Vlieland: an island paradise without cars
Vlieland is the Dutch North Sea island which is located the furthest away from the mainland. There's only one village on this peaceful, almost car-free Wadden Island; Oost-Vlieland. The ferry harbor, good restaurants, a few hotels and B&B, and most of the main sights can be found here. Outside the village, you'll stumble upon a sweeping dune landscape, a long North Sea beach and an endless-seeming sandy area at the far west of the island, the Vliehors, which has been dubbed the 'Sahara of the north', and also acts as a military exercise area.
The heavily wooded island has a real attention-grabber on offer with the Vuurboetsduin. This is a 40 m high dune, with a lighthouse situated at its peak. The island is about 12 km long and no wider than 2 km.
Highlights of Vlieland
The highlights of the Wadden Island of Vlieland are as follows:
- Tromp's Huys Museum: exhibition about the history and the maritime past of Vlieland.
- Vliehors Express: a safari through the sand flats in a converted military truck.
- Seal watching: a boat tour on the Wadden Sea.
Vlieland & the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Vlieland is located in the Wadden Sea, which was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2009. Around 10,000 plant and animal species live in this special habitat, marked by ebb and flow. You'll encounter some of them - such as nightingales and bluethroats, bitterns and spoonbills - in Kroon's Polder, where sweet and salt water, dunes and forest collide. The restaurant hotel Posthuys, a wonderful destination for a cycling tour, is also located there! A mudflat hiking tour is also one of the highlights of Vlieland, and is offered by the De Noordwester information center, amongst others. Worth knowing: The Wadden Sea borders the south-east of the island, the North Sea borders the north-west. This is why you'll encounter fine sandy beaches and waves for surfing on the northern coast of the island.
Sightseeing and activities on the island of Vlieland:
- De Noordwester: this information center in the Dorpsstraat gives an insight into the history of the island, with a focus on its flora and fauna. The sea aquarium and the giant skeleton of a sperm whale are very interesting.
- The lighthouse of the island sits enthroned on a hill above the village, and is easy to reach from there on foot or by bicycle. The red tower, which is only 10 m high, can be visited.
- In the center of the sandy desert in the west of the island stands the 'Drenkelingenhuisje', a little house where castaways once found a refuge. Today, the Vliehors Express will take you to a wooden cabin, which is surrounded by flotsam and jetsam.
- One of the loveliest experiences in the Wadden Sea is a boat tour of the sandbanks, where seals snooze in the sunshine when the tide is low.
You can find a couple more tips here before you visit Vlieland. In the first week of September, a massive pop festival entitled 'Into The Great Wide Open' takes place, which is suitable for all ages. Another tip is to try the culinary specialty of the island: cranberries. Every meal imaginable is served with cranberries.
Getting to Vlieland
To get to Vlieland, take the ferry of the Doeksen ferry company from Harlingen; it'll bring you to the island in 95 minutes. However, you can also choose the express boat from Harlingen Harbor; if you go for this option, the crossing to Vlieland only takes 45 minutes. You can't take your car with you to Vlieland as the island is car-free, apart from a very small number of cars owned by residents of the island. You can leave it at one of the parking lots at Harlingen Harbor; the parking fees are from €7 per day. You can also get to the harbor at Harlingen by train. The Harlingen Harbor station is right next to the ferry terminal. On the island itself, we recommend hiring a bicycle.
If you're looking to visit Vlieland, take the two-hour ferry that departs from Harlingen. You can also opt for the express boat from Harlingen port to Vlieland, which takes a mere 45 minutes. Cars are not permitted on Vlieland. Please use one of the parking lots at Harlingen port. One full parking day costs approximately €5. You can also reach Harlingen port by train. The terminal is only a few minutes' walk from Harlingen station. We advise renting a bicycle when on the island.
Tip from the editor:
Go mudflat hiking and discover the seabed with salt marshes, mud fields and trenches. This is, of course, all done under guide supervision, who also points out all the interesting bits during the hike while keeping you safe! With a bit of luck you'll also be able to spot seals at play.