Zeeland (after which the country New Zealand is named) is a province in the South-West of the Netherlands, which covers mostly land area below sea level. History has shown that Zeeland has been flooded many times in the battle between the sea and the inhabitants who tried to expand their lands by claiming parts of the sea. This led to construction of better dikes and to transformations of sea parts into farm lands and villages. Zeeland not only features exceptional dike constructions, but also historical richness rooted since the Roman occupations and breath taking nature areas. How my family and I spent our holiday in Zeeland was based on luck, but our experience and discovery of this little gem were priceless and left us memories that make us want to go back to this place.
It was summer time when I finally submitted my PhD dissertation for approval for the defence. The stress was overwhelming with the five years of hard-work on my PhD combined with the taking care of my little son, which I do together with my husband who is also working on his PhD. Having kids while working in the Netherlands is quite challenging, though through time, I was able to learn some life hacks on how to achieve work life balance. I have written blogs on how to achieve work-life balance in work while still being able to raise a happy kid the Dutch way. To manage our stresses, we wanted to go on a holiday that would enable us to completely engage with mother nature through physical and mental nourishment. We originally planned to rent a house for two weeks in one of the Dutch islands in the North. However, the summer holiday was approaching and the house and hotel prices were skyrocketing. We were too late to book our holiday. So where could we find nice beaches without overpaying? Luckily, I stumbled upon a vacation package in Zeeland via the Social deal, an online site that provides attractive discounts to consumers in the Netherlands. The price and the timing were perfect! Despite not being our originally planned holiday, going to Zeeland was still definitely something that we looked forward to.
The moment that we arrived in the apartment in Zeeland that sheltered us for a week, we already felt that we made the right decision and that this was definitely the type of vacation that we were looking for. The apartment faces the sea and is strategically situated for key access to tourist places in the area of Schouwen-Duiveland. This part of Zeeland is considered as the ‘crown of Zeeland’ due to its nature areas filled with rich fauna and its architectures embedded in the history. We felt the warmth welcome in “our” cozy apartment, which contained a kitchen (including baskets of breakfasts throughout our stay!), living room, bedroom, and bathroom amenities. In addition, our vacation package also included two three-course dinners for two persons. Staying in the apartment itself is already a comfort, but of course, we wanted to know and to explore how it feels to be in a place where land meets sea.
Things to do in Zeeland
Here are the lists on how we spent the holiday in Zeeland, which other travellers may find interesting when they visit the region.
1. Biking throughout the island of Zeeland
The perfect way to explore and to experience the real nature in Schouwen-Duiveland is to bike, especially during summer. Biking is not only good for the health, but also for enjoying the weather and the scenic view of the coast, nature parks, various bird species, nature dunes, and forests. For seven euros per day per bike, we rented bikes from the nearby city Zieriksee to gain a full island experience.
2. Visiting and enjoying nature areas of Zeeland
Schouwen-Duiveland prides many nature areas in the region. One of these nature areas is the Oosterschelde National Park, which is considered the biggest national park in Zeeland (and in the Netherlands). This nature area covers 37,000 ha and includes many unique bird species, such as sea gulls. Visitors of this park can do activities such as biking along the coast, walking along the strand, snorkelling, nature boat trip, and beach combing.
3. Visiting and climbing the Plompetoren tower in Zeeland
The Plompetoren tower is a reminder of a lost town swallowed by the sea in Zeeland. According to the 16th century legend, a mermaid was caught by fisher and her merman (husband of the mermaid) did his best to free the mermaid. However, the fishermen brought the mermaid to town to showcase her to people, which led to the weakening and death of the mermaid. The merman got angry and sought for vengeance, therefore he cursed the town. At the night of his curse, violent storms came, which plagued the coast and destroyed the dikes, and later on swallowed the whole town. Only the Plompetoren tower remained, to remind people of this buried town of Oosterschelde and the cruelty of fishers to the mermaid. You would think a village getting swallowed by the sea is a rarity, however, according to history, over 20 villages were built and swallowed by the sea in Oosterchelde!
4. Relaxing and enjoying the Westenschouwen beach, Zeeland
The Westenschouwen beach is one of the finest beach in Zeeland. Its long and wide beach area provides a great view of the Oosterschelde and gives plenty of space for family and visitors to do recreational activities, such as enjoying sunbathing, swimming, reading, sleeping, and doing sports. From the our apartment, it took us three hours biking (with a few stops and resting) to the Westenschouwen beach using the scenic route. Seeing and experiencing the beach was definitely a worthy prize for our long biking escapade.
5. Visiting the city of Zierikzee, Zeeland
From the apartment we stayed, the old city of Zierikzee is located in the East side. This rich city currently showcases monuments, walls, gates, churches, towers, and windmills that have existed for many centuries. Our visits in this town included visits on museums, old churches, the city center, and harbours. My husband and I were delighted with the views and experience of Zierikzee, while our son, together with the other kids, could not get enough of playing in the fountain in front of the city center.
6. Indulging with fresh seafood
Seafoods such as mussels, oysters, prawns, and fish are just some of the prides of Zeeland. It is therefore recommended to indulge oneself with these freshly caught, delicious sea products when staying in Zeeland. In our case, we didn’t need to search for it since it was included in our three course dinner as part of our vacation package. De Heerenkeet restaurant has quite some delicious seafood menus to offer. It was definitely a good reward after a tiring biking adventure in the island.
7. Enjoying the cozy stay in the apartment
With the cosy atmosphere in our apartment and the great view of the Oosterschelde, we also enjoyed just staying inside and had some family time (heel gezellig!). We spent the last two days of our vacation in the apartment due to heavy rain in the summer (a typical Dutch weather). Still, there were plenty of nice things to do! We enjoyed eating, playing with our son, reading books, and watching Reign – one of our favourite historical American soap. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter wherever place you go, as long as you are with people that make the experience special and memorable.