Spring; that magical time of the year where millions of flowers are in bloom, baby animals roam the lands… and best of all, our boat is placed back in the water after being in ‘dry dock’ during the Winter months!
One of our most favourite things to do as a family is to go out on our sloep (canal boat), explore this beautiful country, and view it from a completely different perspective. From the water, the Netherlands is at it’s finest.
Due to the vast amount of canals, rivers and lakes, you can pretty much get anywhere you want to go in Holland via the waterways. There are more than 4,400 Kilometers of navigable waterways in this little country, not to mention the coastlines, but most people stick to the sheltered inland waters where there are around 600 marinas. If you do not own a boat, no need to despair, renting various types of boats is possible in many locations throughout the country. It is also interesting to know that you do not need a boat license to drive a boat under 15m.
My favourite time to go out on the water is during late Spring when the weather is warmer and there are hundreds of newly hatched baby ducks, swans, geese and other water birds swimming throughout the canals.
We usually always go out on the boat for a full day. I’ll pack a picnic lunch, snacks and plenty of drinks to take with us. There are so many great open waters to visit in the Netherlands, with the closest lake to us being the Foppenplas near Maasland in the Midden-Delfland region. From here you can explore Schipluiden, Maasland and its charming yacht house cafe and Maassluis.
If you would like to be more adventurous, from the Foppenplas you can also take a trip via the many canals into the beautiful city of Delft, passing picturesque houses, windmills and the historic East gate along the way. Round trip, this usually takes a full day.
We also enjoy going through the old locks in Vlaardingen (dating back to 1653), out onto the Nieuwe Waterweg and into the city of Rotterdam, approximately 10 kms away. The total length of the port from the entrance at Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam is more than 40 km, making the Rotterdam harbour the largest port in Europe. Approximately 30,000 seagoing vessels and 110,000 inland vessels visit the port of Rotterdam every year, so it’s a very busy waterway, but this is what we enjoy so much about it!
After a few hours on the boat the kids usually begin to get a little bored, so I always make sure to pack a bag full of activities to keep them busy and of course, plenty of snacks.
Most trips, the kids become so relaxed that they end up having a good, long nap.
It can be costly to own a boat (due to initial purchasing costs, docking fees and maintenance). However, if you use it often enough, we believe it is worth every penny. Not to mention we enjoy every minute of it. It is so peaceful and relaxing. After just one day on the water, we feel like we have had a week long vacation. No tv, no computer, just the sound of the water and the birds. Most importantly, the quality family time we have together whilst on the boat is priceless.
Of course I have not forgotten Amsterdam! One of the best ways to see this city is from a boat. You can book a boat tour or hire a boat. Many people even celebrate their birthdays, baby showers, bachelorette parties etc. on a boat. The famous gay pride Canal Parade is also on the waterways of Amsterdam. Where most parades use trucks, Amsterdam has boats of couse! Over seventy spectacularly decorated boats sail through the Prinsengracht and Amstel river each year, usually in early August, which is watched by around 300.000 spectators!
With so many wonderful waterways in the Netherlands, our family have really only scratched the surface of the countless possibilities during the three years since buying our own boat. In the future, we would also love to discover the following Dutch locations via the waterways..
Owning a boat in the Netherlands can be a reality for many people. Boat ownership in Holland is high, with more than half a million boats currently on the water. That’s about one boat for every 32 people.
When looking for a new or used boat, also pay attention to its future maintenance, insurance, and general ownership costs. The larger and more luxurious the boat, the more it will cost both upfront and throughout its lifetime to maintain. Consider cost-effective alternatives such as purchasing a used boat, a boat that requires less maintenance, or a boat the can remain in the water throughout the entire year (as there are additional costs involved if your boat needs to be taken out of the water for winter).
Boat ownership is a great way to get out and explore the Netherlands with your friends and family. So if you love the idea of combining exploration and relaxation on the water, then purchasing your own boat, no matter how big or small, may be the best decision you ever made!
If you have any other suggestions of beautiful areas in the Netherlands, best explored via the water, I’d love to hear them from you!