There are endless reasons why you should visit the Wadden Islands, or Dutch West Frisian islands in The Netherlands. From discovering the widest beach of Europe to getting adventurous. The Northern part of The Netherlands has so much more to offer than most people think.
The Dutch Frisian Islands exists out of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. Texel belongs to the province of Noord-Holland and is easily visited from the city of Den Helder. The other four Wadden Islands belong to the province of Friesland and can be visited from Harlingen, Holwerd and Pieterburen (Groningen).
If you’re still in doubt whether you should visit these scenic places in The Netherlands, then I’m sure that you’ll be completely sold by the end of this article. Let’s discover the things you have to know about the West Frisian islands before you visit them, so you can make the most of your stay!
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19 Things You Have To Know About The Wadden Islands Before You Visit These Dutch Islands In The Netherlands
1. You can find the widest beach of Europe on one of the Dutch islands
The Wadden Island of Schiermonnikoog has plenty of magical parts and things to do, but one of my favourite things about Schiermonnikoog is that this Dutch island has the widest beach of Europe. Who would’ve thought?! Especially since The Netherlands isn’t famous for it’s beautiful beaches and for being a sunny paradise. But the beach of Schiermonnikoog will blow your mind.
It’s stunning, big and will give you a peaceful feeling. Or at least, that was how I felt. It’s so wide and stretches for so long that you can’t see the end of this beach in The Netherlands.
2. The island of Schiermonnikoog is almost completely a National Park
One of the five inhabited Dutch islands is completely a national park, except for the village Schiermonnikoog, also called Oosterburen or Aisterbun and for the polder. The village of Schiermonnikoog was built in 1719 after a previous village disappeared into the rough Wadden Sea.
Visiting the Schiermonnikoog National park is one of the things you have to do on this West Frisian Island in The Netherlands.
Fun fact: Schiermonnikoog National Park was the first official National Park in The Netherlands in 1989.
3. You can find tulip fields on the island of Texel
One of the last things you’d expect on the Wadden Islands in The Netherlands is tulip fields. At least, I didn’t expect that at all when I saw them. Especially since the islands aren’t the biggest, but there are quite a few tulip fields to spot on the island of Texel.
Remember that tulip season generally is between mid-April and the first day of May.
4. Mudflat walking on the bottom of the World Unesco Site Wadden Sea
Although the words of mud and walking don’t seem that great together, I can assure you it will be the highlight of your trip. The world Unesco heritage site Wadden Sea is famous for it’s tides and rough environment for animals and plants. They have to adapt constantly.
With mudflat walking to or from Ameland, Schiermonnikoog, Texel, Vlieland or Terschelling you will discover what’s hidden on the bottom of this natural wonder. From little snails to special animals. And yes, you wouldn’t want to wear your most beautiful clothes on this trip, but it’s worth it. It’s one of the unique experiences and things you have to do when visiting The Netherlands.
5. The islands are perfect to take a step back
Do you desperately need to recharge? Then visit one of these Frisian islands and you’ll be in a dream. Keep in mind that during summer, the island of Texel in the province of Noord-Holland gets pretty busy. But even then, there are still areas where you won’t see much people. So no matter what island you choose to relax and take a deep breath, you’ll feel reborn after your visit.
Imagine this: Long beaches, beautiful sunsets, rain ticking on the windows while you’re inside a cosy house reading a book, deep breaths of fresh air, long beach walks and no people.
My personal recommendations of North Sea islands you should visit would be Vlieland, Ameland or Schiermonnikoog. Terschelling and Texel are also great to visit, but outside of summer.
6. They are great to visit no matter the season
During spring you can find tulip fields on the Wadden Island of Texel and in summer you find incredible festivals on Terschelling. Autumn will give you a chance to fully emerge in nature and winter is the perfect season to clear your mind at the beach.
Keep in mind that less shops and restaurants are opened during the end of autumn and throughout winter. This also means there are less people on the island, which is something I am personally very fond of. I’m a mix of introvert and extrovert, so sometimes I really need my time alone. Ferries will also run less during those times, but mudflat walking or wadlopen will be even greater during winter!
‘Why?’ you ask me? Because not many people actually visit those islands from the 1st of November until the 15th of April, thus you’ll find the mudflats completely empty. Plus that the landscape is so different during that time, that you’re wondering if you just landed on another planet.
7. The islands are well-known within The Netherlands for having amazing festivals
I know that The Netherlands is pretty famous for its electronic and EDM music, but there are more festivals than Mysteryland that are great to visit.
On the island of Terschelling you have to visit the festival called Oerol. This art festival has grown to become one of the most exceptional landscape arts festivals in Europe. Started in 1982 as a small festival, Oeral is a phenomenon. During June, the island of Terschelling is turned into an incredible venue for theatre, dance and music performances. Besides that there are endless of art installations, as well as other projects that are a combinations of science, nature and arts. Click here for more information about Oerol.
One of the best food festivals of The Netherlands can be found on the Wadden Island of Texel: Beach Food Festival. At this festival you’ll discover the freshest clams that come from the surroundings of Texel, the Wadden oyster, the beach BBQ and plenty of more. The festival in generally has cash only and only accepts card at some places, but there is not a ATM in the area, so be prepared to have some cash with you. Scroll down this website of Beach Food Festival Texel to discover the dates of this year!
Horizontoer is a sailing festival that passes the Frisian islands of Ameland, Vlieland, Terschelling and Texel during 10 days in the first week of August. This festival is created for established and up-and-coming musical and theatrical talent. The performances are either free, or you can gain entry for a few euros. Have a look at the current dates and timetables of Horizontoer here.
Into The Great Wide Open is the last festival I am recommending to you in this article. This is a festival on the island of Vlieland and it’s one of the things you have to visit and do on this West Frisian Island. Although the festival revolves around music, there are plenty of other things to see such as visual arts, films and plenty of other activities such as eating your way around the Wadden Sea with the food that is being served.
8. Become one with nature
While these Dutch islands in the North of The Netherlands all have a big part of the island reserved as a nature reserve, you can actually explore quite a bit of those nature reserves and national parks. There are cycle and walking paths through most of the areas. Some aren’t always accessible, especially during the breeding season of the birds, but even if you can’t visit one area, you are able to visit the next.
Walk through dunes, marshes and sandy beaches. Discover the wildlife and mesmerizing views across the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea and feel the power of Mother Nature.
9. Get to know the island traditions of The Netherlands
Every island has different traditions, cultures dialects and regional products. And the best way to get to know the culture of one of the Dutch islands in the North Sea is by tasting them and buying them all. You know, for scientific reasons.
Enter small stores on whichever island you’re visiting and I can guarantee you that you will find tons of local products.
10. Taste beer from the local breweries
There are quite a few local breweries on the Dutch Frisian islands, but one of the most famous ones is the Texelse bierbrouwerij or Texel brewery. Visiting this brewery on the island of Texel is one of the things you have to do when you’re spending one day on the island of Texel.
On this part of Texel they are famous for their craft beer, such as Skuumkoppe. Which has a better and richer taste than other white beers. So, if you’re a craft beer fan, definitely get some beers at the Texelse bierbrouwerij in The Netherlands. Click here you’re interested in a tour through this brewery on Texel.
11. Get and eat some of the freshest fish you’ve ever had
Visiting the Oude Vismarkt in Oudeschild on the island of Texel, is one of the best things you can do. You can buy some fresh to eat in the evening, or buy some fresh fish and it eat at the same time. I prefer both options actually. The fish is so tasty and tender that it melts in your mouth.
12. The islands are perfect to go glamping
Glamping seems to be getting more and more popular and now you can also go glamping on Texel. In a yurt. I know! Isn’t that amazing? Imagine yourself waking up in a yurt, you are woken up by the sound of birds and when you open the door it’s calm outside as the sun is slowly rising. Seems like a truly magical experience.
13. Discover the adventurer inside you
While The Netherlands isn’t a country that has high mountains, or any at all, rough rivers or deep forests, there are still many adventurous things and extreme sports you can do in The Netherlands. From kitesurfing to skydiving above the island of Texel. And from blokarting to mudflat walking or mountain biking through rough dune areas. There is something for everyone.
14. See and admire the playful seals
Seals are some of my personal favourite animals, together with dolphins, whales, cats, etc. I can go on. Anyway, what I love about seals is that they do whatever they want, whenever they want. They will sleep when they feel like they need it, they will sunbathe when to get a little tan on their bikini body when they want to and they eat whenever they want. Although they do have to catch their food first.
Seals are incredibly playful. And what’s a better way to spend your day than to laugh and enjoy the happiness of the seals who are living their best live in the North Sea and around the Dutch West Frisian islands? Exactly, there is no better way. Enjoy, laugh and relax!
15. Look above you and realize the magic of the universe
There are many reasons to visit the Dutch West Frisian islands, but one of the top reasons to visit the Wadden Islands is that these islands have some of the last very dark places of The Netherlands. That in combination with the climate on the islands: less rain than on the main land and more sun. The conditions for stargazing on the Dutch islands are often pretty good and you will be able to see a lot of stars when you look above you. I love to go stargazing because it makes me realize how small I actually am and how small earth actually is in comparison to other planets.
16. Get your walking shoes out
Walking shoes, sneakers, whatever you want. But make sure they are comfortable to walk in. ‘Why?’, you ask me? Because November is called wandelmaand: walking month on the island of Schiermonnikoog. This month is filled with nice walking routes and excursions (with or without a guide).
Most of the excursions do cost a few euros, there are even excursions that include food but of course those do cost a little more. However, I would absolutely recommend you to choose one of the many routes or excursions. You can buy tickets for the excursions at the tourist office of VVV Schiermonnikoog, or you can buy them online. The only problem is that the website of the tourist office is only in Dutch and German. But, nothing that Google Translate can’t solve!
17. Art lovers will feel right at home on Ameland
November is the month to visit Ameland for anyone who loves art. From the 1st of November until the 30th of November there are over a hundred artists from The Netherlands and abroad that will exhibit their art at unique locations all over the island of Ameland.
The event is called Kunstmaand Ameland, you can buy tickets via this link for exhibitions as well. And surprise surprise, the website has an English version!
18. Explore the Sahara of the North
Western Europe isn’t that reknowned for having a lot of real wilderness left, but this place will leave you blinking with your eyes open and wondering if you’re really still in The Netherlands. One of The Netherlands hidden gems and magical or secret places you must visit is the biggest sandbank of Western Europe, called De Vliehors. It is also called the Sahara of the North. As soon as a little dune grows here, the water takes over and remove the higher part.
You can visit this sandbank near the island of Vlieland, The Netherlands, with De Vliehors Express. You can also use the cycle path which ends at the beginning of De Vliehors. And during summer you can even visit De Vliehors with a boat from Texel.
One down side of this part of The Netherlands: During the week it’s sometimes used as a practice site for the Dutch airforce… Way to go to ruin a place. Whether you can visit the sandbank depends on the signs and flags that will show you whether the area is accessible.
19. See the oldest lighthouse of The Netherlands
The oldest lighthouse of The Netherlands can be found on the Dutch Wadden Island of Terschelling and it’s called De Brandaris. And you might think ‘old lighthouse, pff, like 100 years or so?’. But I’m here to completely destroy that view because this lighthouse dates back to 1594! Yes!
Can you imagine what this lighthouse has seen during its time? From floods to wars to big fires. The history is endless. The lighthouse of Terschelling even survived the big fire on Terschelling, where only 30 out of the 400 houses survived, including the lighthouse.
Fun fact: It’s still a lighthouse nowadays!
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And? Are you convinced? I’m glad I could give you some reasons so you will visit the Wadden Islands in the near future. As well as giving you tips on things to do and know on these Dutch Islands in the North before you visit.
If you’re interested in staying in the Northern part of The Netherlands for a little bit longer, then I would recommend you to have a look at some of the things you have to do in the province of Groningen. Visit the fortress of Bourtange for instance. Or explore the capital of the province, called Groningen, here.
Another province that is located in the North is called Friesland. Friesland is home to 11 historic and beautiful cities. And because it would be hard to visit all of them, I would recommend you to have a look at the best places you have to visit in Friesland here.
Remember that the climate in The Netherlands and on the Wadden Islands isn’t always similar, so when you’re visiting the islands in The Netherlands during spring or summer have a look at these (women’s) warm, lightweight coats and travel waterproof jackets. Share this post!!
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