Have you ever wondered how the Dutch spend their vacation? Although many Dutch tourists travel all over the world, there are definitely some destinations that are not well-known by the general traveler public. In the “How the Dutch Travel” series, we will guide you to the best hidden gems of Holland!
Every year, travel website Lonely Planet publishes a ‘top 10 destinations in Europe’ list. The Dutch island Texel was on #9 of this list in 2016. In 2019, The New York Times chose the Frisian Islands for their top 52 global destinations of 2019 (#30). So in this post, we will show you why people love the Frisian Islands so much!
The Netherlands have a couple of islands on the north coast. In Dutch, we call them the Wadden Islands, but in English they are often referred to as the Frisian Islands. The islands are popular destinations for Dutch and German tourists, but are slowly being discovered by travelers around the globe.
5 Reasons to Visit the Frisian Islands
1. Beaches and breezes
The Frisian Islands have the best beaches! Texel (pronounced ‘tassel’) alone already has 30 kilometres of shoreline. If you like a long walk on the shore and catch the breeze in your hair, or if you like to take a refreshing swim in the cool waters, the islands are a must! The islands also have many lighthouses, which make for great pictures! Take only a look at some pictures to see how wonderfully peaceful the Frisian Islands’ beaches are!
Texel is the largest and busiest island, but places like Schiermonnikoog are visited less frequently. Choose yourself: enjoy Dutch tourism at islands like Texel, Terschelling and Ameland, or choose the tranquility of Vlieland and Schiermonnikoog.
2. Sustainable Tourism
One of the reasons the NY Times recommended the Frisian Islands to their readers, is because of sustainable tourism. Adam H. Graham from the Times writes, “Sustainable tourism blooms on Western Europe’s windswept Frisian Islands, (…) a biodiversity hot spot.” Landscapes on the Frisian Islands include beaches, dunes, forests and grasslands. No wonder the flora and fauna is so diverse here! Check out the dark-sky safaris in Lauwersmeer National Park and the Seal Rescue Center, or simply walk around and spot the different wild animals and rare plants yourself! Also mentioned in the NY Times article is that the islands have their eyes set on the future. For instance, in 2020 “an ultra-modernist Wadden World Heritage Center (is set) to open.” If you want to make your stay really special, you can stay in new barrel-shaped sleeping pods!
3. Active Holiday Fun
As you might have noticed already, the islands are favourite destinations for people who like active holidays. Though not only water sports are a top choice (check out one of the kite-surfing schools at Texel or Terschelling!). If you like to be active, but you don’t wish to disturb the environment too much, there are plenty of activities left! Although most Dutch people use the bike as a transportation vehicle, the Frisian Islands are one of the destinations where the Dutch come to ride their bikes for leisure. Come join us on one of the many bike lanes! Many lanes are separated from the main road as well, giving you the best views and safest environment!
If you really are an adventurous traveler, how about Wadlopen? This is a 3-4 hour hike, starting at the mainland to the islands. Because of low tide, you will be able to walk instead of having to go by boat!
4. Food, Glorious Food (and Beer)
The Dutch are not renowned for their cuisine, but the Frisian Islands have some special treats that beat the mainland choices! During low tide, you can pick your own oysters and have them cooked for you! This is an activity you can also do at the mainland side of the Wadden sea, for instance before your ferry takes off.
Texel is home to a locally brewed beer called Skuumkoppe. This is the local dialect for ‘sea foam’. The foam of the beer perfectly resembles the foam on the beaches of the Frisian Islands. Enjoy the sun and quench your thirst after a lengthy hike/ride/swim with a nice glass of Skuumkoppe!
Did you know?
One of the Frisian Islands is home to the American cranberry and this all happened by accident! American ships brought cranberries on board for long travels. This prevented the crew to get scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency. One of the ships must have shipwrecked and some of the crates of cranberries washed up on the shores of Terschelling. The seeds from the berry did well on the dunes and now Terschelling is home to the American cranberry!
If you look at the map, it looks like the islands are impossible to reach. Especially if you have a very limited time frame to travel, this seems to be a bad destination. But you would be wrong! The entire region is more accessible using Eurostar’s new London-to-Amsterdam rail link. While in Holland you can travel by train to Den Helder and take the ferry to Texel. The ferries for the other islands take off at Harlingen, Friesland province.
While on the island you do not have to worry about transportation. Although public transportation is limited, it is easy to get around the islands by car or the Dutch way – by bike!