Hanstholm Wildlife Reserve

Denmark's largest wildlife reserve is home to a rich and diverse animal life. Rare bird species breed here, and large populations of red deer inhabit the undisturbed areas. Due to the protection of the reserve, access is limited, and during the breeding season, visitors must content themselves with observing the landscape from a distance.

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Nature Allowed to Thrive Here

Hanstholm Wildlife Reserve is Denmark's largest heathland, with a mosaic of vast flat plains, dune lakes, and heath-covered dune formations as far as the eye can see.

Until 1930, the area was divided into numerous plots, where farmers and smallholders kept sheep and engaged in hunting. In the 1930s, the state acquired 34 square kilometers, and hunting in the area was prohibited. In 1939, a ditch was closed to create natural water levels, and the area was left to its own devices as the country's first nature restoration project. The wildlife reserve was established in 1949.

The bird tower in Sårup, in the northwestern part of Tved Klitplantage, is situated high on the old coastal slope. From here, there is a particularly good view of the inner and enclosed areas of Hanstholm Wildlife Reserve. Bring a good pair of binoculars.

Primeval Roars and Crane Dances

Around the lakes, a rich wildlife spectacle unfolds at different times of the year. In March and April, you might be fortunate enough to witness cranes dancing and trumpeting in the wetlands below the tower before they settle on their breeding grounds within the reserve. Later in the summer, you can observe them strolling around in pairs with one or two young chicks.

One of the best places to experience the red deer in the reserve is also from the tower or platform in Sårup. In late summer, herds of up to 400 animals can gather at times in the dune landscape in front of the tower. Later on, the herd splits up during the rutting season when the dominant stags each gather their own harem, which they diligently guard. When the stags roar across the wilderness on a calm evening during sunset, one forgets the present and feels transported back to ancient times.

During the migration season, the inner reserve is visited by numerous resting birds. Every autumn, large flocks of barnacle geese come from their breeding grounds in Svalbard, and in recent years, the flocks of greylag geese have become larger and larger.

Practical Information

Hanstholm Wild Reserve covers approximately 40 square kilometers. It is a protected sanctuary for animals and birds, which is why there are limitations on the amount of public access. In the central zone of the reserve, access is prohibited all year round.

In the remaining part of the reserve east of the Coastal Road, access is forbidden when the birds are breeding from April 1st to July 15th. Outside of this period, you are allowed to move about on foot. However, be sure to keep your distance when the red deer are in rut, so as not to disturb the animals during their mating season. Between the Coastal Road and the North Sea, you can visit the reserve year-round, as long as it's on foot.

Bringing dogs into the wildlife reserve is not permitted.

There are restrooms at Sårup and Hanstholm Lighthouse, as well as at Isbjerg and the parking lot on the Coastal Road.

A specially designed, handicap-accessible fishing pier at Bagsø (near Isbjerg) allows individuals with limited mobility and wheelchair users to easily join in on fishing. At Sårup and Hanstholm Lighthouse, there are two short wheelchair-accessible paths that lead to the edge of the wildlife reserve for magnificent views. Both locations also have handicap-accessible restrooms.

Find Hanstholm Wild Reserve (parking lot at Sårup) on Google Maps

A herd of red deer at the wildlife reserve with Hanstholm Lighthouse in the background. Photo by Jens Kristian Kjærgaard.