Here by the sea
I suppose I could live just about anywhere in the world, so long as I can be close to the sea. And as I was born and bred in Zeeland, there is no doubt in my mind about where the best and most beautiful spots are found – like it says in the songs of our top rockband Bløf: nowhere but on Zeeland’s coasts!
But what is it, exactly, that makes Zeeland’s coasts so special? I mean, sand, sea, shells… you’ll easily find those elsewhere, right? Well, in Zeeland the beaches are wide and endlessly long, often without any buildings on the horizon, the views from the very high dunes are magnificent, and then of course there is the quiet. And don’t forget the gezellige villages at a stone’s throw, the picturesque panoramas with the small sailing boats and the massive ocean vessels passing by at close distance. The cosy beach pavilions, the fresh fish that is guaranteed in this coastal area and the fresh sea breeze that ensures the fishy smells are carried off. I could go on and on and on, but above all Zeeland’s coast is simply unique!
The cleanest and most beautiful beaches in the Netherlands attract the largest number of tourists in summer, of course. Nights in a beach house, days of swimming and basking in the sunshine, and in the evenings a barbecue meal or freshly caught mussels al fresco at one of the beach pavilions with a lovely wine or a frothy beer… Bliss! Nothing beats a good summer in Zeeland, but the true Zeelander can be found on or at least near the beach all year round. What keeps them occupied on Zeeland’s costa, even when el sol is hiding behind the clouds? Plenty! Witness my personal favourite tips and fun spots:
My new favourite summer sport! The first board under my feet and my first lessons in wave surfing were in South America, but you really don’t need to travel that far. If you’re a beginner like me or if you simply want to get a feel of the sport and see if it is for you, you can do so right here in Domburg and at the Brouwersdam! Book a class or simply rent a board and try for yourself. Okay, I’ll grant you that a really good summer’s day is ideal for looking your beach best and most convincingly surf experienced, but spring and fall weather will do just fine. Wetsuits on and go!
Bikes will let you discover the prettiest spots in Zeeland. There are plenty of beautiful cycling routes that are perfectly do-able when the weather isn’t necessarily beach worthy. Check them out at the biking page of Zeeland.com. My favourites are the ones through the woods and along the dunes, on my racing or mountain bike. The racing bike is perfect if you want to do a tour around Walcheren: for instance, you could start by going from Middelburg to Oostkapelle and from there complete the coastal route. It will take you through the woods and the dunes, with loads of lovely stops along the way. Westerschouwen is highly recommended to tackle on a mountain bike. It helps to have a sense of adventure: it’s mostly unpaved with lots of curves, climbs and steep descents. Also, you’re unlikely to return home without your clothes getting a bit dirty – but that’s the fun of mountain biking, right?
If you live by the coast, it’s actually a joy to be training for a marathon (obviously, I’m referring to the scenery and the views along the way ;-)). When I’m preparing for the annual Kustmarathon (coastal marathon) there are some routes I could do blindfolded if they weren’t so pretty! And there is something for every type of runner and any kind of distance, even if you want to avoid the loose sand. One of my favourites begins in Dishoek and follows the woodland paths to Zoutelande. Back via a dune or beach route. If you’re less of a sports enthusiast or just want to have a relaxing day out, you will be no less spoilt for choice:
Fresh air strolls
At the risk of stating the obvious, we can all do with a bit of fresh air sometimes. There’s plenty of that to be had by strolling Zeeland’s beaches. Rustle up some good company and hit the sand. Perhaps you’d like to start by visiting one of the lovely coastal towns, like Domburg, Zoutelande or Renesse. You could do a little shopping, have a drink or a little something to line the stomach, then step right onto the beach. If there’s a stiff breeze, why not bring a kite?
Is the sun having an off-day? Or did the weather suddenly turn? The many beach pavilions let you enjoy the coast while keeping you warm and dry. Watch the boats go by over a coffee and a Zeeuwse bolus: a soft round pastry with dark brown sugar and cinnamon. I promise you you’ll love it! Or try a beach pavilion crawl: with a group of friends, walk from one pavilion to the next and compare the quality of their kitchens, or more accurately, the bars. And if the sun comes out while you’re at it, you simply continue on the terraces. Just remember: the way back across the sand may be just a little bit harder…
How could anyone not like seals? On rare occasions I’ve spotted one that had strayed into the canal near Middelburg, but your chances are better if you plan a morning of seal spotting on the Oosterschelde. From Burgh-Haamstede, for instance, where you can hop on a boat that will take you near the seals and porpoises!
So, whatever the weather… there’s always something to do here at the coast!
And finally: it may be a cliché that ‘life is better at the beach’, but you know what? It’s true!