The Wadden area has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009, and not without reason. It houses a biological ecosystem that can only be found on the coastlines of the North Sea of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In between the North Sea and the Wadden Sea, you’ll find five amazing little islands in the Netherlands. The pearls of the Wadden Sea. One by one they offer an oasis of tranquillity and plenty of ambience. Now, there's a great way to visit them all while discovering the gorgeous nature of the Wadden area in the meantime: Wad hopping. You'll read everything about it here.
Hopping through the islands, how does it work?
No matter what your wad hopping adventure looks like, you’ll always first make the crossing from the mainland to one of the Wadden islands. From the shore, relatively big ferries sail towards the islands multiple times a day. As such, you’re pretty flexible in choosing on which island you'd like to start. You can sail from Den Helder to the largest Wadden island of Texel in 20 minutes for instance. Do you want to start your wad hopping tour on Vlieland or Terschelling? In that case you make the crossing from Harlingen. The mooring point for the ferry to Ameland lies to the north of the Frisian town Holwerd, and from Lauwersoog in Groningen you can go to Schiermonnikoog. Both crossings take about 45 minutes. It’s best to book the tickets beforehand. Especially in high season it occurs quite regularly that the ferry is filled to capacity.
Two, three, four or maybe even 5 islands
In between the five different Wadden islands you can use various direct ferry connections. This way you won’t just discover the beauties of the islands themselves, but also that of the exquisite Wadden region. You can create your own planning for this, or choose for a package deal. When you compile your own wad hopping tour, make sure to carefully check the ferry departure dates and times beforehand, as not all boats between the islands run outside of ‘the season’. Additionally, these are relatively small ferry services, so making a reservation is advisable.
The ferries between the islands don’t offer spaces for motorised vehicles, and the use of cars is almost non-existent on both Vlieland and Schiermonnikoog. Even if just for this reason, wad hopping is extremely suitable to do by bicycle (although you should take note that it can be advisable to reserve this, we'll come back to this later). Another reason is that the islands offer splendid opportunities for cycling, so why wouldn't you?
Which islands are best to stop by?
If you want to go wad hopping you can choose to visit all the islands, or to catch the boat back to the mainland a bit earlier. This way you can shorten your holiday a bit, for instance to one week. Whichever you prefer, on the islands themselves there is lots to see and experience. That's why it's advisable to choose to stay for two or three nights per island while you’re wad hopping.
A nice route to take is: Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling. These have good connections, and especially the smaller boat in between Texel and Vlieland is adventurous. A nice added bonus is that both Den Helder and Harlingen have their own train station, so you’re not dependent on travelling by car.
To point you in the right direction we’ve already mapped the connections, and you’ll find some useful tips and information about the connecting ferries between the islands below. We’ve based this on a trip with Texel as the first island.
From Den Helder to Texel
You start your wad hopping tour from Den Helder, the home base of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Across from Den Helder is the Wadden island Texel, and on the eastern side you’ll find Balgzand, a stretched-out mudflat. You make the crossing on a ferry from shipping company Teso, which takes about 20 minutes. The boat leaves every half hour on busy days, and otherwise once per hour. Do take into account that you can’t reserve a place beforehand. Once arrived on Texel you can visit De Koog among others. This is a greatly beloved swimming spot, and a day on the beach here is highly recommended.
From Texel to Vlieland
With Wadden ferry de Vriendschap (the Friendship) you can make, among others, the crossing from Texel to Vlieland and the other way around. Keep in mind that this is only possible in high season, and only accessible for foot passengers. You are, however, allowed to take a bicycle on a one-way trip from Texel to Vlieland. Many tourists that want to explore both islands per bike opt for this possibility. Additionally, the crossing is an experience all of its own. The Wadden ferry is small, and you'll have a real adventure. Especially when you have to switch to a big beach truck upon arriving to Vlieland. This beach truck takes you across the largest expanse of sand of the north-western part of Europe.
From Vlieland to Terschelling
After your visit to Vlieland you can take the fast ferry of Shipping Company Doeksen to Terschelling, where you'll find the Brandaris. This is the oldest lighthouse of the Netherlands. This crossing offers a limited option to bring bicycles, so we recommend that you make a reservation in advance. Do you have a folding bike? These you’re allowed to bring on board without restriction, as long as the dimensions are no more than 85 x 60 x 30 centimetres.
From Terschelling to Ameland
During high season, you can take the Robbenboot (Sealboat) from Terschelling to Ameland. Although the Robbenboot makes crossings between Terschelling and Ameland, this ferry service generally functions as a touring boat. As a result, the departures are quite limited. There is also a lot to discover and experience on Ameland itself. Visit the picturesque towns of Buren and Nes, or explore the splendid natural environment. Ameland also offers amazing opportunities for bicycle enthusiasts. Want to visit a museum? Not a problem either on Ameland. Go to the Maritime Centre for example, or the Nature Centre.
From Ameland to Schiermonnikoog
During the high season, the Robbenboot can also bring you from Ameland to the last Wadden island of this wad hopping route, Schiermonnikoog. Just don't expect a frequent timetable here either. During the months of autumn and winter, they don't offer any crossings whatsoever. An alternative to the limitations of the Robbenboot can be found in the water taxi of Wagenborg Passenger services. There are also many people that choose to make the crossing to Harlingen from Terschelling. Afterwards, they cycle along the gorgeous Wadden coast from Harlingen to Holwerd, to hop over to Ameland from there. Once on Schiermonnikoog you'll discover an almost car-free island, which proves extremely beneficial to the soothing ambiance. The entire island of Schiermonnikoog is a national park, and to top it off you’ll find the widest sand beach in all of Europe here. In short, the perfect ending to a unique holiday that’s known as wad hopping.