Sunday 11 October 2020

Amrum Island Running Route

Click here for route map 

Length 4.6 km (2.9 mi), terrain: flat but sometimes hard-going through the loose sand, gain of 10 meters

NOTE: If you're staying in nearby Norddorf, you can run along the quiet road through the marsh from the village, or along the dike, further east. This will add 2.3-kilometers in each direction to the run.

Amrum is my favorite German North Sea island: A varied landscape, small enough to easily explore on a bike but with a few scenic villages and sights. There are windmills, the lighthouse, thatched-roof houses everywhere, a long ridge of dunes running the length of the island, wide (often deserted) beaches that seem to go on forever, and strips of woods, heather and marsh. You won't find a big hotel anywhere.

Typical Amrum, in the village of Nebel

And one of the most natural spots on the island is the narrow northern point, the Odde or also called the Nordspitze. The whole peninsula is a nature preserve, with long, lonely coasts to either side. It's a wistful place of hikers, runners, birdwatchers and shell collectors. It's a place to re-learn how to wonder.

Runner along the Odde

Like the whole island, the west coast is lined by a wide beach, and the east coast is swampy, submerging into mud flats (the Watt) that stretch to the next island, Föhr. Guided groups of hikers gather at the start of this route to cross the flats at low tide, walking barefoot and in shorts through the occasional deep trench.

There's also a bird rescue station in the reserve, which can be visited by making a reservation in advance.

But right now, we want to just get out in the wild surroundings, breathe the salty air and bathe in the glory of Mother Nature.

We'll start at the beginning of the preserve, about 2.3-kilometers north of the village of Norddorf. There is a parking lot for bikes there, and a map of the island on a board, a meeting point for guided hikes (Treffpunkt). This is on the eastern side, facing the mud flats. 

The start: bike racks and map

The route itself is simple: just head north to the point, then head back again down the west coast and its wide beach.

A dirt road heads north for the first couple of minutes, but then ends at the water's side. The dunes of the preserve are fenced-in from now on. You just run in the sand, heading north, along the water. You can see Föhr just a few kilometers to the east. 

Along the east shore, with Föhr to the right

I like running as close to the water as possible: it's simpler to run on the wet sand than on the loose, dry sand close to the fence. Depending on the tide, you might be able to run quite a way out on the mud.

Group of hikers walking across the mudflats to Föhr

At about the 1-kilometer mark, you'll pass the bird rescue station, which you can't really see, hidden up in the dunes.

At 2 kilometers, you'll come to the northern point, where you cross the dune and then the wide beach to begin running south. Again, depending on the tide, you might be able to run further out during low tide.

Northern point of the island

This side has a whole different feel from the mudflats: here are waves breaking on the beach, with piles of shells that collect in low spots. This side is more exposed to the wind.

The wide west beach

After 4 kilometers, start watching for the sandy path that cuts through the dunes to get you back to the starting place. There is a green-and-white nature-preserve sign there, and lots of footprints leading you into the dune.

Path cutting across the dunes

NOTE: You could also continue southwards along the beach if you want to get back to Norddorf: you can see the buildings of beachside restaurant at Norddorf Beach straight ahead.

The beach gets more active around here. The Norddorf surf schools drag their equipment out the the water here for classes, which are fun to watch.

Windsurf class for kids on the west beach

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