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					The West Frisian Islands
North of the Dutch mainland along the border between the Wadden Sea and North Sea are five
inhabited Dutch islands in a row, known as the West Frisian Islands. Starting with the one closest
to the mainland, the islands are Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog. The
row is topped by two small uninhabited islands, Rottumeroog and Rottumerplaat. The islands
receive a total of around 1,137,300 visitors (2008) from both the Netherlands and abroad each
year. In 2009, the West Frisian Islands were placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

General information
Each of the West Frisian Islands has its own unique character based on its history, population, size,
landscape and various recreational possibilities. Most tourists are drawn to the islands to relax,
enjoy nature, and go on walking and bicycling tours. Texel and Terschelling also tend to attract
groups of young people during the summertime.

Overview of population and surface area numbers

Island               Province          Population          Surface area

Texel                 Noord-Holland          13,783        58,500 ha (16,000 ha land / 420 ha Wadden and
                                                           North Sea)

Vlieland                Friesland            1,157         32,050 hectare (3,974 ha land; inland water:66
                                                           ha; sea water: 27,896 ha)

Terschelling            Friesland            4,724         67,4000 ha (8,935 ha land / 58.465 ha inland
                                                           water and sea)

Ameland                 Friesland            3,503         26,918 ha (5,883 ha land / 21.035 ha sea and
                                                           inland water)

Schiermonnikoog         Friesland             941          58,500 ha (16,000 ha land / 42,500 ha Wadden
                                                           and North Sea)

Flora and Fauna
The West Frisian Islands are home to diverse landscapes as well as wide beaches, vast dunes and
tidal marshes, pasturelands and even deciduous and coniferous forests. The Wadden Sea is the
largest and most important coastal tidal wetland in Europe and, on a global scale, the largest
connected system of sandbars and mudflats.

The nutrient-rich water makes the Wadden Sea an ‘incubator’ for not only fish but also marine
mammals like the common and grey seal. The Wadden region is also an important stopover for
migratory birds. Around 10 to 12 million birds migrate between their breeding grounds in Siberia
and Scandinavia and their wintering grounds in Europe or Africa along the West Frisian Islands in

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order to replenish their fat reserves. Up to 6.1 million birds can be found in the Wadden Sea area
at the same time. Texel is home to the largest spoonbill colony in the Netherlands. Numerous
unique species of plants can also be found on the West Frisian Islands.

The West Frisian Islands and tourism
With such rich flora and fauna, it can only be expected that the West Frisian Islands are a popular
destination for tourists, who come to enjoy the quiet and nature. Specialised tour guides are
available for walking tours in the Wadden Sea during low tide (tidal mud flat tours). In addition to
the numerous walking routes on the islands, there are also large networks of bicycling routes. The
distances are manageable, the landscape varied and, with its kilometres and kilometres of bicycle
paths, the island, with its minimal amount of car traffic, is perfect for a relaxing bicycle trip. Nature
lovers looking for an active challenge can combine mud flat cycling with island hopping by sailboat.

The possibilities for active recreation are countless, from parachuting, kite surfing and blokarting to
catamaran sailing, surf canoeing and horseback riding or covered wagon tours.

Those interested in culture will find beautiful traditional farmhouses, nostalgic villages as well as
modern entertainment venues, cosy pubs, good restaurants, art galleries and antique farms.

Visitors always manage to fall under the spell of the West Frisian Islands thanks to their inviting
and pleasant atmosphere. A mild climate means that the islands can be visited all year round,
although there are often rain and winter showers during the autumn.

Connection between mainland and West Frisian Islands
The West Frisian Islands can be reached quickly and easily from the mainland. Two double-decked
ferry boats depart every hour from Den Helder for the twenty minute trip to Texel. Vlieland and
Terschelling can both be reached from Harlingen by both the express service (time: approx. 45
minutes) and regular service (max. 120 minutes). Ameland can be reached from Holwerd in around
45 minutes and the ferry departs from Lauwersoog in Groningen four times a day. Special island
hopping boats allow visitors to visit several islands, also called 'Wadden hopping'.

Transportation on the islands
Cars are allowed on both Texel and Terschelling, but only permitted on Vlieland and
Schiermonnikoog for permit holders. But the public transportation system on each of the islands
makes it easy to get around. The most popular form of transport on the islands is, of course, the
bicycle, whether electric, mountain or tandem. It goes without saying that there are an abundance
of bicycle rental facilities.

Every year, more than 900,000 people visit the largest of the West Frisian Islands, Texel (length:
25 km, average width: 8 km), nicknamed the ‘Gouden Boltje’. Texel is known as a bird and sheep
island. Most people stay at the campgrounds, although there are also plenty of holiday homes,
apartments, hotels, guest houses and group accommodations to choose from.

Tourist attractions

       Ecomare: Wadden and North Sea Information and Visitor’s Centre for the National Park
         ‘Dunes of Texel’, which houses a permanent seal population and an exhibition on
         underwater life

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        Eierland (lighthouse): The name (‘eiland’ is Dutch for ‘island) refers to the small island that
         was located north of Texel in the mid-seventeenth century. The Eierland polder is home to
         the only Moai statue found outside Easter Island

        Studios and galleries

        Muy and De Slufter nature reserves

        Food service establishments and shopping fun in Den Burg, the largest village on the island

        Largest Beachcombing Museum in the world


        Round Texel Race: World’s largest catamaran race

        Klifhanger edition: Biennial art event

        Sand sculpture festival

        Blues festival 2010: 8,9 and 10 October 2010

        Weekly outdoor markets and fairs (summertime)

        Meierblis (traditional bonfire festival)

        Ouwe Sundeklaas (12 December; traditional children’s costume festival)

Island culinary specialities

        Texel lamb, which has a salty taste due to the salty grass eaten by the sheep

        Various cheese and biscuit specialities

Vlieland is the most remote island from the mainland. This quiet island has only one village where,
thanks to its numerous historic buildings, time seems to have stood still for the past 100 years.
The island is largely forested, but also has the eye-catching Vuurboetsduin, a forty-metre high
dune with a red lighthouse on top. The island is around 12 km in length and no more than 2 km in

Vlieland offers a wide variety of overnight accommodations both in and around the village, in the
woods, dunes near the North Sea beach and along the mudflats, ranging from hotels and holiday
homes to apartments, tent houses and tents.

Tourist attractions

        Tromp’s Huys Museum: Exhibition on the historic and maritime past of Vlieland

        Vliehors express: ‘Desert' safari in an converted military truck across the De Vliehors sand

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        Seal watching: Boat tour on the Wadden Sea


        ‘Into The Great Wide Open’: Pop festival for all ages (3, 4 and 5 September 2010)

Island culinary specialities

        Everything imaginable made with cranberries

More information

Terschelling is the second largest of the West Frisian Islands. The oldest lighthouse in the
Netherlands, the Brandaris from 1594, welcomes visitors to the island. Good collaboration between
humans and nature has resulted in a varied landscape that ranges from a shoreline to tidal
marshes and forests.

Terschelling has more than 70 mostly small-scale camping sites, 11 group accommodations and
more than 30 hotels/guest houses. The summer accommodations and apartments on the island
have enough beds for more than 5,000 seaside visitors. The marina in West-Terschelling has
mooring facilities for around 350 boats and the harbour for the ‘brown fleet’ (charter sailing ships)
is often filled around 30 vessels. Apart from the harbours, Terschelling has a total capacity of
around 19,500 beds.

Tourist attractions

        ‘Traditional trades’: Farmhouses where cheese or ice cream is produced or where the
         typical Terschelling cranberry is processed

        Boschplaat nature reserve (4400 ha): Unique plant species, butterflies and enormous bird

        Various galleries and exhibition spaces

        Mudflat tours

        Wide range of food and entertainment venues


        Oerol Festival: (11 to 20 June 2010) For an entire week, Terschelling is transformed into
         one big stage for art forms like cabaret, singing and dancing and attracts around 50,000
         visitors annually

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Island culinary specialities

       Cranberry products

The natural beauty and quiet of Ameland, called the ‘Wadden Diamond’, earned this island the
Quality Coast Award in 2009. The De Hộn and Het Oerd nature reserves are home to fantastic flora
and fauna and the island has a rich history of whaling and merchant shipping.

Tourist attractions

       Beach express

       Seal watching: Boat tours to the seal colony on neighbouring sandbank

       Horseback Rescue Team: Monthly demonstration

       Climbing the 24-metres high ‘De Oerdblinkert’ dune

       Picturesque villages and farms

       Commander’s home: Oldest building on the island (1625)

       Sport fishing/mackerel fishing

       Ameland lighthouse (56 m)

Island culinary specialities

       Ameland rye bread, farm cheese, mustard and catfish

With a length of 16 km and a width of 4 km, Schiermonnikoog is the smallest inhabited West
Frisian Island. In the only village on the island, also called Schiermonnikoog, the roads were
constructed from east to west to avoid wind problems. Due to its varied landscape of dunes,
woods, mudflats and polders, as well as diverse flora and fauna, the island has been designated a
National Park. It also boasts the widest beach in Europe.

Around 300,000 people visit the island every year. Schiermonnikoog has around 6,200 recreational
overnight accommodation beds, ranging from hotels and guest houses to summer cottages,
apartments, farmyard campsites, private accommodations, campground and marina. The village
has a range of food service and shopping facilities.

Tourist attractions

       30 km of bicycling paths

       Round trips to the Rif and Engelsmanplaat shallows or to explore the eastern part of
        Schiermonnikoog after a ride in a tractor-pulled bus

       Picturesque village and historic buildings

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        Duck reserve


        Kallemooifeest (traditional festival in May)

        Klozum (traditional costume festival in December)

Island culinary specialities

        Schiermonnikoog honey and farm cheese

Rottumeroog and Rottumerplaat
Rottumeroog and Rottumerplaat are uninhabited islands with special protection status.
Rottumerplaat is not open to the public and may only be visited during the summer in the
accompaniment of rangers from the State Forest Service. Rottumeroog is closed to the public
during the breeding season from 15 April to 1 August.

More information

For visual materials, you can use the NBTC image database. To access this database, please
register at

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