History - Rømø


In 1973, drillings were carried out in the subsurface at Nørre Tvismark, close to Rømø dyke. Rocks were not found until after drilling 51 meters into the Rømø subsurface, and these were deposited during the Ice Age. Everything above this level was sand thrown up by the sea over thousands of years. Around 9,000 years ago the coast probably followed a line from Blåvandhuk in the north to the German island of Sild in the south. 1,000 years later, the sea washed over the low-lying heathland and formed large sand banks which slowly developed into the island barriers of Fanø, Mandø and Rømø. Since then, tidal waters, storm surge and the wind have caused Rømø to grow towards the west, while the Wadden Sea has extended behind the island.

The islanders and the sand

The first people probably settled on Rømø around 1200, when the King and the diocese of Ribe jointly owned the island. Later, fishing villages, quays and farms came to Rømø.

The Wadden Sea created fertile soil along the eastern coast of Rømø, but agriculture was plagued by sand-drifts in the 1600s and 1700s because sheep and livestock were free to wander the island and graze the sparse vegetation. In many places on Rømø today, you can still see the so-called “fields of foam” where islanders have shovelled free their houses or farms from the drifting sand. The fields are often slightly sunken and framed with narrow dykes built of the sand-drift.

Rømø in its heyday

Many of the men on Rømø joined whaling expeditions to the polar oceans near eastern Greenland and Svalbard over a period of about 200 years from 1660 to 1860. Most sailed with German and Dutch ships, and many earned a lot of money as captains, officers or harpooners. The captains were known as kommadører (commanders), and there are still impressive kommadører-houses on Rømø, where owners were not afraid to show-off their newly earned wealth.

The heyday of whaling peaked around 1770, when it is said around 40 kommadører or retired kommadører lived on Rømø. Sometimes the whalers would bring back the massive jaw-bones of the whales and use them instead of timber.  There is still a fence made in 1772 of whalebone in Juvre. 

Tourists discover Rømø

Around 1900, the first tourists arrived on Rømø. Tourists were sailed to Kongsmark, from where a horse-drawn tram transported them the final 4km to the beach at Lakolk.

"Nordseebad Lakolk” was built here. Rømø was still part of Germany at this time and it was a relatively cheap health-farm which appealed to the Germans. Near the hotel, 37 small blockhouses were built with neither toilets nor kitchens. On the other hand, guests could visit restaurant Kaiserhalle with seating for 3-400 guests, a reading room and a billiard room. Strandhalle was on the beach, serving refreshments and with a sports ground and training equipment. A summerhouse on pillars in Lakolk Sø, called Swanhildsruh, was also built.

Pastor Jacobsen from Skærbæk was behind the project to build Nordseebad Lakolk. He went bankrupt in 1903 and the site was closed down at the outbreak of the First World War.

Not much is left from the start of Rømø’s tourist industry. The tramway was demolished in 1939, but some of the tracks can still be seen. Hotel Drachenburg burned down in 1965. Kaiserhalle was demolished in 1989. About one-half of the blockhouses, which were sold as holiday homes in the 1920s, still survive and they can be recognised by the carvings around their rafters and windows. However, most of the blockhouses have been extended and converted and since the birth of tourism on Rømø more than 250 more holiday homes have been built near Lakolk.

Tourism is Rømø’s most important source of income, but the shrimp businesses at Havneby also make a good contribution to the island’s economy.

About the name Rømø

Rømø comes from the Jutland word “rimme”, meaning long embankment, and the Danish word “ø”, meaning island. In Valdemar the Conqueror’s 1231 land registry it is called Rymø.