An email arrived in our inbox recently asking for tips on where to tour with kids in the Netherlands, and on keeping costs low.
We are a family of 5: Mom, Dad and the rug rats (10, 8 and 5 years old). I would love to take the kids biking in the Netherlands for 3 days/nights. I’ve been researching and just keep coming up with guided and self-guided tours that seem expensive. Do you have any suggestions on a great route for the kids? And does it make sense to camp? -Rachel
With two kids ourselves, we have plenty of tips for planning a bike tour with kids in the Netherlands. So, here goes….
Kid-Friendly Bicycle Routes
Nearly all of the Netherlands is covered in safe and (mostly) flat bike paths. There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of places we could recommend. That said, here are three of our top picks for family bike tours:
Dutch Coastal Route
As its name suggests, the Dutch Coastal Route tracks the Dutch seaside. It combines two long-distance bike paths, the LF1 (the Dutch section of the North Sea Cycle Route) and the LF10. Easy access to the beach, the traffic-free bike paths running through the sand dunes and the many little towns along the way make this a good option for families. Various cities and towns nearby the route offer an easy train connection (eg. The Hague, Haarlem, Alkmaar and Den Helder).
This route runs around the IJsselmeer (formerly known as the Zuiderzee), along dikes and through historic fishing villages. Going all the way around the IJsselmeer with kids would be too much for three days but you could do a shortened version of the route: start in Amsterdam, or take the train to Purmerend. Either way, your first stop is the famous cheese making village of Edam. Continuing up the coast, there’s a fabulous open air museum (the Zuiderzee Museum) in Enkhuizen. From there, take the ferry to Stavoren and cycle south to the former island of Urk. Note: there is no train station in Urk, so you’ll have to bike a further 25km to Kampen or Dronten to get the train home.
Hoge Veluwe National Park
The Hoge Veluwe National Park is one of our favourite destinations in the Netherlands; a fantastic landscape combined with one of the country’s best museums and many activities for kids. As far as cycling routes go, we suggest taking the train to Ede, biking through the park and up to Apeldoorn where you could take the kids to see monkeys at the Apenheul or a palace (Paleis Het Loo). From Apeldoorn, you could cycle back through the park to Arnhem to check out the Burgers Zoo, the Afrika Museum or the Open Air Museum (our favourite). If you’re interested in WWII, Arnhem also offers museums for that.
There are plenty of great campsites in the Netherlands but for shorter trips you probably won’t want to be bothered carrying all the gear. A couple alternatives to normal B&Bs could be:
- Vrienden op de Fiets – This association offers low-cost accommodation in private homes to anyone travelling by bicycle or on foot. It costs €8 to join and this gives you access to 6,000 lodging addresses. Adults pay a maximum of €19.50 per person, kids €9.50. If you have 3 kids or more, you may find a cheap hotel for about the same price.
- Trekkers Huts – Many campgrounds offer simple one-room cabins with bunk beds and basic cooking facilities. You would need to bring your own sleeping bags, and it’s always a good idea to book ahead.
- Trains – Dutch trains are fairly bike friendly, and a good option if the kids are tired or you need to shorten the route. You’ll have to buy a ticket for each bike and avoid rush hour (except in the summer and on public holidays, when bikes are allowed all day). Bike spaces are limited, so the more ‘off-peak’ you can travel the easier your trip will be.
- Types of trains – Intercity trains run between major stops and are the quickest but some models require you to lift your bike into the carriage. The slower Sprinter trains stop everywhere but have tons of space for bikes and you can roll directly into the carriage.
- Renting Bikes – Most bike rental places in the Netherlands focus on city bikes but there are some interesting options if you look around. For example, MacBike in Amsterdam has bicycles with child seats and a parent child tandem – either of which would be fine for a short tour. Other shops offer fancier options like the Hase Pino tandem (eg. Vierfiets, Jasper Fietsen) but you may have to travel outside Amsterdam to get to them.