10 Things to Know Before Visiting Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park

Horse riding in Neuwerk
Horse riding in Neuwerk | © Elwitsch / Pixabay
Photo of Anwesha Ray
29 May 2018

Nature doesn’t get more unspoiled than Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park. This heavily protected UNESCO biosphere reserve conserves exotic birds and animals and a stretch of fascinating landscape. Though it is only 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the bustling city of Hamburg, you are bound to feel yourself a planet away from the world you know. Read on to know how to experience pure nature in this unique landscape.

Location and size

Of the three German Wadden Sea National Parks, the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park (Hamburgisches Wattenmeer) is the smallest, and politically belongs to Hamburg. The park is located around 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Hamburg and 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Cuxhaven. The national park stretches over an area of 13,750 hectares (53.1 square miles).

Location of Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park | © Lencer / WikiCommons


The landscape of Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park consists of extensive coastal mudflats, salt marshes, shallow creeks, sand bars (Plaaten) and dune islands.


Cuxhaven can be reached easily by road or train from Hamburg, which lies 216 kilometers (134 miles) away. From the Alte Liebe harbor of the city of Cuxhaven, you can take a ferry to Neuwerk Island. This is the only way of reaching Neuwerk and takes around 1.5 hours. The departing hours of the ferries are often influenced by tides. There is a huge car park and several restaurants on the harbor.

Ferry to Neuwerk | © Werner77 / Pixabay


In the year 1992, the park was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve, which puts the natural resources of the park under the highest possible category of protection from exploitation. It is also a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, with the rest of the tidelands in Germany (Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony) and the Netherlands. Travelers are prohibited from large parts of the national park.


The Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park is made up of three islands: Neuwerk, Scharhörn and Nigehörn. The eastern part of Neuwerk belongs to Protection Zone I, and welcomes visitors, though they are required to access only specific pathways so as to not disturb the breeding birds. Entry to Scharhörn Island is possible only after being granted permission by a professional ornithologist who lives there. The artificially constructed Nigehörn Island belongs to Protection Zone II, and the only human it ever sees is the ornithologist, who visits the island once annually to study the birds. However, visitors can observe Nigehörn from Scharhörn with binoculars.

Aerial picture of the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park (German: Nationalpark Hamburgisches Wattenmeer). This park is an exclave of the city state of Hamburg and lies 12.5 km off Cuxhaven in the estuary of the Elbe in the North Sea. The park includes the islands of Neuwerk (above), Scharhörn and Nigehörn (below, appearing as a single island in this picture taken at low tide). The two other islands (right and below right) are parts of the Scharhörn and Neuwerk mudflats (Scharhörner und Neuwerker Watt). Viewing direction is toward the SE. | © Vincent van Zeijst / Wikimedia Commons

Most popular activities

Travelers to the national park can swim in the sea, hike through mudflats, walk through salt marshes, visit the seal colonies, and go on horseback or horse-carriage rides. Also, this area is of special appeal to bird watchers.

Horse riding in Neuwerk | © Elwitsch / Pixabay


Cuxhaven is the perfect base for taking day trips to Neuwerk. In Cuxhaven, you will find a wide range of hotels catering to all tastes and budgets, including several beach hotels with great views.

Cuxhaven | © WebWertig / Pixabay


The Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park is home to almost 2000 animal species, the most commonly visible being the common seal and the gray seal.

Bird watching

Thanks to natural sediment influx, this area attracts thousands of sea birds. A massive shelduck population lives off snails on the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park and the birds spend their moulting (shedding) season from July to September in the Wadden Sea. Also, huge flocks of eider ducks, gulls, geese and other exotic birds call the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park their home.


In 1905, the tiny, three-square-kilometer (1.15-square-mile), car-free island of Neuwerk was declared a seaside resort. The few inhabitants of the island depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihood. Travelers love this island for its tranquil atmosphere, pure sea breeze and the opportunity to try mudflat hiking and horse-carriage riding. The island has only a handful of restaurants and a grocery store. At the Bernstein House, you can view the private amber collection of a retired teacher of the island, where he’ll share interesting information with you, and you can purchase unique souvenirs.

Neuwerk coastal mudflats | © Elwitsch / Pixabay

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