In the Usedom Island Nature Park, popular seaside resorts on wide sandy beaches and imposing steep banks are juxtaposed with marshland, dunes and lakes surrounded by hill ranges.
Anyone expecting a flat Baltic Sea island has a surprise in store if they take a bike tour of the eastern side of the island. The ice age piled up and then left behind a 70-metre-high mass of earth that it carried down from the far north. This 'terminal moraine' includes seven large lakes, the largest being Lake Gothensee at 550 hectares. Although the woods here are mainly beech, the lakes themselves are often bordered by alder trees. Five of the nature park's 14 conservation areas are located here. The largest low-lying moor can also be found here on the southern edge of the hilly area known as the Switzerland of Usedom. The line where the hills meet the sea is characterised by ten kilometres of cliff-face and the famous Baltic Sea resorts. But the north of the island paints an entirely different picture. Here extensive sand deposits have created a flat terrain of marshy lowlands, extensive dune landscapes and pine trees. Away from the remoter shores, the curious visitor can explore a landscape of briny lagoons, steep-sided banks, the quiet bays of the Achterwasser waters and centuries-old farming and fishing villages. The bank of the Peenestrom strait that separates the island from the mainland (and therefore from a part of the nature reserve), is covered with miles of reeds that provide breeding grounds, food and sanctuary for many birds and fish. Usedom is one of Germany's 30 biodiversity hotspots.