Exploring the lesser-known beaches of the Netherlands
Updated: Jul 23
As you could have read in my previous blogs: 11 Instagrammable spots of NL, Glamping in Overijssel, and Ultimate Leiden citytrip staycation, I love my homeland the Netherlands, also known to most foreigners as Holland, and consider it one of the most unique and diverse countries of Western Europe, regardless its limited country size.
The Dutch have always been a travel hungry, and generally cosmopolitan people! However now that the corona virus is still lurking around I feel that many are still hesitant to travel and therefore prefer to explore more of their own country instead this summer, like myself.
Rediscovering the Netherlands
I decided to plan mostly road trips in and around the Netherlands this summer to be more flexible and stay safe. As well as support local tourism and entrepreneurs by revisiting and discovering many new spots in my homeland, instead of traveling abroad, like I used to 10-12 times a year.
The past few weeks I’ve been on short and overnight trips througout the Netherlands, but I also love staycations near my home in The Hague.
As an area I know very well already, I underestimated it, but as it turns out there were still many hidden gems to discover just around the corner as well!
Exploring my own backyard
2 weeks ago I explored my ‘own backyard’ more thoroughly on a unique combination trip through StreekvanVerrassingen.nl to Wassenaar, just 16 kms away, including a royal castle stay. Along with a classy overnight stay in Noordwijk aan Zee, and a visit to Katwijk aan Zee, 2 lesser known seaside resorts in Zuid-Holland, 25-30 kms from my home.
Because I live right next to Kijkduin and Westduinpark I usually go there to enjoy the dunes and beach clubs. But there’s much more to choose from, just a short drive away.
Lesser-known beaches of Zuid-Holland
As mentioned before, many foreigners actually don't know that the whole west side of the Netherlands lays directly on the North Sea, with beautiful dune areas and many wide beaches.
In this blog I will highlight a few lesser-known beach spots which we tested, and can highly recommend because of their great vibe, space, tranquility and unique offering.
The beaches of Zeeland, Scheveningen, Zandvoort and Bloemendaal are in general better-known to most, but therefore can get more crowded as well.
That’s why I prefer the lesser-known beaches in the south, as they also have spacious and quiet stretches of sand, with a big variety of beach clubs to match your taste.
Ultimate beach - village staycation itinerary
For the ultimate combination of unique beaches, hip, yet relaxing beach clubs, and a tranquil, cultural, and classy village vibe I would recommend the following staycation itinerary:
Day 1: Noordwijk aan Zee
Just 30 kms from Amsterdam Airport you'll be surrounded by rugged dunes, miles of flower fields, beautiful woodlands, and 13 kms of sandy beaches in the ‘Dunes and Bulb region’ around Noordwijk.
This buzzing town by the sea was founded around 1200 as a fishing village and first became a seaside resort in 1866. During these times days at the beach became a fashionable activity for the elite, many built country houses in the dunes, and hotels and catering establishments started up, with Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin being the first hotel.
People believed sea water to have a cleansing effect and spa treatments played an important role back then. By the end of the 19th century tulips, daffodils and many other flowers were grown here, and nowadays the Noordwijk bulb area covers a total of 311 acres.
This unique combination of beach and flower fields turned Noordwijk into a popular destination for tourists for centuries and made it the: 'floral seaside resort of Europe'.
Where to stay?
One of the most historic and iconic places to stay in Noordwijk by the beach is:
Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin 5*
The prestigious 5 star hotel is located just 150 meters from the beach and their own beach club with private access, nothing less than impressive. We had a delicious lunch here, but chose to stay overnight at the neighboring, equally beautiful hotel:
Radisson Blu Palace Hotel Noordwijk
This royal hotel resembles a palace with its unique architecture and impressive appearance. Currently owned by the Radisson Blu Group, and although it has 1 star less, it actually has all the facilities and amenities to deserve 5 stars!
Our premium room offered plenty of space and had all the modern facilities you might need, with a huge private balcony and 2 outdoor lounge chairs to relax and enjoy the view over the quaint village of Noordwijk.
The Palace hotel has 115 rooms and 5 suites, an underground parking, 13 meeting rooms, an in-house restaurant, atmospheric Dunes Lounge & Bar, a Fitness Club and relaxing Palace wellnesscenter, with several treatments to choose from.
We had one of the best couple massages here and really enjoyed the Aqua Center with sauna, Turkish steam bath and compact jetstream pool, perfect to wind down after a windy beach day!
Get an impression through this gallery, and click on the pics to see full size:
And find out more on: Palace Hotel Noordwijk.
What to do & where to eat?
Exploring the town center and boulevard of Noordwijk is perfect for some authentic shopping and beautiful sights like this:
But the long and wide beach offers much beauty as well, and plenty of beach clubs to choose from. With many to match every one’s taste, these 2 were my favourite so far:
Breakers Beach House of Huis ter Duin
This classy place felt so cozy and has an unmatched allure. We had lunch inside, because of the fickle weather that day, but they have many outdoor seating options as well, including daybeds on the beach. And a delicious menu with some of the best (sea)food in town.
Get an impression in this gallery:
For more info go to: BreakersBeachHouse.
Another nearby option for a whole different vibe is:
Beachclub C Noordwijk
This newly re-opened and re-decorated beach club will transport you to Bali or the South of France with its relaxed, yet stylish vibe, unique décor, combination of cute umbrellas, stunning interior and some of the best Mediterranean oriented food and sushi I had in a while! Get a small taste here:
And for more info go to: BeachclubCNoordwijk.
Day 2: Katwijk aan Zee
This small seaside town is located next to Noordwijk, also facing the North Sea, just northwest of Leiden and 16 kms from The Hague. It has 4 kms of award-winning beaches with many beach pavilions, built up in between March and October.
The artworks along the 2 km long walking boulevard and buzzing shopping street Zeezijde (Sea Side) just behind it, make Katwijk attractive, yet with a laid-back atmosphere.
Although less vibrant, we found Katwijk more quaint, and less commercial than Noordwijk, with the boulevard still unspoiled by large hotels or apartment blocks.
The boulevard has direct access to a big underground parking with several access points, and the Zeezijde shopping street offers quaint terraces and cute shops, unique for Katwijk. One of my favourite shops here was:
See for yourself why:
And do check their web shop, as they have everything you need to style yourself, your home and your children all at once😊
And of course on the beach of Katwijk there are plenty of beach clubs to choose from as well! We tested a nice one at the beginning of the boulevard:
A relaxing spot with great vibe, beautiful interior, nice outside lounge area and very good food! Find out more at: SandCBar.
Day 3: Wassenaar
The village of Wassenaar has a rich history of noblemen, castles and country houses. Because of the location by the sea, combined with the proximity to big cities like Leiden and The Hague, it was popular among the rich and noble to have a country estate here between the late 19th and early 20th century.
This is still visible in the many unique houses, impressive estates and beautiful setting.
Where to stay and eat?
Although we go there quite often, as it's just 10 minutes from our home, we had never stayed overnight. But for our staycation in Wassenaar I immediately knew that this castle hotel was something I had to experience.
Castle Hotel: Kasteel De Wittenburg
The building dates back to 1899, built for the noble Speelman family as a summer estate. Nowadays a monument and opened to the public since 1963 as an exclusive private club for many years. However currently in use as an event-, wedding-, and hotel location with just 10 exclusive hotel rooms, including 2 suites.
Get an impression through this gallery:
All historic details are carefully kept intact throughout the building, with each room designed and decorated differently with traditional furniture, but also all the modern facilities and comfort you can wish for. The bridal suite even has a private sauna and whirlpool!
With the building’s stunning facades, high ceiling rooms, welcoming ambiance and lovely estate with tranquil garden, outside terrace and big pond, it’s no wonder that this location has been used for many prestigious events, concerts and weddings.
However an overnight stay at Kasteel de Wittenburg is also highly recommended, especially combined with dinner at the in-house restaurant Sophie.
The restaurant's interior is welcoming and classy with a unique blend of French and Asian décor, also reflected in the menu. This special flavour combination truly made our meal an experience.
We had a 3 course dinner of the chef with excellent wine-pairing. The restaurant manager was very welcoming, entertaining and extremely passionate about wines, which made all the difference! An exceptional night out, as you can see here:
Find out more on their website and book your stay and dinner directly for more benefits: Kasteel de Wittenburg
Culture & Nature
Wassenaar is a green village with plenty cycling or hiking routes. But also something special for culture lovers, as it's home to 2 unique museums: Voorlinden, a modern and contemporary art museum with a beautifully landscaped estate.
And a private museum of historic cars, carriages and motorcycles:
Showcasing some of the first cars in history and with the largest collection in the world of cars from 1910 or older, this museum is a must for true car fanatics and history lovers.
Privately owned by the Louwman family, who built up a collection of more than 275 cars assembled since 1934 by 2 generations.
These cars are displayed in a unique building of 10,000 m² exhibition space spread out over 3 floors, creating a special ambiance, which makes each visit even more memorable. Slide to see for yourself:
And find out more at: LouwmanMuseum.
Meijendel nature area
When in Wassenaar a visit to the dunes of Meijendel should not be missed either. In this beautiful area, part of the Hollandse Duinen National Park, you can walk and cycle for hours.
Meijendel is rich with flora and fauna and very diverse, with several walking trails to choose from varying from 1,5 to 4,5 kms, which can be downloaded for free on: Dunea.nl/routes.
It’s free to park at Boerderij (Farm) Meijendel, where you can also have lunch, or coffee on the outdoor terrace.
From here all paths will lead you through this unique nature area with wide sand dunes, a monkey forest for the kids, high viewpoints, forests and infiltration ponds, even going all the way up to the beach. See for yourself here:
And find more information on: Dunea.nl/Meijendel.
What do you think of these authentic seaside towns and lesser-known beaches of the Netherlands? Did you know them already and would you consider them for your next visit to my homeland or a short staycation?
I hope I could inspire your next Holland getaway!