Noordwijk, (PressExposure) February 26, 2009 -- Beach Destination: Noordwijk Located along the Dutch Riviera, in the heart of Hollandâs famous Dune and Bulb region, the charming North Sea town of Noordwijk is fast becoming one of Europeâs most fashionable beach destinations for backpackers, families, and business tourism from all over the globe. The secret of Noordwijk is not totally out of the bag, but with each passing year the popularity of the area is increasing tenfold, with over 1.5 million visitors choosing to stay overnight in this vibrant former fishing town last year alone.
These days Noordwijk makes its living predominantly from tourism, yet the town hasnât surrendered any of the unique charm and character that is so obviously its appeal. For instance the largest shopping street, although modern, remains unpretentious, while the beach is as unspoilt and as encouragingly sandy as it ever has been. And with 13km of flat sand beach and rugged dune coastline in either direction youâd be hard picked to find a better place from which to escape civilization.
Upon arrival in Noordwijk it becomes immediately noticeable how relaxed the vibe is here â within hours I could feel myself unwinding and appreciating the laid-back pace of life. That said the town never feels remote or out on a limb. In fact, Noordwijk remains well connected to all of the big cities in the Netherlands via a superb public transport network that runs all day and night, and reassuringly, Schipol International Airport is only 20 miles away. From Noordwijk you can take special trips into the historic city of Leiden, the birthplace of Rembrandt and home to beautiful windmills and countless museums, or tour the political hub of Holland, Den Haag, which is only a 30 minute bus trip from Noordwijk. And letâs not forget the world city of Amsterdam, with its infamous red-light-district, coffeeshops, and celebrated museums like The Van Gogh and Anne Franks House, all only 40 miles from Noordwijk.
The Noordwijk beach is a fashionable setting for Kite Surfing; a bona-fide alternative to the more traditional types of water sport like surfing and wind surfing, that nevertheless, still remain tremendously popular here. If youâre keen to get your feet wet then youâll find plenty of reputable companies in the town from whom you can hire equipment or organise tuition.
Mountain biking enthusiasts will prefer to engage the 12km mountain bike course that cuts across the sand dunes parallel to the coastline. If you fancy jumping over sand dune peaks, racing down spectacular woodland trails, and ripping through grassland expanses with only a mountain bike to cling to then Noordwijk is the place to do so - and if you didnât have space in your suitcase for your bike then happily there is a decent cycle shop in town that will rent you a professional mountain bike for the duration of your stay.
Alongside its love for cycling, the Netherlands is also famous for its dramatic flower fields that bloom between March and May each year. The bulb region is often referred to as being the worldâs biggest flower garden, with its highlight being Keukenhof Park - the world famous Dutch flower exhibition. Imagine field after field of crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips rolling across the countryside in a collage of intense colour that extends for miles in every direction. Noordwijk is a great base for exploring the bulb region, and at the end of April the annual flower parade begins here. The flower parade is a vivid procession of floats and passenger vehicles decorated with local flowers that passes throughout the entire Bulb region on route from Noordwijk to the city of Harlem. Its always fun to discover the bulb region by bike - packing some food and cycling off into the countryside, armed to the teeth with a map and a camera. In a short time youâll be engulfed by rainbow coloured flower fields, historic windmills, and Dutch farmers wearing wooden clogs.
Any tech heads amongst you might already know that Noordwijk is the home to the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), which is part of the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA's visitors' centre, Space Expo, is a permanent exhibition contained inside one large hanger. Half of the exhibition focuses on the recent creation of the European space agency, while other exhibits concentrate on those major events shaped the history of space exploration - from the first Russian satellite fired into space to the NASA moon landings. The exhibition also includes the simulated launch of an Ariane rocket, and a life sized mock up of the International Space Station.
In 1940 the Netherlands suffered 5 years of Nazi-occupation. The town of Noordwijk held an important strategic position, sandwiched between Germany and the North Sea, and even when much of Western Europe had been liberated from Nazi control, Holland remained under German rule until May of 1945, when it was finally liberated by American and Canadian troops. Over that period underground military bunkers were built along the coastline by German troops occupying the town, and after a period of restoration large parts of these tunnels and rooms are now open to the visiting public. The main bunker is a huge expanse of concrete, with gun rooms, sleeping quarters, and observational decks that seem to sprout in every direction. The main tunnel runs underground for at least half a mile, with sub tunnels that develop into large rooms every few hundred feet. The sheer scale of the bunker system is as startling as it is unnatural â and there is a rather eerie feeling down there; surrounded by the 3m thick bomb proof walls, mesh grenade nets, canon positions, and observation decks. But despite the heavy subject matter the fact is that a visit to the Atlantikwall Museum is a truly educational experience and a âmust seeâ for anyone visiting Noordwijk.
Finding a good place to stay in Noordwijk is easy. Youâll find a wide range of hotels to suit every taste and budgetary requirement, ranging from small family run bed & breakfast establishments, to 5-star luxury hotels. Situated on the beautiful Koningin Wilhelmina Boulevard is the famous Hotel van Oranje, with its array of fine restaurants and bars, and a sub-tropical wave pool and spa complex built into its glamorous foundations. Budget travellers and backpackers are catered for too â Hollandâs famous Flying Pig Hostel brand has its Beach incarnation here in Noordwijk. The Beach Hostel is renowned for its wild Surf Bar parties, and for serving the cheapest beer in town to young people from all over the world.
So why not make the hidden gem beach resort of Noordwijk the location for your next holiday, and set about exploring some of the most unspoiled landscape anywhere in Europe.