The Big Lake
Formerly the Zuiderzee – before being closed off from the sea by the construction of the Afsluitdijk causeway in 1932 – the Ijsselmeer, Markermeer and IJmeer now form an impressive lake which makes up the largest water mass in the Netherlands. The vast lake which extends northeast from Amsterdam is perfect for sailing, and there are numerous boat rentals and accompanied trips aboard catamarans, clippers and historic sailing ships available. After the grand voyage, make sure to stop in one of the smalltown harbours and fishing villages along the coastline to enjoy some fresh fish and waterside socialising.
Historic River Estates
The landscape along the banks of the winding River Vecht, just south of Amsterdam, remains marked by the grand country retreats of Amsterdam’s 17th-century merchants with their beautiful gardens, as well as impressive castles and fortifications. Taking a boat trip down the river allows you to properly take in the great views – plus there are countless spots to stop for a romantic stroll or have some refreshments in one of the many quality eateries and cafes along the way. And the charming town of Muiden is a must for boat lovers, with countless ships sailing into and out of the historic harbour. Read more about Amsterdam's historic river estates.
Amstel River Countryside
Amsterdam has a green oasis right on its doorstep, and the bucolic scenery to the south of Amsterdam is best explored on a boat trip down the River Amstel. For example, you could hire a boat in Uithoorn and then travel further south. Marvel at the glorious countryside, its swaying reeds, green meadows and wild flowers, and stop off in one of the picturesque historic villages, such as Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, which dates from the 12th century.
Connected by rivers, canals and small channels, these picturesque lakes just south of Amsterdam make for a fantastic getaway. Rent a sailing boat, motorboat or even a canoe to explore the lakes – experienced boaters will love the opportunity to navigate the network of narrow channels between the islands of the Westeinderplassen, while the open water of the Loosdrechtse Plassen is great for speedboats and waterskiing.
For those who like their boat trips a little bit more urban, Haarlem comes highly recommended. Winding its way through the historic town is the River Spaarne. Once the lifeblood of the city’s economy, the river is more peaceful nowadays, with sailing enthusiasts often taking to its waters. If you fancy getting involved in the waterborne action, join an organised cruise or hire a boat from the many companies operating in the area.