Moorland and nautical history – cycling the Fehn Route in Germany

Bike Touring Collection by Hannah

Cycling along straight canals, over white folding bridges, past traditional cargo ships and windmills – the Fehn area is uniquely charming. The word “Fehn”, originating from old German, describes marshy meadow. In the 17th century, Fehn described a method of partially draining moorland to create navigable canals. This also meant that valuable peat could be excavated and used as fuel. Today, the Fehn landscape is marked by the traces of history. You can follow the Fehn route for 107 miles (173 km) through this exciting area of East Frisia in Germany.

In this Collection I have prepared the official Fehn route in four stages. You can also cut the circular route in half by choosing the alternative third stage. This makes the route perfect for a weekend getaway or a short trip, whichever suits you best. The adventure starts in the port city of Leer, where you will return at the end of the last stage. Each stage varies in length from around 18 to 37 miles (30 and 60 km) along flat terrain, making it the perfect first bike tour for beginners.

From Leer, you cycle past the beautiful Timmeler Meer lake landscape, where you can watch boats bobbing in the water and go for a swim. Afterwards, you ride along the Wieken and canals to the flower community of Wiesmoor. The Fehnroute leads you further through the East Frisian canal communities, past traditional Gulf Courts to Barßel, where you can discover the interesting Fehn Museum Elisabethfehn. Next traditional windmills and sailing ships await in Papenburg. The final leg from Papenburg back to Leer takes you along one of the largest dry docks in the world. If you choose the alternative route, you can look forward to a hand-operated ferry, which is the last one in Europe.

In the stage destinations Wiesmoor, Barßel and Papenburg you can find beautiful and inexpensive holiday apartments, campsites or farms where you can stay overnight. There are also plenty of places to stock up on supplies and treat yourself to East Frisian cuisine en route. Leer is easy to reach by train with direct links to Koblenz, Leipzig and Munster. If your adventure has given you a taste for water, you can also take the train to Norddeich and the sea.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Intermediate
    03:41
    37.2 mi
    10.1 mph
    325 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Your tour in the footsteps of the East Frisian Fehn culture begins in Leer, which you can easily reach by train from different directions, for example from Cologne, Leipzig or Hamburg. It is almost 60 kilometers from here to Wiesmoor, the flower community of East Frisia. The tour takes you in a dangle around the empty seaport, through the historic old town and past the Leer train station. When you start your tour at the train station, you can take a detour to the empty old town at the harbor, which is worth seeing, before you go out of town on the other side of the tracks.Now you cycle along wide fields and past the magnificent Evenburg Castle. On forest and field paths you cycle through the velvet municipality of Hesel, which lies on the Oldenburg-East Frisian Geestrück and hides many of the oldest traces of human settlement in East Friesland. At Holtland you can visit the Marienkirche from the 13th century. From here, the Fehn route leads you northwest into the Moormerland, where you can immerse yourself in the world of Fehn culture.At Boekzetelerfehn you cross the first drainage canal and cycle past Wieken, the smaller side canals, with pretty, white bascule bridges. In front of it stands the Heitens Huus, an old Fehnhaus that can be visited as a living museum. Then the path leads you northeast to the Timmel harbor by the Timmel sea, a true lake paradise with a sandy beach and a wide range of water sports fun. From here it is only a few kilometers to Großefehn, where the path always leads you along the canal. You drive past a magnificent windmill, where you can take a coffee break in the canal on a traditional boat.You will soon reach your stage destination Wiesmoor, which will enchant you with its East Frisian charm. You can discover traditional peat ships, visit the peat and settlement museum in the middle of a wonderful landscape park and bathe in the moor pool at the Ottermeer. There is also an idyllic campsite with a tent site, bungalows and caravans right behind the lido. In Wiesmoor you will also find comfortable apartments, hotels or guest houses. At tourismus-wiesmoor.de various accommodations are summarized for you.

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    Difficult
    02:43
    26.8 mi
    9.9 mph
    150 ft
    200 ft
    Expert bike ride. Good fitness required. Some portions of the Tour may require you to push your bike.

    On your second stage, you drive about 43 kilometers from Wiesmoor to the community of Barßel, through which the Aue and Soeste flow. Your tour begins at the Nordgeorgsfehnkanal, along whose banks you cycle for the next 20 kilometers. Once an important transport route for bog colonies for peat and other goods, the canal is now mainly used by pleasure boats. About halfway along the route you cross the Uplengen canal community, where you can see East Frisian Gulfhöfe, a traditional type of farmhouse, some of which are even listed. You can also marvel at the St. Martin's Church from the 13th century and three windmills.When you have looked around enough, you continue cycling along the canal and let the fresh country air blow your nose. After about ten kilometers, the Fehn route turns east towards Augustfehn. You are now cycling on the bank of the Südgeorgsfehnkanal and enjoy a wonderful panorama with the Südgeorgsfehn windmill on the horizon. You will soon reach the tranquil village of Augustfehn, where the rustic ironworks right on the Augustfehn Canal invite you to take a break. The canal guides you on, past a bascule bridge worth seeing, over the Aper Tief and on to the Nordloherkanal. Follow this channel to its mouth in the Nordloher Tief, which belongs to the lower reaches of the Aue. After you have crossed the low, you will already reach your stage goal Barßel.In this community you can expect maritime harbor flair, idyll and pure relaxation. The tour ends at Barßeler Hafen, which is already subject to the tides of the North Sea. You can marvel at the restored "Angela von Barßel", a Dutch motor sailing ship from 1896, take a trip on the MS Spitzhörn, climb the lookout tower and enjoy the all-round view, or simply stroll across the harbor area.There are great opportunities for spending the night in this area. In Barßel there are wonderful holiday apartments with a farm atmosphere, such as the Ferienhof Röttgers with riding ponies, cats, dogs and cows. The nearest campsite Elisabethfehn is very cheap and not far away. Something very special awaits you in the Harkebrügge barefoot park: Here you can spend the night in a tree tent at a height of two meters. The diverse accommodations in the region can be found at barssel-saterland.de/uebernachten.

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  • Intermediate
    02:16
    23.1 mi
    10.2 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    In Barßel you start your today's stage of a good 37 kilometers to the city of Papenburg, an exciting destination for the history and present of shipping. Passing the idyllic Barßeler Hafen, you drive straight along the canal until you get to the Elisabethfehn moor and Fehn museum. From here, the Fehnroute leads you three kilometers along the idyllic Elisabethfehn Canal. Then you cross the channel over a pretty, white bascule bridge and shortly afterwards the Sagter Ems.You will soon reach the Holterfehn Canal, which you follow for about three kilometers. Now you come across a channel that is also known as the main fehn channel. This will take you to the small port of Ostrhauderfehn. Now the route leads past the Langholter Meer, a beautiful and little-visited lake in the middle of a landscape conservation area. The next canal, the Westerhauderfehn Canal, is not long in coming. Along it you drive to a smaller Wieke, which leads you further through the sparsely populated moor landscape. The calm and idyll of the landscape
    pulls you under its spell and you will experience the deceleration and inner serenity on your own body.
    About ten kilometers away you can already reach the outer area of the attractive little port city of Papenburg. The city has a lot to offer culturally and forms a vivid contrast to the tranquility that you experienced on your journey along the cradles and canals. Papenburg is called "Venice of the North" because it is crossed by canals and bascule bridges. You can learn a lot about shipbuilding here. The Maritime Open Air Museum is definitely worth a detour, as true-to-original replicas of the traditional cargo sailers are anchored in the city's canals. Shipbuilding is one of the most important branches of industry and the Meyer Werft shipyard with its gigantic production halls is located in Papenburg. Historical gems can also be found here, such as the oldest functional post mill in the region.Papenburg has a wide range of great accommodation options. In the holiday home park Papenburg there are pretty apartments in typical style. You will also find a campsite with a beach and reasonable prices.

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    Easy
    01:34
    16.6 mi
    10.7 mph
    125 ft
    100 ft
    Ferry
    Easy bike ride. Great for any fitness level. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    If you want to make a short trip or a weekend trip out of the Fehnroute, you can simply halve the circular route by driving towards Leer again at Augustfehn. You drive about 35 kilometers from Wiesmoor to Augustfehn. The route from Augustfehn to Leer is about 27 kilometers long. So you can decide for yourself whether you want to combine the two stages or make three stages out of them. There is also a lot to discover on this route and you can look forward to a hand-operated ferry. However, this only runs at high tide, so you should take a look at the tide chart before you set off.In Augustfehn you turn right from the Augustfehn Canal and cross the town of Vreschen-Bokel with its small Gothic chapel. The main road leads you to Aper Tief, a small river that you follow for a short distance. Then you cross the small, East Frisian community of Detern, where you can visit the St. Stephani and Bartholomäi Church, and cycle past the Stickhausen Castle. Inside there is an exciting local museum about the local bird life, but it is also beautiful to look at from the outside and takes you back to the knighthood. Now you cross the Jümme, a tributary of the Leda, and cycle about ten kilometers along its winding banks.Now an extraordinary highlight awaits you: the last hand-operated ferry across Europe. The best thing to do is to call the ferry people beforehand, because the Jümme is subject to the tidal range and it cannot be crossed by ferry at low tide. But should you have to wait for the water, you can find a nice place to stay in Amdorf and discover the narrowest road bridge in Germany. Once you have crossed the Jümme, not much is missing and you get on the path that you already know from your first stage: Passing Evenburg Castle, you drive back into the beautiful Leer. In the pretty historic old town you will find dreamlike riverside places and benches at the pier, where you can settle down and review your trip.The tour ends at the main train station in Leer. Here you have numerous options for traveling by train, because the train station is a traffic junction and there are lines from different parts of Germany. Every two hours you can take the IC 35 to Koblenz, the IC 56 to Leipzig and the RE 1 to Hanover. The RE 15 takes you to Münster or Emden every hour. If the harbor flair and the North Sea breeze have awakened your appetite for the sea, you can also take the RE 1 to Norddeich, where the ferries depart for the North Sea islands.

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    Intermediate
    02:00
    17.6 mi
    8.8 mph
    175 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate bike ride. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Today you cycle on the last stage of your circular route along the Fehnroute back to Leer. On the 28 kilometers you can take breaks and enjoyment breaks as you please and feel the special atmosphere of the Fehn landscape. Your stage begins on the main canal in Papenburg, where the magnificent traditional sails of the open-air museum, the historic town hall and the traditional windmills make your view of Papenburg something very special. Along the canal you drive past the old shipyard and reach the idyllic yacht harbor Papenburg, which is located directly in front of the Meyer shipyard. The sports boats offer a strong contrast to the monstrous cruise ships that are manufactured here.The Fehnroute now leads you along the banks of the Ems. On lush green dyke paths you cycle through the beautiful scenery completely without traffic. If you decide to take a break on the dike, you can look forward to the company of woolly sheep. After a few kilometers, the path leads you through the two-hundred-soul village of Mitling-Mark. Here you can stop off in a former ferry house and enjoy first-class cuisine in a rustic, yet stylish atmosphere, or take a coffee break in the blooming garden. The post windmill from the 16th century with its original interior and a museum in the annex is definitely worth seeing.The route now leads you along the Ems, which flows into the North Sea. Here the German Fehnroute and the Emsradweg run parallel for about 10 kilometers and you cycle past small towns, grazing sheep and one or the other stork nest.It doesn't take long and you come to Leda, a tributary of the Ems. A narrow path at the railway bridge takes you to the other side of the river. The following applies here: caution is better than leniency. I therefore recommend that you dismount at this point and push the bike over the bridge. Once on the other side, the route takes you along the Leda to the Empty Sea Lock, which ensures that the harbor is not subject to the tide stroke. Now you cycle in a beautiful arc around the empty harbor, where you started your round trip through the Fehnwelt. In the pretty historic old town you will find wonderful riverside spots and benches on the pier where you can sit down and review your trip.The tour ends at the main train station in Leer. Here you have numerous options for traveling by train, because the train station is a traffic junction and there are lines from different parts of Germany. Every two hours you can take the IC 35 to Koblenz, the IC 56 to Leipzig and the RE 1 to Hanover. The RE 15 takes you to Münster or Emden every hour. If the harbor flair and the North Sea breeze have awakened your appetite for the sea, you can also take the RE 1 to Norddeich, where the ferries depart for the North Sea islands.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    121 mi
  • Duration
    12:13 h
  • Elevation
    900 ft