Often when people think of the Netherlands, they think of Amsterdam or at most The Hague. Beyond that, the country is not widely considered by tourists. However, there is so much more to see, and the Netherlands have tons to offer in terms of natural spots. This blog will walk you through the best nature in the Netherlands, and I’m certain it will convince you to add some of these spots to your travel bucket list!
This article is written by Faraway Lucy writer, Lola Sherwin.
1. The Veluwe Region
Located in Gelderland, this region is home to De Hoge Veluwe National Park, the largest national park in the Netherlands. Voted by Dutch people as being the finest area of scenic beauty in the country, it makes sense to put it at the top of my list of nature in the Netherlands! De Hoge Veluwe has all kinds of landscapes, ranging from heathlands to forests. And the national park is best explored in the most Dutch way of them all – by bike.
At De Hoge Veluwe National Park, keep an eye out for the ‘Dutch Big Five’, which includes foxes, badgers, roe deer, wild boar, and red deer. You’ll also stumble across grazing Highland cattle, burrowing beavers, and much more. If you’re looking for wildlife, you won’t be disappointed here! If you fancy a dip on a hot summer’s day, you also have over 100 pools and lakes to choose from.
However, the Veluwe region has much more to offer outside of De Hoge Veluwe National Park. Another great spot to find nature in the Netherlands is Veluwezoom National Park. Half my family live in the Netherlands, so we’ve spent many a holiday there, and almost every time, we’ve stayed for a week or two in the Veluwezoom. Expect wild boar to appear on your path, or a red deer to shoot past you in the trees. And no trip to the Veluwezoom is complete without a walk or cycle up the Posbank. This 90-metre hill offers stunning views of up to 20km on a clear day!
2. The Wadden Sea
The Wadden Sea is the largest coastal tidal wetland in Europe, something which has earned it a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It runs right the way from Den Helder in the Netherlands all the way to Esbjerg in Denmark, and it’s truly a unique place to visit.
Take a trip aboard a historical sailboat to experience ‘running aground’, an incredible experience in which the sailboat purposely runs aground on a sandbank. This allows you to take a hike across the tidal flat, making sure you make it back before the water rises again. There’s loads of wildlife to see, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a seal!
Dotted throughout the Wadden Sea are the Wadden Islands, of which there are around 50, with five being part of the Dutch Wadden Islands. The islands are naturally rich, and each offers some of the best nature in the Netherlands. You’ll find expansive beaches and dunes and stunning flora and fauna in abundance. On the islands of Texel and Schiermonnikoog, the nature is so different that they have been awarded National Park status! Catch a ferry between the islands and try and fit in as many as you can.
3. Nieuw Land National Park
Situated in Flevoland, the youngest province in the Netherlands, this man-made park was created on the bottom of what was once the South Sea. Nieuw Land is also home to Oostvaardersplassen, a fascinating marsh area with reed plains, grasslands, and plains aplenty.
Originally planned as an industrial zone, Oostvaardesplassen is now a complete paradise for thousands of birds, herds of heck cattle, adorable Konik horses, as well as other animals ranging from foxes to bats. The icon of the park is the white-tailed eagle, an impressive bird with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres. As far as natural beauty goes, Nieuw Land has it in bucketloads. So why not plan a trip to this gorgeous and unique natural spot?
4. The Brabant Sahara
Officially known as the Dunes of Loon and Drunen, the Brabant Sahara is quite literally a piece of desert in the middle of the province of Noord-Brabant. These amazing dunes formed over 10,000 years ago, and they cover around 30 square kilometres of land. A stunning location for hikes and horse rides, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands.
Contrary to what you may believe of deserts, the Brabant Sahara boasts an exciting array of plants and animals, including roe deer. Keep your camera at the ready! A particularly interesting part of the dunes is the area where pine forest and heather-covered grounds start to merge into these shapeshifting mountains of sand.
5. Zeeland Beaches
The beautiful province of Zeeland has a stretching coastline of 650km, offering some truly stunning beaches. The natural beaches you’ll find here offer nature lovers interesting flora such as sea holly and sea fennel. Lucky hikers will also spot nightingales and highland cattle dotted around the landscape.
If you fancy a bit of seal spotting, then head to Ouddorp, one of the family-friendly beaches that Zeeland is famous for. At low tide, it’s not uncommon to spot a seal bobbing near the coastline.
If you’re a keen water-sporter, then Zeeland’s beaches can offer you everything from surfing to kitesurfing. Some of the best beaches for water sports are Domburg, which is known for its large waves, Watergate, which is particularly good for power kitesurfing, and Duinstrand, where sailing and motorboats are also allowed. If you’re craving an adrenaline rush after a bit of animal-spotting, then these are the beaches for you.
6. South Limburg Hills
The Netherlands isn’t known for having a lot of hills. But by Dutch standards, South Limburg has them in abundance. For those whose hearts are in the hills, this will be one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands for you. Here you will find beautiful green countryside, mixed in with babbling streams, gushing rivers and fascinating forest areas.
Additionally, this is the perfect trip for those of you who like a more active holiday, as there are many beautiful hikes and bike tours available across the rolling countryside. If you’re a cycling enthusiast, why not time your trip around the annual Amstel Gold Race?
Another great reason to visit the hills of Limburg is the grapes which are now commonly found on some of the hills, which produce Limburg’s own wine! Certain hiking trails in the region will take you past vineyards, so wine lovers, this one is for you.
7. Weerribben-Wieden National Park
This beautiful fen is the largest in North-West Europe and is made up of lakes, ponds, and canals, intermingled with peatlands, forests, and reed beds. One of the best ways to experience these gorgeous swamps is by canoe or electric boat. These allow you to really take in the natural beauty around you as you float along the water; lucky visitors may even spot an otter among the vegetation. Every season is different in Weerribben-Wieden, so don’t limit yourself to just one trip!
A particular attraction to the Weerribben-Wieden National Park is Giethoorn. This lovely little village is often referred to as the Dutch Venice. Thatched farms sit on peat islands in this quaint village, with over 170 wooden bridges joining the islands together for ease of access. A boat tour will take you slowly along the water surface, showing you the best of the 18th and 19th-century farmhouses that Giethoorn has to offer.
8. Lauwersmeer National Park
A mix of forests, water, and grasslands, Lauwersmeer is a birding hotspot. During the bird migration between spring and autumn, this is an absolute must-visit for bird enthusiasts. Stilts, spoonbills and even sea eagles have been spotted here. So if you’re hoping to see some exciting wildlife, then Lauwersmeer might be just right for you!
The park offers some amazing hiking opportunities to its visitors, with bird watching huts found along the way, of course. With little light pollution, Lauwersmeer is a Dark Sky Park, meaning it’s an incredible spot for you to look out on the starry sky. It borders the Wadden Sea, so if you want to take a trip here, consider tying in both of these amazing natural locations.
9. De Biesbosch National Park
De Biesbosch is a distinctive freshwater tidal area, one of the few freshwater tidal areas that exist in the world. Walk, cycle or canoe through a maze of waterworks, while keeping an eye out for beavers, who are the most popular animal in De Biesbosch.
Nearby lie the windmills of Kinderdijk, where nineteen windmills stand out against the wetlands, joining together to form a postcard-perfect Dutch scene. A fun way to see the windmills is, of course, by boat. You’ll love floating through this iconic landscape, taking in the sheer beauty of everything around you.
10. De Maasduinen National Park
The longest river dunes belt in the Netherlands, De Maasduinen, offer unparalleled views of shifting sands and stunning heathlands. This area is a true haven for wildlife. You’ll find beavers, toads, lizards, snakes, galloways, sheep and goats, among countless other species.
If you want to get the full Dutch experience, make sure to hop on a bike! Just follow one of the mountain bike trails that stretch for miles through the countryside.
11. Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park
Last but by no means least, here you will find meadows interspersed with castles, and forests laced with routes for visitors to follow. This national park is a true oasis. So if you’re looking to spend some time relaxing in nature in the Netherlands, then Utrechtse Heuvelrug would be a good choice for you.
There’s a reason that the wealthy people of the past chose to build their country estates and castles here. And I’m pretty sure the fact that it’s one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands has a lot to do with it. Utrecht‘s only national park is said to have been formed during an ice age over 100,000 years ago when the ice forced the ground upwards, creating a large ridge which is still visible today.
I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of the best nature in the Netherlands! Far from just being a land of tulips and windmills (although it does have plenty of both!), the country is full of beautiful landscapes that everyone can enjoy.
Next time you’re considering a trip abroad to enjoy nature, the Netherlands should be top of your list. The wide variety of breathtaking and beautiful places in the Netherlands will make this one of your most memorable trips yet!
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