While many Germans flee their country for hotter destinations in summer, there is no need to leave Germany's borders for a beach vacation. While it may not be swimsuit weather year-round, the country has plenty of sandy corners to visit in the warmer months.
The largest and most popular German island is the site of some of the country's best beaches. It averages 1,800 hours of sun each year, making Rügen one of the sunniest places in Germany.
Located off the northeast coast, it was once a luxuriy destination for elite East Germans. Today, it is everyone's favorite with UNESCO World Heritage sites like the ancient forests and the chalk cliffs of Jasmund National Park.
There are 37 miles of white sand waterfront. Visit Binz and Sellin for promenades, piers, and seaside resorts that hark from the 1800s. In the south, Baabe and Göhren also feature a promenades paired with calm waters, ideal for families. Perhaps the best beach for those looking for an island experience is Prora with miles of fine sand.
Want to visit more than one? Take the Rügensche BäderBahn (nicknamed Rasender Roland or Raging Roland), which carries its sand-covered passengers to four beach entrances.
The skinny island of Sylt has nearly 25 miles of beachfront — enough to satisfy any dedicated sun worshipper. Called Königin der Nordsee (Queen of the North Sea), its white sands against Rotes Kliff (red cliffs) in Kampen are otherworldly beautiful as if you landed on a different planet and not just one of Germany's best beaches.
Westerland beach on the west coast has perfectly manicured sands and elegant hotels. For families, the beaches of Wenningstedt-Braderup have peaceful waters. Or imagine you are somewhere altogether more tropical in exotically-named Samoa and Sansibar.
If the attractions of Sylt have brought the crowds, travel a little further to the nearby island of Amrum where the Wadden Sea beaches usually have more seals than people.
It is one of the sunniest locations in Germany, nicknamed Sonneninsel (Sunny Island). Usedom features almost 30-miles of sandy coastline, seaside mansions, and hotels perched right on the water's edge. Ahlbeck beach is the main highlight with its long stretches of sand and endless wicker Strandkörbe (German beach chair).
Located to the west of Rügen, this car-free island is relatively unknown to outsiders. But that is changing.
The majority of its west coast is an idyllic sandy beach buffeted by dunes. The beaches of Kloster and Neuendorf are well-maintained and the softly sloping sands of Vitte make it a pleasant beach for small children.
Leave your car back at the harbor, and make your way around the island on foot, by bike, or by horse-drawn carriage.
A seaside resort next to bustling Rostock, this was once just a small fishing village founded in 1200. Today's visitors are more likely to spend their time sunbathing, swimming, and sailing. This expanse of sandy beach is located at the junction of the Warnow river flowing into the Baltic. Step back from the beach and climb the iconic lighthouse from 1898 for an unbeatable view.
A nearby resort, Graal-Müeritz, provides landlubbers the chance to stop to enjoy the smells at the Rhododendron Park Festival every spring.
This peninsula stretches into the Baltic and features a 9-mile-long beach backed by sand dunes. Kick off your shoes and feel the sand beneath your toes as this pristine beach is an environmental conservation with designated dog beaches located elsewhere.
The small population that calls this area home is a bohemian crowd of international and national artists. Even the mayor, Hans Götze, has an art career.
Long stretches of sandy beachfront extend far out into the water. The dramatic tides create additional sunbathing space at low-tide, while at high-tide kite surfers and swimmers rule the beach.
Soothe the pains of an active day with waters inland. The town is known for its sulfur springs (Dünen-Therme), the cure to everything for a German.
Pristine waters give way to sandy beaches, which meet the resort town. Kühlungsborn is in the Rostock district along the Baltic Sea coast and is the largest seaside spa town in Mecklenburg. All the buildings here may be no taller than the trees to make this Ostsee beach the star.
Germany's largest ferry port has connections to Scandinavia, Russia, Latvia, and Estonia. Travemünde has also been a beach destination since 1802. Wide expanses of sand are dotted with the classic German strandkörbe with many people getting into the welcoming waters by sailboat.
Like Warnemünde, Travemünde has a historic lighthouse, Leuchtturm Travemünde. It is the oldest on the German Baltic coast as it was built in 1539. Travemünde is located near lovely Lübeck with its distinctive Hanseatic brick architecture and its own seafaring history.
If you arrive in July, attend the annual sailing week, Travemünder Woche.
It's not all about the sea for most Germans. Lake swimming is a big deal, either for a day trip escape or a full-on vacation. The country is covered in pleasant lakes, but some of the best include:
- Lake Constance, known as Bodensee by the Germans, is a 40-mile-long lake that you can't even see across. It borders Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and has an iconic island, Lindau. One of the best beach fronts in Germany is Strandbad Horn.
- Chiemsee is the largest lake in Bavaria and has two islands and a castle to explore.
- Lake Starnberg is only a 30-minute ride on public transport from Munich and offers typical watery delights.
- Lake Ammersee is little-known outside of Germany, but it offers beautiful green waters, water sports, and hiking opportunities galore.
- Lake Wannsee has almost anything you desire and is Europe's largest outdoor swimming area on an inland body of water.