Vlieland is one of the most popular holiday islands in the Netherlands. Easy and fast to reach by ferry from Harlingen and from Terschelling. Here, nature lovers and holiday makers enjoy the peaceful nature, the cosy bars and restaurants and, of course, the extensive beaches. Vlieland is therefore a very popular destination during an organised family sailing trip in the Dutch Wadden Sea area.
Vlieland is really not just for the slow-travelling holidaymaker who wants to take a long walk every day. It is a diverse island with a special history, particularly high highlights, several protected natural areas and only one village. You can visit this island from Harlingen harbour by ferry, a traditional sailing ship or your own boat.
And why this particular island has already stolen the hearts of many, we explain in the following article.
History of Vlieland
Once upon a time, there were two villages, besides Oost-Vlieland [Osteynde] [Oostereynd] you had on the other side of the island very appropriately West-Vlieland [Westeynde].
The disappearance of the Western village of Vlieland
In 1736, this first built village was swallowed up by the sea. In the last century, we have learned quite a lot about this history. For example, archaeologists dug up bones showing that the people of Westeynde kept cows and let them roam freely in the sea dunes on the North Sea side of the island.
Vlielanders were whalers
On West-Vlieland there were two cod-liver smokehouses, where the caught whales were processed. The Vlielander whalers were paid in tons of whale meat, which they in turn sold on.
Vlieland once almost disappeared into the sea
The island remained the only one of the five inhabited islands to erode and parts of the island are in danger of disappearing into the sea. To prevent this, dams were constructed in the mid-19th century. This eventually proved to be a very expensive solution and at the beginning of the 20th century, people even considered evacuating the island and letting it disappear into the sea.
Vlieland used to be part of the province of North Holland
Until 1942, Vlieland, like Terschelling, belonged to the province of North Holland. The Posthouse on the western part of the island still reminds us of this; since 1677, the mail came viaTexel to Vlieland and then went on to Terschelling. The Germans changed this and assigned the island to Friesland. After the war, this change of the provincial border was not reversed.
Why Kroon’s polder is so important on Vlieland
Between 1900 and 1930, the Kroon’s polder was constructed on the southwest side to prevent the island from splitting in two at its narrowest point. By means of shifting dams that held sand, land reclamation was carried out and a nature reserve came into being that is now very important for the flora and fauna of Vlieland.
What is there to do in Vlieland?
If you go to Vlieland nowadays, you can discover and experience all kinds of things besides hours of walking. We have listed some of the sights and activities for you below.
1. The Posthuys on Vlieland
The Posthuys is located on the narrowest part of the island near Kroon’s polder nature reserve.
This Post House played an important role in the Golden Age, when it was bustling with arriving and departing ships anchored at Vlieland’s roadstead.
In order to receive and send messages from the ships as quickly as possible, Amsterdam merchants established a postal service to the Texel ‘Rede’ at the end of the 17th century. A century later, the service was extended to Vlieland and Terschelling.
The Posthuys was built to provide shelter for the postillion, where he could wait until the water was low enough to make a trip. Letters arriving on the island were taken to the Posthuys, and from there by horse and cart over 8 kilometres across the Vliehors beach, then by ship to Texel, via Texel to Den Helder and finally to Amsterdam. Only in 1927 did this postal service come to an end.
Today, the Posthuys is transformed into a bistro and a popular place for lunch or drinks. Excursions to Kroon’s polder and Vliehors also depart from here. From the harbour and the village, the Posthuys is easy to reach during a walk or after a ride on a bicycle.
2. The nicest beaches of Vlieland
The beaches of Vlieland are among the most beautiful in the Netherlands. 12 kilometres of wide sandy beach with rugged dunes and surrounded by special nature reserves.
In recent years, Vlieland beach has won awards for most beautiful and cleanest beach. In short, it is definitely worth a visit.
The best part of the beach can be found at the end of Badweg, where it is easy to cycle to from the village of Oost-Vlieland. In summer, you are not alone here and you can expect a lively crowd.
If you prefer to be alone with the sea, cycle about four kilometres further south. This is a beautiful route through the Wadden nature andthe dunes. At the end of the beach entrance ‘Pad van Twintig’ it is a lot quieter.
The nicest beach pavilions on Vlieland
Of course, you will come across some nice beach pavilions along the way. One looks out over the North Sea and at the other you can see sailing ships conquering the Wadden Sea. They all have one thing in common and that is that you get the ultimate holiday feeling behind a cold drink on the terrace. You don’t have to search for two of the best ones yourself, they are listed below.
Beach pavilion Gestrand
AtBeach pavilion Gestrand, they love organic, sustainable and homemade. they love organic, sustainable and homemade. With the cosy terrace on the Wadden Sea and a sturdy interior, they are an eye catcher on Vlieland. Gestrand is for young and old.
During the day, the children play on the beach at the Wadden Sea, while the parents enjoy a drink on the terrace. While in the distance, sailing ships sail past as a backdrop. In the evening, after dinner, the music gets a bit louder and you can enjoy a real holiday vibe as a stranded seaside visitor.
Beach pavilion ‘t Badhuys
‘t badhuys was once the first Dutch beach pavilion that was allowed to stay permanently the whole year round. It has already been awarded the title of best beach club in the Netherlands, and it shows.
This is the place to be for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner and drinks, in no particular order, between 10:00 and 22:00. You can do this inside or on the large terrace from where the kids can play on the beach.
3. Wellness on the Frisian Island of Vlieland
Of course, you do not have to be an avid birdwatcher to enjoy Vlieland. The sandblasting treatment is free during a walk on the beach in the wind, but if you want to, you can pamper yourself here in the Sauna and Wellness area. We list the best places for you:
Wellcome Wellness in hotel Seeduyn
Situated in beach hotel Seeduyn, Wellcome Wellness offers a wide range of personalised relaxation and beauty treatments. There is also a sauna and swimming pool for you to enjoy, and you can book a relaxing yoga session or even a retreat.
Badhotel Bruin in the village of Vlieland
Located on the village road in the garden of Badhotel Bruin, you will find a luxurious and small-scale wellness area.
Here, after a day in the countryside, you can enjoy the sauna, massage and counter-current bath. After you have finished pampering, sink down into one of the comfortable chairs in the garden and enjoy a [gezond] drink.
Beautysalon Eilandparel on Vlieland
Located between the village and the beach is Wellness Hotel Doniastate. Beauty salon the Eilandparel is located on the first floor.
You can book everything from beauty treatments to hot stone massages and everything in between. Let the salt scrub off your face and the sand between your toes wash away in a complete zen atmosphere.
4. The village of Oost-Vlieland
Oost-Vlieland is the hotspot of the island, which is not surprising as it is the only village and has the predicate ‘Protected Villagescape’ for good reason! Here you can discover nice shops, eat the best ice creams and have a drink at one of the many cosy cafés. Take a beautiful walk around the village and taste the rich history of this Wadden Island. Don’t forget to walk past the Armhuis, the Nicolaaskerk and the Tromphuys.
Ever heard of ‘a Glop’? The so-called narrow, dark alleys of which you have no idea beforehand where they end up, are an experience in themselves. You can find them on every Wadden Island. Oost-Vlieland has at least seventeen of them. Do you dare to walk into them all?
5. A visit to the Vlieland Lighthouse
The highest point in all of Friesland is on this island, namely the lighthouse and the dune on which it is built. No longer in use for many years, but still a very special beacon.
If you ask the old lighthouse keeper nicely, you can still climb the tower and enjoy the view over the Wadden Sea.
6. An excursion with the Vliehors express
The Sahara of the North is also called this sandy plain. You may not imagine it over a beer in the cosy busy village, but let yourself be picked up at the Posthuys and before you know it, you think you are alone in the world.
It is a special experience to drive the bus with the poem on the tyres, to print endless verses in the sand, while driving over this immense beach and visiting the house of the drowned.
Since October 2003, the Vliehors Expres has been driving with very special tyres. A poetry competition was organised. Since October 2004, we have been printing a new poem in the beach with some regularity. Soon the poem below will roll off the rear tyres of the Vliehors express:
Ik laad mijn hart vol Waddenzee, een beetje stiekem, zonder vragen [I load my heart full of Wadden Sea, a little secretly, without questions]
Ik neem een beetje Vlieland mee, zoveel als ik kan dragen. [I take a bit of Vlieland with me, as much as I can carry.]
You will also reach the westernmost point of the island where you can see Texel and regularly spot seals while sailing ships pass by on the horizon.
The lifeboat house, which is now a small beachcomber’s museum, is also visited on this tour. Along the way, the accordion man provides pleasant and sometimes woeful songs to complete the atmosphere.
In the summer, there are special summer evening tours and a campfire is lit by the beachcombers’ museum, around which you can all sit. Without a doubt, the best sailor stories come to the surface.
Wadden Sea Centre and Sea Aquarium De Noordwester on Vlieland
De Noordwester is a Wadden Centre, sea aquarium and natural history museum in one. Here you will learn all about the flora, fauna and history of Vlieland and the sea around it. Highly recommended for young and old. If you don’t want to hear all that information, you can always stroke dogfish and rays at the aquarium. Or hide in the wreck attic where you can marvel at shipwrecks.
For the little ones, there is a fun gnome hunt. Before you know it, the whole family will be looking for brightly coloured pointed hats. You can find De Noordwester in Oost-Vlieland.
8. The Tromphuys in Vlieland
When visiting the village, it is highly recommended to drop in at the Tromphuys.
It is the oldest house on Vlieland and was built in 1575. That is also how it is laid out. Here you will not only get an insight into how people used to live, but changing exhibitions are also regularly displayed and you will learn everything about the illustrious history of this Wadden Island.
9. Nature excursion to Kroon’s polder on Vlieland
If you love birds, this excursion is for you. You can follow a beautiful path where you are guaranteed to see special birds fluttering and nesting. You will automatically pass the bird hide, which was specially built so that you can look out over the favourite spot of many birds, such as the Marsh Harrier and the Spoonbill.
Not only fun if you love birds, the walk through Kroon’s polder is a unique trip through a special piece of nature. At the end, you can take a break from all that nature has to offer with a cup of coffee on the terrace of the Posthuys.
10. Electric tuk tuk tour on Vlieland
Just like on Texel, you can renttuk-tuks here. What makes it special is that on this island there are hardly any cars, if at all, and you too are whispering quietly in your electric tricycle.
If Kees, the owner is your driver for the day, you can be sure that you will get the locals only tour with special stories and inside info! Of course, you can also choose to drive by yourself with your group of friends, family or make it a company outing with your colleagues.
How to visit Vlieland
From Harlingen, a ferry departs several times a day via Vlieland to Terschelling, all year round. You can book a sailing trip from the port of Harlingen or other ports around the IJsselmeer and the Wadden Sea. If conditions are favourable, Vlieland can be reached by sail within a few hours. For more information about day and weekend sailing trips or longer sailing holidays, please contact us.