Currently, I consider myself a “flâneuse” of cycling. I am no longer interested in longer cycling tours because I don’t enjoy cycling with others who are usually faster than me, and I am not good at reading maps. However, I still longed for a few days of easy cycling, preferably along the coast, using the sea as my guide. But I didn’t know where to go or how to make it happen. Bringing my own bike was definitely not appealing to me.
A friend who had visited the area as a child suggested Zeeland, a group of peninsulas located in the southwestern part of the Netherlands. As a cyclist who dislikes hills, it seemed like the ideal place to go – and it was.
I focused on Vlissingen, a city known for its port and beach activities in the Zeeland region. Prior to the building of a dam in 1871, it was situated on the island of Walcheren. It is conveniently located near a beautiful bicycle path that spans along the rugged coastline for several miles. I discovered that this path is part of the 610km Dutch Coastal Route, which starts in Sluis – a town on the Dutch-Belgian border – and ends in the university town of Groningen in the north.
I traveled on the Eurostar to Rotterdam and then took the Intercity train to Vlissingen, which is at the end of the line. From the small station, I took a bus to my Airbnb studio, Costa del Nolle, which is located in a peaceful suburb. I decided to stay there for three nights because it is close to the tranquil Westduin beach, a coastal path, and the ‘Nollebos’, a natural forest hidden behind the sand dunes. The entire trip took me less than six hours from St Pancras.
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Despite the fact that Tsarina and Richard, my kind hosts, offer bicycle rentals, I am an exception at 5’2″ in the land of tall people. Luckily, I was able to rent a Dutch-style bike with seven gears the following day. This bike was more suitable for my height and perfect for longer rides. The rental was from the friendly Vlissingen Fietsverhuur located on St. Jacobsstraat near the old market square, for a price of €13. The street is lined with unique shops, such as the fashion boutique Mrs Marcos, and the delightful Nopal restaurant, which offers vegetarian and vegan options, is just around the corner.
Although it may not be as large as other Dutch cities, Vlissingen offers a charming marina and beaches. The city’s seafront promenade, also known as The Boulevard, is said to be the longest in the Netherlands. While some unattractive high-rise buildings can be seen at one end, the locals seem unfazed by their presence. The annual Film by the Sea festival is a popular event on the cultural calendar.
It’s hard to overstate the rapture that came over me as I found myself back in my element, on two wheels. Winding my way from the shop, past the 16th-century Sintjacobskerk church and Bellamy Park (the historic town square), I soon found myself on a cycle path that ran parallel to The Boulevard and overlooked the urban Badstrand beach and the Westerschelde, the estuary of the Schelde River. It was a terrific vantage point from which to spot cargo ships and oil tankers from all corners of the globe chugging through its slate-blue waters. Screaming seagulls and childish squeals mingled in the briny sea air, while on land, it was a joy to spot people of all ages on a variety of two-wheelers: everything from wheelchair bikes to tricycles and side-by-side tandems.
Just a bit further down the road, at the edge of Nollestrand Beach, The Boulevard meets the coastal path. From here, I have the option to embark on a 49km journey, traveling west along the coast and passing through popular seaside towns like Zouteland, Domburg, and Oostkapelle (known as the ‘Zeeland Riviera’). I could also choose to go inland and return via Middleburg, the historic capital. However, due to the current heatwave (a sign of climate change affecting this region as well), I decided to take the easier route and just ride 20km round trip to Zouteland.
I embarked on a magnificent, rolling route situated above the dunes that followed the shoreline. Beyond a camping area at Dishoek – which offered a restroom and peaceful café – the route descended through refreshing forested areas and led directly into the heart of the small town. After parking my bicycle, I strolled along Langstraat, Zouteland’s main street, passing by stands selling cheese and waffles, as well as seafood vendors selling popular items like mussels and battered whitefish. The majority of tourists were Dutch and German, enjoying themselves at the outdoor cafes. However, in danger of becoming overheated, I stopped at the local Spar for some air conditioning before making my way up the steps to the dike overlooking the beach. There, I found a bench to relax on with my picnic lunch while sweating profusely.
When I was heading back, I took a break in the cool shade of the Nollebos. The trees provided cover for a peaceful maze of paths, streams, and occasional benches – the perfect place to relax with a book and some iced coffee. I was too tired to do much else when I got back to my Airbnb. The next morning, I went back to the city, passing by the marina and a lone windmill. I then hopped on the Westerschelde Ferry, which is only for bicycles and pedestrians, and paid €9 for a round-trip ticket to Breskens. This harbor town has a beachy atmosphere and is located near Belgium, but it is still considered part of the Netherlands.
Here, cycle paths both inland and coastal abound. The woman manning the kiosk at the bike shop adjacent to the ferry terminal suggested I cycle to Cadzand, the southernmost seaside resort in the Netherlands and back, an easy 28km round-trip. I could stop there for lunch, she said. But what about the countryside, I wondered, dutifully? Maybe I’d spot another windmill?
She suggested retracing our route through the polders, indicating the areas of land that had been drained and reclaimed from the sea on the map. “However, it may be too hot for that. It would be wiser to stay along the coast and enjoy the cooling breeze.” I didn’t see any reason to disagree.
The pathway along the dyke was bordered by dunes and marram grass, with paths lined with yellow wildflowers and occasional groups of pink beach roses. I reached the Breskens lighthouse early on, an eight-sided structure in black and white that drew in tourists for a visit. To the left, the polders stretched out, flat and lush, while to the right, endless miles of smooth white sand glistened in the hot haze. Each section featured a modern beach house, some with a trendy Ibiza feel, and a DJ to accompany the food and drinks available.
I saw a small group of black birds in a bright blue sky that was more suited for a sunny spot in the Mediterranean. I wondered if the birds were confused by the unusual warmth. However, I didn’t end up making it all the way to Cadzand. I was distracted by the scent of a breeze from a dune that had been shaped by the wind and was facing the estuary. I had found a perfect place for people who enjoy biking and a leisurely lifestyle, and I felt content.
Travel from London St Pancras to Rotterdam Centraal on the Eurostar. One-way fares begin at £39 when booked as a round trip, and the trip takes 3 hours and 16 minutes. From there, board the Intercity train to Vlissingen. The non-stop journey lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes and costs £22.60. Both portions of the trip can be reserved through trainline.com.
Another option for transportation is taking a ferry from Harwich to Hoek Van Holland. Once at the harbor, you can take the metro to Rotterdam Blaak station and transfer to the Intercity train bound for Vlissingen.
Travelling by air
British Airways offers non-stop flights from London City Airport to Rotterdam The Hague Airport. From there, you will need to catch a bus or taxi to Rotterdam Centraal station and then transfer to an Intercity train to Vlissingen.
A studio flat on Airbnb called Costal Del Nolle is situated near the beach, coast path, and natural forest. The cost per night varies, starting at £81 and depending on the season.
Lupo Boutique Hotel, located in the heart of the town, offers 17 rooms and a complimentary breakfast buffet for guests staying overnight. The hotel also provides bike rental services and allows guests to securely store their bikes in the hotel’s garden.
Friends of the Bike offers Bed and Breakfast accommodation across the Netherlands. Pay a fee of €10 a year (if you live outside the Netherlands) and you can view the address guide.
You have the option to hire a bicycle from Vlissingen Bike Rental. Simply make a reservation through Whatsapp or by phone.
Check out our top-rated hotel reviews in the Netherlands.