Think of the Netherlands. You probably imagine Amsterdam`s incredibly busy streets, nightclubs, and famous coffee shops, where you can enjoy an endless range of guilty pleasures.
Forget all that and think again. We are heading up north to explore a completely different side of the Netherlands – the country’s smallest and most serene island, Schiermonnikoog.
The Ultimate Escape
Close your eyes and imagine the sight of a wild island, covered with 16 km-long sandy beaches. Now feel the wind on your face and enjoy the feeling of sheer isolation.
No noisy crowds. No skyscrapers. No traffic. Just water and sand. Recently ranked as “the most beautiful place in the Netherlands”, Schiermonnikoog boasts one of Europe`s widest beaches. Unsurprisingly, the little Frisian Island is the first place to receive the status of a national park in the Netherlands. However, you should bear in mind that the island is car-free, meaning that only locals are allowed to drive.
In any way, if you long for tranquility, space, and wild nature, this is the place for you. In fact, the island is among the favorite vacation spots for Dutch families coming from all over the country.
Fun Things to do on the island
Let me tell you about my personal trip to Schiermonnikoog. I have to admit something – it was one of the best trips I have ever had. My first impression of the island was that it is totally bike-friendly as it has over 30km of cycle tracks. Unsurprisingly for the Netherlands, we could ride a bike practically everywhere!
So, we managed to find ourselves some fancy red bikes straight after our arrival on the island. Bike renting options are available right at the port at a price of around 6 euro, depending on the bike model you choose. Once we have mounted our newly hired cycles, we embarked on an adventurous journey across the low dune forests encompassing the island. Just to get the feel of it – think of peaceful rural landscapes and beautiful coastal sights that make you forget the tensions of the day.
From time to time, we stopped to admire the variety of rare flora and fauna. Bird lovers will be happy to learn that rare bird species fly freely around, undisturbed by visitors` curiosity. Speaking of visitors, we could hardly see a soul around. Whereas the ferry on the way over was packed, the vast beaches have successfully absorbed the crowds.
Apart from nature exploration, travelers can stroll around the endless sandy beaches, ride a horse, surf, make a picnic or take part in the typically Dutch “mudhiking” activities.
But you are probably wondering: “what is mudhiking?” Imagine being able to walk over the sea bottom. During low tide, the sandbanks of the Dutch Waddenzee will show, so every enthusiast can walk over its bottom. Whereas the experience is an incredible way to explore the area, bear in mind that it is recommended to hire an experienced guide. It is called “mudhiking” for a reason – you may be walking through the mud for hours; be prepared to sink deep down into it. On the bright sight, the lucky one may spot a seal sunbathing with its fellows on a pristine sandbank. Then, the sweaty mud walking is totally worth it, don’t you think?
Ready for exploration?
Now that you have decided to get to the heart of Schiermonnikoog, it is time for some practical tips.
The easiest way to reach the island is to take a ferry from Lauwersoog, a Dutch city situated in the Hogeland region. The ferry sails several times a day and the trip lasts for about 45 minutes. Since there is only one ferry service, you pay only for the trip to the island. It is assumed you will be back on the boat anyways. Bus lines 50 to/from Leeuwarden and 163 to/from Groningen make a connection with most ferry arrivals and departures. Schedules are available at the Dutch transport planner website.
But if you are in an adventurous mood, the Eilandhopper offers a round trip around the Dutch Wadden Sea islands. Passengers can book a single trip or sail for an entire week. The clippers depart every Saturday from Amsterdam and Lauwersoog.
If you decide to spend a few days on the island, you can easily book a nice hotel, guesthouse or a camping spot.
Want to go off the beaten track and experience the wild side of the Netherlands? Pack your bags and make it happen.