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What are the most beautiful waters in the Netherlands

The Netherlands Waterland. You can enjoy sailing on almost every square metre of water in the Lowlands. But when and with which boat can you enjoy the most as a water sports enthusiast?

For example, is it fun to ride the waves of the North Sea with your mini yacht or would it be better to explore the Grevelingenmeer? And if you don’t have your own boat, or no aspiration to be a heroic captain standing on a back deck in a southwesterner, can you still go out on the water? What is the best place to sail in the Netherlands? And are the Dutch waters safe? Below are the most popular spots in the Netherlands.

1. Sailing or boating on the Wadden Sea

Many Dutch people and tourists choose aslow travel wanderlust journey on the Dutch Wadden Sea You can, for example, fall dry on sand banks and admire the seals up close in their natural habitat.

The Wadden Sea is also popular because you can moor anywhere on one of the many cosy islands to do some shopping or have a drink. Long walks on the beach or getting lost in the dunes is also the attraction of the Wadden Sea region for many people.

Sailing on the Wadden Sea is especially great if you go with a flat-bottomed boat, because the sea is generally very shallow. Flatboats have no keel. You know, one of those long bars under the ship. This keel under a sailing ship makes the most beautiful places such as vast sandbanks and uninhabited islands inaccessible. The same applies to motorboats because of the propeller that can get stuck.

The Wadden Sea region is the largest tidal area in the world, and what better way to enjoy it than with a vehicle that can simply move with the rhythm of the sea and with the level of the water. Thus, a flat-bottomed boat. Unfortunately, you can’t just sail them on your own or hire them without a seasoned captain and crew.

2. Sailing or boating on the rough North Sea

True sailors dream of one day conquering the North Sea in a catamaran or other type of sailing boat. The rough and tumble nature of the North Sea requires experience, skills and guts. Especially during certain (annual) tides.

Every sailor who has his own boat and has conquered the IJsselmeer a hundred times, knows the Oosterschelde like the back of his hand and can sail the Wadden Sea blind, dreams of crossing to England. That is the ultimate goal for many.

But let’s be honest. If you live in Zeeland and have a boat in front of your door, you don’t go out into the North Sea every weekend. Even if you have all the right papers to sail on the open ocean.

The North Sea is very rough and unpredictable. In addition, there is a lot of freight traffic and an abundance of industrial ports to be encountered. Not to mention all the rules you have to know by heart to understand which huge freighter has right of way.

What attracts real sailors is that you have to plot a course, you can conquer the North Sea and really get away from the Dutch shore. After all, you are sailing away from the shelter of our protected inland waters.

For many, the crossing to England symbolises the summit of a sailing trip. You cross an international body of water to see a foreign country looming on the horizon at dawn.

For some, the crossing to England is a first exercise. Sometimes this leads to enthusiasm for even more intense international sailing trips. Yet even the greatest sailing heroes remember that first crossing. For many, it is a boyhood dream come true. A first time to remember.

The alternative is to go boating off the coast of the Netherlands. The catamaran or a pleasure yacht is ideally suited for this and can be hired anywhere.

3. Sailing or boating on the IJsselmeer & Markermeer

Wherever you live in the Netherlands and whatever boat you want to take out on the water with, sooner or later you will have to drive your trailer to the IJsselmeer. If you live in the Randstad, you might launch your boat in the Markermeer.

The wind is almost always there, but you don’t have to deal with tides, shallows and the danger of getting stuck in shallow water. That makes the IJsselmeer and the Markermeer the ultimate place for pleasure craft. Whether you are at the helm or not, you can fully focus on the sailing and the surroundings.

For many, it is also the perfect place to plot your first trip and test your navigation skills. Because you can’t get lost. That is the advantage of a lake.

Many companies choose the IJsselmeer or Markermeer to organise a company outing for their employees. Hundreds of flatboats and other vessels facilitate this for a very small budget.

Both tourists and companies choose to visit some of the nicest harbour cities during a sailing trip. All towns and villages have a variety of pubs and restaurants in the harbour where you will have the time of your life.

The port of Lemmer

The IJsselmeer and Markermeer are preferred by many water sports enthusiasts because it is a true recreational area. But make no mistake, it can also be quite haunting. Suddenly, the wind picks up and forces you to take shelter in one of the many inlets or harbours. But how bad is it when you’re out and about together and can step into a pub?

Sailing or boating on the Zeeland lakes

Not only in the north and east of the country can you enjoy sailing, also in the south you will find the most beautiful places to enjoy the typical Dutch Gold Coast with your whole family.

The whole of Zeelandis child-friendly and that attracts many families with young children. The long and, above all, quiet beaches are also wonderful to enjoy for a day or more.

Here, at one of the many lakes, you can let your children frolic with “my-first-sailboat” while you watch from a distance in the sunshine with a cold drink. Don’t panic if the boat capsizes, because the sailing instructors are very experienced and life jackets are mandatory.

The Grevelingen

Lake Grevelingen, located between Schouwen-Duiveland and Goeree-Overflakkee, is the largest saltwater lake in Europe. This former arm of the North Sea is an extremely popular place for divers due to its clear water.

Because of the strong wind but otherwise calm conditions, the part of Grevelingenmeer near the dam isa top windsurf spot. Other parts are very shallow and very family friendly.

Here, children scamper around and you learn the art of wading like no other. With or without a glass of wine in your hand, you can do that all day unashamedly.

At Port Zélande, there is a decent harbour where you can hire your own sloop and sail to one of the islands. From one of the many holiday resorts, the beaches are within walking distance and children can enjoy themselves all day.

Veerse meer

Lake Veere is an artificially created brackish water lake that was created after the construction ofthe world-famous Delta Works.

Today, this is a Valhalla for water sports enthusiasts, as the depth and width of Veerse Meer vary so much that there is something for everyone. It is an excellent place for water skiing, canoeing and diving. Trout are also released for anglers every year. Around the lake there are over 3,000 places to moor your pleasure yacht and the idyllic little islands in the middle provide a natural slalom course.

5. Sailing or boating on the Frisian lakes

The Frisian Lakes are located in the southwest and centre of Friesland. Many of the lakes are in fact eroded glacial valleys and are loved by water sports enthusiasts for good reason. In total, there are 24 lakes, the best known of which are the Tjeukemeer, Heegermeer and the Fluessen.

Festive and much-attended events such as the Sneek Week and the Skûtsjesilen are organised here every year. But also during the rest of the year, the lakes are crowded with sailing enthusiasts or people who want to learn how to sail. It is therefore not surprising that hundreds of sailing schools have their home base here.

Sail the 11 city tour

Every year in June, the sailing Elfstedentocht is organised, in 2021 it will be in the weekend of 25-27 June. As the name suggests, you sail ‘The tour of tours’ past 11 cities. A trip past antique locks, under the famous bridge of Bartlehiem and through typical Frisian canals. In any case, it is much less tiring than skating or walking the whole tour. If you do it right, at least as exciting and impressive.

Elfsteden monument in Miedum

6. Sailing or boating on small lakes in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is dotted with rivers and lakes; you learn about the largest and most famous ones at primary school.

The Netherlands is dotted with rivers and lakes; you learn about the largest and most famous ones at primary school. Thousands, in fact. But some are so small that they are like an oversized pool of rainwater. At others, it is a good place to be as a family and you can do sports undisturbed as a surfer, kiter, sailor or kayaker.

From Limburg to Groningen, you will find lakes in the most unexpected places, often with beaches.

The Maasplassen near Roermond

The Maas lakes are actually man-made gravel pits. They were created by mining gravel that was deposited here by the River Meuse. After the Second World War, mining was reduced and what remained were deep scars in the Limburg Maas valley.

Part of the Maasplassen near Roermond

The Limburgers soon found a solution in the form of Water Recreation. Today, this is an area that covers about 30 square kilometres. Here you will find several day beaches, marinas, campsites and nature reserves. Nude beach lovers can also enjoy themselves here. Of course, there are also activities such as beach volleyball tournaments, yoga, pedal boat hire and the possibility of renting a sailing boat.

Nature reserve ‘Twiske’ Zaanstreek

Many people from Amsterdam spend a day out at the Twiske. The day campsites are also very popular here. It is less than 30 minutes’ drive from Amsterdam and you can sail, swim, windsurf or have lunch at one of the beach bars. It is a place for the whole family, including the dog, which is allowed to run and swim freely in most places.

Pancake house de Appel in the Twiske

At one time, peat was extracted from the Twiske nature reserve and later the area was planned to be reclaimed as agricultural land. Unfortunately, it remained too wet and not suitable for agriculture. The pools, such as the Strootersplas in this area, were created when the sand from under the peat was used for the construction of the Coentunnel in Amsterdam. A hole over 40 metres deep remained. They were thinking about creating a nature reserve and they succeeded.

Twiske nature reserve

In addition to day campsites, boat rentals and windsurfing opportunities, a special skate park has been built around the area. Nature lovers will also get their money’s worth here, not to mention special birds. Parts of the park have been set up as a silence area and all kinds of special animals live here. Here you will find foxes and ermines, and if you sit still long enough you will see breeding birds of prey such as the hawk, buzzard and kestrel.

Loosdrecht and Vinkeveen lakes

In the centre of the Netherlands, just under the smoke of Amsterdam, lie the Loosdrecht and Vinkeveense lakes. Around the lakes that were created by digging out peat, you can see the most beautiful villas and country estates. In addition, hundreds of small islands have been built with huts, cottages and other forms of accommodation.

One of the many islands in the Vinkeveense lakes

Many Dutch people spend their holidays here because it is varied, affordable and green. In the summer months, you see pleasure boats everywhere and children jumping off every slide and diving board there is.

Sailing school on the road on the Loosdrecht lakes

Sailing on the Loosdrecht and Vinkeveen lakes never gets boring, because you can easily get lost, but you will always find your way home again.

7. Sailing or boating in the Amsterdam or Utrecht canals

Amsterdam and Utrecht are known the world over for their special canals with magnificent canal houses. Do not think about sailing, because all canals have bridges. The mast will break off. What is possible – and also very popular – are sloops, tour boats and pedal boats.

The mostly electric sloops are available for hire in all shapes and sizes. Some you can sail yourself and others require a captain. The tour boats can be booked with or without food and drink, and when renting a pedal boat, you rely on your own muscle power and partner.

In the latter case, don’t be afraid to jump ship yourself if your relationship comes under pressure. The water in the canals is clean, although we don’t call it drinking water. It is refreshed every 24 hours. So you can swim in it.

A day on one of the many canals – other cities such as Den Bosch and Leiden also have canals – is guaranteed to be a success. By the way, did you know that you can also board an authentic flat-bottomed boat from Amsterdam and sail a trip via the IJsselmeer to the Waddenzee?


Blijburg by the sea in Amsterdam

What many tourists do not know is that Amsterdam has many artificial city beaches. The most popular are Strand Zuid and Blijburg. Here you can imagine yourself on a Spanish costa with trendy bars, real sand and, with a bit of luck, good live music.


It is not for nothing that the Netherlands is called the land of water. From north to south and east to west, you can sail, swim and ride in boats. And the entire North and West coast borders the sea.

Where you want to go depends on your own preference. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the most varied environment is the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. That is why it has become our business to organise all-inclusive tripson one of our authentic flat-bottomed sailing ships. If you want to know more, please contact us.

This post is also available in: Dutch German