The Wadden islands (Waddeneilanden) in the north of The Netherlands are true pieces of paradise. The islands form an archipelago at the east of the North Sea and stretch from the northwest of the Netherlands through Germany, all the way to the west of Denmark. The Wadden islands shield the mudflat region of the Wadden Sea from the North Sea. This mudflat region is pretty special; large parts fall dry during low tide exposing Wadden Sea treasures and ferry boats can only cross the Wadden Sea during high tide and following mapped routes.
The inhabited Dutch Wadden islands are (from west to east): Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog (also known as Schier). Texel belongs to the North Holland province and the other islands to the Friesland province (and are known as the Frisian islands) since 1942. The islands are loved by the Dutch, but also by our neighbours from Germany who visit often (the entire coastline of The Netherlands actually). There are 3 uninhabited islands: Noorderhaaks (also known as Razende Bol), Rottumerplaat and Rottumeroog and 6 sand banks (not big enough to be classified as an island). Most of the islands are environmentally protected areas and of big importance to wildlife. The flora and fauna on these islands cannot be compared to any other part of the country. So far, I have visited 3 islands (Texel, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog) and I am ready to visit the next one: Vlieland.
Vlieland is the smallest inhabited Wadden island and compared to the other islands, it lies the furthest away from mainland. As a visitor you cannot bring your car to the island, but you can take a bicycle on the ferry boat. On the island you find more walking and bicycle paths than roads, so those 2 options are ideal ways of exploring Vlieland. People come to Vlieland mostly to relax, to find peace and quietness and sometimes themselves. It is the most perfect place to unwind and that is what I needed!
It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go to Vlieland. I was lucky to go on an educational city trip to Wroclaw, Poland in the beginning of this month and that trip did a lot of good to me and the other travel agents on this trip. Due to Covid-19, 2020 has been such a weird year and both my planned holidays to Greece and Cuba were cancelled. I realize very well that health comes first always and travelling is a luxury, so I am fine with the fact I could not go. However, the need to get away and explore (if only for a few days) is always there and since we are again in some kind of lockdown and cannot travel abroad, I decided to go to Vlieland for a few days.
Since I live at the coast in the west of the Netherlands, I travel over the Afsluitdijk to the north. The Afsluitdijk is the flood defense between North Holland and Friesland, which closes off the IJsselmeer from the Wadden Sea. The dam takes its name from this. The Afsluitdijk is important to protect our little country against flooding.I always stop in the middle of the Afsluitdijk to admire te view and take some photographs.
If you want to go to Vlieland, you will have to travel to Harlingen first! Harlingen is a lovely town, which you can visit on your way to or from the island. You can even spend a night or 2 there. I love the lighthouse, which is designed by the same architect as the lighthouse in my hometown Noordwijk. There is 1 difference though, this lighthouse is a hotel, so I know where I would want to sleep!
From Harlingen you take the ferry across to either Vlieland or Terschelling. I made sure I arrived early, so I had time to go for a walk. I went to the lighthouse, strolled through the harbour and admired the beautiful ships and I saw a whale! Next time I will stay for the night and take some more time to explore this town. For more information about Harlingen, click here!
The lock down we are in right now (October 26th, 2020) in The Netherlands, is a smart lock down (I think there is nothing smart about it, but anyway), which means that shops are still open. Restaurants, bars and clubs are closed and indoor activities are also not allowed. If I would stay in a hotel, I could eat at the hotel restaurant, but since I decided to go on my own, I booked myself a semi luxurious apartment, having a bit more space. During the day I would explore the island and at night I warmed up in the bathtub and sauna and let the sun shower warm my tired muscles. I bought some groceries on the island, ordered food at night (take away and delivery thankfully still possible) and I just relaxed.
I will not publish a travel diary, which I normally keep when I travel, but I will put down a top 10 (in random order) of what you can (or should) do and see when going to Vlieland. I will also place some personal notes in this top 10 and of course my own photographs taken during this short break.
Number 1: Beach walks!
People come to Vlieland to enjoy the beautiful beach and so do I (and I live close to a beautiful beach, but I will never get enough). The beach stretches from the west via the north to the harbour at east Vlieland and it is about 17 kilometres long. The beach changes shape all the time, depending on the tide and the weather conditions. You can take your dog who can chase the beach birds, or collect shells and when the sea is quiet and safe, of course you go for a swim! Maybe you are lucky and you spot seals or rainbows as you walk along the beach. In the north-east and the east, you find a restaurant beach club on the beach. Although they were closed due to Covid-19, Beach restaurant ‘t Badhuys offered take away and hot drinks (I will use any excuse to get a hot cocao).
The western part of the beach is called Vliehors, this part is about 24 square kilometres and is also known as the Sahara of the North. Much of this sandy plain is used as a military training ground for the Royal Dutch Air Force. It is the only place in the Netherlands where air force pilots and NATO partners are allowed to practice with ammunition and explosive charges. As a result, the Vliehors is only freely accessible during the weekend when the red flag has been lowered. Sunset at the beach may be difficult during the week, since the sun sets in the west, but I suggest you watch the sunset from the beautiful dunes. There are plenty of beautiful spots to enjoy the most beautiful sunsets and during the weekend you can them at Vliehors.
Number 2: Vliehors Expres
I just wrote about Vliehors. Now, whether it is during the week or during the weekend, I would advise a trip with the Vliehors Expres! During the week it is the only way to visit this remote area and if you decide to walk when visiting the island: it is a long walk towards the west and this saves a lot of time and it is fun!
The Vliehors Expres takes you there by beach truck, leaving a message in the sand with its tires. I managed to do this tour, since it is seen as an outdoor activity and precautions were taken on board of the truck. I absolutely loved it! The driver/guide stops twice, once at the little rescue house, which is now a small beachcomber museum where you can admire the funniest and weirdest items. The second stop is at the most western part of the island, from where you can see neighbour island Texel well. If there is a spot on the island where you have chance to spot seals, then this is it. We stopped at the little rescue house first, but it can also be the other way around.
Do not worry: the driver/guide is in contact with the Royal Dutch Air Force to make sure that they know when he will enter Vliehors (cease fire ;). We got a tiny bit of action though, when a helicopter did a small tour over Vliehors!
Number 3: Lighthouse
I am a lighthouse lover (lighthouse lunatic). Vlieland has a tiny lighthouse, which is round, red and beautiful and can be found just outside the village on top of the 40 metres high Vuurboetsduin (dune). If the weather is clear, you can see both neighbour islands (Texel and Terschelling) and even mainland. The view is amazing from this point. I could not go into the lighthouse, it was closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, but the location offers beautiful views, whether you are inside our outside of the lighthouse! I had a lot of rain during my visit here (the only time I got bucket loads of water on my head), but I loved it anyway. Make sure you check opening times before you go (Covid or no Covid, the lighthouse is not open every day!).
Number 4: Bunkermuseum Wn 12H
Widerstandsnest 12H was part of the Atlantic Wall during the war. I could not visit the museum; it was closed when I got there. Widerstandsnet is a museum now, with an exhibition about Vlieland in the war years; you can see special objects and archaeological finds from that period. Excavated and completely restored bunkers and gun emplacements, are connected by trenches and tunnels. If you are interested in history, especially war history you must pay a visit!
Number 5: Vlielander cheese bunker
Close to the lighthouse is the Vlieland cheese bunker. It is an old bunker located deep underground, also built in WWII as part of the Atlantic Wall. The bunker offers perfect conditions for ripening cheese and storage (where I live, we have a few bunkers too, also used for cheese ripening. This bunker I did visit! I got there too late for a tour, but I did have a quick look and tasted/bought some delicious cheeses (later I went to the local butcher in the village and got some local delicacies and together with a good glass of wine or 2, I had the most delicious private tasting at my apartment).
Number 6: Fortuna Vlieland
Travelling and food: my favourite combination! The local cheese and delicacies from the butcher, also go well with a beer and Vlieland has its own beer! Fortuna Vlieland makes the beer and also sparkling water. I tasted the beer when ordering a meal and I enjoyed it! I could not visit the brewery, but I will when I go back to Vlieland (and I will someday). The beers they make are Duin Blond (duin = dune), Island Ale, Stortemelk Wit (wit = white), Wad Donker (donker = dark), Monnicke Weizen and Storm Stout. Vlieland a small island, but big dreams are reality here!
Number 7: spotting seals
In the Netherlands there are a few places perfect for spotting seals and the Wadden Sea is one of them. The harbour and grey seals gather on the sandbanks located in between the islands and from every island you can book seal spotting tours all year round. The animals are admired from a safe distance, the boats do not go too close. Some of them, however, are curious creatures and might swim up close to the boat and dive under before you get to take a photograph :). Bring a good camera and tele lens with you, that is all that I can say. I just had my phone and thankfully it is a good one, but I need a new (normal) camera. Depending on the season, you will get a warm outfit not to get cold on the boat.
Number 8: horse riding
As a young child I used to go horse riding, I started when I was 8, and I managed to keep on horse riding for about 8 years. But it is like riding a bicycle; even if you have not been on one for years, you just need a bit of practice to get back into it. I did not have time for horse riding, but also it was not possible when I was there due to restrictions because of Covid. But Vlieland is really a great place for horse riding, both on the beach or in the little forest/dunes.
Number 9: Vlieland village and Museum Tromp’s Huys
When visiting Vlieland of course you want to learn about its history and the Tromp’s Huys museum is the place to do so! When you visit the village (the only one) on the island, take a stroll through the lovely and picturesque streets (with shops, hotels, bars and restaurants) and then go to Tromp’s Huys. You can learn about the culture and maritime past of Vlieland, admire paintings, drawings and prints. The museum offers also a large collection of clocks and photographs, maps and ship models. There is more to see: just go and explore!
Number 10: forest walk
Although I am a beach lover, I loved walking through the dunes and in Bomenland (meaning tree land). It is a little forest full of hidden treasures. I visited the island in autumn and I found the most beautiful and colourful mushrooms and the vegetation is pretty spectacular. You can also see all kinds of birds, who live here or love to spend their winters here or simply stop on their way down south or up north! If you want to take a bicycle, there are many bicycle paths in Bomenland.
This is my top 10 for Vlieland and like I said I mentioned them in random order. But Vlieland (no matter how small the island may be) has more to offer! For sure when it comes to sports and outdoor activities, there are plenty of possibilities, like kite surfing, wind surfing, karting on the beach, beach football or volleyball and so on! Have a look at the website of the VVV/Tourist Office of Vlieland where you can find more information about the island, sightseeing, activities, etc.! I have one more island to visit: Terschelling, but I will return to Vlieland for sure. I left feeling zen and full of energy; I absolutely love Vlieland and the beach is so beautiful!
Vlieland Top 10 by Elisabeth, One Lucky Traveller
October 30, 2020