(That’s Hel in Poland – only one ‘l’ – a peninsular on the northern tip of the Polish Baltic Coast with beautiful beaches.) 🙂 (… and a place where the Hel puns just don’t stop!)
Here’s where to find Hel on the map :
If you want to get out of the cities (which are beautiful so it is tough to tear yourself away) – Hel is a great beachy day out during your weekend to Gdansk and Sopot and it can literally be done in an afternoon or a day (if you get the 1pm boat there and the 8pm boat back).
The best way to get to Hel is either by boat from Sopot or from Gdansk – 1.5 and 2hrs respectively, or a train trip…. which takes around 3-4 hours. It’s a longer journey but you do get to see great views of the sea on both sides of the train as the railway goes down the narrow strip. We decided to take the boat both ways to keep the journey times shorter as we only had the afternoon 🙂
One boat (called a water tram) leaves 3 times a day from the Sopot pier and another one leaves from Gdansk targ rybny (fish market – right by the new Hilton Gdansk hotel) – also 3 times a day. You can see the Gdansk & Sopot ‘water tram’ (tramwaj wodny) times here: http://www.mzkzg.org/?subpage=pod&art=23&op=%2C%2C . You can buy the tickets in the little ticket offices by Sopot pier and by Gdansk fish market area (targ rybny).
The boat is a great way to get to Hel (from Gdansk), as you go through the Gdansk estuary and see all the shipyards on the way as well as the historic Westerplatte area on the edge of Gdansk – which was where WW2 started in Poland.
Once you get to Hel, there’s a lot of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops to explore. There are also hotels, b&bs and campsites. As soon as you get out of the port area there’s also a nice beach with watersports. To get to the larger sandy beaches and the tip of Hel (and most northern tip of Poland) – you need to walk through the main town strip and then through the forest to get to the lovely sandy dunes on the other side. We got lazy and used a golf buggy to get to the beach, it costs around £1 (5 zloty) and takes 5-10 mins to get you there (he drops you off just by the sand dunes!). When you go through the forests you’ll also see lots of military bunkers, lookout points and areas as Hel was used as a defense area once upon a time.
Once on the beach, you can wander around til your heart’s content. Unlike Sopot & Gdansk, in Hel you’re pretty much on the open sea rather than in the Gdansk bay – especially if you go to the left as you get to the dunes – so the sea will be overall cleaner, and it’s less busy than Sopot. There are lifeguards on the main beach so it’s also very safe to swim there. There’s also watersports available for the more adventurous ones.
If you need refreshments, there’s now also a beach cafe/bar on the Hel beach so it’s nice for a drink, snack or ice cream or if you need to hide from the rain (like we had to) for a while.
Here’s some beautiful sandy photos from our boat trip to Hel – these make us want to go back there – and stay more than just an afternoon this time!