So many reasons to explore the Danish Vesterhavet region
IS THE “VESTKYST” THE BEST COAST IN DENMARK?
The sea feels different on this side of Denmark. Here you must climb tall grass-covered dunes that crest to reveal wide windswept swaths of open sandy beaches. This is the North Sea and it can batter this shore. It definitely feels wilder and freer compared to the calmer Baltic Sea around Copenhagen. This is the Danish west coast. Vestkysten in Danish. We recently spent a long Easter break weekend in a cozy summer house nestled safely behind those sand dunes north of Hvide Sande in west Jutland. Come see why this area is worthy of exploring more.
SEEK OUT A SUMMER HOUSE IN VESTERHAVET
Coming from the island of Zealand (Sjælland) and the Danish capital, sometimes we need a break from our urban life. We live in the city, in a historic Copenhagen flat. And while we adore it, we have nary a garden or yard. So when I seek out somewhere to get away (when borders are still closed) there are always a few things our family requests.
Outside spaces for starters. In nature. Then things to explore and potential activities that teens might like to do. Outdoors. A house with access to a beach is always a plus, but not as easy as you’d think in a country like Denmark. Surrounded by water. Most Danish summer house sites let you filter and search by a rental’s walking distance to the shore. But coastal protection laws keep the cozy little holiday homes further than you might like. Want a view of the water? Look at spots inland for houses lining fjords.
Beyond that – we always look for an abode with a deck and somewhere to grill. Bonus points for an indoor wood burner or fireplace to warm up after braving the sometimes bracing and unpredictable Danish weather. Especially if booking before the somewhat more consistent temps of the summer season ensue. We were happy to have procured a little pad with all of the above. North of the slightly kitsch and terribly touristy summer house town of Søndervig – we found a cozy place between Houvig Strand and Sidselbjerg Strand. Set in one of the myriad summerhouse pods tucked among the hillocks of grass up and down this section of coast.
HOUVIG STRAND AND ITS PLACE IN EUROPEAN HISTORY
From our hyggelig little sommerhus, we could follow the signs to the strand. Or beach. Stay on the worn paths to help prevent the erosion of these dunes. All along the west coast, you’ll encounter the ruins of old German bunkers. Historic remnants from the Nazi occupation on Danish shores – you can take a guided tour to learn more of this World War II history. Part of a long line of defenses that spanned the Northern Europe coast, you’ll find the now surreal cement wrecks along the beaches from North Jutland to South Jutland.
Here in Houvig, you’ll find a line of bunkers, part of the Atlantic Wall built between 1943-44. Many you can climb inside, just be careful and bring along a flashlight as tides and time have not made all of them safe. but this beach is more than just bunkers and beachcombers will be happy to look for pretty rocks and shells along this shore. After dark, take a UV lantern to look for little bits of amber among the flotsam and jetsam of this pretty strand.
FIND DANISH FISHING CULTURE IN HVIDE SANDE
South of Søndervig on a span of land that sits narrowly between the North Sea and the Rinkøbing Fjord, you’ll find little town of Hvide Sande. In English, it means white sand. The town itself isn’t much to write home about and wouldn’t make one of my cutest Danish villages lists. But stay with me and see why it’s worth a stop.
In the “city” you’ll see evidence of this little port town’s active fishing industry – the 5th largest in all of Denmark. Along with local steel production, several shipyards and home of Vestas Wind offshore turbine servicing, the town itself has a slightly industrial feel. But cross over those dunes and the windswept west coast beckons, popular with cold water surfers. Or hit up the fjord side for kite surfing and windsurfing, a big draw for visitors over here. Want to get in on the action? Check out all of the local surf shop West Wind‘s offerings.
Those seeking something a little less daring can try a hand at landing some of the spring herring making their way through the man-made channel at Hvide Sande at this time of year. We witnessed safely distanced fisher people throwing in their lines. Learn about licenses and special gear to pull up your own catch of sild on the piers here.
MEANDER TYSKERHAVNEN FISHING VILLAGE | HVIDE SANDE
But before Hvide Sande was even a formal town, fishermen had found this spot on the spit. Beginning in the 1900s, a collection of fishing huts started cropping up along the fjord side. For reasons not very clear, the area was dubbed “Tyskerhavnen,” or the German harbor as it is still known today.
Photographers, fishermen, and art aficionados can all find a catch walking the lanes of this colorful neighborhood. Now a mix of modern accommodations – that you can rent – and ramshackle sheds piled with nets and old boats with an art gallery in the midst – I adored the potential for graphic shots where colors pop like a crayon box.
FIND THE SEA MARKERS OR HISTORIC TRADE ROUTE SYMBOLS ABOVE THE DUNES
This stretch of the Danish coast has a popular trade route since the time of the Vikings. From their historic base in Denmark’s oldest town of Ribe, further south, ships have sailed these seas. From the late 1800s, unique sea markers were set atop the dunes to let sailors know what ports they were nearing. Built between 1884-1885, there were originally 25 distinct sømærke or sea markers up and down the Vestkysten.
Today, only eleven still exist. You can see several in this stretch, each one with a different shape. This trip, we found them just south of Hvide Sande, near Sidselbjerg Strand and at Vedersø Klit. We’ve seen them up north near Løkken as well. They are fun to find atop the dunes.
SEE THE SHORE FROM ATOP THE LAST DANISH LIGHTHOUSE | LYNGVIG FYR
The sea markers didn’t always help captains well maneuver these waters and many a ship has unfortunately sunk along what was known as the ‘Iron Coast.” You can climb the 238 stairs and get 360-degree views from the North Sea across the fjord to Ringkøbing on a clear day. And sans corona restrictions. Unfortunately, we were unable to walk up to the top of the pretty white Lyngvig Fyr this Easter break as it is considered a cultural center and museum. After April 21, 2021, check their website to book tickets. Remember you’ll have to present a recent negative test or proof of vaccination.
Don’t feel like climbing? Or have a fear of heights? A stop at the last lighthouse built in Denmark (1906) is still worth your while. A lovely boutique and cafe are still open. Public picnic tables and two playgrounds are a perfect pause for families to and fro the Blue Flag beach nearby. A quick walk from the parking lot, you’ll pass public toilets and signs to the beach. To learn what makes a Blue Flag beach better than the rest, read my article for The International here.
Holmsland Klitvej 109, 6960 Hvide Sande
WALK ALONG THE CLIFFTOPS WITH THE PARAGLIDERS AT BOVBJERG LIGHTHOUSE
Drive north along the west coast route to see the spectacular stretch of cliffs that sit right under another lighthouse. This unique red number is the Bovbjerg Fyr, built in 1877. When open, you can climb to the top for dramatic views of the flat Danish landscape as it careens 41 meters off the glacial moraine to the beach. Evidence of the last ice age can be seen in the cliffs from the beach. Pack a picnic and take a walk along the clifftops or step down to sand. A paved trail takes you from the village of Bovbjerg below. The day we were there, we watched as the rainbow-colored kites of paragliders drifted up and down the path. A mini-museum in the village affords a little more information about the local history and geology.
Fyrvej 27, 7620 Lemvig
WHAT TO TASTE WHEN YOU COME TO THE WEST COAST
FRESH AND SMOKED FISH | RØGERI
You knew I was going to suggest you sample the fish right? Not a seafood lover. No worries. But for those who do, there are plenty of places to find it. One of my favorite things about visiting a Danish coastal town is hunting down the local røgeri. The smokehouse. Down in Hvide Sande, there is one about every ten steps. Or so it seems. Some are simple markets where you buy fish to take home. Others offer full-service fish meal buffets and restaurant service, when safely open to do so.
Havnepladsen 4, 6950 Ringkøbing
Hvide Sande Røgeri
Troldbjergvej 4, 6960 Hvide Sande
Hvide Sande Fiske & Røgeri
Beddingsvej 71, 6960 Hvide Sande
Metheasvej 11, 6960 Hvide Sande
SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM | SOFTICE
It isn’t really a Danish summer town if they aren’t serving softice. A huge swirl of creamy soft-serve ice cream atop a waffle cone with your choice of sprinkles or “drys.” There is something different about Danish softice. You can get a mix of a hard scoop or two with softice on top. Or go big and add “guf” (like a marshmallowy type fluff) and a flodebøller (chocolate-covered cream ball) stuck upside down on top. You can find somewhere serving up and down the west coast usually between April to October. We enjoyed ours with views to the dunes near Vedersø Klit where we stopped to find another of the famous sea marks.
Havvej 6, 6990 Ulfborg
NORTH SEA CHEESE | VESTERHAVSOST
Does cheese taste different on the Danish west coast? I believe decidedly so. When in this part of Denmark, you must try the Vesterhavsost – or west coast cheese. A special hard cheese produced by Thise Dairy is made from local cows that only munch the salty grass above the sea near Bovbjerg Fyr. The huge rounds are then stored for 6 months in a storage building near the lighthouse where they shrink and concentrate that salty sea flavor. This crumbly, slightly nutty cheese is deliciously flecked with crystallized salt.
There are several different varieties and the helpful cheesemongers at the Vestkystens Farm Shop will happily let you sample a few before you buy. Here you’ll also find organic meats, local baked goods, preserves, and drinks. The littles will love the house-made ice cream offered at the window outside.
Houvig Klitvej 77, 6950 Ringkøbing
HOW TO FIND A SUMMER HOUSE TO STAY ON THE WEST COAST
There are so many rental house agencies that run and manage the stock of summer houses that litter the west coast. You can search via the map or region and filter by lots of options like how many rooms and how far to the beach. Most rentals (especially in peak spring/summer season) run Saturday to Saturday. I’ve written up more details about different rental groups and what you’ll need to take and know about renting a Danish sommerhuset in this post.
READ MORE: DANISH SUMMER HOUSE RULES
More places to explore on this side of Denmark
In South Jutland, we loved our time on the island of Rømø and nearby Ribe, the oldest town in Denmark. Set in the Wadden Sea National Park, Rømø felt like a natural sanctuary and we loved wading out to find wild oysters in the mudflats offshore.
In North Jutland, you should get to know lovely little Løkken, one of my favorite Danish villages. The beaches are so wide up here you can drive right on them. Surfers, locally made sweets, and fishing boats on the beach make this an idyllic spot for a long weekend away.
We loved our long Danish summer house weekend this Easter. I was glad we weren’t right in Søndervig or Hvide Sande and happy for the space and quiet stretch of the wild west coast. Have you been to this part of Denmark? What did I miss? While those of you not here can’t come to visit just yet, share or save this post to plan when you can. Cheers from here.