Dutch destinations: a weekend exploring the former island of Walcheren

The harbour in Veere. Photo: By Paul 14 via Wikimedia Commons
The harbour in Veere. Photo: By Paul 14 via Wikimedia Commons

Walcheren was once an island but a dam, several bridges and a lot of reclaimed land have put paid to that. Today, it is at the heart of Zeeland, with beaches, pretty villages to visit and plenty of things to see and do, whatever your age.

Beaches seem to be a key part of so many of DutchNews.nl’s destination guides – hardly surprising when you consider the length of the coastline, and how easy it is to get to from most of the country. Walcheren includes the resort of Zoutelande, immortalised by Zeeland band Blof, as well as Westkappelle, Domburg and Oostkapelle – all places where many a Dutch family has spend a holiday.

What do do

Visit the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg
The island’s capital, Middelburg can feel like stepping back in time, particularly if you are there on a quiet Sunday. The heart of the town is dominated by the former abbey complex, part of which dates back to the 15th century. The abbey is now home to the Zeeuws Museum which is a mixture of art and local history and well worth a visit. From there you can wander through quiet streets of pretty stone houses and enjoy lunch on one of the cafe terraces on the grand Markt, overlooked by its very impressive town hall.

Photo: DutchNews.nl

Explore Veere
Veere used to be open to the sea and its wealth stems from its position as a major port in the wool trade with Scotland back in the 15th century. The enormous church which dominates the surrounding countryside is testament to its monied past. The Schotse Huizen museum on the waterfront is well worth a visit and is twinned with the Veere museum now housed in the wonderfully Gothic town hall. Veere is also a good spot to watch the boats go by. You can pick up a 3.3 kilometre explorers’ walk of the village at either museum.

See Vlissingen in a flash
Vlissingen is home both Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter, scourge of the English, and to a busy port. Vlissingen is also an example of how to ruin a perfectly good waterfront and can be easily avoided, unless it is pouring with rain and you want to take the kids to the Arsenaal adventure playground, which describes itself as the biggest pirate park in the Netherlands.

A Zeeland beach in the sunshine. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Go to the beach
You cannot go to Zeeland without spending time on the beach and taking in lunch or a pre-dinner drink at one of the wooden beach pavilions spread along the coast. Avoid the beaches close to the big resorts and you may well have the sea all to yourself. The sun sets in the west so you may be lucky and get a fabulous sunset as well.

Ride a horse, rent a bike or go on a walk
Zeeland is flat so cycling is easy and because of its popularity with Dutch tourists, there are plenty of places to stop off and eat or have a coffee on the way, and plenty of places to rent a bike. There are also lots of signposted walks, including one which goes along the coast. If you are a horsey person, there are plenty of stables where you can ‘borrow’ a horse and follow the 19 kilometre Walcheren horse route, which takes in a good chunk of beach.

Where to eat
Unlike some parts of the Netherlands, where there is a paucity of places to eat, Zeeland is bubbling with cafes and restaurants, a number of which have Michelin recommendations. Local delicacies include Zeeuwse mussels, lobster and oysters.

Where to stay
We stayed at Hof aan Zee in the dunes at Dishoek, which is a small apartment complex in an old farmhouse on the edge of the dunes. The accommodation is basic but clean and functional but you don’t need to cook because the restaurant attached to the apartments is great. Breakfast was served at the table – do we hate buffet breakfasts – and dinner in the evening was local fresh food with a Scandinavian twist.

The Campveerse Toren. Photo: DutchNews.nl

We also recommend the Auberge De Campveerse Toren in Veere – built into part of the town walls. Veere can get very busy in the summer so be warned, but the hotel is atmospheric and romantic with a good restaurant.

How to get there
Vlissingen and Middelburg both have train stations if you want to use public transport but a car would be useful if you want to really explore the region, particularly outside the high season.

Anything else
When the sun comes out, Zeeland gets busy, so be warned.

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