Terschelling, one of the Netherlands’ five northern isles, makes the perfect getaway for a weekend break, whatever time of year.
Wide and seemingly endless sandy beaches make Terschelling an ideal place for a relaxing weekend break, where you can embrace nature and engage in “active relaxation”.
No cars, just bikes; no crowds, but beaches and seals; less Heineken, more “jutters” — jenever from the islands.
Terschelling is not large, only about 32km long and almost 5km wide, but has a large variety of landscapes. About 80 per cent of the island is national park, the remainder is taken up by small villages, roads and fields.
On the northern side, the beach is about 32km long and — depending on the tide — about 800m wide. It’s great in the summer for sunbathing, followed by a cool swim in the clear, but chilly water.
How to get there
Terschelling is easy to reach. From the Randstad you drive across the famous Afsluitdijk and reach Harlingen in about 90 minutes.
Alternatively, you can start your relaxation earlier by taking the train. It will add about an hour to your journey, as you will need to change at Leeuwarden.
Once in Harlingen, go to the very modern and efficient departure terminal at Rederij Doeksen and buy your tickets for the crossing.
If you want to bring your bike you need to take the slow boat, which takes about two hours and provides a great view over the Waddenzee from the top deck.
The Koegelwieck fast ferry gets you to Terschelling in 45 minutes. Avid sailors can make the crossing in their own boat and stay overnight at the fully equipped harbour.
Where to stay
The island has hotels, apartments, cottages and campsites, but it is best to book your accommodation in advance.
Beware — it gets busy with rowdy and sometimes obnoxious Dutch youngsters during the holiday season, which runs from June to September. Outside that period it’s fairly quite, so you need to book only a few days in advance.
You can relax in comfort at one of the four-star hotels, such as the Golden Tulip Schylge. Small, but family-run hotels provide more personal attention. There is even an NJHC hostel on the beachfront.
What to do
In spring, autumn and winter, the beach and dunes are ideal for horse riding, bird watching, mountain biking and walking. In case you need to boost your adrenaline, try kite flying, beach surfing or big game fishing.
Companies such as Wadventura organise these thrills. They also arrange “wadlopen”, a traditional event in these parts, when you walk from the mainland across to the islands at low tide. Only for the mud-loving fitness fanatics — but handy when you miss the boat.
Peace and tranquillity on Terschelling is traded twice a year when the cultural Oeral festival is staged and the rowing boat race take place.
The Oeral Festival is one of the largest cultural events in Holland — and attracts up to 45,000 visitors. The festival is usually held in June and the title refers to the never-ending change in nature and society. The island is the stage for 80 or so performances.
Even though Terschelling is up north, the sun shines twice as much as in the rest of the Netherlands, but there is more wind, which is so forceful that rain is often blown right over the area.
Winters are pretty mild, spring is bright, summer is sunny, but cooler than the mainland and autumn is gorgeous, when the beautiful warm colours enrich nature. To be on the safe side, bring some waterproofs and you’ll be fine.
Terschelling is just one of the five Dutch islands. From Texel to Schiermonnikoog, the isles stretch in an arc across the Waddenzee.
Each island has its own characteristics, but Texel is the largest and most populated island — it has beautiful beaches and hosts the world’s largest catamaran race in June.
Neighbouring Vlieland has more of a family atmosphere, while Ameland has quaint villages, but explodes with tourists during summer. Last, but not least, is Schiermonnikoog: small, but also much more quiet.