Texel, the Netherlands
0 – 2 meters
Take a deep breath of the fresh sea air, curl your toes in the soft sand, and get lost in the gentle rhythm of the tide. Welcome to the Dunes of Texel National Park.
From forests and heathland to salt marshes and beaches, the Dunes of Texel is a small and laid-back national park on the island of Texel. Situated just off the Netherlands’ northern coast, the park’s western edge borders the North Sea, bringing with it a host of interesting sea and plant life. Here, the fresh sea air can be easily enjoyed on one of the numerous hiking or biking trails, or simply over a plate of hearty local food at one of the many restaurants.
Dunes of Texel National Park
Comprising the entire western shore of the island of Texel, the Dunes of Texel National Park covers around 43 square kilometers of lush coastal landscape. The largely flat surface creates an ideal underground for laid-back hikers and cyclists. The trails and paths in the park help you easily experience the best of Texel. All are exceptionally signposted. If you come for the animal life, regular guided tours will increase your chances of seeing something special, while giving you an informed and insightful overview of life in the park.
The park itself is dominated by the sand and the sea. But don’t let that description fool you into picturing nothing but rolling yellow dunes: Various species of grass thrive here. They grow unchecked out of the ground, creating a patchwork blanket of differing shades of green. If you crouch down and hold your nose, you could be fooled into thinking you were far away from the salty sea. Well-maintained hiking and biking trails lead you through it all, with certain sections raised on wooden boards to protect the ground from erosion.
Once you’re on the island of Texel, getting to the national park is incredibly easy. If you’re driving, you can drive directly into the national park and park your car at Paarkeplaats Paal 17. From here, it’s a three minute walk to the beach. If you’re driving from Amsterdam, it’ll take you around 2 hours until you get to the ferry port in Den Helder. The ferries run every 30 minutes and cost around €37 per car. The ferry takes around 20 minutes.
If you’re traveling by train, simply take the connection from Amsterdam to Den Helder, from where you will have to take bus number 33 to the port. From here, you can board the ferry to Texel, and then take a public bus from the port to the national park.
Wildlife and plants
Dunes of Texel National Park is home to a diverse combination of birds, fish, reptiles and salt-water plants. Birds are especially prevalent in the national park, with hundreds of species — both rare and common — calling the Dunes of Texel home. Commonly seen are the greylag and brent goose, eider, pheasants, short-eared owls, starlings, wagtails and an abundance of gull.
Rabbits, hares and hedgehogs are frequent sights within the dunes and the heathlands off the coast, as are stoats and other small rodents. Hiking through the park, you can often spot the long-haired highlander cows on the grasslands or even in the sea water. Look for seals and porpoises when you approach the sea.
When it comes to flora, Texel is as bursting with plantlife as it is with animal life. Orchids, for example, a rarity in the rest of the Netherlands, are commonly seen all over the island. Along the shore, salt tolerant plants such as the glasswort, the sea lavender and the sea aster grow in amongst the dunes. Finally, snowdrops are also incredibly prevalent across Texel following their introduction to the island in the 1950s. Grown originally for cultivation and sale, the forests of Texel get frequently covered in a blanket of white thanks to the plant thriving in these darker, damper corners of the island.
Where to stay
Whatever time of year you visit, you’ll find numerous hotels, guesthouses and bed and breakfasts within a short walk/bus ride of the park. If you’d like to camp, there are also numerous campsites within the confines of the park itself. Wild camping is strictly prohibited.
Even though only 10% of the island is designated park-land, around 70% of the island’s inhabitants work in the tourism industry. This means that whatever time of the year you visit, you’ll always find ample accommodation options, companies offering guided tours and plenty of places to grab a bite to eat/restock supplies.
Activities in the park
When should I visit the park?
Every season has something to offer in Dunes of Texel National Park. Peak season is in summer, when the weather is ideal sunbathing and going for a dip in the fresh sea. Autumn and winter give you the chance to get a breath of fresh air at the sea.
Do you need to stick to trails?
You are free to roam in this National Park, but be careful with the dry grass vegetation on the dunes.
Can I go wild camping?
No. Wild camping is prohibited in the Dunes of Texel National Park, as it is in all Dutch national parks.
Can I bring my dog?
Texel is completely dog friendly. Dogs can run off-leash in almost all areas of the national park and dog-friendly accommodation options are fairly widespread. Beware when approaching sheep.
Is the park wheelchair accessible?
Many of the trails in the park are wheelchair accessible. The majority of the accommodation options within and around the park also house extra facilities for wheelchair access.
Where do I park?
There is parking at the tourist station, the Naturum visitor centre and the railway station.
Is the use of drones permitted?
You can use drones weighing up to 25 kg, but don’t let them fly higher than 120 meters.
National parks in the Netherlands
The Netherlands counts 21 national parks, a lot of them situated at the coast. Some of the most popular ones are Biesbosch, Drentsche Aa and Oosterschelde.