The West Frisian Islands region is very dynamic. Islands have been formed in the Wadden Sea at various times in history, often only to disappear again. In any case, the island of Schiermonnikoog has existed for more than 1000 years. However, the shape and size of the island have changed dramatically in the course of time. The oldest parts of the present island are only around 800 years old.

It is not known when Schiermonnikoog was first inhabited. In the fifteenth century, the island was administered by monks from the Klaarkamp monastery in Friesland. These Cistercian monks wore grey clothing, which is what gave Schiermonnikoog its name: 'schier' means 'grey', 'monnik' means 'monk', and 'oog' means 'island'.

During the Reformation, the monasteries in the northern Netherlands were expropriated. In 1580, Schiermonnikoog became the property of the Frisian States. Around 1640, they sold to the island to the wealthy Stachouwer family. For three centuries, Schiermonnikoog remained private property. From 1892 to 1945, it was owned by the family of the Counts of Bernstorff. After World War II, Schiermonnikoog was confiscated by the Dutch government as 'enemy property'.

Around 1700, the population of Schiermonnikoog was divided among four villages or communities. The largest village, Westerburen, had to be abandoned around 1725, since it fell prey to drifting sand and the advancing sea. The population was relocated to a new village, which became the present-day village of Schiermonnikoog.