Going to Amsterdam? Want to get away from it all for a warm summer day of utter relaxation in a natural environment? Try this unusual one-day excursion taken directly from the pages of my guidebook on the Benelux countries.
A Daytrip from Amsterdam
Lying just two miles off the shores of North Holland, the delightfully peaceful island of Texel is a rather unusual but highly enjoyable destination for a daytrip from Amsterdam. Much of it is devoted to nature reserves, especially for birds, and to raising the famous Texel sheep. There are, however, a few villages, of which the most interesting is Den Burg. You won't be alone since its cafés and shops are popular with Dutch, German, and British vacationers, who mostly stay at the seaside resort of De Koog.
This is an especially nice place to explore by rented bicycle or by a combination of buses and walking. One day of its rural tranquillity makes a perfect breather in the middle of a hectic sightseeing schedule. There are absolutely no mandatory cultural sights, although the attractions do include a preserved old-time dwelling, a collection of antique farm implements, a maritime and beachcombers' museum, and a nature preserve.
Texel is the largest and southernmost of the West Frisian (or Wadden) islands, which stretch across the north coast of Holland all the way to Germany. Most of it is polder land, whose reclamation from the sea began as early as the 11th century. Visits to the wildlife sanctuaries must be arranged in advance. Information about this is available from the Texel tourist office in Den Burg. The name, incidentally, is pronounced as Tessel.
Trains to Den Helder depart Amsterdam's Centraal Station at half-hour intervals, with the ride taking 75 minutes. From the station at Den Helder take an NZH bus number 33 to the ferry terminal and board the boat for the 20-minute ride to Texel. Return trains run until late evening, but note that the last boat is usually around 9 p.m.
By Car, the best route from Amsterdam is via the A-7 (E-22) motorway past Hoorn. Take the exit for Den Oever/Den Helder, following this to the ferry terminal (veerhaven) at Den Helder, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Amsterdam. Your car can be taken on the boat without delay, although you might prefer to park here and use buses or rental bicycles on the island.
Fine weather is essential for this trip, which should be made between mid-May and mid-September. Some of the attractions are closed on Mondays, one on Saturdays, and one on Sundays.
The Texel Tourist Office(VVV), T: (0222) 314-741, W: vvv-texel.nl, is at Emmalaan 66, 3 blocks south of the bus stop in Den Burg.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Snacks and drinks are available on the ferryboat. Besides several outdoor cafés, some places to eat are:
Bij Jef (34 Herenstraat in Den Hoorn) Gourmet-level dining on inspired cuisine, served in a stylish restaurant. Reserve, T: (0222) 319-623, W: bijjef.nl. €€€ and €€€+
Café De Smulpot (5 Binnenburg, in the center of Den Burg) Specializes in Texel dishes, meat, and fish. T: (0222) 312-756, W: desmulpot.nl. €€
De Lindeboom (14 Croeneplaats, 2 blocks north of the bus stop in Den Burg) A small hotel with a restaurant. T: (0222) 312-041, W: hotelgroeptexel.nl. €€
De Twaalf Balcken (20 Weverstraat, 2 blocks southeast of the Oudheidkamer in Den Burg) A pub serving local specialties, grills, and vegetarian dishes. T: (0222) 312-681, W: 12balcken.nl. X: Sun. € and €€
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Arriving at the Den Helder Train Station (1), immediately board bus number 33, which is marked for "Texelse Boot." This will take you to the ferry terminal (2). Buy a round-trip ticket and board the ferry for the 20-minute ride to the Texel pier at 't Horntje (3). From there you can either board a bus marked for Den Burg or rent a bicycle and pedal your way, a level distance of four miles. Bikes are also available in Den Burg and elsewhere on the island.
*Den Burg is the main village on Texel and has neatly accommodated itself to the summer tourists with shops and outdoor cafés. On Mondays it is busy a colorful open-air market. From its bus stop (4) it is only a short stroll south to the Tourist Office (VVV) (5), where you might want to ask about visiting a wildlife sanctuary or some of the other attractions not described here. Otherwise, continue on to the Oudheidkamer (6), an old 17th-century village house filled with folkloric antiquities — and one well worth a quick visit. Kogerstraat 1, T: (0222) 3130135. Open April-Nov., Mon.-Fri. 11-5, Sat.-Sun. 2-4. €.
An interesting walk or bicycle ride of less than a mile and a half can be made through the countryside to the farming hamlet of De Waal (7). Here, in a converted barn, you will find the Cultuurhistorisch Museum (Local History Museum). All sorts of farm implements and wagons, from as far back as 1700, are displayed along with a rustic show narrating more than you ever wanted to know about Texel agriculture; truly a bucolic delight for some. T: (0222) 312-951, W: cultuurmuseumtexel.nl. Open Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 1:30-5. €.
You may want to explore more of the island, especially if you've rented a bicycle or brought a car. Some nice destinations are:
Oudeschild (8), reached by bus from Den Burg, is a picturesque old fishing harbor. Be sure to visit its Maritiem & Jutters Museum (Maritime and Beachcomber Museum), a fascinating collection of junk washed up on the beach or salvaged from nearby wrecks, all set in a restored harbor scene with historic structures along with demonstrations of the old skills. T: (0222) 314-956,W: texelsmaritiem.nl. Open Tues.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. 12-5; also on Mon. in July-Aug. €.
De Koog (9) is Texel's seaside resort, where you'll find the usual amenities. It can be reached by bus from Den Burg or the ferry port, or by bike or car. Just south of this is EcoMare, a nature recreation center with live seals and displays of Texel's natural history, next to a pretty area for dune walks. There is also an interesting aquarium. T: (0222) 317-741, W: ecomare.nl. Open daily 9-5, last admission at 4:30. Snack bar. €€.
Be sure to begin your return journey before the last ferryboat departs, usually around 9 p.m.
The nearby Texel International Airport (10) offers two more attractions, the first of which is the Luchtvaart Museum Texel 1940-1945. Airborne activities during World War II are remembered in this display of vintage aircraft and other artifacts. T: (0222) 311-689, W: lomt.nl. Open April until fall vacation, Tues.-Sun. 11-5. €. Those interested in seeing the island from the air should contact Texel Air at T: (0222) 311-464, W: paracentrumtexel.nl for a flight — or to try your hand at paragliding.
Text and maps copyright © 2006 Earl Steinbicker