With a surface area of 32 square kilometers, the "Steinhuder Meer" is the largest inland lake in Northwest Germany. Within the category "shallow lake" it is even classified as the largest lake in Germany (average depth: 1.5 meters). The lake originated during the last ice age 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. A thick layer of ice formed in the permafrost ground. As it slowly melted, the ground began to sink and water gathered within the basin. Besides scientific explanations, popular legend preserves a fabulous story of its origin: After being frightened in his sleep by dwarfs, a once sleeping giant pursued the little troublemakers. Where the lake is found today is where he stamped his foot in rage into the light sand. In the newly formed basin gathered the dwarves and filled it with their tears.
In 1761, Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe had the Wilhelmstein Island artificially constructed where he then built a fortress starting in 1765. His vision was an impenetrable getaway in his own land. Wilhelmstein did in fact become renowned when, in 1787, the troops of the Earl of Hessen-Kassel occupied all of Schaumburg-Lippe but could not occupy the island fortress. Today, the tiny isle is permanently inhabited by an island bailiff and his wife who warmly receive guests.
The first German submarine, the "Steinhuder Hecht", was built in 1771 on Wilhelmstein Island. It had room for eight men sitting area and could submerge for 12 minutes. Above water the boat was propelled by sails. One can admire a model of the underwater vessel in the museum on the island.
The first German chocolate factory was situated in Steinhude. Count Wilhelm of Schaumburg-Lippe brought back the sweet idea of chocolate production from Portugal, where he spent a year of military service in 1762.
The "Steinhuder Meer" is well known for the delicious smoked eel. For hundreds of years fishermen have been catching eels in the "Steinhuder Meer". Today their catch fulfills only a small part of the larger need. The eel has become a specialty due to a special smoking technique using beech wood. As a culinary souvenir smoked eel of Steinhude found its way to gourmets throughout Europe and can even be sent by mail.
Till 1866, a ride over the sea meant crossing over a state boundary. Steinhude belonged to the principality of Schaumburg-Lippe; Mardorf and the north coast were part of the Kingdom of Hannover. For that reason the traditional wooden sailboats are called "emigrants" still today.
Since 1998, action sport history has been written on the sands of surfer beach, "White Mountain" in Madorf. When the wind blows just right the kite-surfers take to their artistic sport. Jumps of ten-meter heights and top speeds of 70 kilometers per hour are not uncommon. Since the sea is smooth, beginners here learn particularly fast, because they can get their feet on the ground almost anywhere.
One of the most northern sparkling wine producers can be found at Landestrost Castle in Neustadt. Since 1888, the company has produced Duprès-Kollmeyer as well as other sparkling wines, in cool basements vault through a bottle fermentation process. The wine cellars are open for visits.
In the past, the people of Steinhude had the right to cut fire peat in the marshlands called "Totes Moor". Because there was no navigable way around the lake, peat boats were used for transporting things such as reeds, hay, sand, livestock and sightseers. For hundreds of years fisherman have used the peat boat for their work. Earlier, poles or sails were used to move the robust boats. So that the art of peat boat sailing will not be lost, an annual peat boat regatta is held in Mai on the event of "Fischerkreidag".
The coast path in Mardorf is about five kilometers long and guarantees wonderful views over the lake, Wilhelmstein island as well as to kite-surfers and sailing-boats.
Couples can have their wedding ceremony on the boat "MS Willkommen" and the Wilhelmstein island.
From Hannover, the capital of Lower Saxony, it is only a 35 kilometer-ride to Steinhude or Mardorf. A 30-minutes-tour and young families sunbath in Steinhude or the white dune in Mardorf. Since the water is shallow parents can relax when their children build sand castles or play on the water.
The great varity of the landcape offers ideal living conditions for numerous endangered species.