Föhr (Fering North Frisian: Feer; Før) is one of the North Frisian Islands on the German coast of the North Sea. It is part of the Nordfriesland district in the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein. Föhr is the second-largest North Sea island of Germany.
Föhr is situated southeast of Sylt, it is the second-largest German North Sea island. Among those German island which are only accessible by ship or airplane Föhr is the most populous one and has the largest surface.
Föhr is called "The Green Island" due to being sheltered from the storms of the North Sea by its neighbouring islands Sylt and Amrum, so that Föhr's vegetation is thriving compared to other islands. It is 6.8 kilometres wide and 12 km long, the surface measures 82.82 km². While the northern parts are marshland, the south consists of higher geestland. The highest elevation measures 13 m above mean sea level and is located on the geestland ridge between the villages of Nieblum and Midlum. The geest makes up about two fifth of Föhr's total area and most villages are located there. In the marshlands, a number of solitary farmsteads can be found, which were moved out of the villages during the 1960s.
Föhr, like its neighbour islands, is a popular tourist resort. From the ferry terminal a sandy beach of about 15 km length extends all along Föhr's southern shore and halfways up the western coast. North and northwest of Föhr the Reserved Area I of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park is located.
Föhr's population counts 8593 (as of 17 July 2008). The only town on the island is Wyk on its south eastern coast which is a popular seaside resort. In addition there are sixteen tiny hamlets on Föhr which are distributed among eleven municipalities. They adhere to the Amt Föhr-Amrum:
A local peculiarity is that almost all place names end with the suffix -um, which means "settlement".
When the Frisians colonised the area of modern Nordfriesland during the 7th century, their first settlements were erected on Föhr, according to archaeological findings. The formerly sparsely inhabited island witnessed a steep rise of population. A rather large amount of jewellery originating from Scandinavia that was found in graves of the time points out a vivid connection to northern Europe. From the age of the Vikings several ring walls, the Lembecksburg among them, are preserved.
The "Earth Book" of King Valdemar II of Denmark tells of two Harden on Föhr, territorial subdivisions of the time. The Westerharde Föhr was at times the refuge of a pirate serving the Danish. In 1368 the Westerharde, which also included Amrum, was transferred to the Counts of Holstein by supervision of knight Klaus Lembeck, bailiff of Ribe. In 1400 the Harde surrendered to Queen Margaret I of Denmark and remained within Ribe County. Until 1864 the western part of Föhr, together with Amrum, belonged to the Danish Enclaves in North Frisia while Osterland and Wyk belonged to the Duchy of Schleswig since it had seceded from the Danish Kingdom in the 1420s. Together with the Wiedingharde, the Bökingharde, the isle of Strand and Sylt, Osterland in 1426 signed the "Compact of the Seven Hundreds" (German: Siebenhardenbeliebung) with Duke Henry IV of Schleswig, which stated that the Hundreds intended to keep their judicial autonomy.
Whaling brought about a Golden Age for Föhr. During the 17th and 18th century most Dutch and English whaling ships would have a crew of Frisians from the islands. In the late 18th century a thousand sailors, 150 Commanders among them, were living on Föhr. Still today the preciously decorated houses of the Commanders can be seen in Nieblum and Süderende. The so-called "talking tombstones" in the cemeteries of the three churches on Föhr account for their vitae. Yet with the decline of the whale populations ever less men would go sailing and the people of Föhr focused on agriculture again.
After 1842, when King Christian VIII of Denmark chose Föhr as his summer residence, the island became popular as a tourist resort.
The three hamlets of Utersum, Witsum and Hedehusum were the only ones to vote for Denmark in Zone II of the Schleswig Plebiscites in 1920; yet as they were not located directly at the border they remained with Germany.
The name Föhr is in parts a derivation from the term feer which means "Frisian" as well as "green". Today it is thought that the name derives from German fahren, to travel, to navigate.
The island is accessible by a car ferry connecting the mainland port of Dagebüll and the town of Wyk (approximately 10-12 sailings a day, crossing time approx. 45 minutes). The ferry port in Dagebüll is connected to the German road and railway networks. There are also frequent car ferry services from Föhr to the neighbouring island of Amrum (approx. 1 hour crossing time) as well as seasonal pedestrian ferries to Sylt and the Halligen.
A bus service connects Wyk to all of the island's villages. Föhr can also be reached by small airplanes via an airstrip.
Frisian customs and the history of Föhr are displayed at the Dr. Carl Haeberlin Frisian Museum, whose entrance is made up of two whale jaw bones.
The island features three medieval churches from the 12th and 13th century. These are St. Nicolas' church in Wyk-Boldixum, St. John's in Nieblum and St. Lawrence's church in Süderende. The adjacent graveyards contain unusual tombstones which display entire vitae and may show pictures.
Near Borgsum the Lembecksburg can be seen, a ring wall from the Viking Age with a diameter of more than 100 metres and eight metres of height. A tale goes that Klaus Lembeck resided here as Steward of the Danish King in the Middle Ages.
The entire sea surrounding Föhr may also be designated an attraction. Mainly the foreland north of the sea dike, but also the mud flats provide ample space for all kinds of seabirds. Oystercatchers, common eiders, shelducks, snipes and peewits are only a few of them. Moreover, during the season vast swarms of migratory birds will rest at Föhr and the neighbouring islands. Occasionally, especially after severe winter storms, harbour seals may be encountered on the beaches.
The beach along the southern shore is popular for swimming. Also, during low tide it is possible to hike from Amrum to Föhr.