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Ameland tips: A complete guide to this Dutch island

A guest post by Sabrina Maasdam

Are you looking for Ameland tips and things to do on this tiny Wadden Island? Then I’ve got you covered! 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I (Rachel) will receive a small commission.

A view over dunes to a very long sandy beach, with only a few people looking like dots in the distance.
Photo courtesy of Dutch travel blogger Kimberley Griffioen of Just Go Global

Ameland is a West Frisian island, one of a row of islands off the northern coast of the Netherlands. Consisting mostly of dunes and white sandy beaches, Ameland attracts tourists from all over the Netherlands and Germany. We decided spontaneously to hop on a ferry and have a look around this cute island ourselves. To make the planning a bit easier for you, I have created this guide with all my favorite travel tips!

Keep reading to find out what to do on Ameland in a day – and all my secret Ameland tips. 

How to get to Ameland from the mainland

Most people reach Ameland by taking the ferry from the Frisian town of Holwerd. You can get to Holwerd by car or by taking the train to Leeuwarden and then a bus to Veerdam/Holwerd. The ferry leaves almost every hour and the faster one can get you there in roughly 20 minutes. If you choose to bring your car, you’ll have to stick with the normal ferry service, which takes around 50 minutes.

Theoretically, you could also walk over to Ameland when the tide between the province of Friesland and Ameland is very low. It’s called wadlopen, and it’s a popular activity, but I would not recommend this as a form of transportation. The mud can be dangerous so wadlopen should only be done with a guide.

If you are coming for a weekend trip from Amsterdam or other cities like the Hague, keep in mind that it takes about three hours to get there. In that case, my Ameland tip is to stay at least overnight. 

Ameland does have a very small airport but it’s only used for sightseeing flights, skydiving, and an occasional medical rescue flight.

Another tip for visiting Ameland: All of the Wadden Islands are worth a visit. In the summer season (May to September) ferries run between the islands, though the schedules vary depending on tides and weather.

View down a long empty beach, seen from above the ground.
Photo courtesy of Sabrina of Shades of Summr.

If you like to visit less well-known places, there are plenty more places to visit in the Netherlands besides Amsterdam.

How to get around on Ameland

Ameland is only 25 km long (15 miles), so if you choose to bring your car over on the ferry, the island is pretty easy to navigate around. But the island is also home to roughly 100 km (62 miles) of cycling paths, so for everyone else, I recommend renting a bike for the day. Firstly, you can easily and cheaply rent a bike right at the ferry port. Secondly, the island is very bike-friendly. You can find amazing bike paths that take you all over the beautiful island of Ameland.

We chose to rent a bike since we left our car behind in Leeuwarden. We had no trouble seeing the entire island by bike. 

If you want to reserve a special bike in advance (such as an e-bike) I can recommend the companies Fietsverhuur Ameland and Kiewiet Fietsverhuur. Both companies offer relatively cheap options for all kinds of bikes.

The villages of Ameland

We decided to take this day slow and explore the village of Nes first thing upon arrival. It is only five minutes away from the port and known for its cute picturesque streets, filled with little shops and restaurants.

The island has four villages. All four are protected and have their own unique characteristics. There used to be two additional villages, Oerd and Sier, that suffered from flooding in the past and are now below sea level. The two ferry lines have been named in honor of these villages.

  1. Nes: The village of Nes is, in my opinion, the nicest one on the island. There are plenty of sidewalk cafes where you can enjoy a delicious meal and feel some laid-back vacation vibes. 
  2. Hollum: The village of Hollum is similar, but much less relaxed than Nes.
  3. Ballum: In the village of Ballum you can find the airport of the island. There you can book sightseeing flights around the island as well as skydiving experiences. Close by the town of Ballum, you can find the brewery of the island, which offers tours and tastings. Their most famous product is their liqueur. They make it from fresh cranberries grown on the island.
  4. Buren: The last village, Buren, is the smallest of them all and only consists of a street lined with a couple of houses.
A flat field, marshy, with birds on the water. Beyond the field, a cluster of houses and a stumpy church tower.
Photo courtesy of Veggiewayfarer, the sustainable travel blog.

Things to do in Ameland tips

There are so many things to do in Ameland that you’ll have to make some choices unless you decide to stay for longer. Here are some of the options.

Explore the island

There are a couple of ways to thoroughly explore the island, besides by car: 

By bike: As already mentioned, you could take a leisurely bike ride around the island and discover its beautiful landscapes, high dunes, and scenic coastline. There are some amazing bike paths on the island, so it is really easy. Since there are a couple of hills, you can also catch some pretty great views. 

By carriage: Ride a traditional horse-drawn carriage around Ameland.

By horse: Take a guided horseback riding tour and explore the island’s dunes and forests. I love horseback riding tours; they are usually a very relaxed way of discovering the island, and the horses don’t have it as hard walking on the dunes.

As you go, make sure to take a look at the picturesque village of Nes and the historic village of Hollum. Hollum is known for its beautiful old houses and its big Dutch Reformed Church.

A gravel bike path straight ahead, with a single bicyclist ahead on the path.
Photo courtesy of Jenny of Ik Reis.

Go to the beach

Ameland is famous for its white sandy beaches and endless dunes! We decided to head there after a tasty and typical Dutch lunch in Nes. Fun fact: Ameland has one of the longest sandy beaches in all of Europe. The island’s entire coast is completely lined with beaches. We headed to the less busy beach of Nes where we spent a joyful day looking at the waves, dipping our toes in the water, and wandering along the dunes.

While you’re there, check out the beach clubs in Nes. On the beach, you can find four beach clubs that are open all year round offering delicious food and drinks.

Visit the Vuurtoren van Ameland

The Lighthouse of Ameland, also called Vuurtoren Bornrif, besides being very photogenic, has a great view over the island and over the dune landscapes and coast of Ameland. The light is 58 meters (190 feet) high, so the climb isn’t easy, but the view makes it worth the effort. Dating to 1881, Ameland Lighthouse is now a museum where you can learn about the life of a lighthouse keeper. 

Eat some pancakes

Pancakes are typical Dutch dishes, so make sure not to miss out on them. They’re not as thin as crepes or as fluffy as American pancakes. They’re big, though, and you can eat them with savory fillings like ham and cheese or with sweet fillings like chocolate or fruit. Either way, you’ll find that generally just one is enough because they’re very filling! If you find yourself craving some pancakes after visiting the Vuurtoren, you have to visit the Pannenkoekhuis Onder de Vuurtoren (Pancake House Under the Lighthouse) which is, as the name suggests, right next to the Ameland Lighthouse. Ameland tip: This restaurant is said to have the best pancakes on the island.

A view from the water of the shore: long white beach, dunes along the beach, and the tall red and white striped lighthouse rising behind the dunes.
Photo courtesy of Dutch travel blogger Kimberley Griffioen of Just Go Global.

Visit a working windmill

The town of Hollum is home to a very famous windmill called De Verwachting, which is still used to grind grain and mustard. You can tour the mill, learn about making mustard and flour and buy some little souvenirs in the shop.

Explore the natural world

The Wadden Sea: The Wadden Sea is the shallow intertidal zone between the Dutch islands and the mainland. It extends to Germany and Denmark as well, and it’s a transnational UNESCO site because of its unique ecosystem. There are a few ways to enjoy the Wadden Sea, all of which can be arranged through Expedition Wadden Sea:

  • Take a boat tour and see the sea lions. The Wadden Sea is home to many cute little sea lions. Make sure to visit them with a boat tour. If you’re lucky, you might have already seen them on the ferry over from the mainland. 
  • Explore the Wadden Sea UNESCO World Heritage site by taking a guided tour. 
  • The more adventurous people among us can even participate in a mudflat hiking excursion, as mentioned before: wadlopen. This hike in the mudflats allows you to see plenty of sea life, particularly in the tidal pools that appear at low tide.

Nature Center Ameland: At Natuurcentrum Ameland near Nes, you can learn about the island’s unique flora and fauna. They even have an exhibition about the cute seals that live in Ameland.

Het Oerd: A village used to stand near the eastern end of the island, but now it is an uninhabited place of high dunes – including the highest dunes in Ameland – and wonderful birdwatching. You can bicycle to the nature reserve of Het Oerd, but can’t reach it by car. Bring binoculars! 

Birds flying over a marsh.
Photo courtesy of Veggiewayfarer, the sustainable travel blog.

Learn about Ameland’s history

Sorgdrager Museum: Visit the Cultuurhistorisch Museum Sorgdrager in Hollum to learn all about the island’s rich history and culture, including a section on the island’s whaling industry.

The Bunker Museum: At this historic landmark at the western end of the island, you can discover the island’s World War II history and explore the underground bunkers. I love historical museums like Bunkermuseum Ameland.

Eendenkooi op Ameland: This is a traditional duck decoy just outside Buren, dating to the 18th century. You can learn about the historical method of catching wild ducks. It is so interesting and I thought it was a unique thing to see. 

Maritiem Centrum Abraham Fock: This small maritime museum in Hollum has some unique exhibits. There’s a model of a ferry’s bridge where you can get a real feel for what a captain does. You can also learn about the history of maritime rescues and see a historical horse rescue boat. It’s not for rescuing horses, but rather it was pulled across the beach by ten horses. There’s a demonstration about 14 times a year; if you happen to be there, don’t miss it!

Get active

Participate in some water sports like surfing or kite surfing – how fun is that! There’s also land sailing on the wide beach, if you prefer to keep dry.

If you’re after a real adrenaline rush, you can try skydiving from Ameland Airport.

If you’re into doing some thing more sedate, enjoy a round of golf at the Ameland Golf Club. Breathtaking views surround it.

Looking at the dunes from the beach, with a row of stakes for a breakwater.
Photo courtesy of Dutch travel blogger Kimberley Griffioen. Find her on Instagram.

Stay longer!

If it sounds like there’s a lot on the island that you’d enjoy doing, think about making it a weekend or week-long trip. There are plenty of lovely hotels on the beaches or in one of the villages. Book your accommodations here.

Where to eat in Ameland

Many pleasant restaurants and typical brasseries serve delicious and fresh seafood in Ameland. These restaurant tips for Ameland will be golden for your visit!

Enjoy the catch of the day or opt for other tasty snacks. Have a croquette sandwich (what I usually eat) or try a delicious charcuterie board. We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the village of Nes, at Restaurant De Jong. If you prefer to eat with a view, we can recommend Restaurant The Harbour Ameland. It is located right by the ferry departure point. And the restaurant Proeflokaal Rixt in Nes has the reputation for being one of the best restaurants in Ameland. 

If you happen to be on the northern side of the island, the Strandpaviljoen ‘t Strandhuys also serves delicious meals with a view, standing on stilts right on the beach. So does the Strandpaviljoen Sjoerd, which promises meals made from local products.

At the western end of the island, Beachclub the Sunset is also right on the beach and on stilts, and it’s the perfect place to enjoy the sunset.

Best time to visit Ameland

The weather in the Netherlands is extremely unpredictable. There is no time of the year when I can guarantee you good weather. However, in some seasons you might have a bigger chance of a sunny day.

Here are some of my tips on when to best visit Ameland: springtime is a good time to visit Ameland. The temperature hovers between 6°C (43°F) in March and 15°C (59°F) in May. The end of May is my favorite time to go. It’s lovely, and not too crowded. Pro tip: if you’re in the Netherlands for longer, sneak in a day trip to the Keukenhof near Amsterdam in April or May for the tulips.

Summertime is pleasant to visit Ameland. It is great for beach days and outdoor fun! There’s often plenty of sunshine, but it doesn’t get too hot. However, it gets quite busy, as it is high season. I personally like the off-season better, to avoid crowds. 

Autumn, from September to November, is perfect for hiking and sightseeing. Apart from September, it is not a great time for swimming or relaxing on the beach. 

The same goes for winter. It is cold, often frosty. We’re talking 5°C (41°F) to 8°C (46°) most days, sometimes dipping below freezing. It’s super quiet though: perfect for a peaceful escape. Most things are also a lot cheaper. 

Text: Ameland Island for a great bicycling vacation in the Netherlands (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo). Image: a bike path with a bike.
Pin this image for future reference!

Who will love visiting Ameland

Ameland is a great destination for young and old. We have seen lots of families enjoying their time camping or renting a house and visiting the beaches. Ameland is pretty kid-friendly. 

We think most adults and couples as well as retired people will love Ameland too. It is not a party island, so don’t expect much going on in that sense. 

Best hotels in Ameland

We did not stay overnight in Ameland on this trip. However, I do recommend spending a long weekend or at least a night in Ameland. The island is small, but you might quickly lose track of time wandering all the beautiful beaches! When the Dutch visit, they’ll often either stay just for a weekend break or for one or more weeks at a time. Here are a couple of recommendations for hotels in Ameland if you wish to stay overnight: 

There are plenty more places to stay. Use the map below to see what’s available:

Conclusion: Ameland tips and things to do

This brings us to the end of my Ameland tips and things to do post. Overall, I absolutely adore the little island. Staying either for a day or even for a small vacation on the charming little island is much recommended. As mentioned before, the people on the island are very slow-paced and calm. The endless white sandy beaches gave me some major vacation vibes. All in all, I would definitely rate Ameland as one of the most beautiful spots in the Netherlands. Make sure to go in spring or summer, to make the most out of your beach vacation. 

My travel recommendations

Planning travel

  • Skyscanner is where I always start my flight searches.
  • Booking.com is the company I use most for finding accommodations. If you prefer, Expedia offers more or less the same.
  • Discover Cars offers an easy way to compare prices from all of the major car-rental companies in one place.
  • Use Viator or GetYourGuide to find walking tours, day tours, airport pickups, city cards, tickets and whatever else you need at your destination.
  • Bookmundi is great when you’re looking for a longer tour of a few days to a few weeks, private or with a group, pretty much anywhere in the world. Lots of different tour companies list their tours here, so you can comparison shop.
  • GetTransfer is the place to book your airport-to-hotel transfers (and vice-versa). It’s so reassuring to have this all set up and paid for ahead of time, rather than having to make decisions after a long, tiring flight!
  • Buy a GoCity Pass when you’re planning to do a lot of sightseeing on a city trip. It can save you a lot on admissions to museums and other attractions in big cities like New York and Amsterdam.
  • I’m a fan of SCOTTeVEST’s jackets and vests because when I wear one, I don’t have to carry a handbag. I feel like all my stuff is safer when I travel because it’s in inside pockets close to my body.
  • Airalo is an e-sim card. You buy it through an app and activate it when you need it. I tried it on my trip to Thailand and it worked just like any other sim card, but without my having to fuss with physical cards.
  • I use ExpressVPN on my phone and laptop when I travel. It keeps me safe from hackers when I use public or hotel wifi.

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