WADDEN ISLANDS WADDENEILANDEN

WADDEN ISLANDS (WADDENEILANDEN)

WadcLen means mudflat in Dutch, but sand is the defining characteristic of these islands: Gorgeous beaches hide behind ridges covered in golden grass. Deserted, tulip-lined bike trails carve through vast, flat stretches of grazing land to the sea. Sleepy and isolated, these islands are truly Holland’s best-kept secret.

TRANSPORTATION

The islands arch clockwise around the northwestern coast of The Netherlands: Texel (closest to Amsterdam), Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland, and Schier-monnikoog. To reach Texel, take the train from Amsterdam to Den Helder (lVzhr. ‚11), then grab bus #33 (2 strips), and a ferry to’t Hoorntje, the island’s southernmost town (20min. every hr. 6:30am-9:30pm, round-trip ‚4). Buses depart from the ferry dock to various locales throughout the island, though the best way to travel is to rent a bike from Verhuurbedrijf Heijne, opposite the ferry dock. (From ‚4.50 per day. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 9am-8pm; Nov.-Mar. 9am-6pm.) To reach the other islands from Amsterdam, grab a train from Centraal station to Harlingen Haven (3hr. ‚26). From Harlingen, ferries ((0517) 49 15 00; www.doeksen.nl) depart for Terschelling (1-2 hr. 3-5 per day, ‚18).

TEXEL. The largest of the Wadden Islands, Texel boasts stunning beaches and museums. Beaches lie near De Koog, on the western side of the island. Nude beaches beckon the uninhibited; you can bare it all near paal 9 (2km southwest of Den Hoorn) or paal 27 (5km west of De Cocksdorp). Say hi to the playful zee-honden (seals) at the EcoMare Museum and Aquarium, Ruijslaan 92, in De Koog. (www.ecomare.nl. Open daily 9am-5pm. ‚7, under-13 ‚3.50.) The staff can also arrange group tours of the surrounding nature reserves; make sure to ask for a guide who speaks English.

A Texel Ticket (‚3.90) allows one day of unlimited travel on the island’s bus system. (Runs mid-June to mid-Sept.). liie VW tourist office, Emmaln 66, is located just outside Den Burg, about 300m south of the main bus stop; look for the blue signs, ( (0222) 31 47 41; www.texel.net. Open July-Aug. Su 10am-l:30pm, M-Th 9am-6pm, F 9am-9pm, Sa 9am-5:30pm; Sept.-June M-Th 9am-6pm, F 9am-9pm, Sa 9am-5:30pm.) Campgrounds cluster south of De Koog and near De Cocksdorp; the tourist office can provide any info you may need.

TERSCHELLING. With 80% of the island covered by protected nature reserves, Terschelling (pop. 4,500) offers secluded beaches and green pastures spotted with cows and horses. To explore the island’s striking scenery, rent a bike from Haantjes Fietsverhuur, W. Barentzskade 23 and other locations around the island. ( 44 29 29. Bikes at ‚4.50 per day, ‚20 per week.)

Both tours can also be booked at the VW tourist office, W. Barentzkade 19, which sits opposite the ferry landing. ((0562) 44 30 00. Open M-Sa 9:30am-5:30pm.) The Terschelling Hostel (HI) O, van Heusdenweg 39, is located just out of town on the waterfront. ( (0562) 44 23 38; www.stayokay.comterschelling. Breakfast and sheets included. Laundry ‚7. Reception daily 9am-10pm. Dorms ‚18-21; ask for the backpacker special.) The best place to grab a bite is in the island’s main village, Terschelling West. RThe Heartbreak Hotel , Oosterend, one of Terschelling’s best food experiences, also doubles as a shrine to Elvis. Serving great diner-style food (Burning Love Burger ‚4), the restaurant also hosts free rock n’ roll groups every night in July and August. Zeezicht , Wm. Barentszkade 20, has enormous dinner portions (‚12-16.50) and a sweeping view of the ocean. (Kitchen closes at 9:30pm. Open daily lOam-midnight.) A wild set floods Terschelling on summer nights; head to Braskoer, Torenstr. 32, to join a younger crowd on a sweaty, packed dance floor. (Beer ‚3. Cover ‚5. Open 10am-2am.) To relax, kick back at Cafe De Zeevaart, Torenstr. 22. (Beer ‚1.80. Open daily 10am-2am.)

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