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Carefree bathing fun at the mouth of the Elbe with plenty of leisure time: Otterndorf is a top alternative to the large North Sea bathing resorts for families and day visitors. 

This is a first, even for us long-time North Sea "vacation children". It's half past seven in the evening, the sun is still high in the summer sky. In front of us, two container freighters are leisurely making their way toward Hamburg; not 20 meters away, the water of the Elbe estuary gently rolls onto the beach. We have brought along a picnic basket, a Bluetooth box for atmospheric music, plus pillows and sleeping bags. My wife and I are now making ourselves nice and cozy for our exclusive first night in our spectacular outdoor home: in one of the three-square meter Otterndorf sleeping beach chairs.

About 100 kilometers north of Bremen and 15 kilometers southeast of Cuxhaven Situated close to the Elbe dyke (or is it already the North Sea?), the community of just under 7500 inhabitants has created a loyal fan base. Behind the dike doesn't mean behind the moon: in Otterndorf, you'll find everything you need for an uncomplicated, unconventional and candid family vacation by the sea. And one thing in particular is unobstructed in Otterndorf: the view out over the wide water and the blue sky with its often grandiose Nordic cloud panorama. 

Main spot for most guests is the large camping vacation complex "Sea Achtern Diek" - in the middle of an enchanting landscape and water park not far from the Elbe. The multiple award-winning site leaves nothing to be desired in terms of facilities and offers not only fine pitches for tents, caravans and motor homes, but also the option of renting a vacation home right on the water. And if you are looking for a particularly original vacation accommodation, you can rent one of the four brand new "camping barrels" on the site. They look like a giant barrel laid on its belly, are comfortably furnished and offer space for two to four people.

Otterndorf also has much else to offerPlaygrounds for the little ones up to the weatherproof play and fun barn, the tide-independent freshwater bathing lake, or directly in front of the dike the sea bathing place with its exquisite view of the passing thick ships. There are large slides, a beach volleyball court, a merry-go-round, climbing frames, a ropeway and a chic skating facility. Five well-developed walking routes start here - and of course water sports enthusiasts get their money's worth: surfing courses, canoes and pedal boats, plus water skiing and wakeboarding facilities. On "Achtern Diek", only those who really want to will be lazing around. 

For day visitors, the town center of Otterndorf with its old town flair is recommended. The best way to get to know it is to take a historical tour of the town. In good weather, the 300-meter-long green beach directly on the North Sea Elbe, located about two and a half kilometers northwest of the town center, is a great attraction. There, beach vacationers will find everything their heart desires, from beach chairs to soccer and volleyball courts to all kinds of food stands. Those who wish can also join a guided mudflat walk connect. And if the weather does not play along, the Sole-Therme Otterndorf makes the water and bathing fun independent of the sky.

During our night adventure In the sleeping beach chair, however, it shows itself from its most beautiful side. It's a balmy evening, the sun on the northwestern horizon only very gradually going to sleep conjures up beautiful veils of light on the almost cloudless firmament. With a gentle pop, we open the bottle of champagne we brought with us, gaze pensively out over the wide water, snuggle up to each other and toast each other. A postcard idyll is nothing compared to that - we have to enjoy it until the last light and the last sip. It will probably be a while before we pull the opaque tarpaulin over us and sink into the realm of maritime dreams.

Cover photo: The sleeping beach chair on the green beach of Otterndorf in the light of the setting sun © Tobias Hoiten