into the centre for €3.50 return ticket. There were other buses which took passengers to other areas of the island. Taxis were another option or bikes can also be hired at the terminal. I was interested in how much could be walked in a few hours and as I enjoy walking in nature, this option appealed more than cycling which others seemed to be doing.
In the centre, you find lots of cafés, accommodation options, supermarket, tourist office and another chance to hire bikes. As you can see from the photos above, the centre was mostly empty and the whole time I was there, I barely saw anyone else until I waited for the bus for the ferry. It was so peaceful, I couldn’t wait to go for a walk after enjoying a great breakfast in one of the cafés.
From the centre, I headed off along the quiet roads to see what I would find and soon you’re in the National Park. It is completely understandable why people go to the island for isolation as it is so peaceful. Walkers and cyclists have many options to enjoy the island as well as simply being there. Passing the horses, I was in my element feeling completely out of the city crowds. This one was particularly inquisitive.
The beach stretches along the island and before you get there you can also take in the bunkers, antennae and bunker museum. When you climb up to the bunkers, you are met by the most amazing landscapes of the dune valley below. On a clear day, I imagine you would be able to see across the whole island but that wasn’t the case on a foggy day.
If I had known about this ahead of coming to Groningen, then I would have booked a night on the island after a couple of days in Groningen and then from the island I would have got the bus to Leeuwarden which is my next destination. Buses to Groningen and Leeuwarden meet the ferry at the Lauwersoog harbour. At night there is little light pollution, so apparently it is the best place for stargazers so it certainly sounds worthy of a night’s stay at least.
Whilst I was waiting for the bus from the centre back to the ferry, I saw families, young and older couples and people like me who had just come for a day’s outing. The last ferry off the island is at 19.30 or you can get earlier ones at 13.30 or 16.30 and be back in Groningen 1 hour and 45 minutes later.
If you get the chance, it is certainly worth checking out Schiermonnikoog as you won’t be disappointed.