Holiday Review: Hidden corner of Holland perfect for weekend getaway
WAVES lap at the shore as I lounge on the dunes of a sun-kissed beach, watching sailing boats drift in and out of the tranquil harbour. You’d be forgiven for thinking I’m enjoying a luxurious, mid-August break in the Caribbean. In fact, it’s May - and I’m in Holland.
The majestic Dutch province of Zeeland - just a ferry ride from Harwich - consists of a number of idyllic islands which lie to the south-west of the country.
With unspoilt, non-mainstream holidays becoming increasingly hard to find, this corner of Holland is a real discovery.
It boasts the sort of windswept beaches that are splashed all over holiday brochures - but it’s more than just a retreat to the coast. It’s got the history, watersport and cuisine to make a long weekend getaway truly memorable.
My own jaunt began with the overnight ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Prices are reasonable and StenaLine’s “rail and sail” option means the convenience is striking. There is no early-morning scramble to the airport and the comfortable cabins allow you to drift off to sleep and wake up in Holland.
My trip started with a bang - or a splash - at Brouwersdam Watersports Centre. Located 500 metres from the North Sea, the centre is a haven for all sorts of watersport with private sailing lessons and overnight accommodation available.
The fantastic restaurant backs onto the sort of beautiful beach which you might normally associate with a more traditionally exotic location.
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But the real draw is the watersport. The centre is a windsurfer’s paradise, with all the equipment and advice you could possibly need readily available.
Perhaps the most exciting attraction - as I found out - is a towering water slide, which sends you hurtling into the bay by ramping you high into the air.
While my normal policy is to avoid activities which require the use of an “impact vest”, at around �10 for an hour’s sliding this is truly unmissable for anyone who likes a bit of adrenaline.
The fantastic combination of beach relaxation and watersport makes a visit to the centre essential. Although you might need a bit of Dutch courage for the slide.
It’s got the beaches and the activities but Holland is also about history.
In 1953, more than 1800 people died as the North Sea flooded Zeeland and surrounding areas. One of the most memorable sites in the country is the Dutch response to this tragedy - the Delta Works.
The story of how the Dutch conquered the sea is told at an exhibition at Delta Park Neeltje Jans. The Delta Works - an incredible combination of dams, locks and barriers - is a masterpiece of construction and must be seen to be believed.
Its success in shortening the Dutch coastline and preventing any further flooding earned it a place as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. Entry to the Delta Park is priced at around �18.
Visitors should make sure to pencil in time for a boat-trip to one of the luxury marinas which are scattered across Zeeland.
One notable marina is the environmentally-friendly Bruinisse, which boasts more than 800 boats in its incredible harbour. Its luxury standards make it an awe-inspiring place to look around.
After just a weekend in Holland it is clear to see how important boating and watersport is to the Dutch. As the marina’s Project Manager Henk Gravestein said: “People who have boats have lots of friends. I have lots of friends with boats.”
Another must on the holiday agenda is a visit to Biesbosch National Park. Spanning 9,000 hectares, the Biesbosch is a fascinating area of natural beauty, wetland and wildlife.
Boat trips through the park are available and holiday breaks themselves can be spent camping at the nearby marina.
The sights of Holland should not be underestimated and a trip to the historic city of Veere embodies the country’s culture.
A guided tour will give you an in-depth view of some of the most famous buildings in Holland - from the stunning Town Hall to the tower where William of Orange held his wedding breakfast.
As all good weekend breaks should, mine concluded on the beach. While the phrase power kiting might conjure images of being suspended in mid-air at the mercy of relentless wind, the reality is much different.
It is one of a series of beach activities that can be enjoyed by young and old and once you’ve got the hang of it you won’t want to put the kite down.
There are a host of fantastic places to stay while island-hopping in Zeeland but few can be as good as the Hotel de Zeeuwse Stromen in Renesse, which provides the comfortable facilities needed to seal a relaxing weekend break.
Eating out will see you spoilt with a wide array of fresh seafood and Dutch delicacies. Zeeland is full of fantastic places to eat with restaurant Helder, in Renesse, leading the way.
More than anything, three days in this stunning corner of Holland leaves you with a lasting impression of overwhelming calm. Nobody is in a rush.
Zeeland’s thrilling activities, tranquil beaches and seldom acknowledged history mean it’s far more than just windmills and tulips.
It’s the perfect destination for a weekend of pure peace - with the odd hair-raising water slide thrown in to keep you on your toes.