So you wonder if you can visit any islands while traveling to The Netherlands? It’s possible!
There are eleven islands located within the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Six of these islands are located in the Carribean.
Islands belonging to the Kingdom of The Netherlands are:
The Wadden Islands:
- Het Rif
- Sint Maarten
People often refer to The Wadden Islands as the Best Kept Secret of The Netherlands. And when you want to enjoy a bit of the Dutch vibe, but without the hassle of cold Dutch rainy days, the Carribean islands are perfect for a visit! In this article, you can find the most important information about the Dutch Islands.
The Wadden Islands
The island group is located in the Wadden Sea, in the northern part of The Netherlands. Texel is the largest and most famous island of these islands. It is the only island that’s located within the province of North-Holland. The other four islands are all belonging to the province Friesland. That’s the reason why this island group is also known as West-Frisian Islands.
For centuries the Wadden Islands are a popular holiday destination for Dutch and German families. Other tourists are traveling way less to these islands. Probably because it is lesser-known, it takes a bit longer to reach, and the islands are only great for a visit during the summer months. Out of season, weather can be as rough, wet, and cold as in the rest of The Netherlands. So your probably better off visiting the Carribean Islands, but later more on that.
The Wadden Sea – Unesco World Heritage
The Wadden Islands are located within the Wadden Sea, which is a Unesco World Heritage Natural Site. It is a unique natural phenomenon. According to Unesco’s website, “The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats in the world.”
The Wadden Sea covers a large area between the countries Denmark, Germany, and The Netherlands. The sea is relatively flat and calm and consists among other things of many mudflats, sandbanks, mussel beds, and dunes. It is the ideal living area for many plants and mammals like seals and porpoises. Also, it is the perfect breeding ground for millions of birds.
Texel is the largest of five the Wadden Islands, with a surface of 463.2 square kilometers. From which 161.2 square kilometers are land, and 302 square kilometers is water. It is also one of the most popular destinations, probably because its the largest island, and easiest to reach from the mainland.
A ferry to Texel from Den Helder (North-Holland) takes between 20 and 30 minutes and leaves multiple times a day (once every hour). During the high-seasons, there are leaving multiple ferries every hour, which makes traveling to the island straightforward.
Traveling to Texel with the Teso ferry is super easy, you don’t even have to buy a ticket in advance, you can buy a ticket at the counter when you show up. The only downside is that during the high season, you might need to wait a while before you can catch a ferry because it can be hectic. Especially in the weekends, when most Dutch people are going to Texel just for the weekend. For the latest ferry information, you can go to the ferry company’s website. It is always recommended to check this website in advance, due to the latest information on timetables.
Best Things To Do in Texel
Texel is known as the island perfect for hiking, cycling around, and windsurfing. With many beaches, natural parks, and over 300 kilometers of cycling and hiking paths, there’s always something to do in these categories on the island.
Fun Fact; Texel is also known as Sheep’s Islands. There are living more sheep than humans on the island!
Located next to Texel, you’ll find Vlieland. It is a much smaller island with a surface of 315.8 square kilometers. It’s even the smallest island of all Wadden Islands! And where Texel has a population of around 13000 people. Vlieland only has a population of 1100.
Vlieland is known for its natural parks. All parks are created by the Dutch government. This way, Vlieland became a ‘natural’ dike as protection for the mainland.
Tourism is the most important source of income of the island Vlieland. Many Dutch people go to Vlieland to enjoy the peace and quietness at the island. Also, the beautiful natural parks are an important reason to visit.
It is not allowed to bring a car to Vlieland. Only a few government organizations and citizens drive a car on the island. So going around at Vlieland is only possible in the traditional Dutch way, on a bicycle. But it’s straightforward, the cycle paths are perfect, and the island is relatively small. Everything is easy to reach.
It took a while before Vlieland got inhabited. Until the early 17th century, only a handful of people were living on the island. During the heydays of the Dutch Eastern Company, the sea street between Vlieland and the Dutch mainland was an important connection for the Dutch maritime company. Vlieland became an important settlement for the Dutch Eastern Company, which resulted in an increase of people living on the island.
However, around the end of the 18th century, the Dutch Eastern Company lost its important maritime function, which also had its influence on the economy of the island.
Read more about the history and facts of The Netherlands in our article; What is The Netherlands Famous For?
The second-largest island is Terschelling. Known for its variety of nature parks. Dunes, wetlands, sea, forests, you’ll find it all at Terschelling. The island is easy to reach with a ferry from the city Harlingen in Friesland. A ferry ride takes up to 1 hour and 45 minutes, you can find more information about the ferry on the website of the ferry company.
Terschelling is a famous island for Dutch locals to enjoy their weekends and holidays. The island has a lot of landmarks and exciting things to visit. Probably one of the most unique landmarks is the island’s only historic windmill, which is named ‘Formerum.’ The windmill dates back to 1836, a former wheat and flour mill. Today there’s a local coffee bar located within the windmill. A unique place to have a coffee!
Did you know windmills are one of the most unique historical landmarks to visit in The Netherlands? You can read all about in our article; What is The Best Place To See The Windmills?
The Netherlands is also known as the country with many (cultural) festivals. Our musicians, especially Dutch DJs and Producers, are worldwide known. Music festivals are widely known in The Netherlands, but the most popular cultural festival is probably the Oerol Festival. Oerol is annually held at Terschelling and offers a wide variety of theater, music, and plays throughout the island.
Oerol means Everywhere in the Dutch Terschelling dialect.
A small island between Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog. Ameland only has four villages and a population of around 3500 people. To reach the island, you’ll need to catch a ferry from the Frisian village Holwerd, which goes at least 7 times a day throughout the year. During the holiday season, the ferry leaves 12 times a day.
Ameland is the perfect getaway island when you’re looking for both an active and relaxing holiday. Many popular activities on the island are kite, and windsurfing, cycling, and hiking. And exploring the mudflats of the Wadden Sea during low-tide.
With a land surface of 44 square kilometers and a population lower than 1000 people, Schiermonnikoog is one of the quietest islands of the Wadden Islands.
Schiermonnikoog is a national park and one of the most famous islands regarding bio-diversity in the Wadden Sea. When you’re visiting Schiermonnikoog, which is only possible by taking the ferry from the Frisian village Lauwersoog, you’re not allowed to bring your own car. The most common way of transportation is cycling. There’s also a public transport connection between the ferry and villages of the island. The buses are entirely electrical, which is better for the environment.
The uninhabited Wadden Islands
One of the most popular activities to do while visiting the Wadden Islands is exploring the Wadden Sea and uninhabited islands during low-tide.
Many guided tours are leaving from the different islands several times a day (depending on the tide), where you can go exploring. A few islands are always closed for the public. These islands are breeding grounds for seals and many different birds.
The different uninhabited islands that are permanently closed are:
- Het Rif
All these islands are so-called Natura2000 designated parks. Which means these are protected European areas.
Uninhabited Islands that are open and free to visit (with a guided tour):
A sandbank located between Schiermonnikoog and Ameland. During high-tide, the sandbank is less than 1 hectare. It is an important area for birds to feed and rest. Birdwatchers count over 80 thousand different birds on 1 day!
This sandbank is located closest to Texel, and also the largest sandbank of the Wadden Sea. Tens of thousands of birds and seals are coming to this island to feed, rest and hatch. It is a unique natural reserve to visit!
Visiting The Wadden Islands is not something many people do while visiting The Netherlands. However, when you have enough time, it is perfect for enjoying some beautiful nature. You might also want to explore other highlights of the country. In our articles How Many Days Do You Need in The Netherlands and The Netherlands 10 day Itinerary, you’ll find much more practical and useful information, which you can use for planning your next trip to The Netherlands.
The Kingdom of The Netherlands is not only located in the European part of the world. Yes, The Netherlands is a small country, and we’re known for cold and rainy weather (Learning more about Dutch culture? Check out our article ‘Interesting Facts About The Netherlands.’).
However, The Kingdom of The Netherlands also has a Caribbean part, where its almost always warm and sunny. So are you interested in exploring The Netherlands in a tropical way? You might want to visit one of these islands!
Known for its white sandy beaches, tropical climate, and blue seas. It is the perfect holiday destination for many people. And very popular among people coming from the United States. The islands are easy to reach.
Aruba is one of the three islands that is a country. It has its own government within the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The island is almost the same size as Wadden Island Texel.
The capital of Aruba is Oranjestad. Papiamento is the most spoken and written language on the island. Only 6% of the population speaks Dutch as their first language.
It’s the island with the most sun hours a year, almost no rainfall, and always warm temperatures. Known for its hospitality and friendly people. Did you know Aruba is a melting pot of cultures, just like the rest of The Netherlands? It is probably one of the reasons why this island is so exciting to visit. Check out more about Aruba on their official website.
Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius
Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are special municipalities within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, which means they have their own government but are still politically connected with The Netherlands.
All three islands are known as Carribean Netherlands or as BES islands. The currency on the islands is the US Dollar, and the official language next to Dutch and Papiamento is also English.
The island is known for its biodiversity and as one of the best diving spots in the world. Beautiful underwater life, with unique colorful reefs and many fish. It was the first Carribean island with a national park. Sustainability has always been important for the people living at Bonaire.
With a tropical climate, many sun hours, and beautiful beaches, it is a perfect destination for a tropical holiday. Did you know you can directly fly to Bonaire from many destinations in North America? Direct flights are leaving from Houston, Miami, Atlanta, and even Toronto (Canada) to Bonaire!
The smallest country in the Caribbean is Saba. So when you’re looking for unspoiled nature, Saba is your best bet!
Saba has a surface of only 13 square kilometers. The island is essentially the top of a large volcano.
The island is best known for its marine park ‘Saba Marine Park.’ Which consists of a renowned diving site with beautiful coral reefs, turtles, sharks.
This small island is perfect for a day visit coming from Sint Maarten, or to spend a few days on your tropical holiday. Sint Eustatius is locally known as Statia. It is one of the greenest islands of the BES islands. The island sits on a dormant volcano. It became a paradise for hikers and nature lovers. Also a perfect place for diving, especially with the many coral reefs they created on the different shipwrecks.
This island is also a constituent country within the Kingdom of The Netherlands. The official name of the island is Country of Curaçao. 75% of the population is Dutch, and the capital is Willemstad. Curacao is often referred to as ‘tropical Netherlands,’ but the country is nothing like The Netherlands. You can find typical Dutch food and other things, but the vibe on the island is different.
This is quite logical because Curacao is located in the Caribbean, and The Netherlands is located on the European continent. Weatherwise, its like two completely different worlds. And also, the culture differs much.
Curacao is also a perfect tropical getaway. And from all the Dutch Caribbean Islands is probably the most ‘Dutch’ one. The island has it all from national parks to perfect diving spots, azure blue seas, and white sandy beaches. A thriving nightlife and many cultural sites to visit.
The island is known for its many festivals and celebrations, like, carnival, North Sea Jazz Curacao Festival. They even celebrate Kingsday, the national celebration of the Dutch King’s birthday. Kingsday celebrations in The Netherlands are unique and a must-visit, you can read all about it in our article What Is Kingsday? I wonder how it is like to celebrate a tropical kingsday!
Known as the smallest island divided by two countries. One half belongs to The Kingdom of The Netherlands, and the other half is French.
The island is known for its tropical weather, clear blue water, and white sandy beaches. It describes itself as ‘diverse as a cosmpoliton city, and familiar as your home town.’
Within the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Sint Maarten is a constituent country, with its own government. The island has a surface of 87 square kilometers, but only 34 square kilometers belong to The Kingdom of The Netherlands.
Sint Maarten is perfect for beach lovers with over 37 different beaches. And perfect for people looking for a variety of watersports and events, you can find almost everything on this tropical island. Check out all the unique activities on the island’s website, and like they say, ‘Bring your bucket list!‘
The Caribbean part of The Netherlands is different than the country on the European continent. Both are great for exploring, but you probably won’t combine the two on the same trip.
When you want to visit The Netherlands and want to visit an island, it is recommended to visit one of the Wadden Islands. But there’s much more to explore in The Netherlands. We selected a few of our articles which you might find interesting to read;
In this article, we describe all the essential highlights of the country. The famous landmarks, best things to visit, and how to get around.
I wrote a complete itinerary for a 10-day roundtrip throughout the country. Within 10 days, you can explore a lot of The Netherlands. The article is full of tips, highlights, and recommended places to stay.
Many people plan a visit to Amsterdam while going to The Netherlands. However, Rotterdam, the second-largest city of the country, is also an exciting city to visit. In this article, I’ll explain why you need to add Rotterdam to your Dutch itinerary.