As you know by now I love islands, not only tropical ones, but Dutch ones as well, which I love to (re)visit. In the Netherlands we have several, in both the south and north.
5 unique Wadden islands are located at the top of my homeland, in the Wadden Sea, which has been declared a Unesco Heritage Site in 2009. This nature area has a unique biosphere and coastline, ever changing by the fluctating tides, giving it 2 faces!
The second biggest island of these 5 is Terschelling. 27 kms long and 5 kms wide, of which 50% protected nature reserve. Whether you like an authentic staycation in a private dune bungalow, a camping holiday amidst nature, a romantic weekend stay in a quaint boutique hotel with spa, or a homestay with locals. Terschelling has it all, combined with authentic hospitality, good food & that raw island atmosphere.
How to get there
You can take the ferry of Rederij Doeksen from Harlingen in Friesland. There are 2 different options that generally go 10 times a day. You can either take the normal ferry to Terschelling, which takes 110 minutes. Or the fast one, which will take 50 minutes.
The last option is a bit more expensive and it’s not possible to take your car with you, opposed to the normal one.
A few weeks ago I revisited Terschelling with a great group of photographers, to explore the island by bike, the more affordable option.
We parked our car at the ferry terminal in Harlingen and crossed over on foot. Upon arrival there are plenty of buses and bike rentals, making it easy to get around.
Photogenic spots & must do’s of Terschelling
In addition to stunning nature, the island has many sights to offer. The harbor is one of the most beautiful in Europe and there are several cute villages, great restaurants and impressive viewpoints to explore.
In this blog I will share a few of my recommendations, which will hopefully come in handy when exploring Terschelling yourself!
This top 6 is based, as always, on my own experiences with many of my own and some of my colleague's pics;
1. Renowned nature areas
The nicest thing about Terschelling, in my opinion, is the diversity in landscapes. As well as the island’s iconic dunes, sandbars and impressive coastline, as you can see here:
The east is formed by a nature reserve, covering half of the island. Protected since 1970, but still freely accessible and in most months you can even wander off the paths.
During breeding season, from 13 March-15 August, some parts of the Boschplaat are however closed to visitors and you have to stay on the paths. These will still lead you far into the reserve.
Here you can find many special plant species, oxes, deer, butterflies and a huge bird colony.
Staatsbosbeheer organizes excursions, but you can also hike through the reserve on your own. You can enter the Boschplaat from pole 19 and follow the paths to the end in about 1 hour, to return back over the beach.
TIP: There are no beachclubs in this nature area, so make sure to bring enough to drink and eat. Also in July and August there are dazen flies that sting, therefore wearing mosquito repellent with Deet is highly recommended when here in summer.
2. Cycling & hiking heaven
You can cycle from the far west to the east point of Terschelling in just a few hours.
Along the way you will pass by savannah-like landscapes, the next moment you will be surrounded by forests, to end up amongst high sanddunes, bordered by wide beaches and rugged nature areas with lakes and birdlife all around. Perfect to explore on foot or by bike!
We cycled all the way to the west of the island, to climb up the stairs to Seinpaalduin at sunset! Providing an amazing view over the west dunes, the port, Green beach and if you’re lucky, you can even see Vlieland in the distance.
Another stunning location and viewpoint to visit. We stayed in a bungalow park next to this tranquil nature area. Here you can easily hike to the dune lake of Hee and the much photographed tree at the top. From there you will get this spectacular view over the dunes of Terschelling, even more impressive at sunrise.
TIP: We rented E-bikes at Zeelen Fiets, located right in the harbor. An electric bike is very comfortable and no luxury with the strong winds that blow on the island year round.
3. Tranquil beaches
Terschelling's beaches are some of longest and widest in Europe. Up to 1 km wide at some points and 30 kms long in the north, generating that immediate island feeling! The coastline of the north is unique and iconic due to its huge sandbars, characteristic mudflats and big wildlife conservation area.
Staatsbosbeheer lets the dunes drift between pole 16 and pole 20, causing the dunes to change constantly, growing wider and in some places also higher.
A lesser known, yet very popular photography spot in Oosterend, placed in the middle of the wide beach of the Boschplaat nature reserve, is the shipwreck survivors house!
To get there you have to hike or cycle to pole 22.4, and walk 30 minutes over this stunning, yet usually very windy beach.
The current house is a replica from 2000, built on the old poles of the original house, dating back to 1863. Built after a shipwreck to give shelter to future shipwreck survivors.
TIP: You can also drive there by horse, bus or jeep tour over the beach. This last option is however only possible during certain months of the year.
Although small, Terschelling has no less than 6 beach pavillions. I personally really liked:
Located amidst the nature reserve, only accessible by horse, bike or on foot. This beach pavillion is laid-back, child friendly and authentic, with a big offering of seating- and chill options. See for yourself:
I have not been there yet, but this beach club should be great as well. Renowned for its 50’s and 60’s decor and music. Located right on the edge of the Boschplaat area, on the beach of Oosterend:
However, the south coast of Terschelling is just as interesting, with its changing tidal outlooks. On Green beach you will find this lovely place, after turning left from the harbor. It looks out upon ‘het Wad’ and is known to many:
4. Good (sea)food
Cranberries are one of the island’s specialties, as they grow in abundance throughout the dunes. They are used in many local dishes, tea, cakes, jams and liquors.
Also delicious and typical for Terschelling is the freshly caught North Sea fish. In the West Terschelling area, around the Brandaris lighthouse, you will find many restaurants serving fresh seafood.
We had lunch and dinner at 2 restaurants during our trip, which I can highly recommend:
Loods Lounge in West-Terschelling
Trendy with a diverse menu, nice atmosphere and great view over the port!
Onder de pannen in Midsland
This café-restaurant is known for its mussels, prepared in season in several ways. They also serve unique Terschellinger dishes, prepared with local ingredients and vegetables from their own garden!
We had a delicious local 3-course tasting menu here.
And Terschelling is also renowned for its oysters! We sampled fresh wild ones at:
De Oesterfabriek in West-Terschelling
Here you can order the freshest oysters to enjoy at home. Or come taste them in their restaurant Caracol, where they offer different oyster combinations with the perfect wine-pairing.
TIP: Go on an oyster excursion with them to forage fresh wild oysters directly on het Wad. Find more info on: De Oesterfabriek.nl
5. Quaint villages & shops
Although the island is not that big, it houses 16 villages in total! Hee, Hoorn, Midsland and West-Terschelling are the biggest, with the last 2 offering most shops and restaurants.
West is a must visit for its historic lighthouse the Brandaris, a symbol of the island for over 400 years. The oldest lighthouse in the Netherlands, dating back to 1594 and still in use.
With its 55 meters it towers over all rooftops, making it visible from many spots on the island.
TIP: Lokaal in West-Terschelling is THE shop for your souvenirs and local delicacies. You can also buy a delicious lunch bag here, to take along for a picnic on the beach or in the dunes nearby!
6. Unique accommodations
To truly experience Terschelling you should stay overnight in a unique island accommodation! We stayed for 2 nights in the dune bungalows of:
Holidaypark de Riesen
The Park's central location on the island, by the forest, dunes and near Midsland, is perfect. And the idyllic dune lake of Hee is located right across from it. This is the only swimming spot on the island with fresh water, ideal for swimming and paddling.
The Wadden Sea and North Sea beach are also closeby.
De Riesen has 52 dune bungalows, all with their own garden & garden set. Ours had 2 bedrooms and bathrooms, making it spacious, comfortable and convenient.
I have not stayed here myself yet, but it looks amazing. Puur offers 4 unique furnished 6 person dune tents, set right in the Boschplaat nature reserve. The tents are comfortable with real beds, a kitchen and panoramic skylights for stargazing.
We did do a Dark Sky Tour with them by horse cart at night. This tour takes you to the unique Dark Sky Park, where light pollution is minimal and you can still see the milky way. A very impressive experience!
TIP: To finalize your Terschelling trip even more uniquely, you can also stay overnight in a lighthouse in Harlingen, after taking the last boat back!
On Terschelling Site you can find even more tips and other unique accommodations catering to your own preferences and needs.
I hope I was able to bring across the uniqueness, diversity and beauty of Terschelling, to inspire your visit to the Netherlands.
Do let me know what you think here, or find me on social media, where I will share even more pictures of this quaint Dutch island.