Netherlands: 5 days off the beaten track

OUR TRAVEL: 5 days, June 13 to 17, 2023

WHERE: Vlieland, Rotterdam and Biesbosch National Park.

HOW TO GET THERE: Rotterdam can be reached by train from Paris. From Gare du Nord station, Thalys makes the journey in 2h40! From there, you can rent a car to explore the region. Sixt offers a wide range of electric cars, and there are numerous recharging points in the Netherlands.

BOOK A THALYS TRAIN: You will find here fare information for disabled passengers. Reservations can only be made by telephone, and waiting times can be long! If you are accompanied, click here for further information. Last but not least, here you'll find links and telephone numbers for booking assistance services. Please note: if you book a Thalys train from Paris via the Thalys website, you must request assistance directly from them. The SNCF cannot handle this via its Accès Plus service. 

BOOK A FERRY TO VLIELAND : The company Rederij Doeksen offers a fast ferry or a ferry with a car hold, with tickets costing between €15 and €20 (without car). If you want to bring your own car, you'll need a PMR permit (approx. €30), as cars are not allowed in Vlieland. For further information here. If you leave your car at the port, here's all the information about parking close to the pier. All ferries have PRM spaces on board, and there are accessible toilets.

WHEN TO GO? In summer, the North Sea islands are crowded with locals. In our opinion, spring and the months of September-October are the best options. We were very lucky in terms of weather during our stay, and we can't guarantee that you'll have the same!

WHY GO? As soon as you pass Amsterdam, you find yourself in a landscape of fields and pastures where divine calm reigns. Windmills, peaceful islands... everything you need to recharge your batteries for a few days!

ACCESSIBILITY : Find all our addresses on our map Mapstr !

After a few days in northern Germanywe took a train from Hamburg to Rotterdam. Once again, we realized that Europe is more than accessible by train when you're in a wheelchair. Deutsch-Bahn and Thalys are the most efficient companies for getting to Northern Europe! 

Once again, our prejudices are going to be put to the test with a stay far off the beaten track! From Rotterdam, an industrial city bathed in street art, we head north to the Beemster region and the Wadden Sea, a UNESCO World Heritage site...

Hang on, here we go!

Rotterdam, a city of art

Rotterdam is a port city that, like Hamburg, has succeeded in blending its history with modernity. 

You won't be able to miss it, architecture is something special here. Each building has its own nickname: the pencil, the cube houses, the spire... And in between, monumental works of street art that immerse us in their creator's world.

Our favorite street-art spots
Our favorite architecture spots
The Boijmans depot

If you walk along the canal from Central Station, you can reach a unique building. The Boijmans Repository is not a museum, but one of the storage centers for the works of the Museum of Fine Arts! The main museum has been undergoing renovation for 11 years, and to ensure that everyone can continue to have access to the works, they decided to create this depot.

In this UFO located in a park, masterpieces have been installed under glass, while the rest are housed in highly guarded rooms. Each floor has its own ventilation system to match the needs of the elements that make up the works.

Take a guided tour and pretend you're one of the museum's curators as you enter one of these rooms!

Nature at the gates of Rotterdam

Biesbosch National Park is a haven of peace 30 minutes from Rotterdam. As well as being the estuary of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, it's Europe's largest freshwater tidal zone! The water level used to fluctuate by around 2 meters before the construction of dikes limited it to around 20 centimeters.

From the park's visitor center, you can rent electric boats to cruise the canals at your own pace. I can't hide the fact that I was more than surprised to find that our boat was entirely wheelchair-accessible! You enter via a ramp, start the motor and off you go! Child's play! There's even enough room on board for you to steer!

We'll remember this experience for a long time to come, and you can watch it again on video on our Instagram account (@wheeled_world) !

Heading north!

Beemster and its dry lake

Just over a 2-hour drive from Rotterdam, the Beemster region is one of 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Netherlands. 

In the 17th century, to keep pace with population growth, Lake Beemster was drained to create fields, grazing areas and farms, using a technique dating back to the Renaissance. All these areas are linked by canals and a road network to facilitate the movement of farmers and goods.

Since then, no changes have been made, apart from reinforcing some of the dikes! 

It's great to take a bike and ride along one of the many cycle paths at the foot of the mills. Some are still in operation!

Eise Einsinga's planetarium

Not far from the port of Harlingen, the village of Franeker is home to the world's oldest working planetarium! At the end of the 18th century, a preacher predicted the end of the world when the planets aligned. So, to reassure the population, Eise Einsinga, a Frisian wool carder, decided to build this planetarium in his living room between 1774 and 1781.

The aim was to popularize astronomy and show everyone that this type of event had already happened and would continue to do so. If you look closely at each element, you can see the day's date, moonrise and moonset times, as well as the current astrological sign. 

This technical feat is in the process of being approved for UNESCO listing!

Vlieland, a peaceful island

Vlieland is one of the last islands bordering the Wadden Sea.

It can be reached in 1h30 from the port of Harlingen. There's no room for cars here, and you can get around on foot or by bike. There are numerous rental companies in the village, offering models of all sizes, including a cargo size for transporting children in a fun way.

Visiting outside the summer months gives you a real feel for life on the island. Everyone knows each other, exchanging news in front of the houses... Life is peaceful, and it's easy to enjoy an ice cream on the harbor! 

Discover the island

Nature reclaims its rights as soon as you leave the streets of the city center. Animals graze here and there, and whichever direction you turn, the sea is never far away!

Vlieland lighthouse

The lighthouse offers a 360° view! It's possible to climb the lighthouse for a few euros, but only for the able-bodied among you.

There are two ways to reach it. The quicker route from the town center is very passable, but quite steep. If you don't want to get too hot, you can also go around the hill, but here the path is made of gravel with no flat.

Full speed in a sand yacht

On the beach to the north of the island, the wind blows strongly all year round. Conditions are ideal for sand yachting! We've already tested it in Le Touquet but the wind had died down!

The machine's design is minimalist: a soft canvas serves as a seat, and a handlebar is used to steer it. Ideal when you can't use your legs! You still need a minimum of grip and strength to pull the rope that controls the sail. 

After a few tips from our instructor for the day, it's off to the sand and back at top speed! You quickly get the hang of it, and it's almost like a Mario Kart race! Just make sure you don't end up facing into the wind, or you'll come to an instant halt!

Watch this experience video on our Instagram account !

Sunset at Vliehors

At the western end of the island, the Vliehors is a 25 km2 desert where a few huts have been built in case of high tides and a person finds himself in danger.

This area can be used during the week by NATO forces and the Dutch army. Check with the tourist office before you go.

There are only two ways to get there:

  • Cycling to here then walk into the desert.  
  • Take an excursion with the Vliehors Express (full details at the end of this article). The trip takes place in a truck along the beach to the north of the island. The scenery is absolutely incredible! If you choose to do it in the evening, campfire and sunset are guaranteed!


Hilton Hotel: The hotel is located less than 10 minutes' walk from the main train station. Rates: Rooms start at €150 per night. Breakfast costs €25. Accessibility: The hotel entrance is on one level and wheelchair-accessible. All common areas are wheelchair accessible. Rooms are spacious and comfortable. The bathroom is also large. A shower seat is fixed to the wall, and grab bars in the corner. There are also grab bars around the toilet.

Room Mate Bruno Hotel: The hotel is less than 10 minutes by metro (Wilhelminaplein station) from Central Station. Rates: Rooms start at €100 a night and breakfast costs €15.5. Accessibility: There are two ways to get into the hotel: from the main entrance, call reception to activate the stair lift. At the corner of the street, there's also a locked door with an intercom for access to reception. In both cases, a member of the hotel staff must help you to enter and leave the building. All common areas are wheelchair accessible. The wheelchair-accessible room is spacious and comfortable. The bathroom is also large, with a wall-mounted seat and grab bars. There are two grab bars around the toilet.


Westcord Strandhotel Seeduyn: The hotel is located just a 15-minute walk from the town center, with breathtaking views of the beach! Rates: Rooms start at €160 per night and breakfast costs €21. Accessibility: The hotel entrance is on one level. The common areas are all wheelchair-accessible via an elevator. The disabled room is comfortable but unfortunately does not have a sea view. There are two bathrooms, one with a shower seat and grab rails in the shower and around the toilet. To get there, from the ferry dock, you can take a free bus that will take you right to the front of the hotel. Depending on your ferry's departure times, you can also request a cab from reception (€10 per journey). It's wheelchair-accessible, with a lifting platform so you can slide right in!

Biesbosch National Park

Stayokay Dordrecht: This youth hostel is a 2-minute drive from the pier for the electric boat. Set on one of the canals, it's quite pleasant to have a drink on the terrace. Rates: Comfort double rooms cost €100 a night, and breakfast is included. Accessibility: There's a small step to enter the hotel and another to access the terrace. The common areas are then wheelchair-accessible. The disabled room is not large. You have to make your bed when you arrive, but I think you can ask reception for help if you need it. The bathroom, on the other hand, is quite spacious. They provide a canvas seat with good non-slip pads under the feet to ensure transfers. There's a grab bar in the shower and two more around the toilet. If you'd like to go to another Stayokay in the Netherlands, you can find here all the information you need about their accessibility. Here you'll find details of all room facilities.


Hotel New York: Right next door to the Room Mate Bruno Hotel, this hotel has a great terrace for dining with the sun setting! Prices: Dishes from €15. Accessibility: The terrace is wheelchair accessible. We did not test the toilets.

Stadscafe Weena: Right next to the Hilton, a great terrace on the grass at the foot of the skyscrapers! Prices: tapas from €4, main courses from €15. Find their menu here (in English). Accessibility: The terrace is accessible by boat. One of the picnic tables has no bench on one side to facilitate wheelchair access. We did not test the toilets.

Renilde: On the top floor of the Boijmans Depot, enjoy lunch with a superb view of the city. We recommend the vegetarian pita sandwich! Please note: you must reserve a slot at the Dépôt to access the restaurant. You can do so here. Prices: between €9 and €16 for a dish. Visit here their menu. Accessibility: The entrance is on one level and the interior is fully wheelchair accessible, with an elevator to the restaurant. The terrace is also accessible. There are also accessible toilets on this floor.


Gestrand: Next to the ferry pier, this nifty restaurant offers fresh, simple dishes. Prices: Dishes start at €13. Visit here their menu (in Dutch). Accessibility: The entrance to the restaurant is on one level. We did not test the toilets.

Badhuys: This great spot is literally right on the beach. Shade or sun, you'll have the choice to enjoy great salads or pizza reworked with local produce! Prices: Dishes start at €14.5. The menu can be found here (in Dutch). Accessibility: The terrace and restaurant are on one level. We did not test the toilets.

MIN 12 ice cream parlour: Right in the center of town, this ice cream shop offers a wide variety of flavors, some of which are vegan. Perfect under the sun! Prices: from €2.5 for a scoop of ice cream. The list of flavors is here. Accessibility: The entrance is on one level. We didn't check for toilets.

Beemster region

EetCafé Halfweg Ursem: On the banks of a canal, an ideal terrace when the weather's fine, with windmills in the background. Prices: Salads and main courses start at €14. Visit here their menu (in Dutch). Accessibility: The entrance to the restaurant is via a ramp. The toilets are not accessible, but they are in a separate area and someone can stand in front of the door while you wait.

Biesbosch National Park

Villa Augustus: A hotel in a former water tower! The restaurant serves delicious dishes made from garden vegetables. Delicious! Prices: Salads and dishes start at €14. Visit here their menu. Accessibility: The restaurant entrance is on the side of the main building to avoid steps. If you want to go to the toilet or eat inside, there's also a ramp. The toilets are accessible and equipped.


Boijmans Repository: Discover some of the Fine Arts Museum's treasures in their storage warehouse! Price: €20 per person, free for under-18s. You need a ticket to enter the museum. You can buy them here. To reserve a slot for a visit (in English) to one of the conservation rooms, go directly to the reception desk, and it's included in the ticket price. Accessibility: The museum is fully wheelchair accessible. There are accessible toilets on various floors.


Eise Eisinga Planetarium: The world's oldest planetarium still in operation! Several times a day, check with them when you arrive, a guide will explain, in English, in 15 minutes how it works Prices: €6 per adult and €4.5 for 4-14 year-olds Accessibility: 95% of the museum is wheelchair accessible. There is a step up to the planetarium room, and the door is about 70 cm wide. There are accessible toilets at the entrance.


Sand yacht : Speed across the sand in your chariot and do as many laps as you can! Visit here for more information. Rates: €35 per person for 1 hour of activity. Accessibility: The hut is on the beach and not wheelchair accessible. The only way to reach it easily is to climb onto Petra's quad bike (her number: +31 6 51 69 31 85), who works there and will take you straight to the gear. To get into the float, because of its design, you'll certainly need some help. It's made entirely of canvas, so there's little risk of leaning on it during the activity. It's a good idea to have a backpack handy to wedge under your legs so you don't slip on the canvas. Access to the toilet is obviously compromised during this activity.

Vliehors Express: A truck bus that takes you through the Vliehors desert to the end of the island, via the beach! One of our most beautiful sunsets! Price: Between €25 and €35 if you do it during the day or after dark with a campfire. For reservations click here. Accessibility: This activity is not at all suitable for wheelchairs. The truck stops right next to the Badhuys in the soft sand. This is the only way to start the activity. Access to the truck is via a steep metal staircase. The driver may offer to help, but you'll need at least 3 people to help you up. Once at the top, you'll have to settle on one of the first benches (it's forbidden to stay on the rear deck while moving). I stayed in the truck during the 2 stops to avoid having to do it all over again. 

Biesbosch National Park

Electric boat trip: In the heart of the Biesbosch National Park, take a quiet boat ride - a real treat! Price: €46 for a one-hour boat ride. You can take up to 8 people. The boat must be rented for a minimum of 2 hours. Reservations can be made by sending an e-mail to charters.biesbosch@dordrecht.nl. Accessibility: The boat is wheelchair-accessible from the deck via a ramp. You can take 2 wheelchairs on board at the same time. There are accessible toilets right next to the boarding pontoons.

Our stay in the Netherlands opened our eyes to the richness of this destination. We really enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Rotterdam and its artists of all kinds. Discovering the north-western regions of the country allowed us to rediscover a certain serenity, thanks to the omnipresence of nature and the strong cultural roots dating back centuries. 

We'll be back for sure!

Trip organized in collaboration withDutch National Tourist Board.

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