Notebooks from a trampfest. Travel tips, tales and images, online since 2006.

25 Snapshots From Hel

Yellow guardian from Hel

More specifically, 25 snapshots from Poland’s Hel Peninsula, a 35-kilometer long stretch of sand bar that juts northwest to southeast between the Bays of Puck and Gdansk and the Baltic Sea.

Just 300 meters wide at its narrowest and about three kilometers at its widest near its eponymous capital, it’s an odd shape –part mangled crescent, part predatory bird claw– which, despite its hellish-sounding name in English, is a popular summer playground and respite for locals from northern Poland’s Tricity metro area of Gdansk, Gdynia and Sopot.

But interlopers who arrive on the peninsula at the city port of Hel, be warned: Hel’s capital’s offerings largely cater to day trippers and families, in the summer months a sunny and crowded mix of predictable kitsch: fast food, impossibly sweet desserts, amusement rides and very crowded beaches that offer just enough pleasant tackiness at every turn to inspire a small waterfall of painfully playful wordplay captions to photos you’re dying to compose. Like this one:

Stuffed baby seals from Hel
Stuffed baby seals from Hel

And this one:

American hot dogs from Hel
American hot dogs from Hel

You get the idea.

My suggestion?

Walk east on main street until you reach the first bike rental shop; select one with a comfortable seat and head west immediately where a handful of less-crowded smaller towns with better and more alluring restaurants and much nicer somewhat secluded beaches await.

It’s difficult to get lost, so don’t sweat it; there’s only one Highway to Hel. Spanning the course of the peninsula, it runs parallel to the train tracks that connect it to the mainland and to a (mostly) dedicated and (mostly) paved bike path. There are dozens of trails that’ll lead to the Baltic through pleasant forests and wind-swept sand dunes; most aren’t marked but no-go military zones are. It really is best to avoid those – unless you want to spend some time in a Jail from Hel.

Nearly deserted Baltic beach from Hel
Nearly deserted Baltic beach from Hel
Bike path to Hel and back
Bike path to Hel and back, bay side
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Getting there:

You can hop a train from Gdansk main station (about 90min one way), hop on a bus that will take you through the Tricity are or in the late spring and summer months take a ferry from the city’s old town district (about 2hrs each way). I chose the latter; the route goes through the famous Gdansk port and shipyards.

The morning ferries to Hel fill quickly so buy your ticket at least one day in advance and arrive at the departure pier early if you want to good seat or spot. More than fifty people were already in the queue to Hel when I arrived at 07:40 for my 08:30 ride.

A few more postcards from Hel below.

Welcome to Hel
Welcome to Hel
Refrigerator magnets from Hel
Refrigerator magnets from Hel
Smoker from Hel
Smoker from Hel
Tredelnik vendor from Hel
Tredelnik vendor from Hel
Swamp from Hel
Swamp from Hel
Spider from Hel
Spider from Hel
Southern beach from Hel
Southern beach from Hel
Garbage can from Hel
Garbage can from Hel
Port of Hel
Port of Hel
Socks from Hel
Socks from Hel
Bay shoreline from Hel
Bay shoreline from Hel
Outdoor family dining in Hel
Outdoor family dining in Hel
Approaching Hel
Approaching Hel
Train station from Hel
Train station from Hel
Bicycle rental from Hel
Bicycle rental from Hel
Yellow sledgehammer dude from Hel
Yellow sledgehammer dude from Hel
Souvenirs from Hel
Souvenirs from Hel
Positivity from Hel
Positivity from Hel
More souvenirs from Hel
More souvenirs from Hel
Military zone from Hel
Military zone from Hel
Drink Bar from Hel
Drink Bar from Hel

 

 

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  1. Juergen | dare2go.com says

    Hell, who would visit this place from Hel? 😀
    Actually, the coastline and the bike path look really nice, and if there’s smoked fish waiting for lunch – why not go to Hel?

  2. Siddhartha Joshi says

    I had never heard of Hel Peninsula before but looking at the images I can easily imagine why this would be such a popular summer playground from nearby cities. The kitsch stuff looks fun actually, but the garbage problem is surely hellish!

    The island seems quite American actually…

  3. Liz Deacle says

    I loved the way you added ‘from hel’ to each caption! Can I put a photo of my teenagers when they’re giving me a hard time and say ‘Teenagers from hel??’ Im glad you did the bike trip, probably the best way to see hel!

  4. Tara says

    Too funny! I would imagine Hel would be quite lovely in the off season, but if it’s like any of the coastal towns near me, everything would be boarded up. Still, with the exception of the garbage from Hel, and maybe those weird socks, it looks like fine place to spend a day.

  5. Tami says

    Looks like people really like the play on words with “Hel” and hell… Definitely a unique post!

  6. Medha Verma says

    haha for a moment there I was wondering where this Hel on earth exists:) It looks like a very interesting place to explore though, contrary to it’s name. Lol. I love your picture of the swamp, did you have a drone to click that kind of picture ?

  7. Sol Solntze says

    He he he. That’s great. Endless amounts of fun with the captions there, I totally agree. I like a good tacky seaside resort too, on occasion, but that deserted white sand beach looks pretty special.

  8. Lori says

    Interesting looking place and much nicer to hop on a bike and get off the beaten path. Have to admit, I’d try the American hot dog just to see how it tasted. And that smoked fish! Baltic street food 😋😋

    1. Bob R says

      I had a good seafood meal –can’t recall the fish– in a town about 10-15km from Hel. Very good.

  9. Kevin Wagar says

    What a total beach vibe! Hel looks like heaven for sun lovers!

  10. magnetsfromeverywhere says

    Good idea to get away from the crowds and tacky tourist traps! I especially love your photo of the swamp! I’m a sucker for moss on water!

Thoughts?

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