Westerland (Vesterland; Söl'ring North Frisian: Wäästerlön’) lies on the North Sea island of Sylt and is Germany's northernmost town. Only the smaller communities of List, Wenningstedt and Kampen – none an incorporated town – lie farther north in Germany. Westerland belongs to the Nordfriesland district in Schleswig-Holstein. It lies about 70 km northwest of Husum, 74 km west of Flensburg, 134 km northwest of Kiel and 186 km northwest of Hamburg.
Westerland is one of the younger places on Sylt. After the All Hallows Flood on 1 November 1436
had utterly destroyed the community of Eidum
, the survivors built a new community to the northeast on a heath
. The old town, now called Alt-Westerland ("alt" means "old") had its first documentary mention in 1462. In 1855, it became a seaside bathing community, and in 1905 it was granted town rights. In 1949 came official recognition as a seaside spa town
, thereby raising Westerland's status to that of Sylt's main town. Until then, Keitum
had always enjoyed that distinction. For instance, even as late as the turn of the 20th century, Keitum had the island's only pharmacy
. Owing to its central location at the hub of all transportation routes, and because it is right near the beach, Westerland has affirmed its supremacy among places on Sylt over the last one hundred and fifty years.
Westerland's economy is very strongly oriented towards the island's tourism
industry. In 2002, Westerland was second after Sankt Peter-Ording
in importance to Schleswig-Holstein's tourism industry: 96,120 guests, of those 271 (0.28%) from abroad, booked 819,935 overnight stays. The town had 9,159 beds available for this purpose. In the town's south end is a campground
. For the island of Sylt, Westerland forms a centre for supply, retailing and service providers for inhabitants and visitors throughout the island.
Sylt, and thereby also Westerland, cannot be reached by road. Instead, there is a shuttle train that carries cars, known even in German as the Sylt-Shuttle
, running between Niebüll
and Westerland. The railway
line, called the Marschbahn
, runs across the 11.3 km-long Hindenburgdamm
, a causeway
across the Wadden Sea
joining Sylt to the mainland. Passenger trains
, both local and long-distance, also serve Westerland, reaching it across the causeway. Westerland may also be reached by air through Sylt airport
, and by car ferry
from the nearby Danish
island of Rømø