Waddenland is the name of a northern part in The Netherlands in the province Groningen. The beauty of this area is the Wadden Sea. Plus the old farmland with charming ancient villages built on man made hills as a protection from the floods.
DailyGreenspiration was invited by the local tourist board to discover the natural beauty of this land. We went for some sailing and cycling. And for: spectacular mudflat hiking and sandbank yoga… Plus: good local food.
The Wadden Sea was declared UNESCO World Heritage in 2009. It is a true unique biologic ecosystem, which can only be found on the Dutch/German/Danish North Sea coast. The tides rotate every six hours, ensuring the landscape is in a permanent state of flux. There’s an extensive system of natural channels and ‘dry’ sandbanks that change their forms all the time; it is a dynamic and restless landscape…
The extended tidal area, the salt marshes and the stretches of mudflats beyond the dikes is a renowned foraging place for millions of marsh and water fowl during their migration. It also provides a clear and impressive demonstration of how flora and fauna constantly adapt to transient landscapes, where salt and fresh water mix. It is a habitat for more than 10,000 different plants and animals.
One of the spectacular outdoor activities one can do here, is mudflat hiking (wadlopen in Dutch). It is actually a kind of a bucket list thing for Dutch people.
As I had never been mudflat hiking, and it was one of my ‘outdoor desires’, I was very excited to join in on this walk.
The beauty of mudflat hiking is that you walk in a kind of 360 degree landscape. Everywhere you look around, you see air, sky and clouds, hovering above muddy grounds. There’s two far horizons: behind you there’s the dike, in front of you the sea; far away ‘stripes’.
On beforehand we were asked to take some high shoes with tight laces. I bought some cheap fake All-Stars lookalikes, which was a very, very good idea. One: they stay on your feet (a normal rain boot will suck in the mud as you walk along) and two: after two washes they still are dirty. No worries, as I was not much attached to them 🙂
There’s all kind of edible plants to be found:
- Artemisia maritimum (sea wormwood)
- Salicornia europaea (glasswort)
- Halimione portulacoides (sea purslane)
- ‘Sea salad’ (green algue)
And: shrimps, crabs, oysters and cockles.
Plus mussles, seastars, hermit crabs, flatfish…
Walking on mudflats is walking IN mud lots of times. And not just mud, it is a kind of black, greasy stuff. Than there’s some water channels you need to cross. For me this meant FUN. I love to wade, to splash, to struggle a bit, with the wind in my hair. I adore tasting the salty air and smell the silty mud. Mudflat hiking is an outdoor activity for people with a good condition that quite like a different challenge.
We made our walk with two experienced guides – they follow a training of four years – who carry a long stick that comes in handy when they have to drag someone out water or mud.
Walk along with my video:
Yoga on a sandbank
Engelsmansplaat is a sandbank in front of the island Schiermonnikoog. This reef is one of the higher sands in the Wadden area, which only floods during heavy storms, there’s even dunes with helm grass. It is actually a desert island, that is of great importance as a resting ground for dozens of birds and hundreds of seals.
We went here by boat from Lauwersoog. It stops close to the coast, the skipper puts out a ladder and you have to climb down on your bare feet with your yoga pants coiled, to wade through the water to the beach.
I exercise yoga for years now, but this was an experience I will not forget and I wish I lived nearby, so I could join frequently. What a treat! Imagine: doing some mindful stretching under the sun, on the sand, with only the sound of wind and an occasional screaming seagull.
Totally zen I walked to the boat and levitated the ladder.
Wow. What an experience. Would like to do this every week!
Sailing and cycling
A thousand years ago, the Waddenland was a fierce landscape where the mighty sea was dominating. With calm weather the sea was a source of fertile clay and good sea food. With harsh and stormy weather it became an enemy that could destroy all that man had been building.
That is why the first inhabitants made hills to built there settlements. Those still are clearly recognisable now and form pretty old villages with charming houses, little streets, churches and windmills.
The Reitdiep waterway, formed partly by canals and in other places meandering like a natural river, transverses the Waddenland.
Take a soothing boat trip (the engine is electric) of 20 minutes with the ferry Reitdiepveer from Aduarderzijl to Schaphalsterzijl (or return). Only 12 persons go on the boat, so take a number to get in line 🙂
The old villages of Garnwerd, Feerwerd and Ezinge and the hamlet of Electra mark the area’s southern boundary.
Of course there’s sea food on the menu over here!
One of the best fish food places of The Netherlands is located in Lauwersoog, in ‘t Ailand. It’s a true harbour warehouse, so not a fancy ‘restaurant’, from the owners and fisherman’s couple Jan en Barbara Geertsema. With a view on the mighty Wadden sea, you eat what has come from the salty waters just that day. It is delicious!
Starter: cockles, mussels, shrimp.
Main course: fresh baked mackerel, codfish, plaice, served with home made fries and a salad with East Indian Cherry flowers and fried seaweed with sesame seeds. Nomnom…
Good to know: the family Geertsema fishes in a sustainable way.
The harbour and Barbara from ‘t Ailand.
- In Garnwerd, Café Hammingh is the oldest ‘living room cafe’ in The Netherlands: it looks like home, it is like home. Taste the local mustard soup with or without bacon flakes.
- Taste the local beer – we tried the delicious spelt beer – from city brewery Brouwerij Groninger.
- The biological cheese from the farm Kleikracht is very appetizing.
Information about Waddenland
The Waddenland region stretches from the village of Lauwersoog in the northwest to Noordpolderzijl – Netherlands’ smallest seaport beyond the dikes in the northeast. The Wadden Sea forms the natural northern border.
- Want to go for a short or long distance mudflat hike? Click here for a direct link page, or go to Wadlopen.com to see more. Access to Engelsmanplaat is exclusively by boat or via an organized mudflat hike tour.
- Want to experience yoga in the harbour of Lauwersoog or at the sandbank? Click here to see when and where the yoga teacher from Meer Cafe is organising her lovely lessons.
- For a bike tour in Waddenland you can choose your way by the so called ‘bike number network’ (fietsknooppunten in Dutch). A described route is the Bikeroute Reitdiep with the boat trip along the Reitdiep waterway (52 kilometers). See this Dutch website for more info and a map.
- The historical lifeboat Gebroeders Luden takes you on longer sailing trips from the harbour of Lauwersoog, for example on a seal watch, the yoga trip I did or other Wadden Sea excursions.
- A short boat trip with the Reitdiepveer is possible from April till the end of October, look for the time table on the website, because departure times vary per month.
- For staying the night you can choose from all kind of accommodations. Some addresses: the very comfortable B&B with tremendous breakfast d’Olle Pastorie from Marten and Irene Japenga in Vierhuizen, hotel and restaurant De Oude Smidse in Westernieland (specialty: flat iron steak – sucadebiefstuk) and the small hotel and campsite Marenland in Winsum.
- To recognise which sea bird is making all the noise, download the free Waddenvogel app for Android and Iphone.
- For recent news and updates visit the social media from the tourist board on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
More DailyGreenspiration in Waddenland
Visit the special DailyGreenspiration Waddenland Pinboard