Duinrell theme park, in Holland, is a bit of a legend. It’s close enough to Wassenaar Beach to make staying there feel like a seaside holiday. Sand collects between your toes, and you have to guard your sandwiches against cheeky gulls. But don’t expect kiss-me-quick hats and dodgy amusement arcades. Instead, Duinrell Wassenaar’s rollercoasters and carousels are planted on a nature reserve. You’ll find a serene environment with trees, lakes, moorhens, ducks and frogs – real ones, as well as Duinrell’s two froggy mascots, Rick and Lelli. We had a Duinrell Canvas Holidays break earlier this summer, and came away determined to go back.
Canvas Holidays covered the cost of our Duinrell accommodation, and our ferry crossing from Dover to Calais, so that I could write this editorial piece. All views are my own.
You can see some of Duinrell’s highlights in my video:
Where is Duinrell?
Duinrell’s on the edge of Wassenaar, a leafy suburb of The Hague that includes a royal residence, an award-winning ice cream parlour and the well-maintained, super-safe bike lanes typical of Holland. People cycle everywhere, mostly without helmets. But if you’re in a motor, The Hague is a 20-minute drive away. The historic University town of Leiden is 15 minutes north by car.
Duinrell first opened its doors to the public in 1935. The Dutch attraction has developed to include an amusement park with 40 attractions; the Tikibad (or Tiki Pool), Benelux’s largest indoor water park with over 1km of slides and a brand new outdoor area; and a holiday park area with chalet-style accommodation and pitches for tents and motor homes.
Canvas Holidays registration at Duinrell
Because of delays on the ferry, it was 10.30pm at night when we arrived at Duinrell. The holiday park was in darkness, with people cycling back to their cabins or wandering home from a late-night swim in the Tikibad, towels wrapped round their waists. When the security guards let us in they called Anton, our friendly Canvas rep from Stirling. He was at the registration cabin in a trice, arriving there at the same time as me.
Guests at Duinrell campsite need ID badges with passport-sized pictures, which I’d brought with me. There’s a passport photo booth on site for anyone who forgets, though. After Anton gave me our information pack and ID badges, he hopped in his van and led us to our cabin, which was lit up and a welcoming sight after the journey from London. We didn’t see Anton again for our stay, but he left us his number, for 24/7 help if we needed it.
Duinrell Canvas Holidays accommodation
We stayed in a Canvas Holidays Moda 2-bed, which was among the newest Duinrell Canvas Holidays accommodation. The inside of the cabin was fresh, bright and spotlessly clean when we arrived. We’d ordered a Canvas Holidays linen pack, which you usually pay a little extra for. This included crisp sheets, pillowcases and a generous supply of towels. After D and I made up the beds and tucked the two excited children into their beds, we unwound out on the decked verandah, with some red wine we’d brought from the UK.
Inside a Canvas Holidays Moda 2-bed
The Moda 2-bed was relatively basic – there was no dishwasher, and although it technically sleeps seven, if we’d brought three extra people with us, it would have been a bit of a squish. But the four of us had enough room to spread out, inside, onto the verandah and beyond. Our cabin was in Beukenveld, behind the theme park, with forest around us and space in front of the cabin for games of badminton.
The Duinrell weather for our late July/early August trip was sunny and warm, with a couple of rainy mornings. If we’d stayed at a colder time of year there was a heater inside the Moda, and extra blankets for the beds.
Our seven- and nine-year old slept on two of the three beds in their room, and we used the lower bunk for curling up on during storytime.
The Moda didn’t have a great deal of hanging wardrobe space, but there were lots of cupboards and shelves, as well as nooks and crannies to put our stuff, like under the beds. Sockets were plentiful, and the separate toilet/shower rooms meant there weren’t too many squabbles over people needing to use the bathroom at the same time. The shower room had a jack and jill entrance leading off the master bedroom and the main living space. So D and I didn’t have to traipse out into the living/dining room in our PJs before getting washed in the morning.
Kitchen and cooking equipment inside a Canvas Holidays Moda 2-bed
The kitchen was well equipped with cooking utensils, pots and pans, a tall fridge freezer, microwave, cafetiere, and plenty of cutlery, plates and dishes. Under the hob was an oven, which meant we were able to cook the part-baked rolls we’d brought with us, and eat them with jam for breakfast on our first morning. We also had fun barbequing sausages, and toasting marshmallows on the gas-fired barbeque outside our cabin. Duinrell’s shop stocked an impressive range of marshmallows, from pink-and-white candy-striped to chocolate-coated versions.
What to pack for a stay in a Canvas Holidays mobile home
Canvas Holidays don’t provide cleaning cloths and liquids, dishwashing brushes or washing-up liquid, so you’d need to buy those at your destination, or bring them from home. You can check out some other items you might want to bring on this list of things to pack for a holiday park. Tea towels aren’t included in the linen pack, and although we had plenty of bath sheets and larger beach towels in our pack, you might also want to bring a couple of hand towels for the kitchen. The Moda 2-bed didn’t have its own washing machine, but there was a laundry on-site for people staying in Duinrell holiday park.
Where is the Canvas Holidays accommodation at Duinrell?
The area around our cabin was quiet and tranquil, with most of our neighbours sleeping in tents or motor homes. I loved our wooded hidey-hole, and it only took a couple of minutes for us to nip to the back entrance of the theme park. Beukenveld was at the far end of the park from the entrance, and Duinrell’s shopping and entertainment complex, the Plaza. That suited us, but for families who wanted to be closer to the shops, pub and restaurants, some Duinrell Canvas Holidays cabins sat right at the heart of Duinrell’s action.
Duinrell’s rides were varied enough for all ages, from young pre-schoolers to thrill-seeking adults and teenagers.
Duinrell attractions for the very young
We first went to Duinrell three years ago, when our children were four and six. You can read about our day trip to Duinrell here. The amusement park caters well for very small children, with an indoor soft play area, a vintage carousel from 1864 that revolves so slowly that small children can climb on and off by themselves, and two mini trains/rollercoasters with no height restrictions.
Kids clustered excitedly around the big, fluffy mascots, Rick the Frog and Kwakus the Duck, when they did their walkaround. We missed Kwakus doing his stint in the Kwakus Kwebble show, but we did catch the Accidental Illusionists performing a zany half-hour of magic tricks in the Zomertheater. Smaller children were allowed to ride with their parents on some of the rides with height restrictions, like the Bumperfrogs dodgems and the Bumper Boats.
Rides for older children at Duinrell
Older children could find plenty to keep them beaming and squealing at Duinrell. The rides brought out different fears and strengths in our family. Our nine year-old son adored the moderately thrilling Kikkerachtbaan rollercoaster, but our seven year-old described it as ‘terrifying’. She proved her mettle on the vertigo-inducing Aqua-Chute, though, queueing on steps tens of metres above the ground, before being tipped down a super-fast slide on a plastic sledge. Height-averse D didn’t fancy being up so high off the ground, and graciously declined a go on the Aqua Chute. I couldn’t persuade anyone to share the exciting thrills of the Falcon, an extreme rollercoaster which climbed and dropped vertically, then spun upside-down. But I bailed out of joining D on the more challenging slides in the Tikibad (more on that later…..)
Some of the Duinrell rides, like the Frog Monorail, which you pedalled yourselves on a single track above the park, and the slow, gentle candy-coloured ferris wheel, gave fantastic views over Duinrell’s leafy, hydrangea-filled paths. Height restrictions ranged from 100cm for the Dragonfly coaster to 140cm for Mad Mill, a kind of pendulum that revolved at high velocity while it swung back and forth.
Even though we visited the theme park every day for the week of our stay, and didn’t go on any ride more than twice (except for the Schip Ahoy pirate boat, which my son made me go on five times), there were still plenty of rides we didn’t get a chance to try. There was no chance of boredom at Duinrell.
Queues and neurodiverse children at Duinrell
A couple of my Twitter friends asked about taking neurodiverse children to Duinrell. Are children who find it difficult to queue allowed to go straight on to rides, as they are in some places in the UK?
In fact, the queues we experienced at Duinrell during the school summer holidays were short. Sometimes, especially towards the end of the day, they were non-existent, and we just walked straight onto the ride. But at other times there was a bit of a queue. It took me 15 minutes to get onto the Falcon, for instance (although that was the longest I had to wait for any ride). So I asked at reception about provision for children who find it difficult to queue. The staff told me that parents or carers just need to go to a ride’s exit, have a word with the staff, and the child can walk onto the ride when it next stops, with one companion. The vibe at Duinrell was so friendly and relaxed that I could imagine this system working well.
Playgrounds at Duinrell
Exciting as Duinrell’s rides were, an equally big draw was the playgrounds. These really came into their own after the rides shut down at five or six pm, when the day visitors left and we had the place to ourselves. On a few evenings we let the Pigeons stay up late, playing in the golden sunlight on trampolines, elaborate slides, and climbing frames. The sandy playgrounds were busy with kids, running around having fun while their parents sat on benches, chatting and sipping cool beers.
The Matterhorn inflated bouncy balls, and the super-tall, curly-whirly slides in Speeltuin were top favourites with our nine- and seven-year old.
Duinrell’s a theme park with its own peculiar but brilliant quirks, from its froggy mascots (very apt for Holland, as the country’s nicknamed Kikkerland – Frogland), to Wonderland, a fairytale-themed section. To enter Wonderland, you walk through the gates of Rick’s Adventure Castle, while people pedal the Monorail overhead.
The first eye-catching spectacle in Wonderland is a take on Brussels’ mannequin pis. A tiny boy-statue revolves around, trying to squirt you with water from his penis. Around the corner, a giant man sits at a table next to huge toadstools, groaning gutteral sounds. If you feed him a Euro, he’ll spit out bouncy rubber balls at you. In the bushes lurks a slightly creepy clown, who sobs so hysterically when you push a button that jets of water squirt out of his eyes to give you a soaking. The seven dwarves sitting behind a glass pane were a little in need of a fairytale refresh, but this area is fun, and utterly charming.
Duinrell’s Tikibad water park is the largest indoor water complex in Benelux. You need to carve out a big chunk of time to take advantage of its 1km+ of water slides. We went twice. Canvas Holidays guests pay a reduced fee of €5.50 for two hours, €6.50 for three, and €7.50 for unlimited access.
Two hours was only just enough time for us to get our bearings inside the Tikibad, have a float down the lazy river, and try out a few of the rides. So we decided to go back again on our final day, and pay for unlimited access. This means you can stay in the Tikibad from when it opens at 10am until closing time at 10pm. Once you leave the Tikibad, though, you can’t re-enter, so there’s no nipping out to go on a few rides in the middle of the day. It’s well set-up for a day trip, though, with a cafe/restaurant inside, and free-to-use lockers.
What are the slides like at Duinrell water park?
The Tikibad was a real adventure. D and Austin went down the Cannonball a few times, an almost vertical slide which dropped them into a pool from a height of several metres. D braved Tyfoon, a fast slide that went outside the Tikibad, and X-stream, a free-fall slide. These really were extreme slides, and riders had to be over 150cm. After being thrown around on Flits, where riders reached a velocity of 60kph, I decided to stay with my daughter, who could have happily spent the entire day playing on the slides in the Playa, a separate section with very shallow water. These slides had no height restriction, and were designed to be thrilling for younger kids (and me!), without being too intimidating.
Families with toddlers were well catered-for at the Tikibad, with a large splash park area. Safety restrictions meant that children under 120cm had to wear armbands. If they could swim well, staff allowed them to swim without armbands, but they had to demonstrate this first, and wear a special tag around their wrist.
Outdoor area at Duinrell Tikibad – new for summer 2019
We spent a big chunk of time basking in the sunshine in the brand new outdoor area at the Tikibad. It was nice to have the option to swim laps in the uncrowded outdoor pool. The kids had fun playing on the gentle outdoor slides, and in the splash park, where a colossal bucket (the biggest in Holland) would tip water on their heads.
Places to eat at Duinrell and amenities at the Plaza
Duinrell Plaza was the holiday park’s entertainment hub, with a pub, two restaurants, and a decent sized supermarket. We did our main shop at Jumbo in Wassenaar, but the holiday park supermarket was large enough to have supplied us with most things we needed for the week. The vegetarian and vegan section went a lot further than what we’d expect from a campsite supermarket. We found a few different kinds of vegetarian schnitzel for the vegetarians in our family, as well as jackfruit for cooking up vegan recipes.
Usually when we stay at holiday parks, we head to the mini disco in the evenings, but our two were so shattered after their days in the pool, playgrounds and on the rides that we didn’t take advantage of Duinrell’s entertainment programme. But the pub looked like a fun hangout, with a mini bowling alley, and we know from our previous day at Duinrell that the La Place restaurant at the Plaza would have been a decent place to eat. Duinrell also has its own pancake house – or pannenkoeken huis – where you can try sweet and savoury recipes.
Stalls sold sweet snacks, as well as poffertjes. These typically Dutch small puffs of pancake come smothered in melted butter, icing sugar, and Nutella if you’re feeling decadent.
We decided this time to venture a little further afield. There’s no shortage of options to eat in the pretty town of Wassenaar, which is a short stroll away from Duinrell. One evening we ate at the pancake house just outside Duinrell’s gates, which promised ‘the best pancakes in town’, and where we enjoyed a yummy meal overlooking the river.
For our poffertjes fix, we tried Leiden market, where a stallholder served us the best poffertjes I’ve tasted yet. They were also the cheapest we’ve seen in Holland (although we’ve mainly visited spots popular with tourists).
Hiring bikes at Duinrell
Holland is so well set-up for cyclists that it would have felt wrong for us not to have hired bikes while we were there. It’s worth bearing in mind that Duinrell’s a large holiday park, so a bike or another set of wheels is a handy way to get around. One day we hired go-karts for the kids, as a treat. They cost €14 each for the day.
On another day we all hired bikes, which cost €7 each for a standard kid’s bike, and €10 for an adult bike. To stop a Dutch bike, you pedal backwards. If you wanted an adult bike with the brakes we’re more used to in the UK, the cost was €13. Nobody seemed to be bothering with helmets, but our two wanted them, so we hired some at €2 each.
Things to do near Duinrell
One thing that should be compulsory when you stay at Duinrell, is a visit to Wassenaar Beach, or Wassenaar Slag as it’s known locally. The 8km swathe of vanilla ice-cream coloured sand is only 5km from Duinrell, so it’s an easy cycle even for little legs. There are a couple of shallow inclines on the way there, but it was manageable for our seven- and nine-year old.
We spent a hot, sunny afternoon playing in the blustery but warm North Sea. The undertow was fierce but we were under the watchful gaze of lifeguards the whole time. In the distance we could see the giant ferris wheel of Scheveningen, The Hague’s 4km pleasure beach. Wassenaar Beach has a smart, inviting cafe/restaurant, whose loos guests can use for free, and which cost 50c for everyone else.
Duinrell’s in an excellent position for visiting other parts of Holland. We spent two mornings wandering the canals and bridges of Leiden, a historic University town just 15 minutes away by car. I’ll be writing shortly about our trip to the Windmill Museum there. We considered cycling to Leiden, but decided we’d wait a year or two first, as the children hadn’t cycled that far before.
Duinrell to Amsterdam’s 45 minutes by car, and the holiday park’s also close to Gouda, Delft, the Hague, Rotterdam and the UNESCO world heritage windmills of Kinderdijk. D and I both agreed that it would have been very easy to have a two-week Duinrell holiday, without running out of things to do and places to see. I’ve written before about all the attractions for families in south Holland. Check out this feature to find out more.
How to get to Duinrell
Duinrell is easy to reach in Holland. It’s a 20-minute drive north of the Hague, and 45 minutes south of Amsterdam. Regular buses run to the estate from The Hague or Leiden. The Eurostar runs direct services from London to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where travellers can catch connecting trains to Leiden or The Hague. We took the ferry from Dover to Calais; from there, it was around four hours by car to Duinrell. There’s also the Eurotunnel from Dover to Calais. Ferries operate between the north of England and Amsterdam, and on previous trips to this area we’ve caught the Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland, which is 45 minutes away from Duinrell.
If you’re interested to read more about things to do in south Holland, you may like these posts:
For more information on Canvas Holidays Duinrell camping, see the Canvas Holidays website.
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