People usually come to the Netherlands to see Amsterdam. Coffee shops, red light district, some museums of famous painters and a boat tour through the canals. Some people go a bit further. They visit the tulip fields (often for a lot of money at the Keukenhof) or go to a town like Volendam to have a photo taken in traditional outfits.
The weather in the Netherlands is often cold, windy, cloudy or rainy. So people don’t come here for the sunny weather. But once every now and then there is an exception and the weather is actually good. Those are the days on which it is great going to the beach. Unfortunately almost everyone in the country seems to think so, so there are traffic jams to and from the sea side.
There are many beaches to go to in the Netherlands. As I child I have fond memories of Sint Maartenszee. My uncle, whose name is Maarten too, had a holiday home there. I was always excited when we visited him and his family. From their triangle shaped home we would hike through the dunes. I remember it being a very long walk, but also a beautiful one. Finally we got to see the sea. It always felt like a victory when we got there.
When she was very young our daughter Eryn has been to beaches in France and Italy. But despite it being outside the Netherlands we were never that lucky with the weather. Probably because we went off-season and it was already autumn. Still, she had a good time playing with the sand, building castles with her daddy. I can’t recall there being many shells or sea creatures to collect. But then, we did not even go into the water because it was so cold.
In the Netherlands we never used to go to the beach. At the beginning of this year we decided that had to change. When spring arrived we visited the beach in Zandvoort. That was a day everything seemed to go wrong, so we did not stay long. It was, however, a start of what hopefully will become many visits to the Dutch beaches.
To the beach.
Last weekend we chose to see the North Sea again. Eryn and I were staying with close family members for a few days and accompanied by them and a bag filled with toys we headed towards the beach in IJmuiden. We went twice, because when you have the sun on your side you have to benefit from it.
In IJmuiden you don’t have to walk through the dunes for hours to reach the sea. There are plenty of parking spaces available nearby and from there it is only a five minute walk until you enter the beach. Admitted parking is not for free, but that is the case at most beaches in this country. Afterwards you can pay at one of the parking machines.
Just before you take off your shoes and feel the sand on your feet, you walk past a 22 meter high climbing tower. Along with a beach pavilion called ‘Nova Zembla’ this tower is run PBN. They use it for team building activities as well as company outings. PBN also organizes events on Fort Island IJmuiden, which is nearby. This Island is extra special for us, because this is where my husband and I first met.
There are several other beach pavilions in IJmuiden. ‘Zeezicht’ is one we have keen memories of. We once attended a wedding party that took place in Zeezicht. We watched the sun set in the sea and when it was dark a fox appeared on the beach. The animal seemed tame and it even looked like it was posing for our camera.
This time we went to a pavilion called ‘Zilt aan Zee’ to have a coffee. It was a nice place to relax before we headed towards the sea. There were already a lot of people on beach chairs sitting or lying behind the pavilion on the way to the beach.
When we got to the sand that was dry yet close enough to the sea we laid down our towels and sat down. We took turns accompanying Eryn to the sea. She had a bucket with her as well as a shovel. In the bucket she collected shells, mainly razor clams. At one point she decided to save the tiny crabs that had stranded. She put them in the shovel and brought them back to the water.
Close behind us was a temporary cabin that belongs to the life guards. We had passed their building when we walked towards the beach. We had also seen one of their boats being pulled towards the sea as we enjoyed our coffee. The life guards in IJmuiden are – according to their site – all volunteers. The brigade started in 1933 and currently has 80 active members, whose purpose is to save people from drowning. This can be done by teaching people how to swim, how to save lives and by guarding the beach. Although series like Baywatch have slightly altered our ideas of life guards, I always have a lot of respect for people who volunteer to save lives.
While Eryn was having fun with our relatives, I looked around at all the people on the beach. Before me were some older English couples. They were not as white as they sometimes come, so I really had to listen carefully to assure myself they were really English. I was not the only one watching these couples. Apparently they had something large to eat with them. They looked like large cookies, ‘stroopwafels’ (Dutch waffels made with a caramel syrup filling) or ‘eierkoeken’ (Dutch egg cakes). Some sea gulls saw it too and before the couples knew it the sea gulls had managed to take some and fly away with huge pieces in their beaks.
A bit further away were two women with their children. The moms were smoking cigarettes, whilst the children were walking around. They cannot have been older than two, or even one. They were wobbling around on their legs, trying to get away from their towels, exploring the beach. Behind me was a Dutch family. Both daughters were eating a peanut mix and drinking from small paper cups. While they were doing that they constantly looked on their mobiles. They were not the only ones that had their minds elsewhere. A bit further to the right was an entire family that did not fully enjoy the beach. Three of them, mother and two daughters, constantly stared at their mobiles. The father was keeping himself busy reading a magazine. The entire family was sheltering from the sun under a huge Heineken beach umbrella.
I focused on myself again and tried to enjoy the sun and the beach as much as I could. This was one exceptional day in the Netherlands and no one could take this sunny day away from me.
Also on Travelharts.com.
We also have a photo site. On it is an album of Kootwijkerzand, the biggest sand drift of Europe.
Kootwijkerzand is a sand drift in the center of the Netherlands. You can walk there for hours between dunes, fallen trees and lots of animal tracks.
On our blog we also have a story about the Dutch Delta Works. If you like to read it, click here.
After the 1953 floodings in Zeeland, the Netherlands, the Delta Works were built. On the island Neeltje Jans you can visit them as well as some sea animals.