As one of the most commonly noted travel trends for 2022 has been a desire for open spaces and remote destinations, we looked into what’s taking place outside of the city centres. Similar to wild swimming in England, these island getaways in Germany have been leading travellers off the beaten path. With impressive sandbanks in rivers and rugged rocks in mountain lakes, luckily the German islands waiting to be discovered are not limited to the North and Baltic seas – many can be easily accessed from Frankfurt or Munich. After arriving at these new shores, you can swim, hike and bike its lengths and breadths. And while you may not have the opportunity to unearth chests of golds, you’ll still find views and experiences to be treasured.
This nature reserve is located within Germany’s biggest river loop in the Rhine and became an island when a new straightened riverbed was dug to provide a shorter shipping route avoiding the loop. Whether you’re outdoorsy or you just need a breather, the bird sanctuary and nature reserve within the German state of Hesse is a great destination during both winter and summer months. With around 60km of cycling and hiking trails, Kühkopf island is one of the most well-developed reserves in southern Hesse. Fishing, horseback riding and bird watching can all be enjoyed before heading to the water where you can canoe or row along the original looped course of the river. Distance from Frankfurt Airport: 40km
Perched in the middle of the Rhine River near the German town of Kaub, the Pfalzgrafenstein castle overlooks a picturesque setting. This tiny stronghold was built by King Ludwig in 1326 to collect tolls from passing ships and became a profitable source of income for many feudal lords over several centuries. A pointed fortification wall at its southern tip makes it look like a ship itself. It protects the ancient building from ice floes which drift downriver in winter crashing into Pfalzgrafenstein and could otherwise cause damage. The fortress is a two-hour drive from Frankfurt and can only be reached by a local ferry from Kaub. Distance from Frankfurt Airport: 75km
With a length of around 3km and a width of up to 300m, this is one of the largest islands in the Rhine. Its white sandy beaches, lawns, playgrounds, football, basketball, volleyball and badminton courts make this island a great spot for children and families. While swimming isn’t officially permitted, many do anyway, especially at a shallow lagoon on the western tip of the islet. There’s also a campsite there with showers. A large part of it (90% of its total area) is a nature reserve. Until recently the only way to reach it was by ferry while a new bridge crossing the Rhine and Rettbergsaue was being built. The Schiersteinbrücke is now open and includes a bike lane onto the island. Distance from Frankfurt Airport: 75km
German landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné and engineer Jakob Kreuter created this summer retreat for King Maximilian II of Bavaria. He had acquired this picturesque little island in Lake Starnberg just south of Munich in 1850. They built him a Bavarian-style royal villa. Think alpine hut meets Neuschwanstein castle. The focal point of its garden is a circular rose bed with hundreds of rose plants, which gave the island its name. The best time to visit this island getaway in Germany is in mid-June and mid-August when the plants go into an impressive display of scented blooms. Perfect time for a visit. Distance from Munich International Airport: 70km
The Eibsee with its clear waters and alpine panorama is considered one of Germany’s most beautiful lakes. There must have been quite the big bang when one day about 4000 years ago, the entire northern flank of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain, collapsed into the lake. It was likely the most massive landslide in the entire Bavaria Alpine region ever. The result: some of the fallen rocks now form seven beautiful islands. To get to this island getaway in Germany you can either swim to or rent a boat. Guided tours are also available around the lake which allows visitors to learn more about each island. Distance from Munich International Airport: 70km
Please check the respective locations’ websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
Information on travel advisories is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
All images were taken before COVID-19. Island photos are courtesy of Islandeering Deutschland, a new book celebrating 60 German isles.
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