Already when driving on the 9-kilometre causeway (Rømø Dam) connecting Rømø to mainland Denmark, you will notice the characteristic marsh landscape in the Wadden Sea which constantly varies with the tide. This part of Southern Denmark is renowned for its man-made dykes to avoid devastating flooding from the sea, as well as its beautiful marshes with a great diversity of wild birdlife.
The dyke was constructed back in 1948, providing much easier access to Rømø than the previous ferry connection to Kongsmark. However, severe storms destroyed the dyke considerably in both 1976, 1981 and 1999, each time, though, being rebuilt again.
In this southernmost Danish Wadden Sea island you can for instance get all close to beautiful flocks of geese, pick your own oysters at low tide, spend the entire day horseback riding on the sandy beach, or you can opt to try out the popular beach sailing on the widest beach in Northern Europe.
Rømø is really the perfect island to go to in Denmark for outstanding nature experiences, as well as unique outdoor activities powered by the waves and the wind.
Rømø’s whaling heyday
What makes Rømø particularly interesting from a historical perspective is its former position as a whaling island and community. This flat marsh island used to be the base in Denmark for whaling expeditions to the polar oceans around Svalbard and Greenland, and many of the Rømø inhabitants joined Dutch and German ships where they worked as either harpooners, officers or commanders (whaling captains). They did this for a living and many of them became rather wealthy!
The whaling era lasted about 200 years – starting in the 1660’s and continuing right up till 1860. Peaking around 1770, Rømø had at that time close to 40 impressive so-called kommandørgårde, commander’s farmhouses, which were built by the commanders after earning a fortune on whaling. The houses were often decorated with Frisian and Dutch tiles.
Often the commanders brought back whalebones and whale jaws which they used instead of timber – for instance to construct entrance portals and fences around their properties.
Many of these spectacular fences are today gone, but at Juvre there are still remains of one of these whale fences from 1772. It can be found at the farmhouse previously owned by the whaling captain Peter Andersen List who was in command of the ship De twee jonge Hermanns from Hamburg.
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Today, Kommandørgården at Toftum has been converted into a museum which is part of the National Museum. Inside you will notice the painted panels, carved woodwork and characteristic tiles, and it is furnished as in the last part of the 1700s. In the barn you have the opportunity to see the fascinating skeleton of a sperm whale stranding on the island in 1996.
Another commander’s farmhouse is Naturcenter Tønnisgård which has today been turned into a nature centre providing information about the island, its nature and the wealth of activities going on in Rømø.
It is also here you can book a bird watching tour, a seal or a bunker trip, an oyster safari, horseback riding and much more. You will also find a small museum which is free to visit.
Rømø church, Sct Clemens Church, was erected around 1200. However, it underwent transformations and was expanded in Rømø’s whaling heyday. You will notice a number of ship models hanging inside it, often donated by local seamen.
The church is consecrated to the patron saint of sailors, Saint Clemens. Surrounding the church is the old churchyard with tombstones of the commanders living on the island, as well as of British and German pilots from WWII.
Close to the island church you will find the former Rømø Rescue Station.
This building is today taken over by the volunteer fire brigade. The rescue station was constructed in 1887 at a strategic location such that the rescuers from the tower of the roof could watch out for ships in distress at sea.
Since the German occupation during WWII there have been bunkers in Tvismark Plantage, a vast area of sand dunes, heath and forest vegetation between Rømø Dam and Lakolk. The bunkers are today partly buried in the sand. Anyway, you can go on a guided bunker tour to visit some of these solid bunkers left from the time of the war.
In the northern part of Rømø there is today a large secluded area, Juvre Sand, a military exercise area used for various military training since 1954. In particular, the drills involves training with tanks and other military vehicles, and tourists are welcome to watch the military exercises from a viewing platform. Access to the area itself is strictly forbidden. However, you can always hike along the Juvre Dyke.
Drive on Lakolk car beach
From beginning of the 1900’s Rømø and in particular Lakolk Beach on the western side of the island became popular among Germans. At that time Rømø was still German, and the small island became a favourite holiday destination with the Germans. The tourists arrived by boat to Kongsmark, and from there they continued by horse-drawn tram to Lakolk on the other side. This initiated a whole new era in Rømø where hotels, blockhouses, entertainment halls and numerous restaurants popped up.
There is, though, not much left of the original tourist site. The tramway has been abandoned long ago, although there are still traces of it. Anyway, Rømø is still today a popular Germans’ holiday destination and you will definitely come across more Germans than Danes here in summer!
Lakolk is today Rømø’s popular shopping centre with clothing stores, souvenir shops and tempting ice cream cafés.
It is no wonder that Lakolk Beach is attractive. With its broad sandy surface it literally invites people to drive on the very beach! As far as the eye can see cars drive and park on the iconic ‘car beach’ and people take out tables and chairs and make themselves comfortable for the day. Every morning during the summer season even pop-up restaurants are established here on the sandy beach.
Kitesurfing is also popular here, and Lakolk features an annual kite festival in September where the sky becomes dotted with the eye-catching colourful kites.
Sail in a sand yacht on Sønderstrand
The wide beaches on the western side of Rømø are fine examples of how the island continually grows towards the west. Sønderstrand holds with its up to 3-kilometre wide sand surfaces the record of being the widest beach in Northern Europe. It is here that wind sports and surfing take place. Very popular is blokarting – sailing on the sand on three-wheeled vehicles powered by the brisk wind – and it is a dream of a playground to be frolicking on. With a few instructions even beginners soon find themselves playing around in the kite-buggies there!
after some years new areas of sand and sand dunes often turn into coastal meadows – an example of this is Slagtebænken (the Slaughterhouse), receiving its name after a disastrous flooding where a lot of sheep drowned.
The Danish Wadden Sea has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its uniqueness and amazing birdlife, including abundant migratory birds, that thrives here on the eastern side of Rømø. Thanks to the tidal system and resulting sand and mud flats, nature provides plentiful food sources to them. Actually, the Wadden Sea across Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands is the most significant uninterrupted tidal system in the world!
At low tide it is easy to find and collect fresh oysters since vast oyster banks are bared – and they are easily accessible on foot. To find the right places for oyster picking an option is to join an organised oyster safari – but you can also just go on your own to discover the abundant resources of the sea!
Havneby – the gateway to Sylt
Today, the prevailing industry of Rømø Harbour, Havneby, is the shrimp business. The harbour was established back in 1964 where the shrimp fishing took off – following the example of the shrimp catching in the German Wadden Sea. Walking around the harbour area you will notice the shrimp vessels lining up here when they are not operating on the sea.
A couple of cannons can also be found here, originating from the Thirty Years’ War which took place between the fleets of Danish and Dutch-Swedish ships in 1644.
From Havneby you can jump on the ferry to the popular North Frisian island Sylt just south of Rømø – maybe just as a day tripper. During the crossing you may well get the chance to spot a seal or two – and sometimes dozens of seals!
Other places of interest near Rømø in this part of Denmark include the old charming towns of Ribe or Tønder, both with traces from the Middle Ages.
Den Gamle Købmandsgaard Bed & Breakfast is a centrally located hotel in the historic town of Ribe, close to Ribe Cathedral. There are individually designed rooms with wooden floors and modern furnishings. Tea and coffee are available all day and guests can enjoy the hotel terrace and garden.
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Sail on the sand in Rømø and discover its whaling past
Rømø / Romo Denmark
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Sail on the sand in Rømø and discover its whaling past:
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