The 43-kilometre cycling route around the Lauwersmeer lake – at the very top of Holland, bordering the provinces of Groningen and Friesland – is brimming with stunning fauna and flora. Its diverse wildlife makes it a nature lover’s paradise. The region came to be in 1969, when the Lauwers Sea was enclosed, separating it from the Wadden Sea. Today, the areas around it are teaming with their own unique culture, character and habitat. Discover the traditional fishing harbors of Zoutkamp and Lauwersoog, lose yourself in the nature areas of Marnewaard and Kollumerwaard, stop off in historic terp villages like Anjum, while sporting types can even partake in water sports in a visit to the nearby recreation parks.
- Make your own adventure by cycling your way around a 43-mile loop that’s filled with fauna and flora.
- See some of the most striking wildlife in Holland, from seals to birds of prey.
- Make a stop at the harbor of Lauwersoog to dine on fresh fish.
Depart from Zoutkamp
This historic fishing village of Zoutkamp is an ideal starting point for your explorations of the Lauwersmeer. Previously home to hordes of trawlers and shrimp boats, when the Lauwers Sea was enclosed in 1969, the main fishing port moved to Lauwersoog. Yet fishing culture holds strong here, and the town is still home to a vibrant harbor, framed by colorful wooden buildings. From Zoutkamp, follow the water northwards, traveling counter-clockwise around the lake.
Next, you’ll reach the edge of Marnewaard, another key draw of Lauwersmeer National Park. It’s a refuge for many of the route’s animals during the wet season, who seek shelter in the covered woods and groves, so you’re more than likely to run into something interesting. The area is particularly dense with rabbits and hares, and if you’re lucky, you might just spot a bird of prey on the hunt. This area is also home to a Royal Netherlands Army training range; the section is off limits when the shooting range is in use, but worry not, it’s always clearly indicated with signage.
One of the undoubted highlights of the route is the village of Lauwersoog itself. The area is a popular pit stop for cyclists, offering an inside look at one of Groningen’s most important fishing harbors. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to sample some of the area’s renowned fresh fish, and the brave can even give raw herring a try – it’s a quintessential Dutch favorite after all. There’s also Museum 't Fiskershúske, an open-air museum dedicated to area’s nautical history. And you simply can’t visit Lauwersoog without checking out the local harbor, which boasts truly remarkable vistas of the Wadden Sea and Wadden Islands. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is especially popular with seal watchers and mudflat hikers.
Here, cyclists can truly enjoy the natural splendor of Lauwersmeer National Park, which is teaming with swaying reed fields, dark woods and sandbanks, all home to some truly exceptional wildlife. Anyone can enjoy the area’s animals, which include deer, horses and cattle, but birders in particular are in for a treat, as the area around Lauwersoog is home to spoonbills, godwits, cormorants and a whole host of other avian varieties. Keen-eyed adventurers may even spot a white-tailed eagle, which is easily recognizable by its characteristic broad wings and eponymous wedge-shaped white tail.
Anjum & Oostmahorn
Continuing onwards, the historic town of Anjum is sure to leave a lasting impression. Dating back to AD 1000, it’s a beautiful example of the terp villages found in the region, built upon an artificial mound to protect it from flooding. Heading back towards the lake, the 16th-century harbor of Oostmahorn is steeped in history. Alternatively, those seeking an action-packed break from all the stunning nature and tranquility of Lauwersmeer will feel right at home at the recreation parks based here today. Situated lakeside, you can find an array of water sports and family attractions, including sailing, volleyball and swimming. Of course, the lake itself attracts groups of surfers, sailors and canoers all year-round.
After passing the Dokkumer Nieuwe Zijlen locks, which have been protecting Friesland from floods for centuries, on the southern side of the route you’ll reach Kollumerwaard, another sprawling nature area of grassland, marshes and reed fields. Just like the rest of the park, it’s peppered with geese, buzzards, falcons and more. But this area is known to have higher populations of Highland cattle and Konik horses, meaning there are many chances to stumble upon tranquil vistas of grazing wildlife. If you’re not in a hurry, be sure to step off the bike and take a few diversions on foot. In particular, the bird huts and viewing platforms will get you closer to the wildlife and offer new perspectives of the landscape.
Total distance: 43km
· Start and end point: Zoutkamp
· Zoutkamperril: towards junction 6
· Bird hut Jaap Deensgat: towards junction 6
· Ballastplaat: from junction 6 towards junction 5
· Lauwersoog: from junction 5 towards junction 4
· Spuisluizen: towards junction 4
· Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site: towards junction 4
· Bantpolder: from junction 4 towards junctions 45 then 46
· Anjum: from junction 46 towards junction 13
· Oostmahorn: towards junction 13
· Ezumazijl: from junction 13 towards junction 50
· Bird hut Sylkajút: from junction 50 towards junctions 83 then 85
· Dokkumer Nieuwe Zijlen: from junction 85 to junction 84
· Kollumerwaard: towards junction 85
· Former shooting terrain: towards junction 90
Editor's pick: There’s nothing better than spending the night surrounded by nature after a long day of cycling and sightseeing. So be like the Dutch and transform your Lauwersmeer cycling adventure into a Lauwersmeer camping trip. There’s an excellent selection of appropriate campsites around the Lauwersmeer National Park. And be sure to check out the nearby Hortus Haren, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Holland.