It’s something we’d wanted to do for a long time – a Campervan tour of Holland and the Bulb Fields. However, we never managed to get around to actually going there.
Our first trip to Holland, back in our touring caravan days had been a bit of a revelation! Come on, let’s face it, we never really hear of many British folk, heading to The Netherlands for holidays, however, we loved it and always said we’d return.
The bulb fields of The Netherlands, are of course, world famous! Sprouting out of the earth each year, somewhere between late March and May (weather and bulb type depending).
These amazing blooms of multi-coloured hyacinths, daffodils, crocus, Tulips and many other blooming lovely flowers, are the epitome of Springtime Europe.
So heading off for a few weeks to catch the best of the blooms, had us arriving in Abbenes, 7km from the world famous Keukenhof, that’s the world’s largest flower garden.
We were just in time to catch the height of the displays, during the 2nd week of April. This was the start of our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in our campervan, would we love or loathe this famous Dutch spectacle?
The Netherlands is very campervan friendly, although, not as good as France or Germany. However, they do have lots of private camper-stops and we plodded over to Het Groene Hart, a perfect little small-holding type place. Situated right next to the cycle paths (that’s not too unusual!) and complete with toilets, showers and electric, it was a perfect place to stop.
Holland is definitely one of those countries, where you really have to literally get on your bike! As soon as we got the van parked up, we were off out exploring.
Cycle heaven, it is! Off we peddled, firstly to Kaag, a pretty village, where we hopped on a boat, crossing a canal to a peaceful little island – for just 1 Euro each….bargain!
After a quick cycle round, we were back on the boat and off towards Sassenheim and Noordwijk, peddling towards the coast!
Before we knew it, our little Brompton wheels, had covered a staggering 26 miles, we just couldn’t get enough! It helped when those first bulb fields came into view – Hyacinths of lilac, pinks and whites. We could smell the scent, before were set eyes upon them, almost like being in a florist shop!
If you want to see the bulb fields, you can see the masses of flowers, over quite a large area, 5000 acres of it. They are planted in fields, as crops would be, growing in different varieties and colours. The aroma and vibrancy of the displays is just beautiful.
There’s a good driving route for the Bulb Fields, which is signposted and easy to follow. The route takes you through Noordoostpolder, to get the most out of the season, it’s best to take to the bike, making use of the Dutch cycle path system.
These are everywhere, easy to navigate and flat. This way, you can take your time, getting up close and personnel with your favourite blooms.
It’s also possible to walk, but it’s vast areas, so those feet soon get tired. Then, there’s the campervan, driving is an option, although, you don’t seem to get the same intimate feel.
The Kukenhof, is the big tourist sight for the bulbs. It’s popular, attracting coach loads of visitors, with car parks full to the brim and flowers like you’ve never seen before….it’s just blooming marvellous!
It’s basically: gardens, greenhouses, lakes, cafe’s and shops, all filled with bulbs, to give us visitors a jolly good day out! The entrance fee was 16 Euro per adult on our visit in 2017, but worth it for the experience.
We parked easily enough despite the crowds. Wrapped up to protect us from the chilly winds, we took our time meandering though the various pathways and displays.
If I’m honest, we were just as happy milling around the rainbow coloured fields surrounding the area. Preferring, the more natural planting arrangements throughout the region.
Driving on to Lisse, we had planned on a walk through the fields of bulbs, unfortunately, Sunday traffic jams prevented us from getting close enough to stop.
Undeterred, we headed North, out to the coast and the National Park Zuid-Kennermerland. This vast sand dune park, had us back on the Brompton’s along more excellent cycle paths. A great place for our picnic and our daily excercise!
A quick drive over to the promenade at Zandvoort, enabled us to stretch the legs with a brisk walks. before parking up for the night at a campsite near Haarlem.
Always hyperactive, we ventured back on the bikes, first stopping for a picnic along the easy 3km cycle route, taking us to the centre of Haarlem. A nice, bustling town on a canal with town squares full of coffee shops and pavement bars.
We had tried to park in the centre with the campervan, unfortunately though, our British bank cards weren’t accepted at the parking meter and neither was cash, which became a bit of a pattern!
Leaving the Bulb fields behind, Amsterdam came calling! There is a camper stop here, but as we pulled up at the locked gate, so did several other people!
As the attendant came over to ask each van how long they’d like to stay, our own response of “not sure yet”, didn’t go down too well. So we, hot-footed it out of there, to Camping Vliegenbos further up the road.
At €26 per night, without electric (they had no pitches available with power), it wasn’t too bad a price. From here it’s a 10 minutes cycle ride to the FREE ferry crossing, leading to Amsterdam Central Station in just a few minutes. Ferries run all day, through to midnight if needed.
Camping Vliegenbos is one of those that attracts the young backpackers. Now, this is Amsterdam, anything goes and you soon know about it at 3am. This is when the young mob, are still chanting, singing and smoking their recently bought Amsterdam specials!
That aside, it’s a good base and Amsterdam is fab! We used our Brompton’s to navigate the city, saving time and feet ache. It’s a free for all on the cycling streets of Amsterdam, an experience in itself!
If you haven’t been, Amsterdam is quite a place, oozing charm in bucket loads! It’s quite different – very liberal and full of gorgeous character houses which line the canals.
There is, of course, the seedy side of town, the Red Light district, which is what it is. Then there’s the coffee shops, the smoke filled clouds of non-conventional tabacco drifting in a haze through the streets!
Arty types are everywhere, bringing a youthful mix and a brilliant choice of vintage clothes with fabulous quirky stores.
If you want to visit Anne Frank Haus museum, then perhaps book ahead. The queues were huge, we’d already been on a previous visit, so gave it a miss this time, although it’s a unique and moving experience in itself.
There are other museums, Van Gogh is one that is extremely popular, but we chose to just wander around the food halls, markets and intricate alleyways. The kind of back street side of the city, was just intriguing.
Zaanse Schans was next on our tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome. This place is a popular stop for the day trippers and you can see why!
It’s not only a lovely village, but it’s also home to several beautiful windmills, housing various trade’s. Specialist clog makers, cheese producers, spices merchants and other small shops and museums line the canals. There’s a parking fee for motorhomes of €10, a bit steep, but it’s convenient and the place is rather lovely.
We stopped the night at Volendam at a Marina, this is common practice in The Netherlands and a really good use of space for us motorhome folk. Volendam is a busy seaside town, with lots of tourists milling around the traditional style buildings in the centre of town. A nice atmosphere with plenty of little shops and cafe’s made it a really welcome little find.
From Volendam, we cycled to Edam, around 3km away. There was a bit of a headwind, so we took a bit longer than expected. Edam is a nice small town, famous for the Cheese, but it’s also a pretty place with canals and ornate buildings. Perfect for a quick nibble on the famous cheese, before moving on to our next stop, Alkmaar.
A Park & Ride at Alkmaar was our handy parking spot. As usual on this trip, out came the Brompton’s and off we cycled for around 2km to the busy town centre. Lot’s of small shops, giving an individual feel mingled with more canals and nice architecture.
Driving on after a bit of an exploration on foot, we decided to stop the night at Hoorn. Here we found another marina that welcomed the motorhome’s, Jachthaven Grashaven, Hoorn. They also provided us with use of their facilities….hot showers (1Euro), waste emptying, electric and toilets, all for 15 Euro per night – a very welcome addition.
The following morning we walked into Hoorn from the Marina, another typically Dutch character town. Getting around in Holland is rather easy, everything is well sign-posted, so walking, cycling and driving is rather simplified.
After leaving Hoorn, we took a drive out to Enkuizen and Medemblik. Then over to the coast to Callantsoog before parking up for the night at the Marina Willemsoord in Den Helder.
This old naval base is now a mix of shops and restaurants with motorhome parking for 13.50 Euro per night, including use of really excellent facilities. A contemporay shower and toilet area, along with motorhome dump and electric (1 Euro for 2 hours) and free wi-fi.
From Den Helder, it was time to cross the 30km long straight road across the sea to Kornwerderzand, through Bolsward and on to Sloten. This small village was where we had lunch, before driving on to another marina for our next night stop.
The next town, was also the most stunning, the gorgeous Giethoorn. This area of National Park amongst, small, narrow canals was also our stop for the night, parking alongside a larger canal at a private camperstop, Camperpaats Haamstede.
This quirky little camperstop at 13 Euro per night, included use of very good showers and toilets. They also provided a very eccentric indoor information room! Here, you could sit in an old barn-type building, where the owners provided both log burner’s, sofa’s and a range of rather unique artefacts. These had been scattered around, to add to the feeling of being in some sort of abandoned forest hut, it was just up our street!
The following morning, we braved the cold wind and cycled across the canal. We soon emerged into a hub of mini-canals, entwined with tiny arched bridges and beautiful cottage style buildings. Tourists on coach trips, mingled along the tiny paths, this place could be overwhelmingly busy in peak season.
Visit off-season or arrive early or late during Summer, there’s not much passing space on those little bridges, so you’d soon get frustrated amongst the crowds of day-trippers.
Never ones to follow like sheep, we were ready to leave the coach drop-off zones of Giethoorn. We got ready to explore the wider countryside on our bikes, 30km later, we’d progressed through blissful Spring landscapes, surrounding Giethoorn itself. We’d well and truly immersed ourselves into the quieter areas.
Full of vibrant fields of crops, pavement stalls sold local jams amongst hedgerows, where nesting Tits flew out around us. Here, farmers gathering crops by hand, stopped to give us a nod, as we cycled past.
An added adventure, of a small river crossing at Jonen, had us boarding a barge for 3 Euro. Always good to have something a little different and unexpected, we felt as if we’d stepped right out of an Enid Blyton book!
Well and truly shattered after our day of peddling, we headed on to Arnhem and a camperstop out of the centre at Latham. This yacht club camperstop for 15 Euro, had showers (50c), toilets and dump station. It was a pretty spot, overlooking a lake, better than staying in Arnhem itself, which had a rather uninviting motorhome Aire, by the river.
Taking a walk through Veluwe National Park, on a well marked forest trail was a nice detour. Mainly because we like a forest walk, but also we had the great pleasure of witnessing a wild Stag, run right in front of us-Wow!
Arnhem itself, is incredibly interesting. If you don’t already know, it’s famous, due to the battle of September 1944, which was then brought to the cinema world in the epic Holywood film, “A Bridge Too Far”.
After first, driving over the the bridge, we followed a marked trail of commemorative points of interest, through the town on foot. We find war history incredibly interesting, perhaps, due to it being the era that our parents were born into and our grandparents fought through.
Arnhem has an excellent museum, located at Oostereek, in a beautiful mansion type property. This was headquarters of the allies during the war and now displays the most interesting of information, all about the battle, known as Operation Market Garden.
It is apparently closed at present, for major renovation works and isn’t due to re-open until the end of 2021.
From here, we walked through the grounds, which was the actual battlefield. It’s now a beautiful area of woodland, where marked footpaths take you through to various landmarks, passing Deer parks and ornate ponds. It’s always amazing how something so lovely, can be born from such devastation.
Arnhem also has a really good town centre, some good shopping and plenty of cafe culture. For us though, it was time to head back into Belgium, for our last few days, before catching the Calais ferry back to Dover.
Until next time Holland!
Thanks for reading our Tour of Holland and the bulb fields in a motorhome.
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