Smiltynė is the northernmost settlement on the Curonian Spit and one of the oldest. The name "Smiltynė" began to be used in the 20th Century. In the 19th century, Smiltynė became more and more popular as a tourist destination due to its beautiful nature, clean beach sand, and abundant walking routes.
Kopgalis - this is the newest area of the Curonian Spit, because of the strip of land formed until the mid-19th century. For quite some time, the cusp to the north of Smiltynėę was not given a name. The Kopgalis name is related to the fact that the Prussian Lithuanian name "Kopgalis" (which roughly means "the end of Kopos") took root at the end of the 19th century.
Smiltynė as being part of whole Curonian Spit is listed in UNESCO world culture heritage list.
"Throughout this period it has been threatened by the natural forces of wind and waves. Its survival to the present day has been made possible only as a result of ceaseless human efforts to combat the erosion of the Spit, dramatically illustrated by continuing stabilisation and reforestation projects." (source)
1. Sandkrug dune. Once you arrive at Smiltynė, you will see the afforested Sandkrug dune, where the final postal station on the Curonian Spit and a tavern, offering rooms for travellers, used to be. It was not the initial location of the postal station: the first one was closer to the lagoon. Now the former place of the tavern is called ‘Smėlio karčemos kalnas’ (the Sand Tavern Hill).
2. The Smiltynė Kurhaus is a spectacular two floor hotel with a mansard roof built in 1900. The most prominent part of the building in terms of its volume and distinctive architecture faces the southern part of Smiltynė. The hotel used to have 50 rooms; guests enjoyed hot baths and made use of the latest invention of that time – electricity; the restaurant was located in the garden and the cafe was by the lagoon. The Kurhaus is a Fachwerk architecture building similar to certain structures in the old town of Klaipėda. Before World War II, the Kurhaus was a renowned cultural centre in Smiltynė. It hosted musical events, recitals of famous performers, and offered roulette games. In the first post-war decade, the Kurhaus was adjusted to serve as an apartment building. Subsequently, as the recreational value of Smiltynė was growing, the residents were evicted and a branch of the Klaipėda Hotel was opened in the building along with the Smiltynė Cafe.
3. The Smiltynė wellness route was established on Algimantas Laurinaitis’ initiative in 1989. The purpose of the route was to attract as many people as possible to spend their leisure time in a healthy and active way, as well as to protect the Smiltynė forest from fires. Here all things are natural, made from wood. The Smiltynė wellness route was renovated in 2012 and is waiting for visitors.
Number 4 and 5 are the most popular beaches in Smiltynė. The wide beaches of white, soft and even somewhat squeaky sand attract vast numbers of holidaymakers throughout the summer. As the beach is wide, it is possible to not only enjoy swimming or sunbathing, but also play beach volleyball, tennis, frisbee and other active games.
6. Remaining defensive fortifications: Jachmann (or Memel Süd). This defensive battery was named after the German Vice Admiral Eduard von Jachmann. The coastal defence artillery battery was built in the spring of 1939. The structure has been often described as "not surviving" and has been withheld of any attention for a very long time. The four 150-mm SKL-45 naval guns remained installed only on temporary concrete platforms. A two-storey bunker – the fire control post, was built nearby. The bunker is currently in a poor condition and is not suitable for visiting.
7. The Klaipėda Port gate consists of the southern and northern piers. Klaipėda Port has two parallel piers; the length of the southern pier is 1,227 m, and the northern pier is 1,158 m. Both piers are built on deep-driven poles. The upper part is masonry. After dredging the port, the pier structures have been reinforced using stones and large concrete blocks.
The northern pier was under construction from 1834 to 1884, and the southern – from 1847 to 1861. The function of these piers is to direct the flow of the Danė River to the Baltic Sea, and to protect the fairway from waves, ice-drift, and silting up.
Both piers are favourite walking places of city residents – people come here to admire sunsets, as well as to take a look at arriving and departing ships.
8. Lithuanian Maritime Museum and Dolphinarium. In 1994, the only dolphinarium on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea was opened. It is home for the Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, mammals which belong to the suborder of toothed whales. Joyful educational performances, which introduce some of the most intelligent marine mammals, are held in the dolphinarium. A special dolphin-assisted therapy project involving interaction between children with various health problems and dolphins was launched in 2001 in the Lithuanian Maritime Museum and Dolphinarium.
9. The Nerija Fort. In the second half of the 19th century the Nerija Fort (a defensive marine fortress) was built in Kopgalis. During World War II it was almost completely destroyed. In 1979, the Nerija Fort was rebuilt and adapted to the needs of the Museum. The exposition of the Lithuanian shipping history is presented in the posterns and casemates under the fortress walls, and the collection of ancient and modern anchors is displayed in former cannon yards. The Museum collects, keeps, explores, restores and promotes museum valuables, which reflect the shipping history of Lithuania as a maritime state, and the diversity of marine life. Today you also have the opportunity to explore this historic fort.
10. Albatross – the memorial for dead sailors and sunken ships. Lost throughout the centuries and still present in our memory, the terrible tragedies and names of victims will always remind us of the dramatic relationship between the man and the sea.
Albatrosses and seagulls glide over the graves of those, who did not come back from the sea. It is believed that the sailors’ souls are reborn as these majestic birds.
The memorial seeks to consolidate the seafaring community. It has already become the symbol of Lithuania, as a seafaring state, and Klaipėda, as the centre of seafaring.
The metal bird rose for a flight, cherishing a hope to always remain alive in the hearts of Klaipėda residents and sailors.
Authors of the memorial: sculptor Klaudijus Pūdymas and architect Mindagas Zabarauskas.
11. The ethnographic fisherman’s farmstead was founded in 1979. This ethnographic farmstead was established based on the fishermen’s farmsteads of Šventoji and Palanga area, built in the 19th and late 20th century. Such farmsteads did not consist of a lot of buildings. Usually, there were only 2 or 3 structures. Here you will be able to familiarize with the types of farm buildings and houses. This complex includes a living house, a cattle-shed, a granary, a bathhouse, a cellar, a curing-house, and the poles for drying fishing nets and fish. Such farmsteads belonged to prosperous fishermen, who engaged in breeding animals, farming and fishing.
12. The veteran ships’ site presents fishing boats: the “Dubingiai” trawler, a small trawler named “Kolyma”, and a steel trawler (PTB-7167). These vessels were used for fishing not only in the Baltic and North seas, but also in the Atlantic Ocean.
Here you will also be able to get acquainted with the famous ship kurėnas – "SüD.1" – such flat-bottomed sailboats were used for fishing in the Curonian Lagoon until the 1960s.
13. The Kopgalis village cemetery in Smiltynė was used for burial from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. Residents of Smiltynė and Kopgalis, including Liudvikas Stulpinas (1871-1934), the first Lithuanian Captain, and Jonas Žilius-Jonila (1870-1932), the Governor of Klaipėda region, who was also a poet and publicist, were buried in the Kopgalis cemetery.
14. The old Smiltynė villas. The authorities of Klaipėda city settled permanent residents in Smiltynė for the purpose of continuous maintenance of the hydro-technical facilities (piers, dikes, stevedoring bridges), improvement of the ballast unloading works, and handling the sand at the very end of the spit. They spoke German – Curonian or Curonian – Lithuanian – German languages. In the second decade of the 20th century, the residents of Kopgalis mostly worked in the city.
In 1821 there were already 7 homesteads in Smiltynė. The residents used to load the ballast, fix the coastline dunes, cover them with sod, go fishing, and plant potatoes.
Today you can still see old Smiltynė villas featuring folk architecture elements. Some of them are built solely from wood and others are half-timbered (Fachwerk) structures. The villas in Smiltynė, which survived to the present day, were built in the 20th century.