When you think of the Wadden Islands, you soon think of staying on top of eachother on the campsite with our Eastern neighbours, grey backpacks and worn-out brown walking shoes. Fortunately, the opposite is true, because our islands and the Wadden area have everything that can make a holiday in the Netherlands with friends or your family unforgettable.
Think of beautiful and even the highest dunes in the Netherlands and very wide beaches with few people. You can stare for hours at the horizon and get lost without really getting lost, while enjoying the typical Dutch dunes. But of course there are also cozy bungalow parks, luxury hotels, saunas, delicious local restaurants and cozy cafes.
The Wadden Sea region may be number 1 in the Netherlands when it comes to Slow Travel, but there is more than enough to do. In this way you can cycle endlessly against the wind and walk for days through unspoilt nature. But did you know that the islands are also one of the best surf spots in the Netherlands?
Much more is possible. For example looking for the best yoga spots or a weekend or a week of sailing on a traditional Dutch flatbottom. This way you can see the whole area and when you moor you walk into a cosy harbour town. The perfect combination of relaxation on board and effort on land.
Where can you go in the Wadden Sea area? Below, in order from left to right, you will find the 5 Wadden Islands that you can visit during a sailing trip.
The largest Wadden Island Texel
Texel is the largest island and famous for its many sheep and its delicious cheese and chops. Texel is also the only island that belongs to Noord-Holland. The particularly fertile soil, which developed differently than the other islands after the ice age, creates an unprecedented diversity of nature.
What can you do on Texel?
Texel is known for as a cycling paradise. Because not everyone thinks of themselves as the new Tom Dumoulin, fortunately there are alternatives. Public transport runs regularly and you can even rent your own Electric Tuk-Tuk. In this way you can ride around the whole island in one day, sheltered behind plastic or half-cabrio.
The literal and figurative highlight of Texel’s versatility is ‘the mountain’ you find in the middle of the island. From here the whole island can be overlooked. This is not so difficult, because the island only has an area of 400 square kilometres.
Another special location is ‘de Slufter’. This is a unique nature reserve that has an open connection with the North Sea and is partly flooded at high tide. As a result, very special flowers and plants grow, forming an oasis of colour and fragrance. If you have enough nature to see on your own balcony at home and are interested in something else, you can go golfing, tennis, karting, bowling or have a drink in one of the beach bars.
For the dare-devils there is an airport where you can parachute jump. An experience you’ll never forget. Tourists from home and abroad come to Texel to make their first tandem jump. With 6 to 12 people you”ll fly up in a fast pace and then open the door of the plane and jump out with an instructor. Clean underpants are not included in the price, but the experience makes up for everything.
Animal lovers can spend hours horseback riding on Texel and there is also the largest seal sanctuary in the Netherlands called Eco Mare. Here you can take a close look and help with the care of seals and other animals that have been taken in.
A location that is interesting for young and old is Museum Kaap Skil. Over the past centuries, many ships have perished in the North Sea and the bottom of the Wadden Sea is scattered withshipwrecks. Of some, the treasures they lost have been recovered. These are now on display in this museum.
Because so many ships perished, Texel has a lot of beachcombers. These are people who still wander the beaches to find lost shiploads. The strangest and craziest objects wash ashore and museum Kaap skil knows a lot about this as well.
For Kiters-, or beach sailors, the beach next to the large lighthouse is a must to go to. The sand is usually flat and very spacious, so with a little wind the beach sailors will pass by with a raging speed.
If you make the climb to the top of the large lighthouse you can see this beautiful spectacle even better. By the way, the lighthouse is still in use and has many stories to tell. During the climb up, a piece of history is told on each mezzanine floor. This way everyone can get to the top without panting too much and you will have a treasure trove of information.
Meals prepared with organic and locally grown products
In the woods near Den Hoorn you will find BOSQ. This is one of the many local restaurants serving delicious lunches and dinners with a Mediterranean touch, based on organic and locally grown produce.
On the other side of the island there are restaurants that prepare dishes based on organic and locally grown products. It’s aboutKookatelier ‘Op Oost’ where you can eat and drink delicious and the setting is cozy.
If you want to cook yourself, you can get your own organic produce from various farms, but if you prefer to have it cooked for you, you’ll find cozy restaurants, bistros and cafes all over the island.
Some of these cafes even serve their own brewed beer. For some this is a pleasure and for others it cleans their caravan. This is of course because tastes differ.
Where can you spend the night on Texel?
In the northern part of the island, near the Cocksdorp and nature reserve the Slufter, you can pitch your own tent in the middle of a dune pan. Other people opt for a little more comfort and therefore park their caravan on a slightly higher area. From there you have a beautiful view of the Sluelders.
Because sleeping on an air mattress or in a caravan is not a life goal for everyone, all 7 villages on Texel have a wide range of B&B, cozy hotels and of course Airbnb rooms and cottages. For those who prefer breakfast in bed and want to walk to the sauna in their bathrobe and slippers, there is also plenty of choice.
However, the favourite for many when it comes to spending the night are one of the many holiday homes or an overnight stay on a sailing boat. The latter is of course also our favourite.
The bird paradise Vlieland
Vlieland is known for the more than 60 bird species that live there. These can be found, among other things, on the impressive sandy plain the Vliehors, which is easy to reach with the Vliehorsexpress.
The Kroon’s Polders nature reserve is also a place where people and birds like to stay. Birds come here in search of food and people visit this beautiful nature to come to their senses during a long walk.
Because Vlieland has only 1 village, there is an abundance of space. Tourists do not come here for the nightlife or the McDonalds. Although it is true that Vlieland has the smallest McDonalds of the Netherlands. The fast-food chain spoils the character that the island wants to radiate, but because it only has room for 5 people, the building falls by the wayside with the beauty that the island does have to offer.
The highest dune in the Wadden Sea area is 45 metres high and can be climbed on Vlieland. Photographers love this place because of the many creative possibilities its surroundings inspire them.
Just like on Texel, renting a bike is also very popular on Vlieland. From the harbour you can reach the village of Oost-Vlieland by bike within 10 minutes. Here you can go shopping, have a drink or buy some groceries.
Vlieland is also popular for wonderful yoga classes on the beach. In winter it is a bit too cold for that, but as soon as the sun begins to shine the real yogis show up again.
Where can you stay on Vlieland?
We believe you will get the best sleep aboard one of our sailing ships. Softly swaying with a view of the dunes and the sea. But also here there is something for everyone. There are reed covered dune houses for rent, book a stay at the inn or one of the beach hotels. Moore your own yacht in the harbor or pitch your tent in a bay.
Good food on Vlieland
Whether you’re hungry for an extensive fish dish or an ordinary pizza, good food on Vlieland can be found all around Oost-Vlieland. Highly recommended is the delicious organic meal of Renee’s Eetwinkeltje. With love and honest products freshly prepared, you can choose from various dishes that you pick up and only need to warm up.
How did you get to Vlieland?
Most tourists make the crossing from Harlingen to Vlieland by ferry, but you can also come by ferry from Terschelling.
An alternative is to come with one of our traditional flatbottoms. These ships are specially made for low tide and it is a unique experience. The skipper calls the harbour service, waits for a sign and then manoeuvres very skilfully into the narrow harbour mouth. Then a beautiful spot at the quay is chosen, et voila, your holiday villa is ashore!
An oasis of peace on Terschelling
Named Schylge by the islanders themselves, the third Wadden Island is Terschelling. With only 12 villages, this island has an illustrious history. West Terschelling, for example, was completely laid in the Ashes in 1666 during an attack by the English who were after booty from the East India Company.
Fortunately, the Brandaris lighthouse survived this and you can see it today from afar. Whether you arrive at Terschelling by ferry from Harlingen or are on one of our sailing trips, as soon as you moor you will immerse yourself in the cozy bustle of the harbour that borders directly on the village of West-Terschelling.
Because of its oasis of peace and quiet, Terschelling is ideal for a holiday. Just like the other islands Terschelling consists of stunning nature. The only difference is that the further you travel from the head of North Holland, the more untouched nature is. This is because there has been much less human interference.
The most famous nature reserve of Terschelling is “De Boschplaat”. This area is only accessible to a limited extent because many special birds breed here.
Where can you spend the night on Terschelling?
Slow travel sometimes seems to be invented here on Terschelling, because you almost stumble across nature campsites of all shapes and sizes. They are almost all recommendable, except for “de Appelhof”. This campsite is famous among the youth and recognizable by the walls built of empty beer crates.
For those who don’t like camping there is also a choice of holiday farms and nice hotels to choose from.
Do you want your own place, sleep peacefully but close to the heart of Terschelling and its coziest village, then you rent an authentic flat bottom and have your own sailing holiday home in one of the nicest Wadden harbors in the Netherlands.
Where to go to on Terschelling?
Very special is the huge ‘Groene strand’ a broad beach within walking distance of the port. On a clear day, (provided you are clear yourself) you can see Vlieland from this beach.
Recommended is to let the children fly a kite, build sand castles or play football in front of the beach pavilion ‘De Walvis‘. You can then enjoy a delicious cold, locally brewed beer with a snack of your choice.
From the Green beach there are also a number of impressive walking and cycling routes.
Our advice is to walk or cycle first and then enjoy the local white beer, but some prefer to do it the other way around.
For the more sporty, there is plenty to do here, from kitesurfing to blokarting and everything in between. If you prefer relaxation, you can not only relax on the various beaches, but also enjoy a complete Spa treatment and relaxation massages. In short, there are plenty of fun things to do on Terschelling!
Group accommodations on Ameland
When they moor in the harbour, you can hear many a skipper of the traditional sailing ships shout: ‘Moored on Ameland’. When you hear this, you just have to keep smiling friendly to the skipper. Although nobody knows why, except the skipper himself, he probably gets a good feeling about it.
Upon arrival you look directly out on the dike with sheep and at a wide view over greenery and the sea the peace and quiet descends on you. It is a very special experience to sail onto the beach with a flat bottom and to be able to disappear between the dunes. Once ashore, you can get off the boat for a nice swim or a walk.
In the 18th century Ameland still consisted of 3 small islands but that has long since disappeared. It is the fourth inhabited Wadden Island of the Netherlands and has 4 villages. Each village has its own special history.
Ameland is known for its many group accommodations in the form of detached farmhouses throughout the village.
In addition to a visit to the lighthouse, you can just like in the Zaanstreek also visit an authentic corn and mustard mill. If you’re not really keen on that, there’s a beachcomber’s museum, a maritime centre and you can make all kinds of Wad excursions.
Again, you can pop down on one of the many terraces in the villages or on the beach. From a sandwich to a three course menu are available everywhere and there are plenty of supermarkets to do your own shopping.
The charming Schiermonnikoog
Last but not least is the fifth Wadden Island, the small charming Schiermonnikoog. The special name of this island originated in the Middle Ages from an amalgamation of three words.
Schier: is the local word for grey and so named after the colour of the pies of the monks who worked there.
monnik: because there were monks working on the island.
oog [eye]: is etymologically the same as ‘Is’ in island.
So actually Schiermonnikoog means ‘Grey Monks Island‘. So, now you know something your neighbour doesn’t.
If you have an eye for sustainability, this is the place to spend a weekend or longer.
There are several small initiatives such as yoga trails, Wad excursions and ateliers with art made from beachcombers’ materials that spontaneously make you enthusiastic.
Let yourself be carried away on a flat-bottomed, wind-driven boat, because this is the only way to get into the tiny harbour. The narrow channel is indicated by poles made of wooden stakes. This is for the skipper precision work and for the spectators the moment to look at him full of admiration. You don’t really have to be impressed by his steering and sailing skills, but he always appreciates a round of applause.
Once you’re in the harbour, you’re immediately absorbed in the rhythm of the tide. The harbour falls completely dry at low tide so you can cross over the bottom of the sea from one side of the harbour to the other. Be back in time, because you can only sail away at high tide. So if the water is too low you have to wait until the tide comes in again.
As soon as you cross the dike, you will see the only village called Schiermonnikoog, for convenience’s sake, lying between the green fields. Be sure to visit Hotel Van der Werff, where time, both in terms of interior and menu, stood still a long time ago. On the other side you can see the impressive jaws of a whale rising up like a gate.
And again, discover the beauty of the island by bike or on foot, follow a small-scale excursion around the island or learn all about the history of this very special place.
If you decide that a holiday in the Netherlands can actually be a lot of fun.
Take a look at our sailing trips and make a beautiful trip to the special Wadden Islands.
You depart from the harbour of Enkhuizen or Harlingen and visit one or more islands, depending on how long you go along.