Oostvaardersplassen

The new wildernesss

The most famous nature area in 'New Land' is the Oostvaardersplassen, a vast expanse of some 6,000 hectares that's situated directly between the cities of Almere and Lelystad. A visit to this reservation – calling it a park really doesn't do it justice – feels like going on a wild safari, meaning you can truly lose yourself in the environment. Whether you head out on foot, by bike or with a car, you can experience the vast diversity of flora and fauna that inspired the smash hit nature documentary De Nieuwe Wildernis ('The New Wilderness') in 2013. Almere and Lelystad quickly drop out of view, leaving you to immerse yourself in the sounds, smells and sights of the natural wilderness.

Roaming wildlife

There are countless bird species that stop off here on their migratory routes in spring and autumn, as well as those that stick around the entire year. Grab your binoculars and encounter fantastic wetland species such as spoonbills, egrets, cormorants, bitterns and even the sea eagle. The inland part of the reservation is drier and home to large grazers like Heck cattle, Konik's horses and thousands of red deer. These animals roam wild but are often easy to spot due to their size. Catching a glimpse of foxes and other small mammals is also a rewarding treat but can require much more patience and perseverance.

Finding your way

There are two primary visitor centres. Natuurbelevingcentrum de Oostvaarders (Oostvaardersbosplaats 1, Almere) is a relatively easy walk or bike ride from the Almere Oostvaarders train station. As well as its viewing platforms with fitted binoculars and a cosy café, there are trails around the western edge of the reservation, also leading into the Kotterbos forest. The other centre is Buitencentrum Oostvaardersplassen (Kitweg 1, Lelystad), which is probably best accessed by bike or car – it's a 9 km cycle from the Lelystad Centrum train station. Once you've made it, it's a fantastic jump-off point into the heart of the reservation, offering  in-depth information about walking and cycling routes, guided tours, exhibitions, a film hall, viewing platforms overlooking the area and a café where you can refuel.

Make the most of Oostvaardersplassen with a guided tour. No matter what time of year there are photo safaris, walking tours and excursions about specific species that are hosted by the reservation's rangers. There's plenty going on every weekend for all ages. Check out the list of upcoming activities (only in Dutch). Be sure to wear appropriate outdoor footwear and weather-appropriate clothes.


Natuurpark Lelystad

Nature and wildlife

Established in the 1970s, just to the south-east of Lelystad, this impressive nature park isn't quite as wild as Oostvaardersplassen but is still a fantastic location for a long forest stroll that's suitable for all ages. There's 371 hectares to explore here and the chance to spot European bison, Przewalski’s horses, otters, wild boar – a surprisingly fun highlight, as they can often be seen charging across the forest floor in family herds ­– and other European grazers.

The species here are confined to penned areas, not left to roam wild. But by no means is Natuurpark Lelystad a traditional zoo. The pens are sprawling and it can still be a challenge to catch sight of everything without some patience. While there are plenty of wheelchair accessible trails, there are also some forest paths. If you're planning a proper wander it's worth considering wellies or other walking gear as the ground can get a bit boggy.

The park's visitor centre is open daily (Vlotgrasweg 11, Lelystad). If you don't have a bike, get there via bus 148, which operates between Lelystad and Harderwijk, or take the car (the park itself is free but parking isn't).

Natuurpark Lelystad CC BY-ND 2.0 Johan Wieland via Flickr

Het Vroege Vogelbos

Family forest farm

Translated as the 'Early Bird Forest', this park in Almere is a friendly and fun option for families – especially those with very young kids. Part forest, part farm, it's not quite a journey into the wilds but it always promises a calming day out. The 1 km and 2 km walking routes make for a lovely stroll with plenty to see. And there are longer cycle routes around and out of the park if you want to explore Almere's countryside and forests further.

Over the past few years the park has become a notable sheep pasture, home to some 200 Romney sheep – although some may be dispersed to sites around the city in order to gobble up the problematic giant hogweed. The volume of sheep in the herd makes for an especially lively time during the spring lambing season, and the herd is certainly thriving here. The park is also transforming into a centre for wool and education thanks to the launch of the Almeerse Wolunie (Almere Wool Union) initiative. Much of the wool produced from these sheep is sold on site – as well as products made from it – and there are regular wool workshops for young and old. The wool shop is open here every Sunday from 13:00 till 16:00.

Het Vroege Vogelbos (Muiderweg 8, Almere) is situated between Almere and Almere Haven – a 10-minute bike ride from the Almere Centrum train station or take bus line 1.

For more things to do in New Land, check out 8 reasons to explore the New land area.