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406 in Netherlands

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Camping in the Netherlands

While the lure of the Med remains irresistible for many, the Netherlands ticks a lot of boxes as a great all-round destination for a camping holiday. Ignore the clichés of tulips, clogs and cheese (though these do have their undeniable appeal) and enjoy the sense of history, the art and culture, the invitingly cosy restaurants and the sunny, friendly people who pedal their way through the day on their big, sit-up-and-beg bikes.

The Netherlands offers a variety of terrain, largely flat but with fertile fields linked by canals, dykes and ditches, ubiquitous cycle paths, windmills and tulip fields. Away from the hubbub of the cities, the countryside is pleasantly rural with an unhurried feel.

The splendid sands of the Netherlands shouldn’t be overlooked, with 250 km of gorgeous coastline, often windswept with fine dunes and nature reserves like Veluwe. The Wadden Islands are a haven for nature, teeming with birds, fish and seals. The Dutch coast is also ideal for watersports enthusiasts, offering activities such as sailing, wakeboarding and surfing.

A camping holiday in the Netherlands won’t skimp on breathtaking scenery: the area around Petten comes alive in the spring when flower fields burst into colour and the De Hoge Veluwe national park is displays some of the country’s most untamed natural beauty. Renting a bicycle is the perfect way to explore these beautiful landscapes.

Dutch bulb fields

The prime area for ‘tulip spotting’ is inland from the North Sea dunes, around Leiden and Den Helder. Other good places are Flevoland and Enkhuizen in North Holland. 
You can cycle along a trail from Leiden to Haarlem to really get close to the riot of colour. The world famous Keukenhof Gardens in Lisse is one of the best places for enjoying the bulbs – it’s a historic park with 7 million tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other varieties, surrounded by tulip fields. 

A taste of history

Of special interest are the Dutch cities with their timeless appeal. Old quarters, cobbled streets and distinctive gabled townhouses mean this could only be the Netherlands. And then there are the vast networks of canals.

Amsterdam is a true world city, with 17th-century canals (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010) and a vibrant, endlessly fascinating centre. The Anne Frank House is a particularly moving experience. The city boasts some of the finest art galleries with an unmatched collection of Dutch Masters by Rembrandt and Vermeer in the Rijksmuseum. Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ is a prize exhibit here. The Van Gogh Museum alone has some 800 works by this troubled genius, including ‘Sunflowers’ and ‘The Potato Eaters’. Next door, the Stedelijk Museum is an important museum of modern art. 

To go far back in time head to Maastricht, dating from the time of Caesar and the Romans, and with more national heritage buildings than any town in the Netherlands, except Amsterdam. Discover the art galleries, museums and soak up the atmosphere. 

Utrecht has a wonderful old quarter, alongside the canal, lined with enticing restaurants, lively bars and attractive squares. The Hague provides a more modern setting, with dramatic architecture announcing the city’s role as the seat of government. Scratch the surface, though, and you’ll find the cobbled streets, 18th-century townhouses and beautiful palaces, as well as more art with the Gemeentemuseum and the Royal Picture Gallery (home to the iconic ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’) leading the pack. 

Other smaller towns are well worth exploring. There’s the ancient university town of Leiden, and Delft with its quaint canals, picturesque bridges and collection of convents, monasteries and attractive churches. In the historical centre, the main square is the largest in the country.

Amersfoort is a little-known gem with its own canal network (take a boat ride, it’s a great way to see the town and get your bearings!) that threads through the huge, elegant squares, under the tall clock tower and past the old city walls.

Family days out

Duinrell Theme Park at Wassenaar is a campsite with an amazing theme park and aqua complex on the doorstep. If you like the idea of roller coasters for all ages, splash rides and state of the art attractions just a stroll from your campsite pitch, this is for you.

Madurodam - Near The Hague, this collection of miniature buildings showcases some of Holland’s most famous landmarks in intricate 1:25 scale detail.

Efteling Theme Park - Long established, this is one of Europe’s largest theme parks. With a fantasy theme, it is divided into four fairy tale ‘kingdoms’ where you’ll discover attractions for all ages: rides, spooky castles, dragons, roller coasters and the Baron 1898 which plunges 37 metres free fall into a mine shaft at 90 km per hour. Probably one for the true fans.

Sea Life Scheveningen - Always a family favourite, with turtles, sharks, rays and more, all clearly seen swimming above your head in the underwater walk-through tunnel.

Getting to the Netherlands

Ferries run to Holland daily from various UK ports: Newcastle-Amsterdam, Hull-Rotterdam and Harwich-Hook of Holland. These are operated by Stena Line, P&O Ferries and DFDS. Overnight options, while more expensive, are popular, allowing you to arrive refreshed and ready for the onward journey. Another option, of course, is a shorter, cheaper Dover-Calais crossing, followed by a drive up round Bruges and past Antwerp. 

Dutch cuisine

The gastronomic delights of the Netherlands are, perhaps, something of a well-kept secret. With influences from around the world, reflecting both their global trading heritage and past days of empire, there are always delicious surprises. 
Popular dishes include Indonesian-based saté (chicken or pork with spicy peanut sauce) and Surinamese roti (a variation on curry and flatbread). More traditional Dutch dishes might include bitterballen (almost a bar snack, fried meatballs dipped in mustard), snert (thick pea soup), stamppot (potato mashed with vegetables and topped with cheese) and – the fast food favourite – frikandel, a long, spicy sausage usually served with fries. Pickled herring is an iconic dish, served in a multitude of ways, with bread, onions and pickles.