It is perhaps the most beautiful national park in the Netherlands: the Wadden Sea. This unique nature reserve has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The nature here is unparalleled, and the interplay between land and water just as well. The national park not only includes the sea, but also the Wadden Islands and the Wadden coast of the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and North Holland.
The area is quirky and its residents just as well. In addition, the Wadden Sea largely dries up twice a day and the bottom of the sea becomes visible. You can experience the unruly character of this area in many ways. We’ve collected the most unique ones for you.
1. Spotting in the only bird hide outside the dykes in the Netherlands
Something very special can be found in the northeast of the bird-rich wadden area. You see bird hides everywhere to watch all the different bird species undisturbed, but like the Kiekkaaste there is only one. This bird hide is the only one in the Netherlands outside the dikes. You can get there from the Nieuw Statenzijl lock complex via the Marcelluspad.
The hut overlooks the mud flats of the Dollard towards Germany, where seals can be seen regularly. The many bird species are supplemented by migratory birds that make a stop along the way. In bad weather, it can be quite spooky at the viewing hut. It is better to postpone your visit, especially in strong winds.
2. View from the highest point of Ameland
The Wadden Islands are a great destination for a weekend or week away. If you go to Ameland, the east is certainly beautiful. The radiant white sand, the old high dunes and wet dune valleys where the seawater flows freely in and out.
But the literal highlight is the Oerdblinkert. It is quite a climb up the 24 meter high sand dune, but then you also have a phenomenal view of both the island and the sea.
3. Enter the Wadden Sea with a ship and then fall dry
Who doesn’t like sailing? That is why a boat trip on the Wadden Sea is perfect to see the area. One of the things that you can almost only do in the Wadden Sea is drying out.
The flat-bottomed boat then sails as the tide goes out on a sandbar and remains stationary as the water continues to recede. Large parts of the mudflats then completely dry up and you can walk on the bottom of the sea. Which then suddenly just seems like land.
Before the water rises again, go back on board and wait until the ship comes off the bottom at the higher water level. You will sail back to port for the end of this adventure.
4. Wild nature on Texel
Our country’s largest Wadden Island also has a lot to offer. Nature lovers should definitely visit the Slufter nature reserve. The Slufter is a salt marsh area, which means that it is flooded at high tide. Man has often tried to reclaim the area, but that has failed just as many times. The Slufter has thus become a very special piece of nature, where the tide plays a major role.
By the way, Texel is a lot closer than you think. You can travel quickly by train or car to Den Helder, where you can cross the river in just 20 minutes. You can just leave your car at the port and from the train station you can take the bus to the ferry. A return ticket for pedestrians costs only € 2.50. If you don’t live too far away, you can easily spend a day on Texel! Although a night away is of course always more fun.
5. Walk on the bottom of the sea
We already mentioned falling dry, but a somewhat comparable adventure that you should have done at least once in your life is mudflat hiking. When the tide goes out and the sea water continues to fall, large parts of the Wadden Sea become visible.
For the most beautiful (and safest!) trips, go with a guide who will take you into all the secrets of the Wadden Sea. You choose whether you want to do a short and easy walk, or opt for a tough challenge. Maybe you can walk all the way from the mainland to a Wadden Island? Although most people associate mudflat hiking with summer, they don’t have to. It is also possible in winter!
6. Get to know the life of fishermen and go with them
In an area with so much water, fishing has always been very important. If you want to know more about it, it is of course best not only to see and hear it, but to experience it yourself. You do that when you sail from Den Oever with a fishing boat.
The fishermen know every stream, every sandbank and every movement in the water and can show you what lives above and below the water. Gradually more and more tall stories emerge during this special adventure.
7. View the mounds and wierden
The sea gives and the sea takes away. Fishing has always been large in the Wadden area and has brought a lot. But on the other hand, people fought a constant battle against the water here. That is why people in Groningen and Friesland built their houses and later entire villages on artificial hills, which they called wierden and terpen respectively.
This defense mechanism dates back to the time when dikes did not yet exist. Today you can still clearly see how people have shaped the environment to their will. Often they are beautiful historic villages with beautiful churches that can be seen from afar.
8. Enjoying the night in one of the darkest places in the Netherlands
Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer gets really dark at night. Therefore, this is a great place for stargazing. Nowhere else in the Netherlands is the darkness so dark and the silence so quiet. For example, take a walk with a forest ranger and look for the animals that become active in the dark.
Or just stay in the same place and watch the glowing stars pass by in the sky. Did you know that if you are very lucky, you can even see the Northern Lights here?
9. Learn more about the war history of the Wadden area
Finally, a completely different way to get to know the Wadden area. Many places along the Wadden coast have been seen as very strategic over the centuries. At Den Helder alone you can see many different defenses, from forts from the time of Napoleon to bunkers from the Second World War. A very special piece of history that allows you to view the Wadden area from a completely different perspective.
Not enough of the Wadden Sea yet? Read and view much more here.
Main photo: Vincent Croce
Pauline is a real outdoor enthusiast. She has been writing about winter sports for years on Snowrepublic.com and about active travel on Mountainreporters.com. In addition to hiking, cycling, climbing, rafting and snowboarding, she has been crazy about horseback riding from an early age. Follow her stories closer to home on Outdoordichtbij.nl