Texel is a beautiful island in the North of the Netherlands and it seems it is literally unknown to people outside of the Netherlands and their German neighbours. Picturesque Texel ( Tes-sel -pronounciation) is a gem off the Dutch coast and it is a great island for family vacations. Located just 3km north of the coast of North Holland stretching little more than 25km from north to south, and 9km from east to west quaint Texel is under the radar for most international tourists, even after being named one of Lonely Planets 2016 Top 10 Destinations to visit.
There are 5 inhabited Wadden islands that line the Dutch North Sea Coast. Texel is the biggest island, and is accessible by ferry, which means you can leave Amsterdam in the morning after breakfast and after a short train ride (70 min) or drive (90 minutes) and a quick 20 min ferry trip you can be enjoying island life.
When to go
The best time to visit starts when the weather warms up in April until early September, as the island’s main attractions are the almost 30km-long, white sand coastline and the 130 km of bike trails crossing the island. However as is common with Northern European destinations even at the height of summer there is no guarantee of sunshine at beaches in Texel, so the hotels and holiday apartments are always designed for maximum cosiness suitable for all kinds of weather.
We visited Texel with our little one when he was 3.5 months old in late June, the weather was wonderful and the island was just gearning up for the busy summer period.
OUR TOP RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEXEL WITH A BABY
#1 VISIT THE NATIONAL PARK
Texel has it is own national park ,The Texel Dunes National Park, and famous for its refreshing salty sea air, lambs and sense of space. Careful zoning and a large national park area means that most of the island remains untouched, shaped by the forces of wind and sea. It is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts, it offers activities such as windsurfing, cycling, sailing and bird watching or you can just relax, take it easy and marvel at the big skies, green fields and endless beaches.
Ecomare is the oldest seal sanctuary in Europe and it has porpoises feeding time ‘shows’, all is done in a very respectful manner, focusing on the wellbeing of the animals. In the parking lot they have a bird box where injured birds can be left if they are discovered outside of Ecomare opening hours. There is also a big interactive museum section, highlighting how the island was created in the Ice Age and an aquarium, which we had a lot of fun exploring. We spent several hours there, had lunch and explored the surrounding area, as is borders on the Dunes National Park.
#3 Bike all across the island
There are more than 130km of bike trails spanning the island and there are plenty of bike rental places scattered across the island. It is a great and easy way to explore the island, it is a great way to stop at local farms for lunch or to buy fresh cheese and milk. There are 2 things that can make biking on Texel, which is flat as a pancake, interesting: the wind and sheep blocking the bike path. Texel is known for its great lamb dishes and we were told the island has more than 25000(!) sheep and a general population of about 13000 people.
#4 Explore THE strange history of Texel
Texel has an interesting place in European military history, it is the location of Europe’s last battlefield. During the 2nd World War Texel formed part of the German Atlantic Wall defence line and in the late stages of the war the Germans send in a battalion of Georgian soldiers to secure the Atlantic Wall in the North of the Netherlands. The Georgians has either joined the German army out of choice or were prisoners of war (POW). In April 1945, weeks before the end of the war, the Georgian soldiers together with Dutch resistance groups on the island, revolted against their German commanders and quickly gained control of Texel. However, they were not able to remain control of Texel for long. And this is where this bit of history becomes rather sad and strange. The Germans surrendered and the 2nd World War ‘officially’ ended on 5 May, but the fighting and Texel continued until 20 May, and this is why the Georgian uprising is known as Europe’s last battlefield. What happened between 5-20 May ? The Germans systematically hunted down the Dutch resistance and Georgians rebels and killed them -565 Georgians, 120 Texel locals and 800 Germans lost their lives in the uprising. There is a big Georgian cemetery and memorial on Texel.The Texel lighthouse in the North of the island was one of the strongholds of the Georgian rebels and was heavily damaged bullets and mortar shells and this compromised its structural integrity. When you visit the lighthouse you will see an interior wall riddled with bullet holes and a new exterior wall. The 2 wall sections are only visible from the inside when you climb up the stairs to the top of the lighthouse.
HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND
By ferry from Den Helder. It is a 20-minute ferry crossing. The TESO ferry service is quick and a well-oiled machine. You can either board the ferry with your car (25-37 EUR per car) or do what we did and use public transport (a foot passenger return ticket is 2,50 EUR).Due to how easily accessible Texel is by public transport, bike and car, it is popular with one-day visitors, therefore the ferries can be quite crowded during the summer months.
We travelled by train to Den Helder and then crossed over to Texel by ferry and relied on public transport during our stay on the island. Upon arriving at Den Helder train station, we boarded bus 33 to the ferry port, which leaves from the bus stop right next to the small easy to navigate train station. The bus schedule aligns with the ferry and train schedule. On the bus you can buy a Texelhopper ticket (3 EUR), which will serve as your bus ticket to the ferry and is valid on Texel island until you have reached your final destination. You can also opt for a day ticket for 7,50 EUR. Once you get off the ferry on Texel there is busses waiting. Public transport on Texel consists of one fixed bus line (Nr. 28) and mini-buses. Bus 28 rides between the ferry, Den Burg and De Koog. The mini-buses take you to and from around 130 stops on the island.We took the mini busses several times, it is very easy, it is just like ordering a taxi. You call the Texelhopper bus company tell them the pick-up point (all bus stops have numbers) and time and that’s it.
WHERE TO STAY
The biggest towns on Texel (the island has only 7 villages) and centres of tourism are De Koog and Den Burg. We decided to stay in De Koog during our visit for 2 reasons; It is directly adjacent to the Texel Dunes National Park and has direct beach access.
We stayed at the Greenside Hotel, a lovely 4-star hotel with spacious rooms, lovely personnel, a big breakfast buffet and a wellness spa area, perfect for new parents in need of a massage and some me-time. The Greenside Hotel is right next to the Texelhopper bus stop connecting to the ferry port, which was important to us, as we relied on public transport for our trip. The hotel is very close to various restaurants, the main supermarket in DeKoog and adjacent to a playground, a football pitch and plenty of green space for the little ones to run around safely.
The hotel has a play corner close to the reception/restaurant area and the restaurant staff were awesome and welcoming our little one. We were ambitious and ordered a 3-course menu, while our little 3,5 months old was asleep in his stroller in a quiet corner of the restaurant. All went well, but he woke up just before it was time for dessert, the waiter encouraged us to go for a walk and enjoy the dessert once we came back to the hotel. And as he had assured us, dessert was ready for us once we got back from our little stroll.
Have you ever heard of Texel?
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