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The lighthouses of the Wadden Islands in the Netherlands

If you live in a small country that is surrounded by sea in both the north and west, it is handy to place lighthouses in many places. Especially if you are surrounded by wide beaches and hundreds of sandbanks on which you can strand as a ship.

During a rough wind and wild sea, it used to be easy to get lost in poor visibility and get stuck on a sandbank that disappeared under water a few hours later. Many a ship has been lost in the past hundreds of years with a precious cargo. Often these treasures have still not been found.

In the Netherlands lighthouses are usually red and white and stand like an obelix on the coast. At the top of this pillar a bright light is burning that used to be a small flame ignited by wood. That is why they are also called light-towers. Nowadays a bright LED light shines.

But why would you be interested in seeing or entering a lighthouse? That is simple. Almost all lighthouses have saved many lives at sea and some have given the history of the Netherlands a special twist. But in addition, all lighthouses give a special view of the surrounding landscape due to their height of sometimes almost 60 metres.

The most special lighthouses of the Wadden Sea

Lighthouses have played an important role in the shipping industry in the Netherlands. All the Wadden islands looked alike to the skippers, especially at night, so the lighthouses were a beacon for safe navigation. Special people and families have dedicated their lives to the physically demanding and often lonely task of lighthouse keeper.

The lighthouses as we know them in the past are now no longer needed due to modern equipment such as radar. But the Brandaris on Terschelling and the Noorder tower of Schiermonnikoog are still important and manned 24/7. In the meantime, the current lighthouses have become national monuments that often also serve as museums. Each with their own story. Learn below what is so special about every lighthouse in the Wadden Sea. And if you climb them, you get the view as a gift.

1. The fierce history of the Texel lighthouse

Texel’s lighthouse is called the ‘Eierland’, named after the former island of Eierland it overlooks. The tower also stands on remnants of that island which was connected to Texel by a dike, a 40-metre high dune to be precise near the Cocksdorp. In the 19th century, the Eierland grounds, the sea around Texel were a rather treacherous stretch of water, it was already littered with shipwrecks. The shipping routes on the north side of Texel in this stretch of the North Sea were far from safe. In 1863, the notary of Texel laid the first stone of the lighthouse. After 10 years of action, he had finally managed to make the great importance of the Lighthouse clear.

Texel Lighthouse

The Texel lighthouse sets the scene for Europe’s last battlefield

During the Second World War, this lighthouse was the setting for a final bloody battle, not for nothing called ‘the last battlefield of Europe‘. While the rest of the Netherlands was already liberated, a group of Georgian prisoners of war fought for their lives. German soldiers held a raid on the island. Many islanders also lost their lives in the process. They had sympathy for the often innocent Georgians and hid them on their farms. The story goes that when the Germans crossed the island from south to north and ended up at the lighthouse, six prisoners of war were still hiding here. When they knew they could not escape, they committed suicide in the lighthouse.

Can I climb the Texel lighthouse?

Today the tower of Texel is set up as a museum and on the way to one of the most spectacular views on the island you will learn all about the history of Texel and the tower, in a special exhibition.

2. The smallest lighthouse on the Wadden Islands, the Vuurduin

Vlieland’s lighthouse is also called the red dwarf, because this tower is the smallest of all the lighthouses on the Wadden Islands. At barely 18 metres, it is astonishing that its beam of light shines at 60 meters above the sea. That is because he has been placed very cleverly on the Vuurboetsduin. The highest point of all the Wadden Islands.

Vlieland lighthouse

The old lighthouse keeper, is today the lighthouse keeper of Vlieland. Germ Veenstra has been connected to the tower with heart and soul for 30 years and knows all about it. So he is the one who can make sure that the lighthouse remains open until after sunset in summer to watch the sunset from the dome on top.

3. The oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands, the Brandaris

The Brandaris is the oldest and best-known lighthouse in the Netherlands. More than 400 years old and one of the only ones still in use.

In the Middle Ages there was the Brandarius Church in the present village of West-Terschelling. The church already had a fire in its tower as a beacon for shipping. The church no longer exists but on the site of the church a lighthouse named after its predecessor was built. However, by the ‘walking’ of the islands from West to East, the first Brandaris collapsed into the sea around 1570. The Brandaris 2.0 that was built at the time collapsed before it was even finished. Fortunately, a third attempt was successful and is still standing. The current Brandaris dates back to 1594 and fortunately now has an elevator

Terschelling lighthouse

The Brandaris still in function

The Brandaris is still manned 24/7, although you call the people who work there no longer lighthouse keepers but traffic controllers. That is why you cannot visit the tower. With its iconic rotating light is a beacon that is an integral part of the island.

Getting married in the Brandaris

Just visiting may not be possible, but getting married on the tower is possible. Well, in the tower. There is a special place on the second floor for special occasions such as a real Wadden wedding!

The nameless lighthouse of Ameland

Ameland Lighthouse

Nowadays this lighthouse also serves as a museum, during your climb up to the top old lighthouse keepers digitally tell you about their adventures on this tower. With a height of 55 metres and almost 250 steps, your step counter can easily run wild here too. Of course you do it for a reason. At the top you will once again find a view like a painting by van Gogh. A wide view over the many sandbanks, beaches and gullies of the Eastern wadden region.

5. The two striking lighthouses of Schiermonnikoog

Schiermonnikoog may be small, but it has two lighthouses, a red one and a white one. Commissioned by King William III, these two towers were erected in 1853.

They both had a stationary light, if you came close and you saw both beams of light coinciding then you knew where to turn off to sail safely between the sandbanks.

Schiermonnikoog lighthouse

When the rotating lamp came into vogue and was placed in the red tower, the white tower became useless. It is now being used as an Antenna mast. The red tower is still manned 24 hours a day for coastal shipping to and from Germany. On the white tower stands a small ‘Schiere’ monk, to honour the first inhabitants – the Cistercian Monks – of Schiermonnikoog.

Visit the Lighthouses on the Dutch Wadden Islands

Complete your experience and sail with an antique sailing ship to the Dutch Wadden Islands. On a multi-day sailing holiday you can go island hopping and visit the various lighthouses. Rent a scooter, e-bike or tuk-tuk and do an extra round around the tower. At the end of your journey, at least you’ll have muscular calves from the climb up the various towers!

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Learn about the lighthouses on the dutch Wadden islands

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