Become a beach bum
Within just a half an hour by rail from Amsterdam Central Station, you can dig your toes into the sand at Zandvoort or Bloemendaal, two of the Netherlands’ favourite coastal towns. Bring the kids to build sandcastles while you lounge in the sun, or, for an adults-only experience, head to the nude beaches to get that all-over tan. Numerous beach clubs dot the shores, offering cosy terraces and laidback lounge areas for refreshing drinks and a bite to eat.
Get an adrenaline rush at IJmuiden
Those that want to do more than splash around should head to IJmuiden, another nearby beach destination. An hour’s journey from Amsterdam, IJmuiden is a hotspot for adrenaline junkies looking to catch the big waves—and some air! The beach is divided into zones for each type of sport—surfing, sailing, kitesurfing, stand-up paddling and more—to let you mingle with like-minded enthusiasts and give you room to show off. Out of the water, get your fill with blokarting or kite-buggying. Find out more about the wind water sports on offer at Amsterdam Beach.
Cycle along the coast to Marken
Instead of lounging around, get out and get active on your day trip out of Amsterdam. Hop on a bicycle and head to Durgerdam, a village just outside the city, to begin a breath-taking 15km route on Uitdammerdijk along the coast. Cross the Zeedijk, surrounded by water on both sides, to end the journey at Marken, one of the Netherlands’ most fascinating villages whose charming green wooden houses and old-timey atmosphere will transport you back to a simpler time.
Sail away on the open seas (or rivers)
There are perhaps just as many waterways as bike lanes in the Netherlands, so boats may rival bikes as the Dutchies' favourite mode of transport. Breathe the fresh sea air as you spend a whole day out on the water—and there’s not a lot of travel involved, as you can set sail straight from the centre of Amsterdam. Start out in the IJmeer and continue north towards Markermeer, stopping off at the picturesque fishing village Monnickendam for a bit of sightseeing, or sail the Amstel River as far as south as your boat can take you.
Head to historic Haarlem
Though it’s just 15 minutes away by rail, Haarlem is so packed with things to do and see that it can be more than just a day trip from Amsterdam. The small city is a treasure trove of historical and cultural gems, ranging from the impressive Grote Kerk to the Molen de Adriaan, a reconstructed windmill that looms large over the river. Do a bit of antique shopping on the famed Gouden Straatjes (Golden Streets), and finish off the day with a cruise around Haarlem’s canals before heading back to Amsterdam.
Get a history lesson at Muiden
Once part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, Muiden has all the elements for an epic historical sightseeing adventure. Just east of Amsterdam, Muiden boasts the Amsterdam Castle Muiderslot, a medieval castle that looks as though it jumped off the pages of a fairy tale—complete with a drawbridge and towers—as well as the 19th-century military defences at Muizenfort and West Battery. After a day of historical exploration, enjoy the sights of the bustling harbour at one of the quaint cafés on the water.
Take the plunge (and swim outdoors)
There’s nothing like floating in the water under the open sky, so pack up your bags, put on your bathing suit and take a trip to some of the Netherlands’ best lakes. Head south of Amsterdam to the Westeinderplassen in Aalsmeer, which features dozens of tiny islands to admire, or stop by the Loosdrechtse Plassen, a network of five lakes that’s a popular spot for picnicking and swimming. If they’re too crowded, you’re in luck—there are hundreds of lakes all throughout the Netherlands that promise secluded swimming and fabulous views.
Hop over to Pampus Island
In the middle of IJmeer lies Pampus Island, a man-made island built in the 19th century as part of the Defence Line of Amsterdam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Now that Amsterdam is no longer under threat of capture, Pampus Island—and the massive fort built on top of it—is open to visitors from April to November. Hop on the ferry from Muiden or Amsterdam IJburg (or sail your own boat!) to enjoy a 45-minute guided tour through the fort and lunch at the Pavilion.
Bike the Amstel
Cycling is one of the best ways to enjoy the city and the countryside in the summertime. From the centre of Amsterdam, follow the winding Amstel River straight to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, a village just 10km south of Amsterdam. All along the way, you’ll see some of the most well-known sights—the Skinny Bridge, for one—and little-known wonders, such as the 17th-century windmill Rierkermolen. While in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, spend some time at Ouderkerkplas, a recreational park in which you can swim, sail or just soak in the sun.
Connect with nature in Flevoland
Relax your body and calm your mind with a day trip to unique green oases just outside Amsterdam. At the Nationaal Park Nieuw Land, located east of Amsterdam, animal lovers will have the time of their lives observing the wildlife such as birds, deer, foxes and hares; the nearby Nature Park Lelystad is home to a number of animals as well, including otters, moose, bison and wild boars. Though both nature parks can be enjoyed on your own, the visitor’s centres organise activities such as photo safaris and guided walks to make the most of your time.