National Parks in Holland

It’s the flat land of Europe, perched on the North Sea coast, nestled between the mountain stretches of the French Alps to the far south, and the German hill country of the Rhine lands to the east. Many would-be visitors take a look at Holland and think of liberal cities, where the dominance of an overtly hedonistic life is the major tourist pull, or of quaint post-imperial town façades, that punctuate the banks of relaxing, slow flowing canals. But, even in the absence of a reputation of a natural side that is common to many European countries - from the primeval forests of Poland’s eastern borders, to the sun baked sand stretches of the Costa Del Sol - Holland really can pack a punch (a pretty unique one too) when it comes to the more bucolic side of travel.

All in all, the country has a nice round 20 national parks. They punctuate the map of the nation in a hap hazard way, from the North Sea coastlines, to the German border, dotted in between wherever there’s nature of interest. Since 2011, as part of the country’s austerity package, control of the national parks was transferred to the departments of administration in each individual region of the country. Consequently, the future of the parks’ statuses are uncertain, but for now they remain examples of the finest natural beauties on offer in Holland – so they are definitely worth checking out.

The northernmost park in Holland is the Schiermonnikoog National Park, on the North Sea archipelago islands of the Friesland province. Hailed as the most beautiful island in Holland, these lowlands of grassy-backed beaches, long sand stretches, and shallow shores, are absolutely inundated with natural life. They are quite quiet, but a veritable hunting ground for bird watchers and nature lovers alike.

At the other end of the country, nestled between the Schouwen-Duiveland dykes and the Delta Works dams of the North Sea, is Holland’s largest national park: The Oosterschelde. Despite being one of the country’s newest nature reserve additions, the Oosterschelde Park was once the major estuary to the River Scheldt. It’s no longer functioning in that capacity, but remains a prime example of coastal Holland, with mudflats and salt-water meadows galore.

If you are more of an inland nature traveller then check out the Drentsche Aa National Park, where, in the autumn a rich blanket of red and mahogany leaves carpets the forest clad floors, and slow river ways meander through the green flats. This is a place to relax and unwind, a perfect escape for the city goers needing a break in nearby Groningen.

From pleasant grassy flatlands, we move to sprawling bog country, to De Weerribben-Wieden National Park, where the largest bog in Northern Europe stretches out in a designated area of over 100 square kilometres. There’s great sub-aquatic life to be seen here, from the long, sun specked Northern Pike fish, to the elegant and, one could say typically Dutch, dam building otters. At the Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park, near to the city of the same name, the visitor can find the second largest forest in the Netherlands, and the area is also home to some of the country’s most interesting fauna; from the reptile bat, to the European badger. Since the park’s designation in 2003 a very many hiking and biking routes have been developed by administration, so it’s a great place to get outdoorsy too. In a country so famously flat, the effect of tides is evident not only on the coast, but also in areas with a large fresh water table or drainage basin.

In the De Biesbosch National Park, the meadowlands that line the multitudinous river ways that meander their way through the area and towards the sea are said to be one of Europe’s few fresh water tidal zones. Consequently the animal and plant life that flourishes here is largely unique, and there are loads of interesting animals and plants to observe from these tenuous river banks.

The De Maasduinen National Park in the province of Limburg in the deep Southwest of the country is a flat land of wind formed dunes, meadows and fields that stretch their way out towards the German border in the east, and Belgium to the west. This park is famous for its large population of reptilian species that flourish in the sandy dunes of the landscape, so there’s something of a unique natural makeup here.

These are just some of Holland’s national parks, areas where the natural beauty of this largely overlooked of ecotourism destinations really packs its punch. So, if you want to break the fast-paced rhythm of city travel, these are a viable and great option, which are totally worth a visit.