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Latest update: 4 July 2024

Hannover is a very green city in itself, but if you are looking for even more greenery and space, plan a visit to the Steinhuder Meer. This nature park and lake of the same name are ideal for a day out and about in nature.

German leisure paradise

On a sunny day, the holiday mood blossoms at the Steinhuder Meer: shorts and ice cream, sunscreen and souvenirs, bike rides and sand between the toes. When I arrive at the parking lot around ten, I have no suspicion of any of this. It is quiet and peaceful, and I take a boat with my best friend to the island of Wilhelmstein in the Steinhuder Meer.

When we return to shore three hours later, Steinhude has almost exploded. The nature reserve that I had never heard of turns out to be a popular destination for day trips and weekend camping trips. That’s quite a change of pace after the almost serene tranquility of the morning.

Steinhuder Meer Nature Park

The Steinhuder Meer is about 25 kilometers from Hannover and is the largest shallow lake in Lower Saxony. It is prominent in area (29.1 km²) because it is not deep. On average, it is only 1.35 meters deep and, in some places, almost 3 meters deep. Steinhuder Meer is a natural lake formed during the last ice age. The lake is in the Steinhuder Meer nature park, which has the same name.

On the north side of the lake is the village of Mardorf, with beaches, restaurants, hotels, and campsites on the shore, and on the south side is the fishing village of Steinhude. That is actually the touristy heart full of cafes, souvenir shops, and many visitors. I walk through it and quickly conclude that this part is not for me. Maybe on a weekday or colder day. But not now. And that’s not a problem, because the nature park is so large that I can easily find some peace and quiet.

Boat trip to Wilhelmstein Island

I take the first boat of the day to Wilhelmstein Island: an emigrant boat. It is a wooden, open boat that owes its name to the first tourist movements here. The sailboats then sailed from Steinhude to Hannover – which was considered abroad. The skipper explains a few things about the lake and Wilhelmstein. My fellow German passengers keep lauging, so I guess he is a very funny man. It is impossible to follow for my level of German. The boat will take you back and forth for €10, and the crossing takes about 25 minutes. You can buy a ticket here upon arrival.

The island of Wilhelmstein

Wilhelmstein is an artificial island in the Steinhudermeer. There used to be 16 or 17 separate islands connected by bridges. Now, the island with the fort is reminiscent of Fort Pampus in the Netherlands.

Wilhelmstein was constructed on behalf of Count Willem van Schaumburg-Lippe. He placed so many cannons on it that the island could never be captured. The island had to defend his county. Over the years, it served as an artillery training facility, a prison, and now a tourist destination. There is a museum about the history of the fortress, where you can also view many weapons.

You can order a snack and drink at the kiosk with the cheerful people behind the bar. We start with a coffee in a recyclable cup to the beach chairs by the water. There are several seats on the island where you can enjoy looking out over the water for a while. Later, we order a tasty lunch for the terrace: simple but good.

If you like, you can also spend a night at Wilhelmstein. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely special. Check the availability on Booking. If you just visit for a few hours like me, I recommend you take the first boat and have lunch on the island. The first boat leaves at 10 o’clock. But just to be sure, check the current departure times. As an early bird, you can still experience the island in a fairly quiet way.

Google Maps location

Cycling around the Steinhuder Meer

The nature park is perfect for a nice walk or bike ride. Our e-bikes come from Fahrradverleih Minigolfanlage (Google Maps location). The name says it all: you can also play mini-golf here. It has been a long time since I have done that! Unfortunately, I don’t have time for that today.

We receive a map of the area, but it’s not really necessary. You simply cycle around the lake, which is also well-indicated with signs. In parts, the trail fans out a little further from the lake, through the heath, and along the meadows.

We cycle the Steinhuder Meer Rundweg trail of 32 kilometers. Perfect to do on the e-bikes. There is also a Neustädter Land Route of 34 kilometers and a Dino Tour of 30 kilometers. The Steinhuder Meer Rundweg is a lovely varied route through nature. We cycle the entire circuit in one go, but you can easily take a day and make several stops.

Beach and water fun

An island has been created at Steinhude, where you can enjoy the beach. On the north side of the lake, at Mardof, you can also enjoy a fun day at the beach and occasionally cool off in the water. If you feel like being more active on the water, that is, of course, also possible. Kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddling… Plenty of options!

Beach Steinhuder Meer

Parking at the Steinhuder Meer

There is plenty of parking space at the Steinhuder Meer. Of course, you have to pay for this. I spend 5 euros for a day. These are a few options on the south side of the lake, near Steinhude: here, here, or here.

Want more Germany inspiration?

  • Accommodation. Have a look at Booking.com and Campspace. Would you rather stay in a hostel? Check Hostelworld.
  • Activities. You book the best tours and activities with GetYourGuide and Viator. Another good option is WithLocals. Book ‘free’ walking tours with Freetour.com or GuruWalk. For bike tours, you can try Baja Bikes.
  • Attractions and museums. Interested in a 5% discount on museums and other attractions? Use this discount code at Tiqets: KIMOPREIS22
  • Car rental. Compare your options at Discover Cars and Rentalcars.com.
  • Money. Your bank cards may not get accepted everywhere. You could opt for a Revolut card as an additional card when you travel.
  • SIM card. Beware of unexpectedly high phone and internet costs. Buy a local SIM card when you arrive, or arrange one online via Airalo.
  • Train and Bus Travel with NS International to Germany. And reserve bus seats with Busbud, 12Go or Omio.
  • Flights. Compare all your options! Definitely check out Skyscanner and Kiwi.
  • Package deals. Rather go on a catered trip? Expedia and CheapOair offer options.
  • Yoga retreat. Or what about a yoga retreat in Germany?

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I visited Steinhuder Meer by invitation of Visit Hannover. They have given me complete editorial freedom.

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