The Wadden Islands are located in the North Sea, separated from the Dutch, German and Danish coasts by the Wadden Sea. The five Dutch Wadden Islands are located north of Northern Netherlands (the provinces of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe) and North Holland (Noord Holland). These Dutch gems are just five of the total of 55 islands belonging to the Wadden Islands group. Texel is the largest of these, followed by the Danish Rømø and the German Sylt. A handy ezelsbruggetje (mnemonic) for remembering the order of the Dutch Wadden Islands is TVTAS: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.
Of course, you will have to take a ferry to get to each of these islands, and there are some ferries which run between islands. Some of the islands are car-free, and you can bring your car on the ferry to the others. Like much of the Netherlands, traveling by bike is a great way to explore the islands. You can either bring your own bike or rent one at the many bike-rental shops once you arrive at your destination.
The largest of the inhabited islands, Texel is actually part of the province of Noord Holland. It is just a short 20-minute ferry ride from Den Helder. Meredith Mani, AWCA VP, has shared her go-to list of tips and recommendations.
You can drive your car on Texel. Book your ferry ticket from Den Helder to Texel in advance online to save time. If you include your license plate number, you can drive directly up to the boat. Your ticket is always a return ticket and is not checked when leaving Texel. You can drive right on to the boat for the trip home.
Things to see and do:
- Ecomare should be on your list. It’s a seal rescue where they try to keep the environment as natural as possible. Baby seals—need I say more?
- Go seal watching. My kids loved this! You can get a ticket on a boat out of Oudeschild. It’s an adorable city and has the freshest seafood you can imagine. A great stop for lunch.
- Walk the dunes. It's fun and you will feel like you have been transported back to Martha’s Vineyard in 1950.
- Go to the lighthouse (vuurtoren). The beach goes on forever and it’s a fun spot to walk and collect shells.
- Rent an e-bike! The wind on Texel can be fierce but it’s so much fun to bike the island. Plus, it’s a breeze on an e-bike. The VVV Texel website has a page of bike rental companies on the island.
- Go to the Maritiem- en Juttersmuseum Flora (Shipwreck and Beachcombing museum Flora). It’s wild and wonderful.
- Charter a boat with the Oyster Man. He takes you to his oyster flats and lets you rake them up and then eat them as you are thigh deep in the ocean.
- Texels Bierbrouwerij (Texel Beer Brewery): what's not to love?
- The War Cemetery in Den Burg is a sobering but worthwhile experience.
- Fort de Schans is a star-shaped fort to explore near Oudeschild.
- Texel Aviation and War museum (Luchtvaart- & Oorlogsmuseum Texel) is an interesting place. You will learn things like, during WWII, people dropped their children off in Texel because they knew the locals would care for them. While they were starving on the mainland, Texel was self-sufficient and could feed its people.
- Wezenspyk Texel is a fun and educational cheese farm located close to where the ferry docks. It offers tours and also has a farm shop and a cafe.
- The lambing season starts in March. You’ll see baby lambs everywhere.
- Check out the VVV office on Texel for other activities as well as accommodations.
Bring a cooler and lots of small change. There are great farm stores on the island to buy lamb. Texel lamb is famous and it is unbelievably good! The small change is because locals tend to sell veggies and potatoes from their front stoop. You will see this everywhere and trust me, you want a bag of these potatoes!!
Spar grocery stores have a local section. Texel is also famous for its beer and lavender. Spar will sell these much cheaper than the tourist traps.
Buy flower bulbs. The bulbs on Texel are fantastic and will produce for years.
Visit the old De Traanroeir mill (part of the Kaap Skil museum) and buy some local wheat flour. You can buy it at the gift shop if you don’t want to do the tour.
RUN to Het Kompas in Den Hoorn. A little old man and his wife run this restaurant and the food is fabulously authentic. The amazing thing is that the owner has been quietly amassing the largest collection of whiskey in Europe.
Bij Jef is a hotel with a terrific Michelin-starred restaurant in Den Hoorn. AWCA members had an excursion there a few years ago!
Places to stay, recommended by various AWCA members:
Hotel De 14 Sterren
Hotel De Lindeboom
De Smulpot Hotel and Restaurant
Bed & Breakfast Pastorie De Waal
Boutique Hotel Texel
Grand Hotel Opduin