Nowhere has a phrase been turned around and used to its contrary for such a positive return than at the Ijsselmeer in the Netherlands. Embracing the motto “close up to win land” in a different manner – closing up waters to gain land instead of closing gates to protect what you have – the Dutch constructed the Zuiderzee Works, a system of dams and dikes, in 1932 and made the coastline of the 1100 square kilometer Ijsselmeer what it is today. Almost the entire Flevoland province in the southeast of the huge but shallow (only 5.5 meters at its deepest) Ijsselmeer was constructed after the Second World War. The final draining of the eastern area Oostelijk Flevoland occurred in 1957, and in the southern Zuidelijk Flevoland in 1968. Since then, the Ijsselmeer and the cities and municipalities on its shores (Makkum, Piaam, Gaast, Workum, Hindeloopen, Satvoren, Laaxum, Mirns, Lemmer, Urk and Lelystad in the east and Enkhuizen, Andijk, Wervershoof, Onderdijk, Medemblik and Den Oever in the west) have become some of the most popular destinations for sailing and water sports in the Netherlands. The area has been so popular among German tourists for decades that the freshwaters that were there before the Zuiderzee came to be were sometimes jokingly referred to as “the bath of North Rhine-Westphalia”, referring to a close by state in Germany. The 700 square kilometer and up to four meters deep Markerwaarddijk, built in 1976 between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, offers many ports and harbors to touring sailors. Some locations are at Almere, Amsterdam, Marken, Durgerdam, Monnikendam, Muiden, Volendam, Edam, Hoorn, Enkhuizen, and Lelystad. These are lovely destinations for sailboats, and some are great for houseboats, too. Yacht charter providers for all sorts of boat types are present in almost all of the towns listed.
Among the largest marinas and harbors on the Ijsselmeer are Waterland Jachthaven (‘yacht harbor’) in Monnickendamm with 230 berths, Seaball marina in Makkum in the Wûnseradiel regon with 600 places, Workumer Jachthaven with 200 spots, the Jachthaven Marina Den Oever with 200 berths, and the Jachthaven Bouswana with 100 spaces. There is also lots of room and modern facilities at Marina Stavoren Buitenhaven (200 spots), Stichting Jachthaven (150), Regatta Center Medemblik (200), Jachthaven Andijk (200), Jachthaven Enkhuizen (650), Jachthaven De Vrijheid B.V. in Warns (245), Jachthaven De Brekken (200), Jachthaven Friese Hoek (275), and Jachthaven Iselmar (300) in Lemmer. Jachthaven-Camping and Jachthaven Exploitatie Z.C. in Kapen (each with 170 spots), Jachthaven Ketelmeer Stichting Dronton (300) and the small but fine Jachthaven De Oude Zeug B.V. in Wieringwerf-Zuid with its 20 berths are also all recommended marinas. All skippers heading from Ijsselmeer, especially south-southwest with the main winds, are highly encouraged to keep track of the weather while they are at sea. The rising and lowering of the water, which also serves as a source of drinking water for the area, is also important to take into account. The levels can change up to 20 centimeters between the winter and summer. You should also keep an eye out for the red and white flags that mark the buoys where the shallow waters – just 1.5 meters deep – start. Black flags warn you of fishing nets that are in the water. The most famous regattas that happen in the region regularly include the Markol Cup in April, the 50 Mijls Doublehanded in April or May, the NRW Cup in May, the DYC Cup in May or June, the 24 Uurs Zeilrace in August, and the Köln Cup and Pott Regatta in September.
Numerous monuments, examples of historical architecture, and many museums make for lovely day trips around the Ijsselmeer area in the towns mentioned above. The Zuiderzee Museum in Enkhuizen is known throughout the region and already in 1984 won the title European Museum of the Year. It is set up in two parts – the Buitenmuseum (outside museum) and the Binnenmuseum (indoor museum). Fishing huts, a windmill, a church, a pharmacy, a school, a small handicraft business, and shops as well as a harbor and canals dating from the period 1700 to 1900 are some examples of historic and pleasant architecture to experience in the outdoor part of the museum. Inside an old warehouse from the 17th century, the museum’s interior collection consists of the whaling equipment that used to be used in the Zuiderzee and collections of farmers’ and fishermen’s old boats and tools. In the summer, actors play the roles of villagers doing old craftwork activities such as the manufacture of ropes and wooden shoes. Similarly authentic to the region are the many men’s choirs and the fishing village Urk, on the western side of the Noordoostpolders, which boasts the country’s highest birth rate. The island Shokland is also an important and interesting place to visit in the region. It played a special role as a place of refuge for the Dutch resistance during the German occupation during World War Two until 1945, and its polder landscape, which is enclosed with dikes, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The landscapes and the ruins of the local church are well worth seeing. North of Urk lies the small village of Rutten with its three sculptures and artworks, “Fleeing Waterfowl,” “Crow’s Foot,” and “Village Feeling.” The nature area Oostvaardersplassen in Almere, the culture and convention center De Meerpaal in Dronten, the Polder Museum (Nieuwland Erfgoedcentrum) and the Aviodrome Naval Air Museum in Lelystad are also worthwhile to visit.
The western shore of the Ijsselmeer is far more densely populated than its eastern coast. The province Nordhooland is home not only to the Dutch capital Amsterdam, but also the capital of the province, Haarlem, with its 150,000 inhabitants. It is also home to the oldest museum in the Netherlands, the Teylers Museum on the banks of the Spaarne river, which dates back to the 18th century. The city Alkmmaar, with a population just under 95,000, is also located on the western side of the Ijsselmeer. With its famous cheese market held every Friday since 1622, Alkmmaar is an easy daytrip from the port city of Hoorn in West Friesland. Kennemerland is another area nearby that has very nice vacationing options. Camping spots and two marinas accommodate travelers in the small town Andijk, a large vacation home development called Zomerpark (summer park) West-Frisia awaits visitors in Venhuizen, and in Heerhugowaard you will find the local holiday areas Geestmer Ambacht and Blaue Loper. The municipality Langedijk is known for its more than 120-year-old auction house and the Broeker Veiling Museum, where even still today auctions are held for agriculture and horticulture products, and the town Opmeer is home to the Scheringa Museum, which has a good reputation among art connoisseurs. Stede Broec is the venue for the annual Messe Westfriese Flora (West Frisian Flora Convention), for flowers and other gardening and horticultural products, held every year in February. In Wervershoof-Onderdijk you can visit the museum workshops of smiths, and in Schagen you can see a castle from the 15th century and the Grote Kerk (big church). The Waterland region is especially known for its heavily visited tourist areas, the Edam-Volendam municipality further north is of course known for its famous cheese (Edam), and in the small towns, tourists can see the traditional production of cheese at some farms.
Almost 70 sailboats and motorboats are currently available on the Ijsselmeer with the new platform for yacht charters, YACHTICO.com. You can reserve quickly and in just three clicks book a boat in the area, ranging in price from 500 to 3,000 euros per week. Half of all the boats, however, have a weekly price of 1,000-1,500 euros. Thanks to the shallow waters reaching between just two and 5.5 meters deep, sailing around the Ijsselmeer is perfectly suitable for beginner sailors. Experienced sailors can aim for a longer roundtrip cruise, such as from Lemmer via Makkum, Vlieland in the North Sea, Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Medemblik and back. A suggested itinerary for a sail around the Ijsselmeer can be found here.