We all know that The Netherlands is a great place to cycle – cycle paths everywhere, fully integrated transport system and of course no hills! But how easy is it to go for a family cycling holiday in Holland? Here, Jo (at the time a mum of 2), tells us how she managed to take herself, her husband, a toddler and a preschooler for a 10 day biking and camping holiday through Holland.
Setting off on our family cycling holiday in Holland
“We pulled our equipment together in the car-park generating the usual nervous feelings. Would it all fit? Was it going to be achievable? Were a 4 ½ and a 1 ½ year old, two adults, one kiddi-back tandem and a bike with front seat and pulling a trailer really a recipe for a good family holiday?
Cycle touring in the Netherlands, as everyone says, again and again, is incredibly easy. The easy route guides, plenty of camping information, relaxed feel and vast quantity of bikes make you feel a welcome road user although wearing helmets does mark you out as not local! Courteous drivers, fantastic infrastructure and car-sized lanes dedicated to bikes on round-a-bouts make it a very safe place to ride with children.
We travelled on the Newcastle-Ijmuiden ferry having left the car in the UK; this overnight ferry gets you in early and is one of the children’s holiday nightlights in itself.
Arriving in Holland on our family bike trip
Typically for a summer holiday in August it was raining when we arrived and raining hard, the puddles at the ferry-port appeared to be capable of swallowing lorries but at least it was warm. Fortunately the youngest was ready for a sleep, so she went in the bike trailer (in her waterproofs, don’t expect your trailer to ever be completely dry), and the oldest had the luxury of trying out her new waterproofs.
Whilst the grown-ups got steadily wetter and colder in the horizontal rain, the girls stayed dry. This was just as well as we had to ride having only just arrived, a day in the ferry port not really being an option. The 4 ½ year old stoker coped brilliantly and after 2 hours of rain it finally started to clear.
We found a bakery for a well earned snack, and then tried to find somewhere for lunch. Fortunately things were going our way – we stopped near a closed children’s farm and were getting ready to hop in the bothy bag to warm-up and dry off when the manager spotted us cowering by our bikes and within 5 minutes we were in one of the class-rooms being brought hot chocolate – a fine start to the holiday.
The highlights of our Dutch family cycling holiday
Our 10 day trip north of Amsterdam continued with a day on day off approach as we had decided that enforced riding might cause mutiny from the kids! We averaged 20-25km on the days when we cycled, which could take up to 4 hours including multiple stops and 10-15km on the ‘rest days’! On most of our riding days it rained but this proved to be a good use of wet days saving the sunshine for sightseeing.
We had a memorable day out inAlkmaarvisiting the cheese market, and taking the incredibly low bridge canal boat tour, highly recommended.
We saw the usual windmills on our trip over to Hoorn, where we took advantage of the excellent train service to the outdoor Heritage museum at Enkhuisen, well worth a trip. Our journey south let us explore Edam, Monnickendam and provided a very windy excursion to Marken.
We popped into the Tourist trap of Zaanse Schaans, which was busy but the refurbished windmills are impressive, especially the wood-mill.
Working our way back toIjmuiden we avoided Amsterdam as we were not sure we could cope with that many bikes in a small space and our travelling circus get up and we felt that the children might not appreciate the architecture given their focus on the playgrounds we passed.
We timed our return to coincide with the first day of Sail 2010 with the associated collection of boats and nautical related fun, the highlight being the dredging crane water bucket ballet.
Fancy going on a family cycling holiday to Holland?
The Netherlands must be one of the easiest places to go cycle touring with a young family, the routes are well marked and very easy to follow, its flat and safe although it is not easy to find out this information until you actually get there, maybe because to the locals it is just normal……”
If you’ve been inspired to leap on your bike and whisk the family off on a cycling holiday to Holland, here are a couple of websites that Jo found particularly helpful:
Vekabo: small, farm based campsites in The Netherlands, ideal for camping with small children
ANDW 50k cycling maps of The Netherlands – 20 maps cover the whole of The Netherlands, with details of everything a cyclist could ever want (from type of path and distance between junctions, through to repair stops, points of interest along the route and even picnic tables)