For hikers, birdwatchers and nature lovers in the Netherlands, Dutch National Parks make for great sightseeing trips, with their unique landscapes and animals.
What is a national park?
A national park is an area that is protected for its nature and historical significance. There are 20 national parks spread all over the Netherlands, selected for their representation of Dutch nature and wildlife.
Landscapes, flora and fauna
In the parks you will find all the typical Dutch landscapes, such as dunes, woods, moorlands, bogs, valleys and swamps. Every park has its own local flora and fauna. The wildlife includes special species of birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, as well as beavers, otters, seals and deer.
The national park areas are interconnected, and each have a minimum size of 1.000 hectares. Since 2013, the responsibility for the upkeep of the park lies with the provincial governments.
Main goals of national parks in the Netherlands
Dutch national parks have four main goals:
- Protecting and developing local nature and landscape
- Providing recreation in nature
- Educating the public
Most national parks have a visitors' centre, and welcome hikers and recreational tourists.
Where to find the Dutch national parks
Here is a list of national parks in the Netherlands:
Alde Feanen - Friesland
The Alde Feanen is a peat swamp, almost 2.300 hectares large. It is located in the heart of Friesland, on the border between Leeuwarden, Heereveen and Drachten. The landscape is highly versatile, consisting of lakes, swam forests, reed lands, peat holes and brushwoods. Also varied are the flora and fauna. You can find around 450 different kinds of plants and breeding grounds for over 100 kinds of birds.
Biesbosch - North Brabant
The Biesbosch area is a combination of the Hollandse Biesbosch and the Brabantse Biesbosch. The area consists of a maze of rivers, with little islands and brooks. These swamp lands attract many small boats and canoes, that float through to admire the surroundings. The Biesbosch is one of Europe’s rare fresh water tidal areas, where you can witness the ebb and flow. One of the most famous local animals is the beaver, and you can find various rare birds as well.
Drents Friese Wold - Drenthe, Friesland
The Drents-Friese Wold is one of the largest nature areas in the Netherlands, consisting of over 6.000 hectares. It is counted as one of the most beautiful and important natural areas in Europe.
Drentse Aa - Drenthe
The Drentse Aa is an area following a meandering brook with flourishing natural banks. Its grounds were used as farmland for thousands of years, resulting in rich natural surroundings. Because of the area’s large amount of villages and farmland, it the Drentse Aa was not originally classified as a national park. It took a special new title of "national brook landscape", and focused on the water banks, to classify. Later, its status as a national park expanded to the full area of 34.000 hectares, villages and farmland and all.
Texel dunes - North Holland
The Texel dunes consist of the western part of Texel, the biggest of the Wadden islands. The landscape is versatile, with wet dune valleys and dry hills and forests. Rare beach birds, birds of prey and plants can be found here.
Dwingelderveld - Drenthe
National Park Dwingelderveld in Drenthe comprises the largest area of wet heathlands in Western Europe. It is grazed by two sheep herds to provide natural upkeep of the area. The area is large and quiet, with various walking routes and a great view of the horizon.
Groote Peel - Limburg
National Park the Groote Peel is a calm area with peat moors, grasslands and lots of water. It is mainly known for its many species of birds and its rich history of peat farming. Throughout the area, the land is still scarred by the old peat farming activities.
Hoge Veluwe - Gelderland
The Hoge Veluwe is the largest privately-owned nature reserve in the Netherlands. The area’s rich animal population includes various kinds of deer, hogs, snakes, rabbits and butterflies, and includes various threatened species.
Lauwersmeer - Groningen, Friesland
Lauwersmeer is known as a birder’s paradise. The area used to be connected to the Wadden Sea, until a dam was constructed due to flooding. Now, it is a unique open landscape full of unusual flowers and special birds.
Loonse en Drunense Duinen - North Brabant
The 35 km2 wide Loonse en Drunense Duinen is an area of dunes, situated between the cities of Tilburg, Waalwijk and 's-Hertogenbosch. It has been designated as a national park since 2002.
Maasduinen - Limburg
The Maasduinen are the longest stretch of river dunes in the Netherlands, and were formed by water, wind and people. The area is riddled with history. Ancient burial sites and a large urn field show proof of inhabitants in the Maasduinen as early as 4.000 BC. It was a battle field full of trenches during World War II, and it has a war monument that is still visited on memorial days.
De Maasduinen still contain various castle ruins, and the lake Reindersmeer that was created through grit cultivation. Rare animals include species of snake, lizard, bird and bat.
Meinweg - Limburg
The Meinweg has a landscape that is unique to the Netherlands, with terraces and valleys at different levels, that were formed by sedimentary erosion and the movement of tectonic plates.
Oosterschelde - Zeeland
Oosterschelde is a gigantic pool of salt water just behind the dykes of Zeeland, filled with mud flats, salt meadows, gullies and shoals. The Oosterschelde wetlands are a popular destination for migrating birds, seals and porpoises.
De Sallandse Heuvelrug - Overijssel
The Sallandse Heuvelrug, or Salland Ridge, is a combination of privately-owned area and government-owned grounds.
Schiermonnikoog - Friesland
Wadden island Schiermonnikoog has a rich, natural environment of dunes and salt marshes. Near the tidal flats, the area is windswept, rough and full of special species of plant and birds.
Utrechtse Heuvelrug - Utrecht
The Utrechtse Heuvelrug (Utrecht Ridge) is full of special natural areas, as well as museums and eateries dedicated to the surroundings. It is an oasis of rest, nature and inspiring landscapes, where nobility used to build their castles and holiday residences in the olden days. The local mix of nature and culture is apparent in picturesque villages and endless marshes and woods.
Local wildlife includes deer, badgers, lizards and woodpeckers. You can also find proof of the earliest human habitation in the Netherlands.
Veluwezoom - Gelderland
The Veluwezoom is the oldest Dutch National Park, as well as one of the largest with 5.000 hectares. The hilly area consists of rugged woods, heathlands, drift sand and farmlands, as well as a large variety of flora and fauna.
Weerribben - Overijssel
The Weerribben shows all the stages in the development from open water to marshes, with shores and waters slowly getting covered in forestation, floating lands, reedlands and grasslands. Local swamp creatures include fishes, birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. Large butterflies and otters roam the wet lands, and all kinds of plants that grow in bogs and swamps thrive here.
De Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide - North Brabant
De Zoom-Kalmthoutse Heide is a cross-border park on the Belgian-Dutch border, largely covered in heath. It is a merger of two former parks, the Kalmthoutse Heide in Belgium and De Zoom in the Netherlands. While the most famous part lies in Belgium, the Netherlands hosts a stretch of the area in North Brabant.
Zuid Kennemerland - North Holland
Zuid Kennemerland is an area with grey dunes, full of varied forestation and wildlife. Other than dunes there are beaches, grasslands, dune grasslands, dune forests and estates. Remnants of old settlements, sea villages and bunkers can still be found in the area, and the old estates, created during the Golden Age, still boast winter gardens, farmsteads, orchards, a sculpture yard.
Many Dutch National Parks are a part of the Natura 2000 area, a network of landscapes with special plants and wildlife from a European perspective.
Videos about Dutch National parks