If anyone in western central Europe really well and truly knows the North Sea, its ‘moods’ and its coasts as well as its waves and deluges, it is no doubt the Dutch. They have been mastering the sea for the last many centuries to the point where they know it inside and out, even having wrested land out of the its grasp. Intrepid seaman have researched and detailed its nuances in their cartography, and the daring courage of the Dutch paired with their love of discovery led them to their own colonial empire, to which today Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten still belong and are “special municipalities” or autonomous parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. At home, however, the subtle and technically perfect dikes, dams, polders, and salt marshes of the countrywide Zuiderzeewerk system – especially important around the Ijsselmeer in Flevoland and in Kroon (Wering Sea) in the province North Holland – are the benchmark of the effective domestic landscape architecture that has made the country what it is.
Huge areas have been reclaimed through drainage and made possible to settle on. Originally the draining was planned for a different province, more specifically for a polder with the proposed name “Markerwaard” where today the Marker Sea exists, in order to protect Amsterdam against possible heavy storm tides. Instead, it was limited due to the costs, in order to keep the sea and the local recreation areas in tact, and to protect the “Houtribdijk”/”Markerwaarddijk” dam between Lelystad and Enkhuizen. This now serves as a major road connection between North Holland, Flevoland and Glederland. Water is highly respected in the Netherlands, but not feared. Instead, the Dutch use it in ways that strategically, wisely, and safely, in terms of protection, benefit them in the long run. They also go for using it to gain profit, if it so allows. Above all, people like to find fun in the wet element, and do so by fishing, swimming, wading, paddling, sailing, and surfing. Boats are in many areas more important for transport than cars, and yacht charters are available almost everywhere. Living on a houseboat in the Netherlands is less a sign of hard times in some cities and towns than in other countries, but rather a completely normal and widespread way of living.
Next to its previously mentioned largest waters and seas, the Netherlands also offers many more lakes and water sports of all kinds. The country is even referred to as being a sea itself, because of all the water the tiny nation contains. The Abcouder Sea, the nature and recreation area De Hoge Dijk, the Frisian Bergumer Sea that is know for its traditional sailing competition "Skûtsjesilen", the famous Bosbaan Olympia Rowing Course that has been reactivated for the 2014 Rowing World Championship in Amstelveen and Amsterdam, the Heegermeer, and the navigable Johan-Willem-Friso Canal, and the flooded gravel mining site at Maasgouw, Leudal, and Roermond in the Limburg province. With 3000 hectares, the site is the largest water sports area in the Netherlands and has more than 20 marinas. You can even surf on Gaasperplas Lake in the Zuidoost section of Amsterdam, though of course not quite at the speeds as on the North Sea. In turn, the thirteen Reeuwijkse Plassen (lakes) lie close to the city Gouda in the South Holland province. Their total area is estimated to be a generous 735 hectares, and is used as a central sailing area. The Tjeukemeer, between the provinces Friesland and Overijssel, the Versem Lake and Zeeland province as well as the shore towns Veere and Vrouwenpolder, is increasingly marketed towards tourists and will be deepen for the passage of sailors. The lake is used primarily for windsurfing and sailing. Lake Zuidlaard, sometimes called Wolfsbarge, in the provinces Groningen and Drenthe is just one meter deep in the parts outside its sailing channels. The lake is, however, very popular, due in part to the many marinas and the large free time beach. The formerly open Bay of Lauwersmeer has been protected by dunes since the 1950s and today is protected as a national park in the two northern provinces Groningen and Friesland. Despite its national park status, people may drive sport boats on the deep areas of the lake. The embankments and wetlands, however, should not be entered due to nature conservation reasons.
The Veluwemeer south of Flevoland is a popular relaxation and vacation area in large part because of the recreational boating tours, especially to the Ijsselmeer. In addition, many of the more than 60 countrywide canals are open for leisure vehicles and sport boats to use. Some such canals include the Ems Canal between Groningen and Delfzijl, the Gent-Terneuzen Canal, the canal through Zuid-Beveland between Westerschelde and Oosterschelde, the Noordhollandsch Kanaal from Amsterdam to Den Helder, the North Sea Canal from the North Sea to the Ijsselmeer and the berths at Wohnbooten and the very popular Ringvaart des Haarlemmersmeerpolders. Find a route sggestion for the Ijsselmeer here. The Prinses-Margriet-Kanal from Lemmer to Groningen, the Schelde-Rhine Canal as a connection to Antwerp along with the Rhine-Maas Deltas, the Wilhelmina Canal in the Nordbrabant province, the Zuid-Willemsvaart canal as a connection from Maastricht and ‘s-Hertogenbosch and the Twentekanal between Zuphten and Amelo are popular waterways among house- and motorboat travelers. Through the Haren-Rütenbrock-Kanal and the Ems-Vecht-Kanal in western Lower Saxony in Germany, in the districts Grafschaft Bentheim and Emsland, there is also a direct connection to the Dutch canals.
The lakes and canals in the Netherlands are connected to each other, and also often with the always-close-by North Sea, whose 450-kilometer-long coast has nearly three-dozen venerable seaside resorts that practically line the shores. The largest of the resort towns is the Scheveningen district of Den Haag (the Hague), with the area of large dunes called Uilenbosch. Also well known and especially popular in the summer are Bergen aan Zee in Alkmaar, the port town Breskens in Zeeland with its marina, Cadzand-Bad on the border to Belgium and with its five-kilometer-long beach, and Callantsoog, which is the oldest nude beach in the Netherlands and has the highest sand dune in North Holland. De Koog on Texel is effectively the tourist center of the island, Westkapelle in Zeeland offers its fishing waters called Kreek, and Zandvoort in North Holland boasts its many restaurants, bars, and accommodations. Katwijk near Leiden on Prins Hendrikkanaal in South Holland is loved by tourists, especially German ones, and is a lively vacation town. Julianadorp is a part of Den Helder and is loved especially for its direct access to the waterways of North Holland. People have been going to swim in the waters of the seaside resort Domburg on the Walcheren peninsula in Zeeland since the early 19th century, as they have at the third largest resort in the Netherlands, Noordwijk. Renesse and Westerschowen are part of the Schouwen-Duiveland municipality in Zeeland. They are located on the sea, and are very popular for vacations and weekends away. Ouddorp and Vrouwenpolder, both on the island Goeree-Overflakkee, are popular surfing spots, and Zoutelande and Dishoek belong to the so-called Zeeland Riviera. In addition, Vlissingen is a hub of maritime transport, and also has a large marina.
Over 130 yachts and boats of various models and build years are available in the Netherlands to book with YACHTICO.com, the new platform for international boat charters. Prices per week start at about 250 euro and go up to around 4000 euro, but the majority of the boats are available for 1000 to 2000 euro for the same amount of time.