You don’t need more then a few days to enjoy a bikepacking adventure. This is why I go on a 3-day bikepacking micro adventure in the Netherlands. I cycle from Haarlem to Noordwijk on day 1, the next day I ride my bike to Rotterdam, to cycle from here to Utrecht on day 3. I spend the night in bike-friendly hostels. Read all about this Bikepacking Holland tour in the blog!
Because yes, discovering the Netherlands by bike, that’s what I like to do! This time in collaboration with Bikepacking Holland, an initiative of 15 bicycle-friendly hostels in the Netherlands. They have mapped out a number of bikepacking routes along hostels and I am the first to try the route in the middle of the Netherlands. From Rotterdam this route brings you to The Hague, Noordwijk and then to Haarlem. In all these places you can overnight in a bikefriendly hostel. I cycle this route – in the opposite direction, that is – and add an extra stage to Utrecht. In this blog I tell you all about it and I give you great tips for on the road.
Haarlem to Noordwijk – 50 kilometers
In the morning I take the train from Utrecht to Haarlem. In this cosy city I cycle past the Gevangenis De Koepel, a former prison in Haarlem, to the Hello I’m local Hostel. The hostels re-opens in a few weeks and I want to know what the hostel looks like. If you cycle the entire tour from (or to) Haarlem, then this is the place to be to spend the night. The hostel has just been completely renovated and has a bike room to store your bike. By the way, there are also private rooms, if you prefer your own room after a long bike ride.
And now that I’m in Haarlem, I cycle a tourist round along the Spaarne. The part of the river between the Kampersingel and the Kloppersingel in Haarlem is called Binnen Spaarne. I see Teylers Museum on the other side of the water. Now I do know that this museum is worth a visit, but I still have a long way to cycle. I will keep the museum in mind for my next visit.
Zuid-Kennemerland National Park
EeOnce out of town, I quickly find myself on the bike path that runs through the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park. I recommend stopping at De Kennemerduinen Visitor Center. Here you can sit on the terrace, there are toilets and a drinking water point to fill your water bottles. And you learn more about the park.
Literally a stone’s throw from the city, you can stroll around (or cycle, of course) through the dunes. Take a dip in the Oosterplas or one of the other swimming lakes. Not only can you encounter a Scottish Highlander or Konik horse, but also the wisent (the European bison). I cycle on the cycle path that winds through the forest and the dunes and then I indeed see a few Highlanders standing next to the cycle path. They remain mighty animals, in an equally mighty and unique dune landscape.
Cycling through the dunes
And then further through the dunes. Once at the coast I quickly cycle through Bloemendaal, a small coastal town with lots of bars and restaurants. There is no space left at the beach clubs, I could have imagined that since the weather is so nice. Then on to Zandvoort, where I take a look at the octagonal water tower of Zandvoort and continue on the North Sea cycle path, the cycle path that leads right through the dunes of Zandvoort.
The unofficial Dutch saying goes: ‘If you’re always up against the wind, you’re probably going in the wrong direction’. It seems that I am cycling the right way: I have a tailwind throughout the entire cycle path, wonderful!
Looking for bulb fields
On my way to Noordwijk I first make a small detour in search of flower bulb fields. I really have to do my best, since on most fields there are no flowers to be seen yet. I therefore see a lot of tourists cycling around in despair. Actually we all are too early, next month in april it will probably be much nicer. But I’m lucky and still spot some fields with rows and rows of colorful flowers.
Just before Noordwijk I cycle along the defenses of the Atlantic Wall. A museum is located in the bunkers from the Second World War. Unfortunately, this museum is only open on Sundays in high season, and today I’m standing in front of a closed gate.
With the sea breeze in my hair I cycle into Noordwijk. What a lovely coastal town! I cycle through the dunes, past the lighthouse and then I arrive at my hostel. I spend the night at Flying Pig Beach Hostel, a wonderfully relaxed hostel just a stone’s throw from the sea. Here I can quickly park my bike and then I walk to the beach. Lovely get away. I almost consider borrowing a surfboard from the hostel, but the water is really too cold for that. Instead I take a walk on the beach and a trip through the dunes. When I wake up in the morning, breakfast is already ready. Now I often camp during bikepacking, but it’s nice to have everything arranged for you.
Noordwijk to Rotterdam – 62 kilometers
After yesterday’s flower bulb fields, on day 2 of my bikepacking 3-day Netherlands, I first cycle through The Hague and then to Rotterdam. How versatile do you want this route to be? On the North Sea cycle route (LF1 long distance cycle route) I first enjoy the breath of fresh air in the dunes. The cycle path undulates over the narrow strip of dunes along the North Sea. There are hardly any cyclists, I only now and then come across an early bird in running shoes.
After Katwijk aan Zee I cycle through Berkheide. This 1,700 hectare dune area on the North Sea coast between Scheveningen and Katwijk is part of the Hollandse Duinen National Park. I climb the Pannenduin Viewpoint. At 18 meters above sea level you have a beautiful view over the walking dunes. The wind from the sea takes dune sand with it from the beach, causing the dunes to ‘walk’ slowly inland. The WW2 bunkers that I see are mainly shelters for colonies of bats. I’ll see if I can spot the Galloway cattle or Konik horses roaming around here, but no luck today.
The Water Tower and the Pier of Scheveningen
The water tower of Scheveningen is located in the middle of the dunes. Just in front of the national monument is a water tap where you can refill water bottles. These public taps can be found in many places between Noordwijk and Scheveningen. Good to know if you are cycling here. Unfortunately for me this tap is out of order. Too bad, then I’ll just have to sit on the terrace with a view of the water tower. It’s vacation, of course.
I cycle through Coepelduynen, part of Hollands Duin, on the beautiful asphalted cycle path. Scheveningen is already in sight, and that means that I of course also have to walk over the famous Pier of Scheveningen. I have a small lock with me, so I park my bike against a fence on the boulevard. Every now and then I look at my bike with a slanted eye, the lock is not that strong, but this way you can always take a short walk during your bikepacking tour while your bike is relatively safe. Most restaurants on the pier are still closed this month, but the Ferris wheel is already turning and I walk through the loose sand under the pier.
Small tour of The Hague
On my way to Rotterdam I have the choice of making a loop around The Hague, or cycling right through the city. I choose the latter. This way I can immediately make a touristic tour through the Hofstad. Of course I will not skip the Binnenhof. And the exhibition In full bloom is now running in the Mauritshuis. In honor of this, there is a sea of flowers in front of the museum. The flowers you see inside the museum on the paintings are in full bloom outside the building.
Viewpoint De Tureluur and the Ackerdijkse lakes
Just outside The Hague I stop at the Viewpoint De Tureluur. I climb the watchtower for a magnificent view over the Ackerdijkse Plassen. It is a bird sanctuary, so if you take your time you can spot a lot of birds here. And it’s spring, so meadow birds are breeding everywhere now. Cormorants are often seen in the swampy landscape.
The area is accessible to hikers, but I have to avoid it by bike. I do, however, have found a real gravel path along the Berkelse Zweth. At least, that’s how I planned it through Komoot. I see a sign ‘forbidden for cyclists’, the beautiful gravel path turns out to be a walking path. That means I just an have to make a detour. I can already see the skyline of Rotterdam looming.
COPPI coffee & bikes Rotterdam
When you say Rotterdam, you say COPPI koffie & fietsen (COPPI koffie & fietsen). Ik ben precies op tijd voor een late lunch en bestel een burrata salade met boerenkool, geroosterde biet en pompoen, appel, zwarte quinoa en pijnboompitten. Geloof me, alleen hiervoor zou je naar Rotterdam fietsen!
The Skyline of Rotterdam
In the last kilometer of today I make an extra loop over the Willemskade, for a view over the skyline of Rotterdam. Of course I admire the Erasmus Bridge, but also ’the Rotterdam’, the building designed by Rem Koolhaas. The immense structure is a city in itself. It may not be the tallest structure in the Netherlands, but it is the largest. A little further on I spot the green roof of the former head office of the Holland-America Line, now Hotel New York.
The Hostel ROOM Rotterdam where I spend the night today is in the middle of the monumental Scheepvaartkwartier. And even though I’m staying in hostels this trip, that doesn’t mean I’m going back to basics. Today I discovered perhaps the nicest hostel ever: I sleep in a real Dutch ‘bedstee’!
Street art walk Rotterdam
A known ‘problem’, but once again I cycled too fast. That means I have time left for a city walk. The hostel has set up a street art tour, where you walk along the coolest street art in Rotterdam.
Katendrecht and the Rotterdam Watertaxi
I have enough time to walk around Katendrecht and the Kop van Zuid again. It is too busy to find a place at the Foodhallen, since it is un-Dutch warm for March. From Katendrechtse Haven I take the water taxi back to stop 47, near the hostel. In the evening I eat a pizza in the hostel bar, and in the morning I also have a tasty breakfast waiting for me.
Rotterdam to Utrecht – 65 kilometers
After cycling for a while on the Maasboulevard, for a last view of Rotterdam, the route takes me in the direction of the Krimpenerwaard on this 3rd cycling day. Before I explore the Krimpenerwaard, I first cycle over the storm surge barrier in the Hollandsche IJssel.
Over the Lekdijk
From Krimpen aan den IJssel, the route is actually simple. Just keep following the Lek and I will automatically arrive in Utrecht. I can cycle undisturbed on the wide dike road, also with a beautiful view over the river. Usually I cycle from my hometown of Utrecht to Schoonhoven and back, now I also explore this southern part of the river. It is still quite cold, so I quickly put on the down jacket that I am fortunate to have with me. After this I can join a small group of cyclists that are also on their way to Schoonhoven.
I let the group go as soon as Schoonhoven comes into view. The Silver City of the Netherlands with its old gate and historic center is always beautiful to cycle through. I used to stop here at Wielercafé Fausto. The small and cosy cafe is now closed, but luckily the owners have opened a new cycling cafe (under the same name) in the harbor of Schoonhoven.
To be honest I never cycle to Schoonhoven without stopping here. If only for the delicious cappuccino and the stress of choice you have when you have to choose a piece of cake. I’ve tasted them all and they are all delicious.
Further on the Lekdijk
The route continues over the Lekdijk. That is either wonderful cycling or suffering, depending on the wind direction. There is really no in-between. Today I have the wind against me, so the last kilometers home will be the slowest of this bikepacking tour. I stop every now and then for a look over the floodplains of the Lek.
If you’re lucky, you’ll cycle in Jaarsveld with the river on one side and flowering fruit trees on the other. And I’m lucky, the first trees are in bloom. There will be many more to follow in the coming weeks.
Here I can choose to continue following the Lek until the Lekbrug near Vianen, and then cycle through Nieuwegein to Utrecht. Or I turn left at Jaarsveld into the polders. I choose the latter. Another hour and then I cycle over the Groenedijk to the foot of the Utrecht Dafne Schippers Bridge. Here, at the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, my bikepacking micro adventure tour is finished!
I made this tour in collaboration with BikepackingHolland. They arranged a place to stay for me and my bike, I made beautiful cycling routes in Komoot. Bikepacking Holland has set up a number of bikepacking packages, including the Central Netherlands route. From Rotterdam you cycle to The Hague, Noordwijk and then to Haarlem. This largely corresponds to the route I have cycled. When you book the package, the overnight stays (including breakfast) will be arranged for you. Ideal if you are new to bikepacking and want to give it a try. Or if you like it when overnight stays are arranged for you. All hostels of Bikepacking Holland have a free bicycle shed. Bicycle pumps and often basic bicycle repair kits from BBB are available. Towels and bed linen are arranged, so that saves space in your bicycle bag. You can wash your cycling clothes in the hostels and breakfast is waiting for you. What else do you need?