A pleasant day trip from Amsterdam when the weather is good is to take the train to Zandvoort - a small seaside town on the North Sea coast about 25km west of the city.
You will find excellent blue-flag rated beaches at Zandvoort, Bloemendaal-aan-Zee and Ijmuiden. The area is also surrounded by ancient sand dunes which are great for walking and cycling.
The beach towns come alive in spring and summer and are very popular with locals, especially on sunny weekends. If you wish to avoid the main crowds then plan your visit for midweek. It's also a great place to hang out on long summer evenings when you can watch the sun setting with a drink in your hand.
On arrival at Zandvoort, the seafront boulevard is an easy 200m walk from the station. The boulevard is quite high up and provides super views of the beach. Unfortunately, some of the architecture around the front is uninspired 1960's style appartment blocks - but head south and you will find more attractive houses, a few public sculptures and the water tower (pictured right).
The town centre is just south of the station and despite its small size contains some stylish shops and a reasonable selection of restaurants. Try out a raw haring (herring) at one of the take-away fish stands.
Down on the beach front there are many different themed "pavilion" style restaurants and beach clubs. To generalise, Zandvoort has a family feel about it whilst more exclusive "hip" places can be found at Bloemendaal-aan-Zee, a few kilometres north. Continuing further north for 7 km you reach Ijmuiden which has a very wide beach and is home to a sea port and a giant steel works - despite the industry, however, the beach has been passed as a blue-flag.
As this is the North Sea you should be prepared for variable weather conditions and some strong winds when down on the beach!
As well as swimming and sun-bathing, activities which can be done at the beaches include surfing, wind surfing, kite surfing, sailing, land sailing, beach volleyball, horse riding and kite flying.
Note, there are naturist beaches at the southern end of both Zandvoort and Ijmuiden.
The sand dunes that surround the area makes it a great place to connect with nature and spot some wildlife.
|The Zuid-Kennemerland National Park lies just to the north of Zandvoort and has many walking and cycling paths - it is also accessible from Ijmuiden, Bloemendaal and Overveen. Bicycles can easily be rented - one outfit is "Behind The Beach" at Haltestraat 51, Zandvoort which has a wide range of bikes available. Entry to the park is free.|
To the south of Zandvoort lies the Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen nature reserve. This was originally used in the 19th century to filter Amsterdam's drinking water. Entry costs €1.50 at one of 4 gates - in Zandvoort you can enter at Zandvoortselaan 130 (about 1.5km from the centre) - here you can choose to follow one of 2 marked walking routes - yellow (3.6km) or green (6.7km). There is a visitor's centre called "De Oranjekom" near the Oase entry point. Note, cycling here is not permitted.
Back in town there is the Zandvoort museum (at Swaluëstraat 1) with some old photos and paintings of the area. Entry is €3 for adults and free for children 0-17 and museumkaart holders.
There is a small beachcombers ("jutters") museum at Strandweg 2 with free entry, open afternoons only on Wednesdays and weekends.
The town is also known for the world famous Zandvoort circuit located in the northern dunes which holds regular international motor racing events. It used to host the Dutch Formula 1 Grand Prix, last held in 1985.
Getting to Zandvoort
The train from Amsterdam Central to Zaandvoort-aan-Zee takes just under 30 mins and stops at Amsterdam Sloterdijk, Haarlem and Overveen. The service is half-hourly and a return ticket costs €11 (2nd class) or €18.80 (1st class) - 2016 prices. Note, there is a €1 surcharge for disposable tickets. Extra trains run during the summer season.
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