Texel is the biggest island of the Dutch Wadden Islands, and is closest one to the mainland. It is easy to hop on the train from Amsterdam to Den Helder and then crossing over by ferry. All in about 2 hours (so it’s even possible to make a day trip). But of course, even better way to reach the island is by sailing to it.
Sailing to the island and the marina
The Wadden Sea is a shallow sea notorious of its shifting sand banks, and strong tidal current. We always need to carefully calculate the best time to come out of the IJsselmeer, where we always came from, to coincide with the tide going to the Islands, and from there on to keep our eyes on the buoys marking the safe passage all the way to the island (which also means you need good visibility). It’s a nice bit of challenge, compared to sailing in straight lines across endless horizon.
The town of Oudeschild has the only commercial yacht marina in the island, the Waddenhaven Texel. It’s not a big marina, and in the summer it fills up very quickly. If you arrive too late in the day when they have no more spot, the only other option is to go to the town’s harbour, and find the best spot you could get. Anchoring is not a safe option considering the strong tides.
Once we got ourselves a berth for our boat, The Kid would usually run out either to the playground, getting her swimsuit on to jump into the water, or getting her fishing net to catch crabs. In the summer, when the weather is warm and sunny, the whole place is a paradise for children. We let the Kid run around barefoot, making friends with other children, going to the shop on her own to get ice lollies, and generally stay up very late into the night. Our best memory from last summer was that it was so hot, we all decided to go to the playground at midnight and took swings at things.
There’s also a beach 2 minutes walk away. The beaches in the island are generally shallow and safe for kids, but might not be so fun if you’re a grown up and really determined to do serious swimming. (We usually prefer to plunge from the boat, where the fridge is close by and we don’t get sands everywhere).
Aside from the playground and the nearby beach, the Waddenhaven Texel marina also provides: water, electricity, free-wifi (and some computers), 24-hour toilets and shower, family shower, library (but not very well stocked), fuel station. Close by the marina, you can also find a small grocery shop, a restaurant, bike rental, and a picnic ground with BBQ possibility.
Away from the marina, there’s the town of Oudeschild to explore. It’s not big, but it has a lively centre, while you still see sheep roaming around in any grassy area. Our favourite place to visit in Texel is De Zelfpluktuin, the pluck-your-own-fruit garden about 15 minutes away by bike from Oudeschild. Here you can see what fruit is in season and pluck what you want. Admission is free, and you only pay what you plucked. Not far from the garden is the Texel Brewery. Despite being a brewery, it welcomes children to sit in its terrace (and have some juice), or if they’re interested, they can join a tour on how beer is made.
If you happen to have a pair of wellies with you or just plain old shoes you don’t need anymore, another popular past times in the Wadden Islands is mudwalking, or wadloppen as they call it in Dutch. In low tides, it’s possible to just slosh around in the muds around the beaches. The Kid did it with her Oma once, and what kid doesn’t love to be allowed to stomp around in the mud? Unfortunately, we always forgot to bring a pair for ourselves everytime we sail there. For more adventurous mud-walking (which may go pretty far into the sea bed, even though from Texel it’s not possible to walk all the way to another island), it’s advised to go with a group with experience guide.
Despite the size, the island has so much to offer in terms of activity, especially in summer. We have been on the island about 4 times, and still haven’t managed to do everything. For more things to do in Texel.
Arriving in Texel by the ferry
Sometimes when we only have a day to spare, we take the ferry instead to Texel. Once on the island, there’s a bike rental by the harbour where you can rent a bike to go around the island (in the summer, be sure to arrive early, otherwise they will have no bikes left to rent). There are also regular bus service to various towns in Texel. The last ferry back to the mainland leaves at around 9pm in the summer, just in time for the sunset.