There are 3 ferry services running across the North Sea from the UK to Netherlands - Harwich to Hook of Holland, Newcastle to Amsterdam Ijmuiden and Hull to Rotterdam.
If you are not keen on flying or just enjoy travelling by ship then these could be good alternatives to get to Netherlands - especially if you live in north-east UK or east Anglia. Don't forget the added cost of food on board and possible transfers from the ferry terminal.
1. Stena Line "Rail & Sail" Dutch Flyer Service
This is a combination ticket that includes a Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland (Hoek van Holland) and also rail tickets in both UK and Netherlands. From the UK you travel from any of the Abellio Greater Anglia Station (AGA) stations including: London Liverpool Street, Ipswich, Colchester, Norwich and Cambridge. The train will take you to Harwich International ferry terminal.
There are 2 daily ferries running each way between Harwich and Hoek van Holland - one daytime service and one overnight sailing. You are obliged to buy a cabin on the overnight service which will be a little more expensive.
From Harwich, the day ship departs at 0900 arriving in Hoek at 1645. Note that if leaving from London Liverpool Street you will need to be on the 0638 train Mon-Sat in order to connect. On Sunday the ship departs at 1000, arriving at 1800. The overnight ship departs Harwich daily at 2315 and arrives in Hoek at 0745 the following morning.
From Hoek van Holland the day sailing departs at 1430, arriving in Harwich at 2000. The overnight ship leaves at 2230 (2130 Sat/Sun) which gets back to Harwich at 0630 the next day.
Arriving at the Dutch end you can continue your journey from Hoek van Holland Haven train station towards Rotterdam Central (30 minutes) and from there to any station on the NS rail network. If you are going to Amsterdam you can change train at Schiedam before you get to Rotterdam.
Ticket prices (2015): From the UK, tickets including [AGA rail+ferry+NS rail] are priced from £49 single, £98 return for day sailings and from £79 single, £158 return for overnight sailings. Fares should be booked at least 7 days in advance. Bookings from Harwich without the AGA rail ticket are £7 cheaper each way.
From Netherlands you can book the [NS rail+ferry+AGA rail] ticket from €66 single, €132 return on day sailings; for overnight sailings, prices for a 2 berth cabin start at €91.50 per person single, €183 return. Dutch bookings without the NS rail ticket component are €17 cheaper each way.
2. DFDS Seaways Service from Newcastle to Amsterdam
Daily overnight ferry service each way between Newcastle-North Shields and Amsterdam-Ijmuiden. Sailings over the North Sea take approximately 15 hours - each evening a ship departs Newcastle at 1700 and Amsterdam at 1730. They arrive the following morning at 0900 (Newcastle) and 0930 (Amsterdam).
Ijmuiden is a seaside port about 20 km west of Amsterdam - don't be put off by the large steel works close by! It has a marina with a Holiday Inn hotel (our review here) and the start of a good (blue-flag) beach running south.
Ijmuiden to Amsterdam: DFDS has contracted Dutch company Brouwer's Tours to provide a bus service to Amsterdam centre for Newcastle passengers - this meets the ship shortly after arrival and takes 30-45 mins. For the return leg, the bus picks up passengers going back to Ijmuiden outside the Hotel Victoria on Damrak, near Amsterdam Central station, between 1500 and 1600. Tickets can be reserved for €6 each way, or pay €10 on board.
Public transport options are available but not so convenient. First walk from the ferry terminal to Kromhoutstraat in Ijmuiden (10-15mins) and then take Connexxion bus 82 to Amsterdam Marnixstraat. (A taxi to Amsterdam centre would cost around €60).
There is a bus service from North Shields to Newcastle city centre which costs £3.80 each way which takes 20-30 minutes.
Prices for the ferry vary considerably depending on season. 3-day "minicruise" return sailings which allow a day trip to either Amsterdam or Newcastle cost from about £79 or €88 per person - although special offers can be cheaper. For a standard ferry crossing, prices for foot passengers start from around £20 or €20 per person each way for an inside shared cabin.
3. P&O Ferry from Hull to Rotterdam
Daily overnight ferry service between Hull and Rotterdam Europoort terminal. Departure times are: Hull 2030; Rotterdam 2100 (Mon-Fri) and 2030 (Sat-Sun). Arrival times are: Hull 0800; Rotterdam 0815 (Mon-Fri) and 0900 (Sat-Sun).
Be aware that the Europoort terminal is some 38km from Rotterdam centre. A special bus service can be pre-booked with P&O that runs from Europoort Rotterdam to central Rotterdam (Eurolines bus stop at Conradstraat) and on to Amsterdam (bus stop H3, Prins Hendrikkade - near central station).
At the UK end, buses run from Hull port (King George Dock) to the interchange next to St Stephens shopping centre in Hull, priced at £3.25 or €5 each way.
Standard ferry prices from about £100 / €130 return, minicruises (returning the next day) can be priced significantly cheaper.
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