How the Dutch Like to Be Beside the Seaside
With its 500 kilometres of coast, the Netherlands is suitable for every holiday season. Thanks to the many beach bars, you do not have to compromise on comfort.
‘Beautiful and empty.’ That’s how the Dutch see their coast. Not like Belgium, shall we say, where the coast is lined with apartment buildings.
When Melanie Schultz, the former Dutch interior and environment minister, suggested in 2016 that the strict law protecting the coastline from construction might be abandoned, she caused outrage. Not in my back garden, or, rather, not in my beautiful dunes, she was told.
Strandpaviljoen Timboektoe in Velsen-Noord © Strandpaviljoen Timboektoe
The Dutch coast is remarkable for its wild appearance. But there is one type of building that is allowed – the strandpaviljoen, or strandtent. Beach bars, you might call them.
They appear all along the Dutch coast, from the broad beaches of Zeeland to the isolated Wadden Islands in the north. Some are simple wooden shacks on stilts where you can get a beer or a portion of fries. Others are stylish places with a restaurant, playground and maybe a few palm trees.
Pele Surf Shack in Hoek van Holland © Instagram Pele Surf Shack
The names often hint at far-off destinations. There is a strandtent called Heartbreak Hotel on Terschelling island. A Blue Lagoon on Scheveningen beach. A Woodstock ’69 looking out to the North Sea at Bloemendaal.
Inside Heartbreak Hotel in Terschelling island © Facebook Heartbreak Hotel
Every year, a contest is organised by Strand Nederland and the Dutch water authority Rijkswaterstaat to find the best beach bar in the country. Last year (2022), the strandpaviljoen Sjoerd on windy Ameland island was awarded the prize.
Award-winning Strandpaviljoen Sjoerd © Strandpaviljoen Sjoerd
Many of the old strandpaviljoens are dismantled at the end of the summer. But some are open all year, so you can, if you want, drop in for a beach cocktail on a stormy winter day.