Lake view with moutains in the background in Obertraun, Austria

Lake view with moutains in the background in Obertraun, Austria (Tamala Malerk)

Hallstatt, Austria is touted as one of the “must-see” areas of Austria. However, its popularity means that it is often filled with tourists and expensive to stay in. We looked for alternatives in the area and landed in Obertraun, a quaint little beach town that led to me having the most relaxing two days.

Obertraun is located only thirty minutes, via car or boat ride from Hallstatt. We stayed at the Hotel Am See which has its own boating dock and parking on-site. It is a short walk to a café serving traditional German food, pizza and ice cream. I recommend the pizza which can easily be shared by two people. The beach area features the café, kayak and paddle boat rental, a playground, a giant inflatable iceberg for adventurous people to climb in the water, an in-water trampoline and a water slide for younger children. Also, a short walk from the beach area is the Dormio Resort which features a hotel, restaurant and, most importantly for this writer who left her sunscreen on her living room table in another country, a miniature grocery and retail shop selling food, drinks and beach-related items for adults and children.

With the temperatures reaching the 80s and low-90s Fahrenheit, cooling off in the lake water felt great. While the water was cold at first, I adjusted eventually (I did not follow my spouse’s advice to just “go all in at once.”) There are small rocks on the bottom of the lake that made standing and walking a bit uncomfortable, but a pair of 17.99 euro water shoes made that discomfort disappear the following day.

On day two, we took a small boat, driven by a man in lederhosen with a pirate vest on, to Hallstatt to see what all the fuss was. It was a beautiful ride seeing the mountains on the side of the huge lake. Our first stop was the Beinhaus (Bone House/ossuary), which sounds like a BBQ restaurant but is actually a small room filled with over 600 decorated human skulls. Graveyards were becoming overcrowded, so in the 1800s corpses were relocated to ossuaries to create more space. The most recent skull is from the 20th century, but people can request that the ossuary be their final resting place (I’m thinking about it myself).

Decorated skulls at the Beinhause

Decorated skulls at the Beinhause (Tamala Malerk)

After the Bone House, we grabbed some lunch and hit up some of the tourist shops where I was able to grab the aforementioned water shoes, salt from the oldest salt mine in the world, and some souvenir trinkets. The crowds started picking up heavily as the day wore on, so at 2 p.m. we were on the boat back to Obertraun. We chose a bigger boat meant for mass public transportation for the ride back so we could sit on the shaded bottom and my spouse could enjoy a beer while riding on a boat.

I ended day two back on the beach just relaxing in the water and enjoying my spouse’s attempt to jump on the giant in-water trampoline. One botched flip later, he thankfully got off the trampoline with only a bruised ego. Obertraun is a relaxing getaway for singles, couples and families, as well as everyone looking to experience Hallstatt with fewer crowds and for fewer euros.

Things to Keep in Mind Before you go

1. Bring euros: Yes, we always advise you to bring euros, but if you want pizza, take-away ice cream or a ride on the small boat, you will need them.

2. If traveling by car, bring a portable fan for the hotel room. Like many hotels in Europe, our hotel didn’t have A/C and the hotel reception wasn’t manned 24/7 to ask for one. I was comfortable with just leaving the windows open, but my spouse would have been much more comfortable with a fan.

3. Bring “fun” things for the beach area. While many kids’ toys and floaties were easily available for purchase, I was really wishing I had an adult-sized floatie to bring relaxation to its maximum level.

4. Also bring sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, water shoes and other protective/nice-to-have gear for the beach area.

5. The earlier the better for visiting Hallstatt. I recommend seeing the sites early and having lunch there, and then boat, train, walk or drive back to Obertraun to avoid the crowds.

author picture
Tamala Malerk is a writer and editor with Stars and Stripes Europe. She has been with SSE since April 2022 writing articles all about travel, lifestyle, community news, military life and more. In May 2022, she earned her Ph.D. in History and promises it is much more relevant to this job than one might think.

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