Six stops on a south Holland family road trip

Six stops on a south Holland family road trip

Last spring, we visited south Holland, staying in a holiday park by the sea. If, like us, you pick a base in the south of the country, there are plenty of attractions, all within easy reach. You can visit windmills, beaches, pretty towns with canals, amusement parks – so much, in fact, that there’s no need to head north to Amsterdam (though you can always do that too…..).

The direct Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight ferry service makes it easy to set off bright and early on a road trip around south Holland. The flat, well-maintained roads in Holland are excellent, – although it’s always worth checking your tyres before you set off.

Here are some of our favourite places to stop, all within 40-50 minutes of Hook of Holland.

Delft

Delft

The pretty town of Delft dates from the 11th century. Its narrow, canal-lined streets are easy to stroll around if you only have time for a short visit. Delft is the birthplace of artist Johannes Vermeer, who painted Girl with a Pearl Earring. The Vermeer Centrum Delft gives a glimpse of his studio, and of what it would have been like for the artist, living in 17th Century Holland.

Delft is also home of the distinctive blue-and-white Delft pottery, developed in the 17th Century from Chinese influences. If there’s room in your car, you can pick some up in one of the town’s many workshops and studios. In the spring and summer, an antiques market lines up along the side of the canals in the town centre, with everything from quirky paintings to brass ornaments on sale. There’s a real buzz to the town on market days (Thursdays and Saturdays), with busy canalside cafes and restaurants full of visitors and locals. You can see more pictures of Delft in our post here.

The Hague

Vermeer

Road trippers who are inspired by the Vermeer Centrum Delft can drive along to The Hague, where the Mauritshuis houses a number of Vermeer’s works. In this post, I described the home of the city’s collection of Dutch Golden Age art as

“like walking into the lavish drawing room of your Great Aunt.”

The Mauritshuis is an ornate, hushed museum, where sleek, wooden surfaces offset the heavy, velveteen scent hanging in the air. As well as several Vermeers, visitors can see The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt and The Goldfinch by Fabritius. Young visitors can borrow one of the children’s backpacks, with colouring books, stickers and music boxes, to help them enjoy the art.

Also in The Hague are modern art and science museums. The beach resort Scheveningen has four kilometres of coastline, and a new 350m-long zipwire down from the pier.

Duinrell Wassenaar

Duinrell

Just outside The Hague lies Wassenaar, a leafy suburb which includes a royal residence and the most expensive street in the country. It’s also home to Duinrell, a quirky but tasteful amusement park. Duinrell is on the site of an old farm and first opened its doors in 1935. The one million square-metre estate includes an amusement park with 40 attractions, an indoor Tiki Pool, with over 1km of slides, and a holiday park area with chalet-style accommodation and camping pitches.

Here’s a video showing some rides at Duinrell:

Rotterdam

The Netherlands’ second largest city was one of Lonely Planet’s top ten city destinations for 2016. Razed to the ground during WWII, Rotterdam is now a hip city with striking architecture and a vibrant nightlife. The city’s light, airy buildings are interspersed with revolutionary design features, like the Cube Houses in the Oude Haven area. As with most places in the Netherlands, water plays a large part in the city’s life. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe. Tourists can visit the Maritiem Museum, or even sleep on board a steam cruise ship, the SS Rotterdam, which is docked in retirement following a career in the 1960s of ferrying passengers back and forth between Manhattan and the Netherlands.

Gouda

Gouda cheese market

Gouda’s a town that’s full of tradition, but with a modern twist. Gouda cheese has been traded on the Goudse kaasmarkt for more than three centuries, with farmers travelling in to the town square, to trade and have their cheese weighed in front of the old town hall. 60% of all Dutch cheese comes from Gouda; as well as the stalls flanking the town square on market day, there are several permanent cheese shops in the town, where you can try before you buy. Cheese enthusiasts should check out the Goudse Waag, a building dating back to 1668 which now houses the Cheese and Artisanal Crafts Museum.

A walk around the historic cobbled streets reveals a few hip treasures, like Den Gouwen Aar, where you can sample craft ale in the beer-tasting room, or buy Gouda herb beer. Lego fans can also spend some time at Play today, a Lego specialist shop where one Euro buys you a build-your-own-figure session.

Here’s the cheese market in action, and you can read more about our day at Gouda here:

Kinderdijk

If it’s windmills you want, Kinderdijk is the place in the Netherlands to see them. The UNESCO world heritage site boasts 19 of the 18th-Century beauties. It’s the only place in the world with so many windmills, so close together, and it’s often a surprisingly quiet place to visit, especially if you go off-season. A regular Hopper boat service runs trips past the windmills. In one of the two museum mills, a miller in genuine Dutch clothing describes what it would have been like to work there. Winter visitors might even be lucky enough to ice skate down the frozen canal.

You can see the windmills in this video:

Have you travelled in south Holland? What were the highlights for you?

Check out some more of our Holland posts:

  • Gouda
    A morning at Gouda cheese market

Pin for later:

south Holland

This is a collaborative post. All views are my own.

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71 Comments

  1. April 21, 2017 / 5:29 pm

    Wow, this is really inspirational. I have visited Holland twice but each time was all too brief. Definitely somewhere to spend a bit more time when we travel properly. I’m still a bit hypnotised by all that cheese!
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      April 24, 2017 / 8:16 pm

      I know. Whenever I look back at these pictures, I feel hungry all over again!

  2. May 2, 2017 / 10:43 am

    I am hoping to go to Rotterdam next year for the Traverse 18 blog conference. I’ve been to Amsterdam 6 times, it;s my favourite city but have yet to explore South Holland. Gouda looks interesting and I would love to see the girl with the pearl earring. I watched a movie about this not long ago. #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:39 pm

      Yes, it was a good film. I’m hoping to go to Traverse in Rotterdam too. I think it would be a cool host city!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:40 pm

      It’s a great place to visit. Very easy!

  3. May 2, 2017 / 5:09 pm

    These are great ideas! We only had time for Amsterdam and Arnhem, but we hope to come back in the spring next year to see more of the country. #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:53 pm

      Yes, there’s so much to it. I’d love to go back and visit the north, as we haven’t seen Arnhem yet….

  4. May 2, 2017 / 6:10 pm

    Given how close the Netherlands are, I have not taken advantage of that and have only really been to Amsterdam – The Hague would definitely be on my list (love the museum idea) and Delft always looks so pretty just for starters! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:54 pm

      I’d have liked to spend longer in the Hague. We only went for the afternoon, but there’s tons to do there.

  5. May 2, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    What a wonderful trip – I’ve never been beyond Amsterdam and I’m missing out! I’ve heard great things about Duinrell and I’d love to visit Delt for the pottery and Gouda for the cheese! A great road trip to do with kids – the promise of the theme park would appeal to mine! #CityTripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      Yes – there’s something for everyone on this route!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      It’s so pretty there, Catherine.

  6. May 3, 2017 / 1:03 am

    Oh, the colours of those spring flowers are just giving me life! The Hague has long been on my to-do list, so much to see and so much knowledge and culture to absorb.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 1:22 pm

      Yes – The Hague’s an incredible place.

  7. May 3, 2017 / 2:26 am

    I have never explored Europe by car (I mean us driving) but that is going to change next week. We are going to be several days in Iceland and we are renting a car. I hope this is the beginning of many more road trips, Holland included. #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 1:25 pm

      I hope your Iceland trips’s going well!

  8. May 3, 2017 / 7:21 am

    Your post reminds me how much more of the Netherlands I need to see! I haven’t been to any of these yet! (**Sob**) I want to go to all of them! #CityTripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 1:33 pm

      The world’s just too large a place, isn’t it?

  9. May 3, 2017 / 9:52 pm

    How fun! Thanks for all the tips, would love to do a ferry and road trip like this with the kids. This also brings me back, as I went on a school trip to Holland when I was 12 and we visited a pottery factory in Delft where I bought some blue and white items! #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 2:15 pm

      Oh that’s brilliant! I wonder if you can still go back to the same factory.

  10. May 4, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    I’m hoping to have our summer holiday next year in the Netherlands, and this post has confirmed why that’s a good idea! I’ve only ever been to Amsterdam, and clearly there is a lot more to explore. We found it so cheap and easy to get to mainland Europe on the Eurotunnel this Easter that we want to do more holidays this way. Would you recommend a particular part of the Netherlands as a base? #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 2:40 pm

      From everything I’ve seen, I’d say Wassenaar was the best place. You’re close to Duinrell (you can even stay on-site), on the edge of beautiful beaches, and it’s easy to get to both Amsterdam and the southern towns like Gouda and Delft.

  11. May 5, 2017 / 2:07 am

    I was lucky enough to visit a bunch of these on a work trip years ago, but it left me wanting to see so much more. Some day! #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 2:53 pm

      Yes – there are just too many places to visit!

  12. May 5, 2017 / 5:38 am

    We visited Holland last summer, and I absolutely loved it! I wish we would of had more time, but I hope to go back someday and see some of these towns! #citytripping

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 2:52 pm

      You could spend weeks here. It’s a fabulous place.

  13. May 5, 2017 / 8:01 am

    We have always wanted to visit Holland as a family so your article was a great read. There looks so much to do there, the girls would love Duinrell!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 2:59 pm

      Yes, it has something to suit everyone.

  14. May 5, 2017 / 9:21 am

    Oh that looks really fun. We’ve often thought about taking the boys to Holland but haven’t been yet. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 3:00 pm

      You should definitely go. I have a feeling you’d love it.

  15. May 5, 2017 / 2:31 pm

    For some reason I’ve never thought about doing a road trip in Holland. Really interesting to hear about the different places. There’s clearly loads to see and Mrs T would love Duinrell. It has left me wondering why we haven’t done it before. Thanks for the inspiration! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 3:01 pm

      It’s a very easy road trip. Not too far to drive between great stop-off towns!

  16. May 5, 2017 / 5:17 pm

    Like Wander Mum I’d never thought of a Dutch road trip but that its on the list for our summer holiday shaped hole that we have in August! #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 3:01 pm

      Hurrah!

  17. May 5, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    My husband would love to do this trip. The Gouda cheese market would be grate, a wheelie good time (apologies). I think I’d genuinely enjoy it. #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      I bet you would. Goud for the soul!

  18. May 5, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    Oh wow this sounds like such a great trip Nell. I love the sounds of all these places. Unbelievably of all the places we’ve been to in Europe, we’re yet to do Holland. And Norway for that matter. Must sort that out! Great post, thank you for hosting. I’m sharing a post about a pirate museum with pretty views 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      Gorgeous post. Thanks for sharing!

  19. May 6, 2017 / 8:30 am

    I love the windmills. Looks like a great trip and so accessible too. Thanks for sharing.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:20 pm

      It really is an easy place to visit.

  20. May 6, 2017 / 8:31 am

    What a great destination to visit: there’s so much to see so close by. I think my boys would be sold by the overnight ferry trip alone! Love the idea of skating past the windmills, great alternative winter holiday idea!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:41 pm

      I know. I’m dying to go back in winter.

  21. May 6, 2017 / 9:04 am

    We have honestly always passed Netherlands over for other more exciting looking places. Your photos and tips though make it look like so much fun. Maybe it should have always been higher on our list. Thanks for sharing. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:42 pm

      I love the place. Even more so because it’s understated!

  22. May 7, 2017 / 9:40 am

    Loved this post Nell! My Grandmother is Dutch so holidays in Holland featured a lot on our calendar. This brought back lots of happy memories! 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:43 pm

      I’m really pleased to hear that, Emma! x

  23. May 7, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    What a gorgeous post. We haven’t been to the Netherlands for years, but I went a number of times growing up and always enjoyed it. Great to see it’s lovely for kids too. I know my son would particularly love Duinrell! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:43 pm

      I’d possibly rate it as my no. 1 place to take kids if you want an easy, fun, interesting trip….

  24. May 7, 2017 / 10:35 pm

    Holland is on my list of places to go and you’ve just provided me a full on itinerary. Great post. Thank you! #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 8:52 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  25. May 8, 2017 / 2:22 pm

    Gouda looks gorgeous. And there is cheese? Sign me up!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 8, 2017 / 9:15 pm

      Yes, the cheese is just the (cheesy) icing on the cake! Thanks for stopping by.

  26. May 8, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    Just visiting again to say thanks for linking up to #FamilyTravelTips! Still want that cheese!
    Nat.x

  27. May 9, 2017 / 4:18 am

    These sound like great places to visit. I’m especially interested in Gouda. I would love to visit the cheese factory. #CulturedKids

  28. May 9, 2017 / 1:07 pm

    Looks such an amazing trip! we need to do more of europe and hop on the ferry to amsterdam and explore Holland #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:13 pm

      It’s so easy to get there….

  29. May 9, 2017 / 8:58 pm

    We loved Holland when we visited. Kinderdijk Windmills was one of our favourites. Rotterdam Zoo was also a great place to visit if you are nearby. #FamilyTravelTips

    • Nell
      Author
      May 15, 2017 / 8:14 pm

      Ah yes, I’ve heard it’s good!

  30. May 17, 2017 / 9:37 pm

    Oh the windmills are my vote! Although I would try to have Gouda in Gouda.

    • Nell
      Author
      May 19, 2017 / 12:58 pm

      The Gouda was amazing….

  31. May 20, 2017 / 10:58 am

    Nice list. I used to work often in The Hague and really loved it – a liveable, likeable city with a special mix of old and new… and, of course, the wonderful beach. The modern architecture of Rotterdam blows my mind too. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 21, 2017 / 6:50 pm

      It was my first time at the Hague and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t quite know what I’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been a city that I’d consider visiting as a destination in its own right. Now I’d like to go and spend a few days there, getting to know the place.

  32. May 20, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    My sister lives in Holland so this is great advice of what to see if we venture back that way. #CulturedKids

    • Nell
      Author
      May 21, 2017 / 6:50 pm

      Thanks! How nice to be able to visit relatives there.

  33. May 22, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    I will have to bookmark this as rely hoping to go to Duinrell sometime in the near future – hopefully!!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2017 / 6:31 pm

      Hope you make it there!

  34. May 23, 2017 / 10:10 am

    Oh, we never made it to Delft, but it sure does look lovely! We spent about 5 days in Rotterdam in the fall and it was really lovely. I thought there were fun things to do with kids and a lot of awesome cafes and restaurants for the adults!

    • Nell
      Author
      May 25, 2017 / 6:34 pm

      I need to spend more time in Rotterdam. Mind you, I feel like that about every place on this list!

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