Blue and green as far as the eye can see. Water everywhere. The canals, the lake. And in between, white spots – sheep.
Old farms with windmills and new wind farms. Roads that lead through the lake. And suddenly you’re driving alongside an elegant two-master, of which only the sails can be seen above the dyke. Let us take you with us on a trip around the Ijsselmeer. A region simply made for shorter as well as longer road trips.
The Ijsselmeer is Holland’s largest lake and was created artificially by the construction of the “Afsluitdijk”, or enclosure dam, to protect against high tides of course. When we say the Ijsselmeer it is commonly understood to also mean the Markermeer. This southern part of the lake was also created by a dyke, which runs from Lelystad to Enkhuizen. Here, in the province of Flevoland, a large number of polders were created by draining land and so reclaiming it from the waters. This means that you are pretty often standing or driving on land that really isn’t very old and you don’t even notice.
As well as completely crazy roads where you could think yourself on another world, a water planet, the region also offers teeny-tiny, small and large sailing harbours and Hanseatic towns.
And of course it’s a watersports paradise! Kite surfers, surfers, SUP-ers, sailing boats, motorboats, anything that floats is welcome here! Unfortunately, our new sport – wing foiling – with its long mast in the water, is the only one to work in very few places here. The Ijsselmeer is shallow enough to stand up in for a very very very long way. If you are thinking of going swimming here you ought to reconsider and go for a nice therapeutic wade instead. However, this does make it ideal for watersports beginners and of course for kids who can splash about here in safety.
And if you prefer to watch the colourful activities from the shore you are also well catered for. When the weather is ideal for sailing, the blue horizon is covered with the white triangles of all the sailing boats, large and small. The typical old flat-bottomed boats with their shallow draft, which used to be used for transporting goods, now have a new purpose. They can be hired by groups for sailing tours of several days at a time. Also absolutely to be recommended!
Oh, we just absolutely love being there.
We can genuinely recommend the Ijsselmeer in any season. Outside of the main holiday season you can get around easily, in the summer months it can of course get a bit tight, like everywhere. In the spring the green is somehow even greener and the dykes are populated by numerous, curious, delightful picture-book lambs. Then there are the tulip fields, which are of course sumptuous. Every year a route through the fields is published with precise times when the tulips will be blooming. https://tulpenfestival.nl/route/
The summer is ideal for bike tours on the very well-developed cycle path network with its numbered junction system. There are cafes everywhere for a nice break.
In the autumn the storms return and those of us who love wind sports look forward to a proper breeze. Great if you can grab a weekend for “sailing away”. And then all the flat-bottomed boats sail off together, a fabulous backdrop.
In the winter, it has happened to us that we wanted to go kite surfing but the Ijsselmeer was frozen over! It’s completely fascinating and the only thing left to do is head into one of the prettily lit restaurants. Awful ;).
Driving a motorhome is, like everywhere in Holland, no problem at all. The only thing here is that you should bypass the odd tiny village. We have had to turn around in the centre of Enkhuizen on a small yet lively junction because, completely taken up with oohs and aahs, we missed a sign which we absolutely and definitely should not have passed. All the car drivers accepted this with patience, however, and waited calmly. Clocks have a more chilled-out tick here.
When it comes to sleeping, there is more than enough for every taste here, too! There are parking places everywhere you look near every marina and town harbour. So we won’t give exact addresses here because there are certain places that we simply haven’t been to for a long while and too many changes take place in only a short time. But you can find all of the parking places online, or feel free to ask us. There are also large campsites right on the shore of the Ijsselmeer, or small farm campsites a little more inland.
So our tour around the Ijsselmeer with our favourite places would look something like this:
We start out in Lelystad, there is a simple car park here. Just before you head over the dyke towards Enkhuizen, there is a retail outlet on the left-hand side which we always like to look into because it isn’t as busy as the one near us in Roermond. Then you immediately take the first crazy road right through the lake towards Enkhuizen. On the left-hand side, as typical for the whole of Holland, land is reinforced with sand – for a nature reserve!
Enkhuizen is a must-see! One of THE most well-known little sailing towns, with true flair! There is also an open-air museum. If you would like a look at a somewhat larger town, then we recommend Hoorn. To get there we take a short detour to the left along the Markermeer. Beware! The 27th April is Koningsdag. The Dutch celebrate the King’s birthday, all the little towns are decked out in orange and everyone lets their hair down.
We drive on and spend the night in Den Oever, at the lower end of the Afsluitdijk. Here, there is a parking place with a direct view of the Ijsselmeer and you can take in the North Sea air as you go for a stroll.
Then we head over the Afsluitdijk to the province of Friesland. Makkum, Workum, Hindeloopen and Stavoren are popular holiday spots for families and watersports enthusiasts as well as being charming little towns. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across a street fair where proud, prinked Friesian horses show themselves off.
After this we recommend that you take a side trip to Sneek with its watergate, emblem of the town. For us it’s a favourite town for strolling around and dropping into cafes. Then on to Lemmer. The parking area is within walking distance of the town and the beach club, where you can enjoy the sunset with a little vino on a terrace protected from the wind.
Our last stop-off is Urk. Here, there is a crazy parking spot in the middle of the harbour on a car park pontoon. Crazy because pretty much everyone drives their car around it in a circle just to have driven over the water and in the harbour.
If you still haven’t had enough then we could recommend the old Hanseatic towns such as Kampen, Zwolle and a few others. They grew up in a time when Amsterdam was still a small and insignificant village.
Or of course Harlingen and Leeuwarden, which was the 2018 European city of culture.
Can we recommend one town in particular? Hmm, actually no we can’t. Somehow they are all similar but each one prettier than the others and always special. It doesn’t even have to be a circular tour; each individual area offers enough to spend time thoroughly exploring.
Let yourselves be enchanted by the blue and green on the Ijsselmeer!