When we were young we, like many other backpackers, went island hopping in Greece. But it is also possible to do this on the Wadden Islands of the Netherlands. We were on all the Wadden Islands in over two weeks and had the time of our lives. It is one of the best trips we ever went on in this country. The order of the Wadden Islands from west to east is: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, Schiermonnikoog. Texel is by far the largest island with the most different activities and sights. Schiermonnikoog is the smallest municipality in the Netherlands. On election evenings, Schiermonnikoog is often the first to present the election results.
From Den Helder, you can reach Texel by boat in about 20 minutes. You can buy tickets online in advance. A ticket for a cyclist costs €5 including your bike, which is a return ticket, but you don’t use it if you continue to Vlieland. However, you cannot buy a single trip. You have plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself for a few days on Texel. The Slufter is an area of salt marshes enclosed by dunes and open to the North Sea. It is a beautiful walking area. Of course the beach is also great for walking. Cycling across the island is also fun. There are several nice cycling routes to do on the island.
Ecomare is the information centre for Wadden and North Sea. It is not only fun for children, but also very interesting for our generation. Museum Kaap Skil offers a good overview of life on, near and by the sea in ancient times. There is also a nice open-air area and the building has a very special design. Beer lovers will enjoy the guided tour and especially the beer tasting at the Texel Brewery. A “Skuumkoppe” tastes nice for everyone. Then there are the daredevils doing a tandem jump with a parachute, in which after a free fall of 30 seconds, you enjoy the silence and beautiful views.
We stayed with other people in a rented cottage called Blom & Co. Comfortable, which was quiet and very suitable for 6 people. It is located near De Cocksdorp.
Food and drinks
We can really recommend Hart van Texel. An enthusiastic couple lovingly prepare delicious dishes using local products. A small, intimate restaurant with a very personal touch.
Texel crossing to Vlieland
At De Cocksdorp, near the Cape North beach pavilion, the “De Vriendschap” boat departs regularly for Vlieland. You can do a day trip with a guided tour of Vlieland and then come back to Texel, but it is also possible to book a one-way trip with or without a bicycle. The boat sails to the deserted “De Vliehors” plain in about 20 minutes. Then the Vliehors Express will take you to hotel Posthuys. This is a nice hotel, where we enjoyed staying for a couple of nights. Lovely quiet, beautiful rooms and good food. It’s excellent accommodation for your time on Vlieland.
Then, all of a sudden, you’re in a totally different environment. Vlieland is much smaller than Texel and a lot quieter too, especially as no tourist cars are allowed on the island. Nonetheless you can still enjoy yourself on this island for a few days. If you like walking, you can enjoy the peace and quiet.
The “Sahara of the Wadden”, the Vliehors, is fully accessible at the weekend. During the week, a large part of it is used as a military training area and as such, it is strictly forbidden to go there. The Vliehors is an area where you can walk for hours without meeting anyone. On the way, you will see the former drowning house, which has now been converted into the Juttersmuseum (a shipwreck and beachcombing museum). It also serves as a very special wedding location. You can explore the area on a tour of the Vliehors Express too. If you see a verse on the beach, then you know that the Vliehors Express has gone past. A verse is impressed onto the tyres and you can read the print on the beach. There is a new poem on the tyres every year.
But Vlieland is also great for cycling. There are many cycle paths and the landscape is so varied. Pieces of forest, heathland and dunes let you enjoy nature. You end the trip in the only town on the island, called Oost-Vlieland. The Dorpsstraat is a pleasant street with many restaurants, terraces and shops and you will also find many historic buildings in Oost-Vlieland.
From Vlieland to Terschelling
From Vlieland to Terschelling (or the other way around) can be travelled by fast boat from Rederij Doeksen. It only sails during the summer timetable (mid-April-September) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. You can also take your bike. Bookings in advance are recommended for this. More information can be found on the Rederij Doeksen website. If the timetable does not match your itinerary, then there is no other option than to sail from Vlieland to Harlingen and then take a boat to Terschelling.
Cars are allowed here, which immediately gives a different feel to the island. Terschelling is known for its annual Oerol festival. This festival was held for the first time in 1981. In the meantime, Oerol has become one of the largest location theatre festivals in Europe. The runners among us can participate in the annual Berenloop. In fact, at the beginning of November there will be an opportunity to run the island marathon, though shorter distances are also possible (5, 10 and 21 km).
The total length of the beach is about 40 kilometres and the total length of the cycle paths is around 70 kilometres. So you can walk and cycle to your heart’s content. A walk on the beach to the valuable nature reserve Boschplaat is definitely worthwhile. This area is located on the eastern part of Terschelling, and is almost ten kilometres’ long. Various species of salt-loving plants grow there, such as sea lavender.
The Brandaris is the characteristic feature of Terschelling. This is the oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands and dates back to 1323. The current tower was built in 1594. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to climb the Brandaris. Naturally, you can also go mudflat hiking on Terschelling. Never do this on your own as it is life-threatening. There are several organisations that offer mudflat hikes. They propose different tours, varying in length and difficulty.
We found Strandhotel Terschelling to be top notch thanks to its location. From your room you have a view over the beach and the sea and in the restaurant too, where you can enjoy some great food. There is a relaxed atmosphere. The rooms are not super luxurious though, so you do share the bathroom with other guests. In any case, the location makes it all OK.
By boat from Terschelling to Ameland
There are two possibilities in high season to sail directly from Terschelling to Ameland. This can be with the Ameland Waddentravel or with the Seal ship. Unfortunately, it is unclear what the timetable is. Out of season in any case it is not possible. You would have to sail from Terschelling to Harlingen then cycle to Holwerd. In total, this is about 45 kilometres. From Holwerd you can take the boat to Ameland.
The island of Ameland was a delight for us. We liked the four cosy villages Nes, Hollum, Ballum and Buren, with nice shops and beautiful houses. The variety of landscape on the island was also great. You can easily explore the entire island by bike and see a lot of it on foot too. On the beach you can imagine you’re Robinson Crusoe, that’s how deserted it seems when you walk towards East Ameland. The highest dune on the island can be found here (the Oerdblinkert). You will also see rare plants, mushrooms and many birds and butterflies.
This part of the island has three subareas: ‘t Oerd, de Hon and the Kooioerdstuifdijkduinen. There is an enormous Spoonbill colony of thousands of birds here. At high tide they rest on the salt marshes and at low tide they find their food on the mudflats.
The KNMR, the Dutch Maritime Rescue Brigade, has its rescue facilities in the Ballumer Bend. The motor lifeboat is pulled into the water with the help of horses. This is a tourist attraction. In 1979, however, this went wrong and the horses were dragged into the water. They are buried in the dunes. A monument commemorates this tragic accident.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Ameland experienced a period of unprecedented prosperity through whaling. In the cemeteries, the special tombstones remind visitors of the commanders, the great captains of the whaling industry. The whale jaws still seen today as property partitions at various commander’s houses are also a reminder of that period.
Besides all that, you can do what is known as a tandem parachute jump on Ameland. We didn’t do it, but we can well imagine that the view would be amazing. Moreover, on Ameland you can enjoy the peace and quiet, the panoramic view, the Dutch skies and the beautiful dunes. It’s a place to relax.
Food and drinks
Het Witte Paard restaurant is an absolute must on Ameland.
Our B&B doesn’t seem to exist anymore, so we can’t make a recommendation from our own experience.
From Ameland to Schiermonnikoog
In high season it is possible to sail directly from Ameland to Schiermonnikoog in a few days. However, the timetable is not known at the moment. Check this page to see if the timetable has been published. Out of season it is not possible to make the crossing directly. In that case there is no other option than to take the boat to Holwerd and from there cycling to Lauwersoog. That’s a total of 23 kilometres’ biking.
The island of Schiermonnikoog has been a national park since the end of the 1980s. Many different bird species inhabit the island and breed here undisturbed. Schiermonnikoog is a real paradise for birdwatchers. There are even special excursions for novice birdwatchers. Peace seekers can also enjoy themselves here. The western part of the island has a good network of cycling and walking paths.
Further to the east, the island is becoming increasingly unspoilt. Nature can take its course and makes the vast landscape a beautiful sight. Beachcombing and shell finding are lovely activities on the wide beaches. You hardly meet anyone here at all. The small village is cosy though full of tourists in the summer months. Out of season it is very quiet on the island, you really come here for nature and tranquillity. The island hasn’t really got any other attractions.
If you’re staying at Schier, you should really spend the night in the oldest hotel on the island: Hotel Van der Werff. It seems as though time has stood still here. The holiday feeling begins when the old-fashioned bus is waiting for the guests at the ferry. It is a special place to eat out here too.