For a relatively small country, the Netherlands boasts a rich variety of nature. For example, Afsluitdijk is a 32km long and 7,5m high dam connecting provinces Friesland and North Holland. Along leads a highway, cycle trail and path for pedestrians. Keukenhof is a flower park in province South Holland that will astound you with thousand of spring flowers. Kinderdijk – 19 original and still functional windmills were also in 1997 included in UNESCO World Heritage List Waddenzee is the largest coastal tidal wetland in Europe and on the World Heritage List. You can walk across the sea floor with a guided tour. However, the beaches of Zeeland, the hills of Limburg, the Brabant Sahara (Loonse and Drunense Dunes), Venice of the Lowlands (Weerribben-Wieden) and other nature reserves will also take your breath away. Let’s take a closer look at them!
- Dunes of Loon
The 30 square kilometres of sand dunes within the Drunen National Park make it the largest sand drift area in western Europe, earning it the nickname of the Brabant Sahara. The ever-changing landscape makes for a fascinating place to explore on foot or by bike, and is ideal for budding photographers who will find beauty in its shifting sands. Bordered by pine forest, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the area’s varied wildlife. As well as multiple species of tuneful songbirds, visitors have spotted roe deer and even the odd badger. A walking tour is therefore recommended, and there are ample bridle paths and mountain bike trails across the site just waiting to be explored.
- De Hoge Veluwe
If you only have time to visit one national park in the Netherlands, this one should be it, because it exemplifies Netherlands’ nature. It has just about everything you could want to do in a day. De Hoge Veluwe has it all, from hiking and biking, to art and natural history museums! The trails here are very nice and paved, and there is also a whole suite of different landscape types you get to enjoy while exploring.
Schiermonnikoog is one of the five Wadden Islands. Due to the influence of the tides and its location between the Wadden Sea and the North Sea, the island has a climate that is different from that of the mainland. The island is characterized by diverse landscapes including beaches, dunes, forests, tidal marshes, polders, lakes and tidal flats. Furthermore, many different types of animals and plants reside there partly due to the island’s special climate.
Schiermonnikoog is known for its unique bird life. On the Westerplas, you can find various birds including the bluethroat, cormorant, common snipe, osprey, Eurasian spoonbill, little egret, hen harrier and the Western marsh harrier the whole year through. You should also visit the duck decoy of Schiermonnikoog. Previously ducks were captured here, but today it is a cultural monument.
The rich flora are another reason why Schiermonnikoog has been designated as a National Park. Grasses, algae, herbs, mosses, flowers, plants, trees and mushrooms are growing on the island. Guides will gladly lead you to all the wonderful things Schiermonnikoog has to offer. If you get the chance, be sure to hike the tidal flats. A walk on the seabed will be a special and lasting memory.
Located in Limburg, this beautiful national park is quite close to the Netherlands-Germany border. Spread along the river Maas, the park is home to different species of flora as well as fauna. You can spot a number of various reptiles, hordes of birds along with quite a lot of butterflies and trees like oaks, pines, etc. The estate in this park De Hamert is also popular among tourists. The river here has the longest stretch of dunes in the Netherlands, which is why you won’t find much fish here. You can also go biking or hiking at this beautiful place which is surely one of the best national parks in Netherlands!
To the west of Amsterdam, bordering the coastal town of Zandvoort, you’ll find one of the most beautiful natural areas in Holland. Made up of dunes and beaches, this exceptional park stretches out over nearly 4,000 acres and is home to flourishing fauna like thorns, elderberry and sea holly. Highlights of the park include the three estates of Duinvliet, Elswout and Middenduin, which all boast picturesque landscape gardens, perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch. Originally a haven for Amsterdam’s wealthy holidaymakers back in the 17th century, today the local wildlife is its greatest attraction. There’s now an abundance of rabbits, foxes, squirrels and even Shetland ponies roaming the verdant park.
If you are planning on visiting the “little Venice” of the Netherlands, Giethoorn, you should definitely stop by this wonderful area. The best way to see the park is to rent a boat in Giethoorn. Just be sure to get a map from your rental company, and give yourself enough time to see the park.
Despite being in the middle of a developed European country, Weerribben has the magic that makes you feel like you were on an adventure in the wild. There is beautiful, calming water and a seemingly endless expanse of green in all directions. Cows graze along the shore, and people tend verdant fields. And there is a little tower that we climbed up to get a bird’s eye view of all this.
The river Lauwers, flowing to the Wadden Sea, forms an estuary in the north of the country. There is a freshwater lake in the area now called Lauwersmeer, made by the flooding of the area, which led to a tremendous change in the flora and fauna of the region. The national park first started in 2003, and it is a huge attraction for bird watchers. In winter, the area is flooded by migratory birds like Tundra Swan, while the landscape is full of grazing animals. The park is also popular amongst skywatchers who love a clear sky with lots of stars to observe.
The oldest national park in the Netherlands, Veluwezoom is famed for its panoramic views from the top of the Posbank. The 90-metre high hill offers a spectacular vista across the reserve, with sights up to 20km away visible on a clear day. The park is also home to a large red deer population, and lucky visitors can witness their courtship season during September and October, as the males let out a unique roaring sound to impress the females. Guided hikes are a must to get the most out of this area and information can be obtained at the Visitors’ Centre.
The Biesbosch is a national park in the west of the Netherlands, covering parts of North Brabant and Zuid-Holland. It’s one of the largest national parks in the country and one of the last remaining freshwater tide wetlands in Europe. A fine web of rivers and creeks runs through an area characterized by reed fields, willow forests and moist grasslands. It’s an ideal habitat for waterfowl and migrating geese, but there’s an abundance of other flora and fauna to be found too. For example, following the 1994 recognition as a protected national park, Eurasian beavers were released and settled in the area.
- De Groote Peel
Full of tiny water reserves, forests and marshes, this countryside park is good for a relaxed weekend away. Devoid of a human population, the place makes for perfect detox. The area is full of animals like deer, polecats, boars along with different species of birds like cranes, geese and others which are prominently native to the area. The place is so secluded that it fits the “in-middle-of-nowhere” analogy.
- Dunes of Texel
Nowhere in the Netherlands is it possible to find such a rich diversity of landscapes in such a small area. On the west of the island, you will find dunes, inundated dune valleys, a mixture of deciduous and coniferous woodland, tidal marshes and heathland. The flora and fauna are rich with many rare plant species and protected birds which you can observe at close quarters.
With much of the territory below sea level, it’s no wonder everyone talks about the Netherlands only as a land of wonderful canals. But that’s just one of this country’s many appeals. Scattered throughout, you will find numerous natural wonders, most of them even free of charge. I hope I enlightened you with this article, and it might well help you with your further travels!
Have a great day!
// All the photos are only figurative, all the rights go to their owners!