As soon as I arrived in Germany I was excited to start planning trips, to start living again in my new home. Last month for my birthday – Rügen Island. It was somewhere I had never heard of before moving to Germany, but shortly after arriving here, a very kind travelling friend offered me her family's beautiful holiday home for a weekend and I thought what better timing than to go for my birthday! So the final weekend in May, we packed up the van and hit the road for a lovely long weekend at the seaside.
We had the most amazing weekend filled with ice cream on the beach, walking in the national park, exploring tiny towns and beautiful parks, and of course, stuffing ourselves with yummy food! I really wish I could go back and do that whole weekend all over again, I really wouldn't change a thing, it was a perfect way to spend my birthday. In this post I'm going to share all of the things we did and what I would recommend if you happen to be visiting, hopefully it will help you have a special trip and to make the most of your time there.
There is so much to do on Rügen Island, you'll be spoilt for choice! The best thing is that there is something for everyone, so whether you're away for a romantic weekend for two, or a big group holiday, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves. From the chilled beach bars and viewpoints, to the more active hikes and bike rides, you can design the holiday you want and do everything at your own pace.
There are so many lovely beaches to check out – hopefully you have good weather like we did – although I will warn you it is the Baltic Sea so don't start getting excited about swimming! We were staying in Sassnitz so we spent the most time on the east side of the island where we found some gorgeous beaches waiting for us. We had a day of beach-hopping starting from Binz and working our way through to Sellin, Baabe, Göhren and all the way south to Theissow. If you have the time on your trip, I really recommend visiting a few different beaches to get away from the crowds and see a different side to the island. Binz and Sellin are gorgeous beaches with all the cute charm of an old-fashioned seaside town, comparable to Brighton in the UK. Expect pricier accommodation and lots of bars and restaurants, as well as lots of people – these were the busiest places we visited – but they are very pretty and great for the evenings when you want to go out for dinner. The other beaches further round, especially Baabe and Göhren, are much quieter and its lovely to sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic and the uninterrupted views of the bay. Check out this article for a more detailed guide to the individual beaches.
For a really unique way to see the island, why not hop aboard the old fashioned steam train and power along the Rügensche Kelinbahn, a nostalgic nod to days gone by, from Putbus to Göhren on a 24km ride. Taking in everything from lush green forests to huge beach resorts, you'll get an eyeful when you take a ride on the fondly known, Racing Roland.
It's definitely worth taking some time to explore all the little villages and parks spread around the island during your stay. In Bergen, you'll find some pretty spectacular panoramas across the ocean, plus colourful old buildings including Benedix-Haus in the market place. Gary is close by and as the tiniest and oldest town on the island, you'll visit just to se the amazing views from the Ernst Moritz Arndt Tower. Putbus was our favourite village – originally we went there to see the beautiful palace I had read about online only to find that it had been torn down years ago – but we were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous Insel Vilm eco-park that was waiting for us there and spent hours wandering around. If you get time to drive all the way north, I really recommend visiting Kap Arkona which is the northernmost tip of the island and boasts amazing views, a gorgeous beach and lighthouses you can climb to the top for even better panoramas.
One of my favourite parts of visiting the island was Jasmund National Park which completely took my breath away and was easily one of the most memorable places I have spent my birthday. Read all about our visit and my top tips for visiting, here.
If you love getting outside and being active, you'll be in your element at Rügen, hit the trails and go walking in Jasmund National Park or from beach to beach, or hire bikes and feel the wind in your hair as you cycle the island. There are also walking and bike tours available if you would prefer to join a group when you explore the island, or if you travel with a group and would prefer a guide to lead you around.
Everyone loves a sunset and on Rügen Island there are two places I found that will provide you with the best views in the evening. Sellin Pier is one sight you don't want to miss, so make sure you get there before the sun dips over the horizon to see it all light up. Imagine an old-fashioned, Brighton-esque pier bathed in the sun's last rays of the day and gently sparkling as its lights start to twinkle. It was a beautiful sight and a perfect place for a sunset walk before dinner. I also found out about another place called Panorama Hotel Lohme, which was up in the very north above Jasmund National Park, and boasts gorgeous panoramic views over the ocean. We didn't go to this one sadly as the weather was very cloudy and foggy on our second night on the island, but I've read great reviews and seen some beaut pics.
We came prepared and filled up the van with food for the whole weekend so we could have more of a self-catering experience and save a bit of money – we didn't know if it might be more expensive on the island. We ate our own food for breakfasts and lunches, but actually ended up eating out on both the Saturday and Sunday nights we were there. On the Saturday night, we decided to go and see Sellin Pier at sunset and realised we were both starving after a busy day, after checking out the menu for Seebrücke Sellin, we couldn't resist going in for a bite to eat. I was very impressed to find that it was actually very reasonably priced, I had expected it to be a lot more expensive, and that the food was absolutely delicious. We went for a goats cheese starter, then had the burger and a mushroom pasta, all of which were absolutely amazing and the service was great considering we walked in five minutes before they were due to shut the kitchen!
On my birthday night, we went on the recommendation of our friend who told us we had to go and eat at Rialto, an Italian restaurant in Binz which has the best pizza and ice cream. After thoroughly taste-testing, I can tell you that the pizza and ice cream are amazing!
We stayed at our friend's place in Sassnitz which was perfect – this side of the island has all the best beaches and sights, plus we were right at the entrance to Jasmund National Park. There are lots of hotels and holiday homes all over this side of the island for varying levels of luxury and price tags. I personally would recommend renting a holiday home or somewhere self-catering where you can cook your own meals or can even have barbecues in the long summer evenings. We loved having a bit more space and a place to prepare breakfast and lunches. Sassnitz is also a great way to stay close to all the action without actually having to be in busy Binz, it's still a cute little seaside town but with more of a cosy feel.
We went to visit at the end of May and the weather was gorgeous, but being close to the Baltic Sea, it is understandably harder to predict the weather. I would recommend visiting May to September for the best weather, but keep an eye on weather reports because if the weather is bad, there isn't much to do that doesn't rely on you being outside all day. Also, avoid school holidays as it is clearly a big holiday destination for families/elderly and can get busy.
There are buses and trains on the island which connect each of the little towns to each other, these are great if you don't have access to a car plus there are lots of bike paths and hiking trails if you like to keep fit. You also can access the island by bus or train from Hamburg. We drove to the island (around 3.5 hours) and throughout the weekend we used the van to get everywhere which was really helpful to make the most of our weekend. I would recommend hiring a car or driving to the island because it gives you so much more freedom to stay in more budget-friendly places and to be independent and spontaneous about your day. We would decide at a moment's notice our plans and easily went off to a new beach or town. If you rely on public transport you would be much more restricted on how much you get to see and how quickly.
Have you been to Rügen Island – what are your recommendations? Are you more of a beach or forests-lover? What summer travels have you got planned?
Some people swear by snowy skiing holidays, some people can't live without fresh mountain air - for me it's beachy bliss and ocean dreams that fuel my travels. I've been a total water baby since I was a kid and I can't stand being far from the ocean - I've always lived no further than 20 minutes from the sea and it's always been the one thing to soothe me. From winter beach walks to summers running along the seafront and charing the waves, I just love the peace and simplicity of a life with sandy feet and salty hair. My farm work was possibly the hardest time of my travels - and some of that I put down to being the furthest away from the ocean I have ever been. 800km west of Brisbane, I was pretty much in the centre of Australia and a minimum of 12 hour driving away from the sea. It sounds silly, but we humans are 80% water and it seems crazy that being near or far from water cannot affect our mood.Since being back in Melbourne, I've been working like crazy sometimes 50/60 hour weeks and so it's become more important than every that I make the most of my time off by going to new places I haven't yet explored. For me, that means venturing in different directions to explore the best beaches and most beautiful places I haven't yet seen in this amazing city. I love Melbourne and there is so much more for me to discover so I've been on the buses, trains and trams to find my favourite new beachy destinations in the area. I've come up with my top 10 list of my favourite beaches I've been to in the area - all within easy reach of Melbourne CBD and well worth visiting if you fancy a change.
My top 10 beaches in Melbourne
St Kilda Beach
It goes without saying that St Kilda Beach is a lot of fun - it's far from the prettiest beach in Melbourne but it's the place to be if you want to enjoy beers in the sunshine, the odd festival or to warm up for a night out. I spent Christmas Day here with my nearest and dearest - we enjoyed a full Aussie Xmas Day from beers in the sunshine to water fights in the sea and a full rave on the beach - so much fun and always a good place to head to meet people. Plus, penguins... need I say more?!
My new favourite after visiting the other day, this one is perfect for escaping the city. Just 30 minutes on the train from Flinders, this beautiful untouched beach promises crystal clear waters and gorgeous golden sandy beaches. Endless rock pools and nature to explore, or you can just relax in your own little cove.
Half Moon Bay
Last time I was in Melbourne, I went on a lovely date with a guy to Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful little cove attached to Sandringham Beach but also completely separate. We had the whole beach to ourselves and went swimming at sunset, it was beautiful to watch the sun hit the water and watch the ships sailing past. A perfect spot to romance anyone special in your life.
A home away from home, this little gem comes complete with an amazing view of the city from across the water and cute little beach reminiscent of those you'll find on quaint English beaches like those near my home. Plus, it's only 20 minutes by train! A lovely chilled beach and great for swimming as there isn't too many rocks in the water and it isn't quite as shallow as some of the beaches. While you're in the area you can also check out Elwood and Hampton beaches.
This has become my local beach of late -just 5 minutes on the tram from my apartment, it's my perfect escape for a sunny morning before work. on the same stretch of Port Phillip Bay as St Kilda, it couldn't be more different. Usually empty of people and very peaceful, this is more of a family beach and less party. It's a perfect place to take a book and relax for a few hours.
Halfway between a beach and a cliff face - this one is definitely worth a visit. The water was ice cold when I went but you couldn't miss the beauty of the place. Come here for cliff jumping and a good swim in crystal clear deep waters. On hot days the place turns into a party for the Mornington crowd!
Take a 25 minute train ride and a step back in time to Williamstown, a small seaside town with all the cuteness of a British seaside resort. I went on a windy day when it was perfect for sandy beach walks instead of sunbathing but still saw the beauty in the simple, untouched beach. Perfect if you fancy escaping the busy sands of St Kilda.
Escape the city for a day or overnight like I did, I went to visit a friend who lived down in Torquay, near the start of Great Ocean Road. This was a perfect excuse to head down to the gorgeous surfing beaches like Bells Beach to walk the dogs and catch up for a few days. While you're at it, why not hire a car for a few days and do the whole Great Ocean Road? Check out my posts for planning your trip here and here.
I just spent a few hours on one of the many Mornington Peninsula beaches during a stormy day, but it was very beautiful and the whole area is covered with gorgeous beaches to explore. Easy to get to in a day, they're worth exploring and if you have more time then Sorrento and the beaches down at Wilson's Promontory are also worth a visit.
Pretty far out of the city but worth a visit if you have more time, Frankston is full of lovely beaches to explore, most of them I saw during windy days so I enjoyed walks rather than sunbathing but they'd be beautiful on a hot day!
There's something so soothing about the ocean isn't there? If you love it as much as I do, why don't you check out Celebrity Cruises by Bolsover Cruise Club for their take on modern luxury while you explore the globe.
What's your favourite Melbourne beach? Can you recommend any others?
As I'm sure you can imagine, last week flew by in a blur of family time, catching up with friends and saying my goodbyes, packing and a constant battle between eating my fill of British food to last me the next year and working it off at the gym to get my body even remotely bikini ready. As you read this, I'll be somewhere in Bangkok - hopefully wandering around a market eating delicious food and taking in the sights. I'll be spending the first couple of days in a hotel, getting my bearings and making a firmer plan for the upcoming weeks and meeting up with friends. I'm sure it will only just be starting to register that this is how my life will be for the next year - no more getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work in cold, raining England - but finally what I have been working for and planning for over 12 months is finally a reality! I can't quite believe it myself. I have to be honest, I've had the worst possible run of news stories since booking my flights - it seems there's pretty much been a murder on a Thai beach, a shark attack in Australia, or a plane going missing every bloody week! Great for reassuring my mother I'm going to survive my trip, and great for reassuring me that I'm going to survive my flight. It's okay though, I've never been much of a worrier so I'm putting all these news stories to the back of my mind and just doing everything I can to avoid being mugged, raped, murdered or involved in some horrible incident. In the meantime though, I have been doing my utmost to make sure I have some very special memories of home, my family and my friends. I'm sure there will come a time when homesickness strikes and I am very glad of them! As you guys will have already read by now - I've got some pretty good ones in the bag after a perfect Christmas with the family, my Mexican-themed New Year's, my Nineties-themed Leaving Party, and a couple of lovely dates with the boyfriend.This post is just a quick one to show you what else I got up to in the week between Christmas and flying out. My week started with a bracing, windy walk on the beach with my parents at Sunny Hunny - we have a beach hut there and it was a chance for me to say goodbye to the hut as I won't be seeing it for over a year. It was a beautiful day, very frosty and the coldest morning yet of 2014, but perfectly fresh at the same time. I love walking at the beach on cold, sunny days - the air is so clean and it really does blow away all the cobwebs. It was great to get some serious fresh air and some colour in my cheeks - plus with that and a few workouts, it was great to get past feeling so stuffed with all the delicious Christmas food. We covered about six miles and it was good to spend some time back by the sea - my inner mermaid was satisfied. As you can see scattered around this post there are a few pics I captured while by the sea - it's such a pretty place. I also had a lovely day at the spa with my mum where we were treated to a lovely facial and full body massage, plus lots of lovely steam rooms, Prosecco and cake. A pretty perfect mummy and daughter day - it was really lovely to have a day just the two of us before I go. This was followed by New Year celebrations, catch-up's with the boyfriend's family and other friends and then my long-awaited Leaving Party! The week finished with a lovely family meal with my parents and grandad - then some sad goodbyes with my best friends and the boyfriend. Then before I knew it, my parents were driving me down to Heathrow and I was on a plane, and whoaa now I'm in Bangkok. Life is pretty crazy sometimes, but crazy good. After a really rubbish start to the year, I couldn't have ended it on a better note.
What have you guys been up to? Are you sad to say goodbye to 2014, or are you already head-first into making 2015 the best yet?