The Netherlands’ hidden holiday gems

If an exotic foreign holiday is a bit beyond your budget this year and you’re still digging around for something closer to home, then look no further: Esther O’Toole has dug up some hidden treasures for you.

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Feather Down
Get unwired and back in touch with a simpler way of living. Feather Down (in Dutch, Het BoerenBed) has a variety of working farm locations geared up for guests who still want comfort when they’re in the great outdoors. If you like to ‘rough it’ in style then this is a great stop.

The children can help fetch water and firewood for your stove and enjoy the novelty of sleeping in a cupboard bed or looking after animals, while you can still be assured of a great tent that doesn’t leak, a comfy bed and a hospitable welcome. Special horse riding locations also available. From €455 for a weekend tent stay.

De Vreemde Vogel
If you’re looking for something really quirky then De Vreemde Vogel has lots to offer.  It’s in Vlaardingen between Rotterdam and the beach at Hoek van Holland, so a good place from which to explore the surrounding area. From treehouses to olde gypsy wagons, sleeping in a reclaimed aircraft or a giant birdhouse, they pride themselves on variety and comfort. Prices vary, starting from about €155 for a weekend stay, but all general information and contact details in English can be found at the above address.

Stortemelk
If you’re looking for a real getaway how about Vlieland? Tucked in behind the dunes on this protected Wadden island is Stortemelk. It offers a variety of accommodation including small attractive cottages and different types of camping, e.g. family and teen areas.

One thing they don’t cater for is camper vans, because you can’t take any vehicles onto the island at all. For a real ‘get back to nature’ feel this is a beautiful, untouched and remote spot.  Look at the site for details of how to book the ferry from Harlingen to the island and how to hire a ‘baggage car’ to go on to Stortemelk itself. Prices vary but tent hires start at €630 for a week in the school holiday season.

Luxury and Romance

Dutchen Holiday Parks
Dutchen promise unusual holiday homes, in small numbers, located at beautiful spots throughout the country; complete with all luxury mod cons, including options such as a sauna or Jacuzzi.

For example, Weideduyn has up-to-date luxury eco-cottages, lots of space from your neighbours and a beautiful beach; Vlindervallei is in the middle of the Veluwe woods, outdoorsy yet complete with spa and wellness facilities; at Baayvillas, on the border between Groningen and Friesland, there are large houses with lots of amenities for sea and sailing enthusiasts overlooking the sea off the Lauwersmeer National Park.

Though their website is only available in Dutch and German at the moment all customer service workers speak English and can help you book. Prices upwards from €460 a week. Ask for details of where last minute discounts can be had.

De Verrekijker
If you want to,  you can sleep in a windmill. You can’t get much more ‘Nederlands’ than that. Beautiful and atmospheric mills can be hired for private holidays, such as this one near Gelderland, one of many good quality holiday homes to be found on Belvilla. Prices for the Verrekijker start from €943 Friday to Friday. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you.

Castles from Bilderberg Hotels
Who doesn’t want to sleep in a castle? Honestly, who? At least once, let loose your inner Romantic or sweep someone else away with a special castle B&B such as these from Bilderberg Hotels located near Utrecht, Venlo and Maastricht. From €94 per person per night.

Tugboat Willem
If you’re over 18 years old and a water lover you could opt for an unusual stay for 1-2 people on Tugboat Willem; an original 1930’s working boat now transformed into a lovely bed and breakfast. Moored at Zoutkamp near the village of De Marne, you will get a truly personalised trip. If you have special access needs, do check whether this is suitable for you. As a sailing ship, it won’t be able to accommodate wheelchair users unfortunately. Upwards from €80 per person per night, for a stay of 1-7 nights, including breakfast.

Budget

Camping Zeeburg, Amsterdam
In high season, hotel prices in the capital may price out many families and students, so why not try an alternative city break at Camping Zeeburg? Located in the old harbour area to the east of Amsterdam, Camping Zeeburg offers you the chance to camp out in the city. Be it overlooking the water in your own tent or camper van or in one of their brightly coloured gypsy style ‘wagonettes’ or ‘eco-cabins’.

Good amenities include fresh baguettes/croissants daily and free wifi across the whole site.  They’re located a short distance from tram 26 which takes you into Amsterdam centre in about ten minutes. Prices start at €25 a night for a three person tent spot, €105 a night for a 3-4 person wagonette, to €115 a night for a four person eco-cabin, in high season.

Cube Houses, Rotterdam
Another alternative city stay can now be had in the famous Cube Houses in Rotterdam which have been made into a Stay Ok Hostel; a great location from which to explore the city.  From €24.30 per night for a bed in mixed-sex shared rooms.

Cycling Tours
You’re in the Netherlands so get on your bike. All sorts of bike tour holidays, including biking between hotels, family biking and short breaks are available to suit every pocket.

All the information you could possibly need about cycling in the Netherlands can be found at Nederland Fietsland, the site of the official Dutch organisation for recreational cycling (Nederlands Fietsplatform). It includes maps, where you can hire bikes and a variety of  information on reputable tour operators.