A trip to Helgoland


Helgoland is a North Sea island 60 kilometres from the German mainland. You can go there by plane or one of the usual tourist ships that leave from Hamburg, Cuxhaven and many other North Sea ports.

We were lucky – we went by lightship. The lightship Elbe 1 takes trips to Helgoland during the summer and we were on board for one of them.

The ship left it’s berth in Cuxhaven at 7:30 AM in the morning. And because we were spending our holiday in Kiel, that would have meant us getting up at about 3 AM, had we not been so very lucky to be able to sleep on board the lightship the night before the trip. How many people can say they slept on a lightship? Well we felt lucky to be able to do so!!

We arrived in Cuxhaven at twilight and Elbe 1 is a very pretty sight across the water, moored in the Old Harbour. We went on board and found our cabin.


Bunk beds and a unique view from the "window", saw to it that we had a great night. 


Early the next morning we woke and went on deck. We met some of the crew, who told us: "We will get under way and then we will serve breakfast" Great. We were looking forward to a few peaceful hours on board this wonderful old ship. And we were not to be disappointed.


Sitting on deck, watching the Elbe lighthouses drift by, we spent our time watching for the island to come into view.


We sailed past the Düne Lighthouse B1326.1 This little tower was first lit in 1936, re-built in 1952 and automated in 1982.


We knew we were very close to arriving in Helgoland.


Elbe 1 tied up at the pier and we walked into the town.

It took us a while to work out how to get on to the top part of the town, where the lighthouse is. There are stairs up the cliff, but neither Stan nor I are able to climb those. But then someone told us that they built a lift into the cliff and you can actually get up there very easily. GREAT!  So we walked through the bottom part of the town, did some shopping and took the lift to the top. More shopping - Helgoland is a tax free zone and so things like alcohol, tobacco and perfume are very cheap.




It was hot and sticky and we seemed to have walked for miles and miles and all up-hill. And then we finally saw it looming between the houses. The third lighthouse on the Island of Helgoland B1312.



This lighthouse is an impressive building.


The light was first lit in 1952 and was automated in 1982. Apparently it is the lighthouse with the strongest light in Germany. The tower was originally built for military purposes and is now the central part of the traffic control and safety system for shipping in "Deutsche Bucht". 

The top of the tower bristles with all manner of antennas for radar equipment, ship-to-shore radio and radio beacons . It is so full of equipment that the light seems an insignificant part of all this technology.


It is difficult to take good pictures of this light as it stands amongst houses and you can't easily get far enough away.



After a few hours on the island, we were ready to go back on board for the trip back to Cuxhaven.


The crew was already waiting for us, ready to go.


So we spent a leisurely afternoon on board, while the volunteer crew of this wonderful lightship not only handled the ship with expertise, but also saw to coffee, cake and later an evening meal.


We arrived back at Cuxhaven in the early evening and felt we'd had a brilliant day!

Thank you again to the crew of Elbe 1


By the way, this was our second trip on this wonderful lightship. If you want to read about the first one go to:



See more of our reports of places we visited

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