Between the city and the sea
All along the coast and behind the beach you’ll find the Zuid-Kennermerland National Park. Miles and miles of uninterrupted wilderness forming lakes, forests and hills, and an important part of the Dutch landscape. As about a third of the country lies below sea level, the dunes form a crucial barrier against the occasionally wild and rising North Sea.
Walking, cycling and swimming
The dunes don't just offer protection during storm surges, but also plenty of leisure opportunities. It’s here that you’ll find a wonderful network of well-maintained bike paths, with rolling hills that make for a more varied cycle and a contrast to the flatness of other parts of the Netherlands. Dotted throughout the national park are also beautiful freshwater lakes, which make for popular wild swimming spots in the summer. Het Wed and Oosterplas are two excellent examples, surrounded by sandy beaches and pine trees.
Wildlife and wilderness
Stretching from Zandvoort to IJmuiden in the north, the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is a vast area that will delight any explorer. It’s home to an array of colourful wildlife, including more than 100 species of bird, as well as deer and rabbits and even Highland cattle and European bison. Open from sunrise to sunset, the dunes offer walking and cycling routes, forested areas, lakes and ponds. It’s the perfect place for a day out with the family or to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Bunkers in the dunes
To the south of Zandvoort aan Zee you’ll find another nature reserve, the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen. Home to unique flora and fauna, the area is also home to bunkers that were used as defence lines during the Second World War. Take a walking tour to see these historical sites and you can also spot some of the native wildlife along the way, including foxes and roe deer. What’s more, the dunes also provide Amsterdam’s drinking water: water has been extracted here since 1853. After you’ve finished your walk, head to the neighbouring beaches to take a dip in the sea or enjoy a refreshing cocktail or two at one of the area's beach clubs.
Dutch Dunes: spectacular in any season
The dunes might not seem like the perfect place to spend a winter’s day, but there's lots of reasons that make braving the cold weather absolutely worth the effort. As well as abundant nature, including the chance to spot rare seabirds, there's nothing better than taking shelter in one of the area’s cosy cafes with some fresh stroopwafels and a warm chocolademelk (hot chocolate) after a long walk exploring the rugged, enchanting coastal landscapes.
How to get there
The dunes run for miles along the Dutch coastline, so getting there depends on which part of the national park you want to access, and how you are travelling.
It’s only a short 30-minute train ride to the dunes from Amsterdam. The sprinter services from Amsterdam Centraal go direct to Zandvoort aan Zee. From there it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the dunes. Or catching the train to Overveen or Santpoort Noord will drop you off right on the edge of the national park, from where you can hike, hire bikes, or make use of the excellent local bus services.
Many people cycle all the way from Amsterdam to the dunes, but if that sounds a bit too adventurous then a good option is to catch the train to Haarlem or Zandvoort and hire a bike from there with which to explore the national park.
From Haarlem station, an excellent network of local bus services run to various points within the dunes.
Travelling by car offers more flexibility. There are pay-and-display car parks dotted throughout the dunes and along the coast.
To make the most of your time exploring Amsterdam's surrounding areas, take advantage of the Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket, which offers unlimited travel on buses, trams, trains and metros in the Amsterdam Area for 24 hours for just €19.50, two days for €28.00, or three for €36.50.