Places of natural beauty in South Holland
The windmills, cows, farms and cheese that we are all familiar with can be found in abundance in the province of South Holland. The beaches, dunes, expansive cycle routes and woodland trails are as much a part of South Holland's character as its famous cities.
A large portion of the Green Heart of the Netherlands occupies South Holland, therefore the province has some seriously beautiful natural landscapes. Even in the middle of a South Holland city like The Hague, Rotterdam, Leiden, Gouda or Delft, you are never too far from a lush nature spot.
Best nature places in South Holland
Here are some of the most beautiful nature hotspots in the province of South Holland to inspire you to get outdoors and explore:
With 19 historic windmills dating from the 18th century – the single largest concentration of windmills in all of the Netherlands – Kinderdijk is iconic. This attraction is comparable to Zaanse Schans in neighbouring North Holland. The area is an impressive 7 metres below sea level, with a fascinating network of dikes, dams and water pumps, owing to its history of water management.
This is one of UNESCO's world heritage sites and lies only 9 miles to the east of Rotterdam, so Kinderdijk is very easy to reach.
Known as one of the most famous gardens in Europe with its seven million tulip bulbs, the Keukenhof is a national treasure (closed at the moment). Although the bulbs only bloom from March to May, it’s one of the most frequently visited attractions, which is also available to enjoy online.
In all seasons, however, you can still enjoy parts of this landmark: the grounds of the Keukenhof Castle are open all year round and visitors can savour the castle, the windmill and the wide-open spaces, whatever the weather. Something to bookmark for when the coronavirus mayhem is behind us.
One of the oldest remaining forests in the Netherlands, Haagse Bos (The Hague Forest) is a vast rectangular woodland area, neatly tucked away between road intersections, stretching from The Hague’s Malieveld area all the way towards Wassenaar in the north-east. It was originally much larger, going from ‘s-Gravenzande to Alkmaar, but what remains is still quite massive if you’re looking for a day out in the woods!
The Hague Forest
Rijswijksebos (Rijswijk Forest) is a small and pretty park at the edge of the urban conglomeration of Rijswijk – perfect for taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life. Inside the Rijswijk woods, there’s a monument called the Needle of Rijswijk which commemorates the peace treaty of 1697. It’s slightly hilly in some areas and there’s a scenic lake. It’s an ideal place to walk, cycle, bring children to run around or simply sit and read a book.
In Gouda, you have the Goudse Hout (Gouda Woods), which is 83 hectares of green woodland and parkland, developed in the 1980s on a polder. There’s a car park, a cycling and skating runway and there’s also a riding school. In Delft, the Abtswoude Bos is also built on a polder, but much later- it was developed in the year 2000.
There are many well-devised cycling routes in South Holland in some of the rugged, sparsely populated parts of the province. Nieuwkoop, for instance, is a vast wetland with peat fields and marshes. On the Nieuwekoop cycle route, you can cycle along the wetlands of Nieuwkoopse Plassen. There's even a Kinderdijk cycle route that brings you to the beguiling windmills and poetic landscape.
The Wassenaar cycle route covers a vast dune landscape and takes you past Vlietland Park, the sea coast and country estates like De Wittenburg, Rust en Vreugd, Wiltzanck and De Hartenkamp.
The Hellevoetsluis cycle route on the island of Voornes-Putten is fascinating. It takes you onto the Voornes Dune and the nature reserves such as the Merrevliet, Quackgors and Kaapduin. The Ouddorp cycle route brings you out onto a headland of beaches, dunes, dikes and polders, which come close to the border with the province of Zeeland.
Situated on the North Sea coast, South Holland has miles of stunning beaches and intriguing dunes, including Scheveningen, Katwijk, Noordwijk and Kijkduin. Scheveningen is the most prominent beach, having a 200-year history as a seaside resort. Nowadays, it is a built-up area with the Kurhaus surrounded by more modern apartment blocks. There are plenty of beach cafes and surf shops as well.
Moving southwest, there is Kijkduin, which seems to be the kitesurfing paradise of the Netherlands. Katwijk, to the north of the province’s coastline, is a laid-back place, even though the town is quite large. This could be because it was never spoiled by over-construction of hotels and most buildings are no more than three storeys high.
Noordwijk is known both for its 13 km of coastline, with vast dunes, pine forests and deer, and for its bulb fields in spring! It received a QualityCoast Gold Award for its efforts to become a sustainable tourist destination.
Get out in nature in South Holland
South Holland is a densely-populated province, consisting of major Randstad cities like Rotterdam, The Hague, Delft and Leiden. On the other hand, it is equally the vast open spaces with green fields, coastline, country estates and public gardens which define the province.