What does a perfect Scandinavian island look like? Long, windswept beaches dotted with colorful kites. Thatched-roof houses with black and green trim. More bikes than cars. Little restaurants that serve freshly shucked oysters, smoked salmon, and local honey. Windmills. Don’t forget the windmills.
It sounds like you’re dreaming about Fanø. The 56-square-mile island is the northernmost island in the Wadden Sea Islands chain, which stretches from the north coast of the Netherlands up to the west coast of Denmark. It lies just three miles—and a 12-minute ferry ride—off the coast of Esbjerg, the country’s largest fishing harbor. It has a long maritime history, supporting not only a big fishing fleet but excelling in ship construction and nautical navigation for the Danish crown. It’s now a popular summer destination for families.
The ferry to Fanø docks in Nordby. The island’s largest town sits on the northeast coast. It’s home to cobblestone streets, blooming gardens, little cafes, and a brewery that crafts limited editions for Mikkeller. A single road, Postvejen, extends down the middle of the island to Sønderho. Well-preserved 19th-century buildings, traditional street lights, and the Fanø Art Museum overlook the island’s southern tip. It’s considered one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. While Fanø’s west coast is one long beach.
Yes, the entire west coast is a beach. It’s nearly 10 miles long and, in some spots, more than a mile wide. It’s covered with fine, white sand. It’s home to grey and spotted seals. Millions of migrating birds, including bar-tailed godwits and dunlins, stop here en route to their breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia. Vehicles—cars and buses, not just buggies—use the beach as a highway. Plus kite and oyster festivals draw tourists from around the world.
Most visitors stay in summer cottages. There are more than 3,000 of them on Fanø. They’re great for longer stays when you can make yourself feel at home. When you only have a few days, though, you opt for a traditional hotel. Kellers Badehotel & Spisehus is in Fanø Vesterhavsbad near the northwest coast of the island. The little guesthouse is only a five-minute walk to the beach. It has views of sand dunes and a golf course. It features airy rooms with striped wallpaper. But your favorite part is probably the restaurant.
Spisehus is a casual spot with local artwork and little wooden tables. It highlights Nordic cuisine and local seafood. The Whole Package dinner includes bubbles and snacks, five courses, and coffee and sweets. Expect oysters, marinated cod with Jerusalem artichokes, the catch of the day in a lobster sauce, local cheese, éclairs, and natural wine pairings. The meal, like the island, made your dream come to life.