Wolin Island is the largest of the roughly 40 islands located in the Oder River estuary. Similar in shape to a great triangle, its area is 265 km2. To the north, it is surrounded by the Baltic waters (the Bay of Pomerania), to the south – by the Szczecin Lagoon, to the west – by the Świna Strait, and to the east – by the Dziwna River. From the geological point of view, the island is very young. Its basic look was shaped about 12 thousand years ago, when the Scandinavian ice sheet withdrew from the northern area of today’s Pomeranian Region and the southern part of the Baltic Sea.
A characteristic feature of the moraine hills of Wolin Island are their gentle descent to the east and south-east (towards the Dziwna River). On the coast and south-west, however, the hills end abruptly with a cliff. Because of the destructive agency of the waves, rain-water and wind, there are constant landslides coming off the cliff-side. Indeed, it has been calculated that the seaside cliff shore withdraws an average of about 80 centimetres per year.
In other places, in turn, on the flat seacoast, one can find what is called a ‚reverse delta’. This is formed by the depositions of sand and silt that come by way of the Świna River, during its out-flow into the waters of the Bay of Pomerania through the Szczecin Lagoon. With velocity loss, this debris is embedded in places where the current of the water flowing into the sea decreases sufficiently. In the moraine formations there are also frequent erratic boulder stones, with the largest of them, the “Mieszko I Rock”, being located near the forester’s lodge in Warnowo (its circumference is 8 m, and its height is 0.4 m).
The geological structure of Wolin Island, and therefore all its landscape features and geographical environment is more diversified. In this relatively small area, there are nine micro-regions, characterised by the typical landmarks (end moraine, ground moraine plains, dune fields, peat plains and lakes).
In the highest part of the island, extending from south-west of the Szczecin Lagoon, to the northeast by the Baltic Sea, there is the ‚Wolin Strip’, covered almost entirely with deciduous forests (beech and oak dominating) with some pine trees. In addition, the Grzywacz Hill (115 m above sea level) is located to the north-east of Międzyzdroje, as is the Gostyń Hill (95 m above sea level) – the highest point lying directly by the sea.
The vegetation of Wolin Island is rich and varied. In the vast complex of forests of the Wolin National Park, the most beautiful and interesting, from the natural point of view, are the distinctive Pomeranian beech forests and the mixed forests of beech, oak and pine. A notable feature of the coastal beech forests is the occurrence of numerous species of orchids in their underbrush. Orchids are rare in our forests, and therefore almost all orchid species are protected.
On the dunes adjacent to the beach there are mainly clumps of grasses (beach grasses and dune wild rye), which fix the dunes in place. But the most impressive and most beautiful plant in the dunes is undoubtedly the sea holly, protected by law. In addition, the cliffs are mainly covered with Sea Buckthorn, a shrub of rather large size that comes with small tart orange fruit.
The animal world
The animal world on Wolin Island is also characterised by its richness and diversity. Among the world of beetles, the one deserving attention is the stag beetle, the most magnificent of domestic beetles that can be up to 8 centimetres long. The world of birds on the island is also very diverse and extensive. About 200 species exist here, over 100 of them being breeding species. What is more, the shores of the Szczecin Lagoon are the favourite hunting ground of the white-tailed sea eagle, a species very rare on the Polish territory.
In 1976, the fauna of the park was further enriched by the re-introduction of the wisent which lived on the island hundreds of years ago. Moreover, in the garden next to the Museum of Wolin National Park you can enjoy viewing living specimens of white-tailed sea eagles and eagle owls.
Places worth visiting on Wolin Island that are awaiting the tourists include:
a) The Natural History Museum of Wolin National Park – in a modern artistic setting, the museum exposition presents the abundance and diversity of Wolin’s wildlife. Highly recommended are Poland’s largest collection of ruff, the museum’s specimens of white-tailed sea eagle, as well as its collections of amber (with a replica of a record block weighing over 9 kg), as well as many other natural, regional artefacts. Next to the Museum there are aviaries with rescued live white-tail sea eagles and eagle owls.
The Natural History Museum of Wolin National Park
Niepodległości Street 3
tel. +48 91 328 07 37 or +48 91 328 07 27
b) The Wisent Display Reserve – This was established in 1976 as a tourist and educational facility of the Park, for the preservative breeding of the largest European mammals. In addition to the wisent, there are also paddocks and cages for other regional animals, like deer, roe, wild boar and white-tailed sea eagle. The farm is located about 1.5 km into the forest. Each year it is visited by over 130 thousand people.
c) The Promenade of Stars in Międzyzdroje – an unusual avenue featuring the hand imprints and the signatures in bronze of many Polish cinema, and television and artists.
d) The Wax Museum in Międzyzdroje – the exhibition presents life-size figures of famous people connected with film, art and world politics. It is located by the Promenade, near the Community Centre.
e) Kawcza Mountain (61 m above sea level) – a vantage point on the Bay of Pomerania, overlooking the beach in Międzyzdroje and the shores of Uznam Island.
f) Lake Turkusowe (Turquoise) – in Wapnica, in place of the former chalk mine, there is a turquoise-coloured lake.
g) Gosań (95 m above sea level) – the highest elevation directly on the Polish sea-coast.
h) V 3 Shooting range in Zalesie – the only German V-3 weapon exposition in Poland. It is from the Second World War period. The exhibition is located in the bunker where the missiles were stored. Nearby are the remains of the missile emplacements.
i) Amber Baltic Golf Course in Kołczewo.