After my article about National Parks in the south of the Netherlands I want to highlight the national parks in the middle of the Netherlands. There are 5 nature reserves in this part of the Netherlands. As a lover of forests and wildlife, my personal favorites are among them. So, let’s go into it and let me know of you are going to add one or more Dutch National Parks to your Netherlands itinerary!
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park is a 3800 hectare forest and dune landscape. An attractive thing about this park are the many animal species: many birds, deer, konik horses, Scottish highlanders and wisents (a rare bison species). In this National Park you can enjoy walking and cycling, but also swim in a dune lake or in the sea. For a more educational way of exploring the area, it is possible to book an excursion or visit the visitor center in Overveen.
A number of routes and areas are closed during certain periods due to the breeding season (mainly in early spring and summer). Please respect this.
The National Park has 25 entrances and you can park your car at te most of them. If you travel by public transport, you can take bus 81 from Haarlem to bring you to the visitor center in Overveen. The bus continues to the beach of Bloemendaal aan Zee. It is also possible to take the train from Amsterdam or Haarlem to Zandvoort. It is great to combine a visit to Zuid-Kennemerland with a city trip to Haarlem. If you rent a bike in Haarlem, you can reach the national park in only 15 minutes!
The beautiful city of Haarlem is only 15 minutes away from Zuid-Kennemerland. Read this article for the best things to do in Haarlem: Your perfect Haarlem itinerary.
De Hoge Veluwe
The Hoge Veluwe is the most famous forest area in the Netherlands. The nature reserve is largely formed by water, ice and wind. The hills and sand ridges originated in the Ice Age. Originally Park De Hoge Veluwe was a wooded area, but due to human activities heathland and drifting sands were created. The chance that you spot animals is real. The “big four” of the Veluwe are: red deer, wild boar, mouflon and roe deer. The best way to discover the Hoge veluwe is by bicycle. Within je National Park you can use bicycles for free.
In addition to lots of nature, there is also a lot of architecture, art and culture to discover in this national park. For example, you can view the Sint Hubertus hunting lodge, designed by the famous architect Berlage, with a guided tour.
In addition, a unique museum is housed in the National Park: The Kröller Müller Museum. You can see hundreds of paintings (including Van Gogh, Monet, Seurat, Picasso and Mondriaan) and sculptures, both indoors and in the nature.
Although the Hoge Veluwe is a beautiful nature reserve, it is also the only national park in the Netherlands for which you have to pay an entrance fee of € 10.95 per person. Due to the high fee, I would personally only visit the park if you are interested in the art and culture that can be found there, or if you want to have a greater chance of seeing wildlife. The same landscape can also be found (for free) around this national park, for example around the villages of Kootwijk and Elspeet.
If you travel to the park by car you can park at one of the three entrances in Otterlo, Hoenderloo or Schaarsbergen. By public transport it is best to travel by train to Apeldoorn or Barneveld, and from there by bus.
I think the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is the most diverse National Park of the Netherlands. It has a large geological, cultural and military history and many castles and country houses. 150,000 years ago, ice and water pushed up masses of earth and stones, forming a ridge in the middle of the Netherlands. This ridge consists mainly of forest and heathland and you have a view over the river landscape in the south.
A few highlights are the beautiful walking areas around the forestry village of Doorn and Plantage Willem III. This used to be a tobacco plantation and now a beautiful piece of nature with wild cattle and horses. Another special nature area is the Leersumse plassen, a combination of forest, heathland and lakes and great cycle paths. On warm summer days you can sunbathe and swim at the Henschotermeer. For some more action, you can rent mountain bikes in the villages of Leersum and Amerongen. If you are interested in culture and history I suggest to visit one of the many castles, such as Amerongen Castle, the pyramid of Austerlitz, Slot Zeist and Huis Doorn.
Castle Amerongen is one of the castles that I mention in my article A guide to 6 impressive castles in the Netherlands
All in all the Utrechtse Heuvelrug is great place to spend your vacation, and I recommend taking several days for this area. Because it is a large area, it is difficult to briefly describe how to get there the easiest. In any case, the public transport is well organized. With bus 50 that runs from Utrecht to Wageningen, you can easily get to most of the villages. There are many parking places, which are called Groene Entrees , meaning Green Entrances.
Every year at the end of August or September I plan to go for a hike in Veluwezoom National Park. In this time of the year this area is at its best, with the purple heather over the rolling hills. Veluwezoom is the oldest National Park in the Netherlands, with beautiful beech forests, heaths and sand drifts and great hikingtrails.
My favorite hike is this 14-kilometer route from Dieren train station to Velp station. Along this hike you will discover the highlights of the national park. If you don’t like a long hike and want to go straight to one of the beautiful places in the park, I recommend going to the visitor center in Rheden. This is located within walking distance of Rheden train station. In the visitor center you can learn about the nature and landscape and you can find there also a restaurant, playground and bike rental and starting points for walking routes of all lengths.
Taking a mountain walk in the Netherlands? No, unfortunately that is not possible, but the hilly landscape of the Sallandse Heuvelrug comes closest to that. The hills have even been given the name ‘berg’ by the Dutch, which means mountain. Walking, cycling and mountainbiking are great ways to explore. In addition there are many nice restaurants to visit on the way. Some suggestions to do in the National Park are visiting the Twilhaar sheepfold and the military cemetery in Holten. Nearby is the Hellendoorn amusement park, which is especially fun for children.
The Sallandse Heuvelrug is easily accessible by train via the stations in Holten or Nijverdal. It is also easy by car, especially since the village of Holten is close to the direct motorway from Amsterdam (A1).
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