I didn't hear of Texel until I moved to the Netherlands. This beautiful island in the North of the Netherlands (about 3.5 hours from Amsterdam) is a well-kept secret among Dutchies who spend their vacations sunbathing on its clean beaches, swimming into the Wadden Sea, biking along its heather-filled dunes, visiting its seal sanctuary for injured seals, and taking in cute little Dutch towns. Whether you're looking for a romantic weekend away, a weekend birdwatching, or a family cycling trip, Texel is a great weekend trip from Amsterdam or Rotterdam. It's my new favorite summer getaway and I'll be back.
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Texel (Tessel is how to say it in Dutch) is a small island that is part of the Frisian Islands in the middle of the Wadden Sea/North Sea. It is north of Den Helder, the most northern city in the western part of the Netherlands. Many of the nearby islands are not inhabited, however Texel is inhabited year-round. It's played a significant role in many wars, including World War II. Although Texel has its own unique dialect, most people primarily speak English / Dutch now. It's possible to do a daytrip from Amsterdam with a lot of planning and leaving around 6-8am, however Texel is best enjoyed in a more leisurely way over a weekend, including an overnight stay. It reminded me a bit of the best parts of spending summers visiting the beaches on Long Island (close to NYC) although I love how slow life feels on the island.
Hopefully this inspires you to visit Texel! I'm wearing an Emily & Fin dress in the Abigail style that I purchased from Aspire Style in photos.
This is why Dutchies come here. It's crowded in summer, but the second you feel the sand between your toes and gaze towards the sea, you'll understand why everyone comes here. You can rent one of the famous little beach bungalows on Paal 17 to nap inside. (J & I spent a few hours on the beach burying each other in sand.)
There are many beaches and they are all numbered in case you need to find a specific one (Paal X). If you're lucky, you might see wild seals on the beaches. There's a beautiful red lighthouse at the tip of the island, but you need a bit more time (or a bike without a flat to see it).
Hiking, Dunes, and Heather
Well, I wouldn't call it hiking in the conventional sense, but Texel is made of sand dunes, which is why you see hills here (a rare site in the Netherlands). There are clearly marked walking paths and you can just leave your bike close to the road before venturing out along a walking trail. We enjoyed getting lost on the beautiful trails.
The National Park Dunes of Texel is the main place to see the dunes, but you'll see them all over along the west side of the island. The heather is in bloom all summer as well as slightly earlier (call to ask!). The heather is very dreamy and it is easy to locate it once you're on the west side of the island. I found it very dreamy.
We brought out own bikes as it is the BEST way to see Texel. If you don't have your own bike, it is possible to rent a bike on the island, however it's only 6 euros for a one day bike pass on the NS trains.
The roads are set up for bicyclists and cars although cars are very respectful of bikes. You'll cruise through adorable small towns with many sheep, past heather covered dunes, through forests, and to the beginning of the beach. Some people drive, but biking is a sport here for a reason.
Check that your bike is in good condition prior to going as there's only two shops on the Island and they are both far from the ferry drop-off point. (Don't ride on a flat...)
If you're an animal lover, this place is the real deal. Texel is on the edge of the Wadden Sea, where seals live in the wild. The Ecomare is a seal hospital that cares for abandoned baby seals who would otherwise starve without their mother's feeding as well as rehabilitating injured seals that are found on the shores of Texel (and nearby islands). Their work is focused on catch/release and they do amazing work as a small nonprofit to help any injured seal/porpoise. Their goal is to put every animal that they can back into the wild if possible.
It is very family friendly although I was impressed with how much information they gave about the lives of the seals. The seal pictured was one of the babies who lost his mother that they were preparing to release seals back into the Wadden Sea after learning to eat fish. You can even see into the hospital ward and I promise, the baby seals are adorable. (I DID IT!)
I'm quite obsessed with seals as is J, so after walking up and down the beaches looking for wild seals (and failing), we ended up here. Doing good feels good too.
Beer / Tesseltje'
Texels beer is found all over the Netherlands and it's not surprisingly made on the island. The soil on Texels is supposed to imbue a special taste. You'll need to try it for yourself although it's best cold with a sea view. There's a little restaurant on Paal 17 on the beach where you can drink cold Texels beer, snack on seafood, and relax by the sea.
Look for bottles of Tesseltje' Likorette. It is named in honor of a enlightenment era figure, Maria Tesselschade Roemer Vissche, who was a member of Muiderkring intellectual circle that met at the Muiderslot castle. The name Tesseltje' is a nickname bestowed on her as she lived in Texel. The Likorette is a very sweet spiced liqueur that can only be bought on Texel or at the Muiderslot castle. It does not list its ingredients (still a secret).
Does the word Texel sound familiar to you? It might because the Texel sheep is one of the most common breeds of sheep in the world. This breed originates from Texel and the reason the ferry is so large: to transport sheep. I wasn't lucky enough to befriend one, however they're famous in the sheep world for their muscular frames. I admit, they remind me a bit of little bears from a distance as a result. I started counting sheep, but I lost track.
Cute Small Towns
We biked through the adorable towns of De Burg, De Waal, and Den Burg however Oudeschild is also famous. The Dutch have a word for these kind of places: gezellig, which means cozy/nice/cute. When passing through these small towns, which were a mix of both tourists and locals, friendly locals would greet us as well as ask us where we were from. I even saw an old man in giant clogs, a rare sight here in the Netherlands.
Most visitors stay within the towns where you'll find the basics: a supermarket, a bike shop, cafes to sip coffee/beer in, and houses available for rent. These towns are so small that you can see farmland all around you, but it's part of the charm. We enjoyed just getting lost on the small streets admiring the flower boxes.
If you're not a vegetarian, the Bij Jef restaurant is the only Michelin Star restaurant on the Island and it serves locally sourced ingredients. On a budget, you can head to the nearby supermarket to make a picnic by the dunes or by the beach.
Texel has so much more to offer. I considered a couples spa package although I was more tempted by the parachuting over Texel. I also saw horseback riding as well as boating while there!
Getting There & Staying There
You can take the train to Den Helder before catching the 30 minute ferry to Texel from the tip of Den Helder. The view from the ferry is gorgeous although be sure to check the schedule--and plan for the 15 minute cycle to the station. It's possible to bring a car to the island as well as just go on foot.
You'll find many options in terms of accommodations, but it is very hard to find something last minute in summer. Many places require at least 3-7 nights stay (as many Dutch families go for 1-2 weeks) although it's possible to find camping as well as inexpensive airbnbs if you book at least a month in advance. The market is a bit competitive (expect at least 100 euros a night for a bungalow).
Den Helder is a nice Dutch town with some surprisingly good food. They are redoing a block of former factories (you'll pass this on your way to the ferry) into a cultural center with restaurants and other attractions. We found a delicious Moroccan restaurant called Kunst & Kitchen with beautiful art decorations.
Where to stay in Texel
What's your favorite summer get-away so far? Have you heard of Texel?
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Karen & Jacob. American expats and cat lovers from New York City and Kentucky who lived in Amsterdam.... Then, Paris. (Confusing, we know!) Now, we're living in The Hague, the Netherlands.
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