Some of the Netherlands’ most hidden treasures lie just a few kilometres outside of Amsterdam. Jump on your bike and get-set to explore windswept beaches, quaint historic villages, unique dune ecology and even some 13th century ruins – on a route which is primarily flat, with a few hilly bits here and there. You won’t regret it!
Level 1: Haarlem – Zandvoort aan Zee (9,4 km)
1a. Kenaupark Located in the centre of Haarlem, and formed part of the city’s historic defenses. It was once flanked with 18th-century mansions and villas, which were home to wealthy families.
1b. Fabrics Quarter In the 19th century, this area was known as the fabrics quarter. The cotton factories once contaminated Haarlem’s water supply, which led to the development of new floodgates that diverted water down a new route.
1c. Kraantje Lek Fishermen used to carry their wares from Zandvoort to Haarlem until the end of the 19th century. Many would stop en route at the Kraantje Lek. Originally built in 1542, it’s now a famous restaurant – and a great place to stop for pancakes.
1d. Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland Stop here for a few minutes to admire the views from Visscherspad Lookout. Rally cars can sometimes be heard at the nearby circuit. You can also see the city of Zandvoort in the distance, as well as the prestigious Kennemer Golf and Country Club.
1e. Zandvoort This small seaside resort town houses plenty of cafes, shops and restaurants, as well as the obligatory fi sh shops near the sea. Stop at one of the seaside vendors to try some salted herring, a true Dutch delicacy.
1f. Sea Promenade Zandvoort aan Zee’s 5-km promenade is great for a seaside walk. Relax at one of the 37 trendy pavilions, grab your kite and surf, or enjoy the beautiful sunset.
Level 2: Zandvoort – Dutch Dunes (12,1 km)
2a. Zandvoort Racing Circuit Cycle to the next beach flanked by the sea to one side and the racing circuit to the other. 3a. Dutch Dunes Explore the unique ecology of the dunes, where insects, birds, horses and Scottish Highlanders can be seen.
2b. Bloemendaal aan Zee Filled with trendy beach clubs that offer daytime meals and night-time dancing. Once you’ve explored, cycle around to junction 18, then turn left into the dunes.
2c. Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland Home to calcareous grey dunes, wide beaches and lush coastal forests. Notice the diverse flora and fauna in an area battered by sand, rain and wind which creates a unique ecosystem. Take the cycle junction 6 to 5 back to Haarlem, or cycle to IJmuiden.
Level 3: IJmuiden beach, port and sea lock (23,2 km)
3a. Dutch Dunes Explore the unique ecology of the dunes, where insects, birds, horses and Scottish Highlanders can be seen.
3b. IJmuiden Beach Windswept IJmuiden Beach is a great place for wind and water-sports enthusiasts. Wander the seaside boulevard, or pop into one of the restaurants for a window seat.
3c. IJmuiden Harbour Many people end up here to catch the ferry to Newcastle in the U.K. Others come here to visit the famous fish restaurants on Halkade and Kop van de Haven; we recommend that you do the same!
3d. Detour: Catch the ferry Visit the sealock by taking the free ferry across the North Sea Canal.
3e. Detour: Sea Lock Drop by SHIP, IJmuiden’s big red visitor’s centre housed in a shipping container. You will learn about the largest sea lock in the world, which consists of 5 locks and connects Amsterdam with the North Sea.
3f. Detour: Beeckestijn Country Estate A place of mesmerising old-world grandeur. There are revolving exhibitions, French and Baroque-style gardens, a park and a brasserie. Velserbeek has a great park and a petting zoo.
3g. Driehuis Take a short stop in the tiny village of Driehuis, known for one of the oldest crematoriums in the Netherlands – as well as some cute old cafés.
Level 4: Dutch Dunes – Haarlem (11,8 km)
4a. Duin and Kruidberg Estate Drop by this old English estate, whose country house is both a hotel and restaurant. It’s a good place for a tea break, or to wander in the old English-style gardens.
4b. Brederode Ruins This castle has been built and rebuilt since the 13th century, before its restoration in the 19th. Climb the donjon tower for a view over the dunes. TIP: If you’re tired take the cycle junction back from 34 to 9 back to Haarlem or continue onwards to Spaarndam.
4c. Old mill Zandhaes No cycle trip is complete without a visit to an old windmill – this one dates from 1779, where you can still buy various baking products in the on-site shop.
4d. Spaarndam The village of Spaarndam is quiet, quaint and quintessentially Dutch. Admire the scattered monuments, or head to any of the restaurants for coffee and cake.
4e. Beach or station? Cycle along the Spaarne River to Vrouwehekbrug, or along Drosteboulevard on the opposite side. You’ll find the hipster haunt of Stadstrand de Oerkap further up, a great place to stop for an elderflower tonic. Alternately, follow Prinsenbolwerk back to Haarlem Station.
4f. Haarlem Station Congratulations – we hope you enjoyed the trip!