There are some stunning expanses of nature to be found just a short venture from Rotterdam. Boasting everything from sand dunes, forests and lakes, these beauty spots contain a large variety of flora and fauna to discover. There are 20 national parks of the Netherlands dotted across the country, so wherever you stay, there are plenty of idyllic settings to choose from. Here are just a few of the most popular.
Drunen National Park (Dunes of Loon)
The 30 square kilometres of sand dunes within the Drunen National Park make it the largest sand drift area in western Europe, earning it the nickname of the Brabant Sahara. The ever-changing landscape makes for a fascinating place to explore on foot or by bike, and is ideal for budding photographers who will find beauty in its shifting sands.
Bordered by pine forest, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the area’s varied wildlife. As well as multiple species of tuneful songbirds, visitors have spotted roe deer and even the odd badger. A walking tour is therefore recommended, and there are ample bridle paths and mountain bike trails across the site just waiting to be explored.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
Located under an hour’s drive from Utrecht, the Hoge Veluwe National Park contains more than 13,000 acres of forests, marshland, heaths, lakes and ponds. The best way to explore this extensive park is on one of the free-of-charge bicycles, so traverse the winding cycle paths through the sun-speckled forests and heather-flecked wetland, and look out for red deer along the way.
To see more of the area’s wildlife, embark on a safari tour to discover the best spots for seeing wild hogs and mouflons (horned sheep) up close. There are also dedicated observation posts dotted around the park to guarantee you the best view. For art fans, the Kröller-Müller Museum is a must. Located deep in the forest, it holds the largest private collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world and boasts a stunning sculpture garden.
Zuid – Kennemerland National Park
To the west of Amsterdam, bordering the coastal town of Zandvoort, you’ll find one of the most beautiful national parks of the Netherlands. Made up of dunes and beaches, this exceptional park stretches out over nearly 4,000 acres and is home to flourishing fauna like thorns, elderberry and sea holly.
Highlights of the park include the three estates of Duinvliet, Elswout and Middenduin, which all boast picturesque landscape gardens, perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch. Originally a haven for Amsterdam’s wealthy holidaymakers back in the 17th century, today the local wildlife is its greatest attraction. There’s now an abundance of rabbits, foxes, squirrels and even Shetland ponies roaming the verdant park.
Veluwezoom National Park
The oldest national park in the Netherlands, Veluwezoom is famed for its panoramic views from the top of the Posbank. The 90-metre high hill offers a spectacular vista across the reserve, with sights up to 20km away visible on a clear day.
The park is also home to a large red deer population, and lucky visitors can witness their courtship season during September and October, as the males let out a unique roaring sound to impress the females. Guided hikes are a must to get the most out of this area and information can be obtained at the Visitors’ Centre.
If this has inspired you to visit one of the national parks of the Netherlands, book your Hull to Rotterdam crossing today.