Schiermonnikoog is an island that’s a 45min car drive and only a one-hour bus drive away from Groningen.
“Monnik” means “monk”, “schier” is an archaic word meaning “grey”, referring to the colour of the monks’ habits, and “oog” translates as “island”. The name Schiermonnikoog can therefore be translated as Grey Monk Island.- (Wikipedia)
The island is 16 km long and 4 km wide and is the site of the Netherlands’ first national park. There is only one village on the island, with the same name. Having around 940 permanent residents, this municipality is the smallest in the Netherlands, and almost always the winner in the voter turnout during Dutch elections. Schiermonnikoog is also almost car-free; only the residents may apply for the license to use a car on the island.
This is something that you first notice when you come off the ferry: silence and an enormous amount of bicycles. Up to 300,000 people visit the island every year. Most visitors are day-trippers, in summer 4000 per day.
There is a direct bus from Groningen Central Station, and it takes an hour to reach the harbor in Lauwersoog. There you take a ferry to the island. The ride is about 45min and the return ticket costs €15,20. Get your ticket online (https://www.wpd.nl/en/schiermonnikoog/) as the queues can get quite long once you get to the harbor. You are allowed to take your own bike on the ferry, but you actually pay more per bicycle on board than what you pay to rent one once your arrive on the island. The disadvantage is that in the summer days the queues for rental bikes in the island harbor are very long. You can always take a local bus (of course it’s electric) and go to one of the less busy village rentals. You can also choose to not rent a bike, and use a local bus to get to the seaside. But Schiermonnikoog is all about bicycles, and has amazing bike tracks all over the island (with a total of 30km cycling tracks).
Once you arrange your transport, you are ready to go to the other side of the island, to the 18 km long beach. But first make sure to stop at the local tourist info center (the sign VVV in the village) and get a map of the island. It clearly states accesses to the beach, bike tracks and tourist sights.
There are 4 facilities close to or directly on the beach where you can get refreshments and food.
If the wind is too strong for staying on the beach the whole day, you can always cycle inland, visit the small lake in the middle of the island (Berkenplas), or go to the high inland dunes (on the photos). For the last you need to ask locals, as the dunes change and move regularly with the wind.
Once the evening approaches, you need to decide which ferry to take to get back to the mainland. In the high season, there are usually extra boats leaving the island, but even then it can get very crowded. Some people decide to eat on the island and take the very last ferry. You can also take the earlier one and eat in Lauwersoog in one of many restaurants in the harbor, all of which offer fresh sea food.
Whatever you decide on, and no matter how long you stay on the island the first time, I am sure that you will want to visit this amazing place again. Show it to your friends when they come to visit, because the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands are for good reason on the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.