From the old Hanseatic city of Wismar, which we introduce to you in a separate Wismar article, it is only about 10 kilometers as the crow flies to the tranquil island of Poel, which apart from its relatively remote and therefore quiet beaches even in high season has many other beauties to offer and is therefore perfect for a relaxing family vacation. I was on the island for you and would like to introduce you to the youngest seaside resort in Germany.
This is Poel island
Poel is an island of about 35 km² in the Wismar Bay, which makes it the seventh largest German island today. Today Poel has less than 3000 inhabitants. Most of them live in the main village Kirchdorf, in Oertzenhof, Timmendorf and Fährdorf. In summer, the number of people on the island increases sharply because of the tourists. Then the traditional Swedish festival is also held around the church of Kirchdorf and reminds of the island’s eventful past.
In the south, the island is surrounded by the Breitling and the Zaufe, in the northeast by the Kielung, three side arms of the Baltic Sea. Officially, the municipality of Poel today also includes the small island of Langenwerder, which we also describe here.
The history of the island
According to legend, the Germanic god Balder, a son of Odin, who was also called Phol (hence the island’s name), brought light to the island. Even before that, the island is said to have been created by giants. You will encounter him and other legendary figures on Poel today if you explore the island on the Legend Route. Slavic tribes settled here for a long time, but little is known about them.
Swedes, Danes and Mecklenburgers
Poel was first mentioned in a document in 1163, when the island came into the possession of the dukes of Mecklenburg. Due to its great strategic importance for Mecklenburg, a fortress was built here at the beginning of the 17th century, but it no longer exists today. It was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, as a result of which the island was assigned to Sweden. The Swedes retained control of Poel until 1803, when the Duke of Mecklenburg acquired it in exchange for a deposit for 100 years; Sweden eventually renounced its claim to the island. As a result, Poel developed into a popular health resort and tourists from all over Germany vacationed here.
A dam and a tragedy
A significant event was the construction of a dam between the mainland and the island in 1927, which still ensures the connection to the Mecklenburg mainland today. Towards the end of World War II, the Kap Arcona, a ship carrying concentration camp inmates, sank off the coast. Initially, the island was occupied by Canadian troops and then came under the control of Soviet troops. In recent years Poel has again significantly more inhabitants than in the reunification period and in 2005 was the last German place to date to receive the designation of a Baltic Sea resort.
Getting to Poel island
With the bus 430 you can reach the island from Wismar very comfortably, it stops among others also in Kirchdorf and in Timmendorf Strand. The island is also easy to reach by bike or car via the causeway Via Hansa. The dam ends in Fährdorf (literally: Ferry Village), whose name still refers to the fact that a hundred years ago the island could only be reached by boat.
If you drive east from Fährdorf, you will reach the small village of Malchow after a good kilometer and a half. At the end of the 19th century, a plant nursery was established here, which in GDR times was able to supply around three quarters of the demand for rapeseed. Building on this tradition, biological plant protection products was long researched and produced in Malchow. The show garden maintained here by the Wismar University of Applied Sciences is particularly beautiful. Over 15,000 plants can be admired here in all their glory and are being researched by the students and scientists at this branch of the university.
Kirchdorf is the most important settlement on the island and almost half of the approximately 2500 inhabitants of the island have their home in this idyllic place. For me, Kirchdorf is clearly the most beautiful place on Poel island. In addition to a massive brick church, there is a small harbor in the bay called Kirchsee and remains of the old fortress to see. Kirchdorf is therefore an absolute “must see” when visiting the island of Poel.
The Romanesque-Gothic village church marked the nucleus of the village, which developed only after its construction. It was built as early as 1250, making it the oldest building on the island. With its almost 50-meter-high tower, it was for a long time the only landmark for sailors; the two lighthouses described below were added much later. The church is sometimes locked, so it is not possible to visit it. In addition to church services, however, organ concerts are held here, during which you can convince yourself of the simple, yet harmonious architecture of the church. Next to the church is a small cemetery, which can also be visited.
Not far from the church you can still admire remains of the castle rampart and several ditches that were part of a fortress. The fortress, designed by Ghert Evert Piloot for Duke Johann Albrecht II, was unfortunately destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. Danes, Swedes and imperial troops had taken too much of a toll on the most important fortification on the island, and eventually the local population helped themselves to the remains of the fortress, using its stones to build houses.
The harbor of Kirchdorf is still the largest on the island before the one in Timmendorf and offers great photo motifs, also the cover picture of this article was taken here. Here not only bobble comfortably some fishing boats and sailboats before itself, but you can also walk along on the jetty and so enjoy the view of the small bay. The island has a little bit the shape of a cake, from which a piece was cut out. And exactly at the top of this piece of cake is the place. At the harbor you can also eat great, there are several restaurants.
Museum of local history
The island museum goes back to a teacher who started a first collection here in 1930, which was then presented in a school from 1957. Through donations from the local population, the exhibition expanded more and more and finally moved to a new building. Today you can inform yourself about the island and learn a lot about the painter Karl Christian Klasen. He lived in Kirchdorf, the island inspired him again and again and many of his works show the simple life of the fishermen and farmers on Poel. A model of the old ducal fortress is also on display. In the open-air area of the museum, erratic boulders are displayed, with the help of which one can understand the geological history of the island.
Timmendorf consists of a small town center and the beach of the same name (not to be confused with Timmendorfer Strand, which is also located on the Baltic Sea). About one kilometer separates the two parts of the village. The history of Timmendorf dates back to the 13th century, when fishermen founded a first settlement here. Even today, fishing (along with tourism) is the most important source of income in the village. From the small harbor there are ships to Wismar and Boltenhagen, which we present to you in more detail in the article about the most beautiful seaside resorts on the Baltic Sea.
The lighthouse of Timmendorf is the undisputed landmark of the island and has been reliably watching over the small harbor of Timmendorf since 1872, but especially over the shoals north of the island. He gives a rather unusual picture, because from about the middle he is no longer white, but unpainted. This is due to the fact that the brown part is a superstructure, which was built in the 1930s and henceforth provided even more security. In the meantime, the tower has been listed as a historical monument and was made fit for the future after retrofitting work in the 1990s.
The Beach of Timmendorf
The beach of Timmendorf is certainly one of the highlights of the island. Here are several photogenic beach chairs where you can relax, the water is crystal clear and at least in the summer you will find ideal conditions for swimming. The beach begins directly at the small marina of Timmendorf and runs from here in a northeasterly direction along the coast. If it should get too busy, I recommend a short walk along the coast, because after a few hundred meters there is almost nothing going on and you can get a piece of beach all to yourself – without a beach chair, of course.
Among the most beautiful experiences on the island are the sunsets here on the beach. Also kite- and windsurfers have been attracted to the beach of Timmendorf for years.
Am Schwarzen Busch
Behind the strange name Am Schwarzen Busch (“at the black bush”) a small village is hidden, which has a historical spa house and already at the beginning of the 20th century experienced a small tourist boom. The name of the place is derived from the dense bushes that grow here on the edge of a wooded area and were located on the property of the farmer “Schwartz”, which then gave rise to the creative name. Today, vacation homes dominate the scenery, tourists can relax here on a sandy beach, that is about 1 km long.
Memorial for the Victims of the Kap Arcona Catastrophy
The Kap Arcona, which got its name from the cape of the same name on the island of Rügen, was originally designed as a luxury steamer that operated between Hamburg and South America. Later, the ship was confiscated by the Germany navy. At the end of the Second World War, disaster struck. The Nazis used the ship to transport several thousand concentration camp prisoners. British fighter-bombers sank the ship and thousands of prisoners died. 28 of them were washed up on the beach here. In memory of this catastrophe, a small memorial was erected here at Am Schwarzen Busch, and information about the disaster is also provided in the local museum.
The Golltwitz lighthouse is certainly somewhat less photogenic than its counterpart in Timmendorf, but it is still one of the most important sights on the island. The white building with its red tower top was built in 1953 and replaced an old tower with a gas-powered lantern. It ensured safe passage of ships through the Great Deep northeast of the island. Since 1996 the lighthouse has a new function and now serves as a fog signal, which is automatically controlled from Travemünde. From here, the small island of Langenwerder is perfectly visible.
Besides the lighthouse, Gollwitz also offers a small cliff, several vacation homes and a well-kept beach.
The so-called Kuhlenloch separates Langenwerder from the island of Poel, with which it forms a common municipal unit. The small island with an area of only 58 hectares is completely protected and the island is uninhabited. There is only one building on Langenwerder, a small hut where a bird watcher performs his duties.
Entering the island is usually prohibited, for not disturbing the numerous birds that live here while breeding. Gulls, terns and ducks find almost ideal conditions here and you can see the island well from the northeast coast of Poel. From time to time, however, exceptions are made and you can explore the island with an expert as part of a birdwatching tour outside the breeding seasons. In the past, the fishermen who lived in Gollwitz earned extra money here by stealing the birds’ eggs from the island and selling them on Poel.
The first place to go for all kinds of information is the Poel tourist information center next to the Rewe supermarket. It is located in the center of Kirchdorf and is open every day during the season, but on weekends only in the mornings. They organize guided hikes and are happy to help you find accommodation.
Accommodation on Poel Island
There are only a few hotels on Poel, most visitors prefer small cottages.
- Vacation home on the north coast*. Vacation home on the north coast*. Here you can stay in a cozy house with a real thatched roof. The house accommodates up to five guests and is therefore also suitable for families.
- Gutshaus Kaltenhof*. In my opinion, the chic manor house would have deserved more than the three stars it currently has. In the clean accommodation with timeless classic furnishings, you can relax here on the north coast in the best possible way.
- Hotel zur Seemöwe*. The small hotel is housed in a historic clinker brick building and has all the necessary comforts. In the evening you can sit here nicely on the terrace.
Food and Drink
- Café Frieda. Located in the heart of the island, not only fans of cakes, pies and small snacks get their money’s worth here, but especially culture fans. That’s because from February to November, numerous readings and concerts take place here.
- Kroning’s Fischbaud. Attention, fish fans: In the harbor of Kirchdorf you can enjoy seafood and freshly caught fish here with the best view of the water, and at extremely moderate prices.
- Poeler Auszeiten. The place oscillates somewhere between a souvenir store with high-quality, often handmade and unique gifts, a chic design store and a quaint café that serves what many consider to be the best cake on the island.
Trips from the island of Poel
If you continue to follow the coastline from the only land bridge connecting Poel with the mainland, you will reach Rerik, one of the most popular Baltic seaside resorts. Picturesquely situated at the northeastern end of the Salzhaff, here you can relax on the sandy beach, enjoy the view from a lookout tower, dine in one of the numerous restaurants or take a boat tour to discover the lagoon. To the west of Rerik is the peninsula of Wustrow. Since this peninsula was used for military purposes until the 90s, parts of it are under nature protection. That is why almost 90 species of birds have settled here. So nature lovers also get their money’s worth in Rerik.
In Kühlungsborn, beautiful nature meets magnificent buildings from the Wilhelminian period and the beaches offer enough space for everyone. You can walk along the long promenade for hours without getting bored. A Ferris wheel and many other attractions provide a change from sunbathing and swimming. Around Kühlungsborn there are numerous woods where you can walk or ride a bike. In addition, the historic Bäderbahn Molli train starts here and takes you via Heiligendamm to Bad Doberan.
Wismar is just perfect for a short trip. Almost 200 houses with Gothic gables have survived all these years. Although many of them were later remodeled, this usually happened in such a wonderful way that Wismar today resembles a colorful mix of styles from several architectural eras. Of particular interest are the many Gothic churches, which all tell their own story and are among the most important sights. It is also for this reason that UNESCO has declared the old town of Wismar, together with that of Stralsund, a World Heritage Site. From Poel, the city can be reached by car in a short time, and the distance can also be covered effortlessly by bicycle.
Classical tour guide about Germany, that also includes many places on the German Baltic coast.
Wanna learn some German before starting your trip? This book allowas a great start and doesn’t tire its readers with long grammar explanations, focussing on how to speak German in everyday life as soon as possible.
Swedes and Danes used to rule this part of Germany. As you can see, its history is quite complicated. This book gives a great overview of the country’s history!