The De Slufter mudflats on Texel. Photo: DutchNews.nl

If you thought island hopping was something to do in Greece, think again. A tour of the five Dutch Wadden Sea islands is a great way to appreciate them in all their glory.

Dutch schoolchildren learn the names and order of the Wadden Islands, at the edge of the wildlife-rich Wadden Sea, using the TV Tas (or TV bag) clue for Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog.

The islands, with their long sandy beaches, their wide open spaces, their unusual museums and their maritime history, are a popular place for a weekend, or even a summer vacation. Most people go from one to the other, but it is possible, with a bit of effort, to visit all five without returning to the mainland.

If you can’t part with your car, this isn’t the trip for you. For starters, most of the ferries you will use are not equipped for vehicles and non-resident cars are not allowed on Schiermonnikoog at all. Check times carefully and book in advance, especially if you plan to bring your own bike with you. Also be aware that tides and weather may cause changes in services.

From Helder to Texel

Blow cobwebs on a windy beach. Photo: Sandra Koot

Head to Den Helder and the ferry port, which is close to the train station. The ferry departs every hour off peak and every 30 minutes in high season. You can reserve tickets if you want to be sure you have a seat.

Boasting 24km of beaches and easily accessible by ferry from Den Helder, Texel is also famous for its lamb. Year-round, visitors can cycle around the island, soaking up nature and stopping at one of the seven villages to refuel.

Getting blown by the wind in winter on Texel

From Texel to Vlieland

Take the De Vriendschap (the Friendship) ferry from De Cocksdorp near the North Cape beach pavilion to Vlieland. You will arrive at the largest sand area in Western Europe, where you will be picked up by a special beach bus and taken to the nearby cafe and hotel, Posthuys. From there you can continue by public transport or by bicycle.

Vlieland is smaller, less densely populated than neighboring islands and attracts visitors with its serenity and nature, its extensive network of cycle paths and the promise of 20% more sunny days than the mainland.

Terschelling Museum is housed in former naval officers’ homes

From Vlieland to Terschelling

From Vlieland take the fast ferry from the main port. The trip takes about 30 minutes. Check timetables and book here.

With around 20,000 tourist beds, Terschelling is the largest and most visited of the Wadden Islands. Head west from West Terschelling’s main town center to experience unspoiled nature and long white-sand beaches. In June, the island hosts the 10-day Oerol Festival, attracting many visitors to the artistic and theatrical performances that take place across the island.

The island of Terschelling in the Wadden Sea

From Terschelling to Ameland

There are a few services between Terschelling and Ameland, but they only operate in high season. Ferries Zeehond and Ameland departs from the port twice a day and on some weekdays you can also make the crossing in the Willem Jacob or the Minerva, a pair of heritage clippers – which takes seven hours. If you make the afternoon trip, you will sleep on board when you arrive.

Ameland is home to a human population of around 3,500 people, around 60 types of birds and many species of flora. In 1871, attempts were made to build a sea wall between the island and the mainland. The 8.7 km seawall lacked durability and was destroyed by storms the following year, leaving visible remains at low tide.

Exploring the coasts of Ameland

From Ameland to Schiermonnikoog

During the high season, the Robbenboot can also take you and your bike from Ameland to the last inhabited Wadden island, Schiermonnikoog. The ferry departs from the port of Nes and takes around 2.5 hours.

The island’s name translates to “Island of Gray Monks”, in reference to the original owners who were forced to cede the island during the Dutch Reformation. schiermonnikoog This was followed by 500 years of invasion, occupation and severe storm damage – until the island was made a national park in 1989.

A beach bar on the island of Schiermonnikoog. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Escape to Schiermonnikoog

Go home

Take a bus to the ferry from the main town, which is about four kilometers away. You’ll know when it’s time to leave when the queues start, but don’t worry, all the buses on the island make the trip. The ferry arrives in Lauwersoog after a two to two and a half hour crossing, depending on the tides, where you will take the bus to Groningen and then the train back home.

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