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Cuxhaven is my favourite place on the shores of the North Sea. It is one on the few places on the mainland where the mudflats are sandy and solid, thus can be walked safely. About 10-15 kms of sea bottom fall dry at low tide, so no matter how crowded the beach has been, you'll be on your own when you set out. The tidelands are part of the Nationalpark Deutsches Wattenmeer and full of life. For those who are interested in nature, there is a lot to discover. At the same time the town is big enough to offer all kinds of infrastructure and shopping. Train connections both to Hamburg and Bremen are all right, so the place is easy to reach without a car.


In late spring 2007 I spent three weeks in Cuxhaven and found it the PERFECT place for my purposes: I needed a quiet place far away from my phone, internet, the usual hassle and the usual time-consuming bad habits to write/finish a book, and I wanted it to be close to the sea. There is nothing more relaxing to me than walking along a beach with my bare feet in the water, feeling the wind and the sun. Since I was little I have always been fascinated by big ships, so that was another plus. At the same time I wanted a place with enough infrastructure for emergency: computer store in case of laptop trouble (which I did not need, luckily), library in case of need for more information (which I used indeed), good train connections, etc.


I rented a self-catered apartment in the suburb of Stickenbüttel in the house of a wonderful elderly couple who were always ready for a chat, rented a bicycle and divided my time between writing and outdoor activities depending on weather, daylight hours, tides (and momentary laziness). I even discovered a jewel that made it into my book: the church of Lüdingworth.

I had long wanted to return and in summer 2013 I finally made it back. I rented an apartment in Döse this time, five minutes walk from the dyke and the beach. I stayed for 10 days, most of which were spent with my favourite pastime, i.e. tideland walks, tides permitting. But I also took the chance to go on day trips to Helgoland and Stade.

In March 2015 I spent two weeks in Otterndorf for research reasons, and I gave myself a day off for a hop over to Cuxhaven. At that time the beach was still empty, and it was too chilly for mudflat walking. A completely different experience.




Kugelbake is Cuxhaven's landmark. The wooden structure was erected as a navigational aid. Already in the early 18. century the original one was erected, but it had to be renewed every 30 years or so. The present structure dates from after 1945. There are many of these all along the North Sea coast and islands. They all have different shapes, so they could be identified with the help of strong binoculars and helped sailors to navigate. In the age of radar and GPS navigation it serves no practical purpose any more but it is maintined as a historical monument and Cuxhaven's iconic symbol. Nowadays it is popular with tourists as a viewpoint. Access is free, and open any time.

Geographically, Kugelbake marks the very point where the Elbe estuary ends and the North Sea begins. The coastline does a sharp bend in a right angle from Northwest to Southwest here. This spot is the official end of the river.

The Stone Dam


While the mudflats in front of the beaches fall dry, the Elbe river keeps enough water to allow ships to travel. A 10 km long stone dam that begins next to the Kugelbake separates the mudflats from the river. On the left you can walk on solid sandy ground at low tide, on the right you have the deep shipping channel. Never even think of going swimming there, currents and waves caused by passing ships are far too dangerous.

Beach and Beach Promenade

Beach life 1

The beaches along Döse, Duhnen and Sahlenburg are popular for sunbathing and all kinds of beach activities in the summer season. They are also the starting points for walks into the mudflats.

Beach life 2

Strandkörbe (beach baskets) can be rented per day or for a longer time depending on the duration of your stay. Strandkörbe are a typical German beach item. The first one was created by a basket-maker in Rostock in the 19th century. On the beaches of Baltic Sea and North Sea the weather is not always reliable. The wind can be unpleasantly chilly even if the sun is shining brightly. The basket can be turned into the optimal direction to protect you from the wind but let the sun in, or to shade you from the sun, just as you like. The back reclines and foot rests can be pulled out. A Strandkorb usually seats two people. The front is closed with a wooden grid and locked with a padlock, so you can store your beach stuff inside overnight.

The sandy beach is fine, the waters are calm, but swimming the sea is hardly possible. At high tide the water is too shallow even far out. I tried "just because" and managed to swim a bit but always had to keep my knees from getting stuck on the sea bottom. Real swimming is only possible
a) at the grass beaches of Grimmershörn and Altenbruch along the Elbe at rising tide
b) in the pretty big sea water spa in Duhnen
c) in the open air sea water pool among the dunes in Döse (Freibad Steinmarne).


A favourite pastime on German beaches is building sand castles. Digging holes and canals in the wet ground just off the beach is also popular. Sand and mud invite to dig. Some people build huge ramparts around their Strandkorb and decorate them with shells or whatever they find on the beach. Here is a particularly fine sand architecture, probably done with castle-shaped moulds for "sandcake baking". Showels, moulds and everything you and your kids need to play in the sand can be obtained from each and every souvenir shop on and behind the dyke. However, building huge sand castles around your Strandkorb, as it was popular some decades ago, is not allowed any more nowadays. There are certain rules concerning the size and extension of sand castles now.

All kids, big and small (and also some very big kids;-)), enjoy playing in the mud at low tide. Schlick surfing is a low-tide beach entertainment that looks like big fun... You need a flat board that looks like a small surfboard; these are on sale in all the souvenir shops along the beach for a few Euros. Throw the board into a muddy puddle in front of you, run a few steps and jump onto the board. Then you “surf” on the mud – how far, depends on your speed and your balance. (Splash! But no worries, there are showers along the beach.)


A smoothly paved promenade extends all the way along the beach. It has benches, showers and taps to wash muddy feet, a couple of eateries and souvenir shops along the way and free toilets in several spots - everything that you need on the beach. The cleaning squad is on duty every day. The promenade is suitable for wheelchairs, walkers, prams and strollers and toddlers' tricycles. The ramps over dyke and dunes prove the only problem that people with walking difficulties have to cope with. Bicycles, however, are strictly banned from the busiest part between the bay of Grimmershörn and the thermal spa in Duhnen. Cyclists have to use the bike trail behind the dyke on this stretch.


The walk is very pleasant. If you find it too long, you can use the beach train. This is not a train on rails but a motor vehicle in the shape of a train. It runs along the beach promenad, starting at the Western end of the beach in Duhnen and ending at Alte Liebe in the port, with several stops along the way. It runs right on the beach promenade. If you can't or don't want to walk long distances, this "train" is a fun alternative to experience the beach landscapes and the views of the sea, tidelands and the Elbe.

Strandhaus is a popular spot on the beach in Döse. It was built right on the dyke in the 1950s. The architecture of the building and the stage shell are typical for that era, unspoilt, and will raise the spirits of every 1950s fan. The upper floor hosts an upscale restaurant with large panorama windows. The ground floor has a souvenir shop and snack bar, and on the meadow in front they have a large self-service beer garden. Part of the outdoor seating is inside a tent with heaters.

From Wednesday to Sunday they have live music on the concert stage outside – the quality of the bands and musicians varies. Some are quite good, the two guys who did the “Kölsche Abend” one night, however, deserve a “Warnings and Dangers” tip... Their sound can be heard in half of Döse, so it is hard to escape them. Anyway, if you want to enjoy a beer with beach view, this is the place to go. Prepare for prices higher than average, though.

The playground by the beach promenade next to Strandhaus Döse has this huge pirate ship. Two wooden figures represent the town mascots Jan Cux and Cuxi dressed up as pirates. The ship must be fun to play on for kids, and it makes a nice subject for photos.



Grimmershörn Bay



From Kugelbake towards the port, the coastline changes its face completely. The stretch along Grimmershörn bay is called a "beach", but it is a green beach, i.e. grassy ground. Strandkörbe are placed here just like on the beaches of Duhnen and Döse. The advantage: no sandy feet and no sand in your bags, on your sandwiches and everywhere. The disadvantage: less beach flair, and reaching the water requires using metal ladders and stairs down the stone wall. The water is deep enough here for swimming. The tides must nevertheless be observed because of the currents.
The view is best from the path on top of the dyke. There are no dunes here, so the full dimensions of the dyke are visible. Due to frequent storm surges, such strong dykes are necessary to protect the land behind.

The Beach Off Season



So far I had seen the beach always in high season, all filled with beach baskets and wind-protecting fences in between. In March, still off-season, the beach was wide and empty and undivided. Outside Duhnen they had already cleaned it and brought in fresh sand. There were no wooden benches on the promenade and the showers and taps to wash dirty feet were not yet installed. One or two of the snack bars were open, the others still closed. The bonus point is that there was no tax charged for access to the beach.

The new season was approaching and preparations were in full swing. In one spot the very first beach baskets had just been put up and people enjoyed the spring sun, well wrapped up in warm jackets. The horse-drawn carriages to Neuwerk had just opened the new season, there were four or five on tour - in late spring there will be 40 per day, during the summer holidays even twice as many.




An evening walk on the beach promenade is rewarding. The main beaches of Döse, Duhnen and Sahlenburg face northwest. The beach promenade and the stone dams are the perfect balcony to enjoy the sunset show over the mudflats. The colours and reflections are amazing. Let the photos speak for themselves!





Posted by Kathrin_E 13:17 Archived in Germany Tagged north_sea cuxhaven niedersachsen lower_saxony

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