We’ve discovered some truly beautiful places during our travels around the world; from the stunning beaches and rainforests of Bali to the epic volcanoes and glaciers of Iceland. But, it wasn’t until we returned home to the Netherlands that we could fully appreciate the beauty within our own country by visiting some national parks.
What the Netherlands lacks in volcanoes and rainforests, it more than makes up for in woodlands, sand dunes, wetlands and much more. In fact, it’s home to 20 national parks in total, dotted throughout the country, stretching from the beaches and mud flats of the Wadden Islands, to the forests and rivers that form the German border.
We’ve spent a lot of time exploring our own country recently and would love to share what we found with you. So, check out our list of the 10 most beautiful national parks in the Netherlands.
Wondering when best to visit the Dutch National Parks? Check out our post “When is the best time to visit the Netherlands“.
10. Maasduinen National Park
Boasting the longest river dune belt in the Netherlands, Maasduinen National Park is located between the Maas River and the German border, in the North Limburg region. If I had to describe Massduinen in one word, it would have to be tranquility.
Even though it’s not the most remote part of the country, Maasduinen feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Gently rolling countryside, misty fens and wetlands surround you as you follow the slow meanderings of the river. First you pass through fragrant heather-covered heath lands, then into the forest and finally you find yourself wandering among the beautiful sand dunes and lakes the park is famous for.
A multitude of trails encourage cycling, hiking and even horse riding in the park. There are also a number of campsites, so you can enjoy the peaceful surroundings for a few days if you need an escape. Home to wildlife such as beavers, bats, lizards and toads, as well as stunning plant life throughout much of the year, keep your eyes peeled as you explore these stunning surroundings.
9. Schiermonnikoog National Park
Schiermonnikoog is one of the 5 Wadden Islands, just a 45-minute boat ride from the mainland. It’s famous for its tranquility and diverse landscapes that take in everything from sand dunes, tidal flats, forests, lakes and rolling hills. Schiermonnikoog is a bird lover’s paradise, with rare species such as bluethroats, cormorants, egrets and many more calling the island home.
Offering a different climate to the mainland, the sea and wind are generally stronger here, resulting in an ever-changing landscape that appears untouched. The diverse flora is also different to the mainland, and the island boasts several unique species of algae, grasses, mosses, flowers and even mushrooms. You can explore the area with a guide and one of the best things to do is take a hike over the tidal flats, crossing over the exposed seabed while the tide is out.
If you like visiting the Wadden Islands, you might also like this tour to explore Texel on an E-bike.
8. Oosterschelde National Park
Oosterschelde is the largest national park in the Netherlands, offering plenty for visitors to see and do throughout the year. The park boasts a landscape that transforms twice a day as the tide flows in and out. Around 8 billion litres of water fill the park each tidal cycle, creating a home for a wide array of sea creatures big and small.
When the tide is out, you’ll see huge expanses of mud flats, dunes and salt marshes, where hundreds of birds hunt for food. As the tide comes in, the area changes completely, and diving trips allow you to get up close and personal with an intriguing underwater world, home to lobsters, oysters, crabs and much more. Seals and Harbour Porpoises also frequently visit the park and can often be seen enjoying the sun and mud.
There are many hiking and cycling trails to explore around the water, and if you’re feeling brave, you can wade through the mud flats. Don’t forget your boots!
7. Veluwezoom National Park
The Netherlands isn’t exactly known for its hills. In fact, a large chunk of the country is below sea level! But in the Veuluwezoom you can work those leg muscles and climb the mighty Posbank, a whopping 90-metre climb that guarantees fantastic views over the region.
When the heather is in bloom, the rolling hills are covered in a purple haze that smells as stunning as it looks. As you explore, you’ll come across woodlands, country estates home to numerous historic country houses, heath lands and even sand drifts. Access to the numerous paths and trails is free, and you can explore on foot, horseback or bicycle.
Keep an eye out for local wildlife, which includes beautiful red deer and wild boar. One of the best times to visit is during deer mating season (September/October), when you’ll hear the stags roaring to impress the females.
6. Biesbosch National Park
Covering around 8,000 hectares, the Biesbosch is a unique freshwater delta made up of countless streams and small rivers. It’s one of the largest national parks in the Netherlands and the largest freshwater tidal area in Europe. As a result, there’s no shortage of water sports and activities for you to enjoy, such as sailing and fly-fishing.
There are several ways to explore the park, but our favorite is to rent a canoe and meander the various streams, choosing an idyllic spot to stop for a relaxing picnic in the sun. And, there are plenty of idyllic spots to choose from, including river islands and willow-flood forests. I grew up around this area, and spent many days exploring it as a kid, and later together with Kelly. Another great place to discover by kayak is the Kinderdijk, which is also in the area of the Biesbosch.
Hiking and cycling trails crisscross the park, and you can even explore it on horseback. Be on the lookout for wildlife such as beavers and sea eagles! If you’re planning to spend the night, look for the ‘hosts of the Biesbosch’, guesthouses and hotels in the area that hold the official Biesbosch quality mark.
5. Lauwersmeer National Park
Lauwersmeer was born when a dam was built in 1969 to protect residents of the area from potential flooding from the sea. As a result, the landscape was transformed, as fresh and saltwater mixed and formed an artificial lake. Nowadays, the park is characterized by grasslands, reed beds, forests, and expanses of open water.
However, it’s birds that have put Lauwersmeer on the map. The new landscape created a veritable haven for a huge variety of seabirds such as spoonbills, stilts, barnacle geese and even sea eagles. More than 100 species of birds have made their home in the park, making it a top choice for birdwatchers.
Besides bird watching, it’s also great for wind and kite surfing, sailing and cycling, with plenty of varied scenery to take in along the way. Flower lovers can explore the Orchid Route, which showcases the 11 types of orchids that grow in the park from May through September.
4. Groote Peel National Park
This stunning area offers a glimpse into the past. Before most of the country was cultivated and transformed into a habitable landscape, large swathes of the region were similar to De Groote Peel. A high moor area consisting of peat bogs, ponds, and marshes, the springy soil wasn’t ideal for building on or farming.
As a wetland, hiking in Groote Peel offers intriguing experiences, in which many of the paths use log paths or bridges to traverse the boggy surroundings. Breathe deep and take in the rich, earthy aromas as you gaze across the beautiful, heather-covered moors.
The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including deer, polecats, voles, snakes, toads, boar, weasels, and much more. However, it’s most famous for creating a habitat for more than 200 species of birds, making it great for birdwatchers. Keep an eye open for majestic cranes, yellowhammers, nightjars and many, many more.
3. Hoge Veluwe National Park
Hoge Veluwe is one of the largest parks in the country and was formerly a private hunting ground. As such, you can expect to come across numerous historical buildings, including the Kröller-Müller Museum, which boasts a sculpture garden as well as the second largest collection of Van Gogh works in the world. The iconic Jachthuis Sint Hubertus is also in the park, a former country residence turned museum, featuring stunning architecture.
In terms of landscapes, you can expect to cross through sand drifts, into heaths and grassland, and finally through forests. Along the way, you’ll meet an array of creatures big and small, including deer and woodpeckers, as well as numerous pretty plants.
One of the best things about Hoge Veluwe is that they provide free rental bikes for you to explore the lush landscapes on. We recently spent a couple of days cycling through the area and it is absolutely stunning!
2. Zuid Kennemerland National Park
Zuid Kennermerland is a landscape of rugged sand dunes that stretches along the west coast of the Netherlands, just 40-minutes from Amsterdam. As such, it’s one of the most popular places to escape the busy city and enjoy some fresh air and tranquility. There are a number of trails to explore either on horseback, hiking, or cycling.
Keep your eyes peeled for the herds of European Bison that call the region home. You can see them between September and March by following the 4km Bison Trail, or heading to the Bison Lookout Point. Alternatively, guided tours can be booked in advance for a more immersive experience.
As well as dunes, beaches, and bison, you can also discover a number of historic country estates along the eastern border of the park. Explore the luxurious gardens, complete with ponds and statues, and imagine living a life of luxury during the golden age of the Dutch economy.
1. Loonse en Drunense duinen
If you’ve ever seen photos of Loonse en Drunense duinen, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re looking at pictures of the Sahara desert rather than a Dutch national park. However, that’s exactly what Loonse en Drunense duinen is, a Dutch desert, located in the Noord-Brabant region.
Made up of 30 square kilometres of shifting sands, interspersed with pine forests and heather-rich heaths, the region is buzzing with wildlife. Home to badgers, deer, song birds and birds of prey, the area is also brimming with fascinating plants and trees.
Just like any other desert, temperatures can reach a toasty 40 degrees during the day, before plummeting to around freezing at night! It’s a fantastic place for mountain biking, horse riding, and hiking, with numerous trails taking in the most beautiful spots along the way.
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Thank you for reading through this article. I hope you enjoyed the information and wish you lots of fun visiting these beautiful national parks of the Netherlands. Let us know in the comments below which one you would love to visit most and why.