Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
Dunes and hinterland
Zuid-Kennemerland is a dune region of approximately 3,800 hectares and is home to very special flora and fauna. The area is also known as Kennemerduinen. The first row of dunes faces the full force of the elements and only marram grass is strong enough to withstand the strong sea winds and the drifting sand. Behind it begins a dune area with thorn bushes, elderberry and seashore false bindweed. In some places fresh water bubbles up and you mainly see parnassia, orchids and sea bindweed and, since water extraction stopped in 2003, wet dune valleys have re-emerged in some places.
Wildlife lovers are also in luck because the national park is the habitat for a wide variety of animals. You often see fallow and roe deer, squirrels, rabbits and foxes here and the open dune areas are home to Bos taurus cattle, Shetland ponies and Konik horses. These animals ensure that the park is maintained naturally. Since 2007, a herd of wisents (European bison) has been roaming part of the area. But beware; the animals are not used to people and can be dangerous, which is why they live in an enclosed area. Book an excursion with a forest ranger to the habitat of these impressive animals and you can admire them from an appropriate distance. Over 100 bird species and around 20 butterfly species also live in the dunes.
Country estates in Zuid-Kennemerland
Dotted around the outer edge of the park are four country estates that were built centuries ago by wealthy city-dwellers and are now managed by Staatsbosbeheer (the government forestry organisation). Duin and Kruidberg, Midden-Herenduin, Heerenduinen and Koningshof have beautiful, landscaped gardens and are of great cultural and historical value. The estates seamlessly blend into the landscape and are surrounded by vast forests, dunes and heathland. They offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings and discover the rich history of the region.
The Atlantic Wall bunkers and the Remembrance Cemetery are traces of a darker past. During the Second World War, the Germans built many bunkers in the dunes as part of their Atlantic Wall line of defence. The cemetery is the final resting place of more than 300 brave resistance fighters executed in the dunes by the Nazis.
Walking and cycling
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is the perfect place to go for anyone who enjoys hiking, cycling or horse riding. The area has several routes that allow you to explore the entire area. For example, walk along 't Wed, a natural lake that’s 250 metres wide and 200 metres long and is located between several dunes. Or hop on your bike and cycle along the bird lake in the heart of the nature reserve where you can watch birds in every season from the bird hide. Bridle paths also take you past several beautiful spots in the area. You can gallop along the beach or through the dunes. You can ride your own horse or go on a tour with a riding school. You’ll have a choice of short and long routes.
There’s no doubt that Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is a unique nature reserve with a diverse landscape. You’ll find dunes, beaches, forests, heaths and dune lakes and this combination of ecosystems creates a rich biodiversity with protected flora and fauna. The park is known for its active dune formation and houses a rich cultural heritage with historical buildings and country estates. Close to major urban areas such as iconic Amsterdam and the historic city of Haarlem, the park offers recreational opportunities such as hiking, cycling and bird watching. Zuid-Kennemerland is a special place where natural beauty, biodiversity and cultural history come together, a valuable destination for nature lovers and people looking for some fresh air and relaxation. You can even combine a visit to the national park with a beach holiday, as the area stretches from Zandvoort to Bloemendaal.