In the summer it is a bustle of buzz, but in the low season you can experience in peace what makes water-rich Giethoorn and the surrounding Weerribben-Wieden National Park such a popular and special part of the Netherlands
Giethoorn is located right between the nature reserves De Weerribben and De Wieden, which together form the Weerribben-Wieden National Park. This is the largest low bog area in northwest Europe and therefore a unique part of the Netherlands. The most convenient is to come by car to Giethoorn, which you can park in or on the outskirts of the village depending on your accommodation. You can also take public transport to Giethoorn: travel by train to Steenwijk and take bus line 70 to Giethoorn from there.
Check in at Bed & Boot Mol Groenewegen, which is run by Gerrit Mol and his wife Marianne and is centrally located on the Dorpsgracht. Their Wiedenlodge, a thatched holiday home with a kitchen with dishwasher, spacious living room, comfortable beds and a private terrace is perfect for two people (long weekend €339; molgroenewegen.nl). Do you have a question or would you like to rent a whisper boat or canoe? Chances are you’ll find Gerrit somewhere on the property in good weather, but otherwise you can always knock on his door. Once you’re settled, walk to Smits Pavilion, where you can have lunch or a cup of coffee (smitspaviljoen.nl) with stunning views of the lake ‘t Bovenwijde
Explore Giethoorn on foot for dinner. Follow the footpath along the Dorpsgracht and see the passers-by passing under the many bridges – the bridges are traditionally high so that punters could stand under them. There are plenty of places to pause and enjoy the special heritage you are now walking through. End the day at De Sloothaak, a cosy restaurant in a monumental farmhouse. The menu changes every season and has a small but tasty range of homegrown products with worldly influences (three courses from €25; restaurantdesloothaak.nl).
It’s time to move into nature! Get in the car and drive to Ossenzijl where you’ll rent a whisper boat at one of the campsites near the Weerribben Visitor Centre to explore the Weerribben on your own. At the boat rental you usually get a map with routes, but you can also check the website of the State Forest Service for nice sailing routes. Along the way you can see why this area is called the Weerribben: in the past the peat dredge was dried on the narrow strips of land, the ribs. The holes created by dredging and then filled with water are called the weather. Bring binoculars, because from the water you could just spot roe deer, purple herons and kingfishers. With luck you’ll even see an otter (whisper boat from €80 per day; bootverhuur.visitweerribbenwieden.com).
Got hungry from boating? Navigate to Mosquito Bite, a spot on the map in the middle of Weerribben-Wieden National Park. Book a table at Geertien for a delicious lunch by the water in this authentic brown café. You can build a boat there, but you can also grab the car and drive there. Originally, many reed cutters and peatstekers came here; many a salary was squandered on booze here. Nowadays you eat tasty local produce (geertien.nl). After lunch, drive back to The WeatherRibben Outdoor Centre and follow the red bollards from here for a walking trail of about 3 kilometres, where you will learn all about the Weerribben (staatsbosbeheer.nl) along the way thanks to information boards.
Return to Giethoorn for dinner. Carnivores can enjoy themselves at ‘t Achterhuus, where you order large portions of meat or fish. The atmospheric, informal restaurant is housed in a renovated farmhouse and has friendly service (main course from €19.50; achterhuus.nl). After all the fresh outdoors today, chances are you’ll be crawling under the wool tonight with your belly full of early.
After checking out at your accommodation, drive to the De Wieden visitor centre in Sint Jansklooster. Here you can see what happened when peatstekers removed too much peat in the weather, making the ribs too narrow. On a fateful day in 1776, the dikes of the Zuiderzee broke through and the water washed away all ribs, flooding the village of Beulake. On this spot in the lake the Beulakerwijde stands a monument of the church tower of the drowned village. From the visitor centre, two short walking routes start that are also fun for children. In addition, this is a boarding point of the Ecowaterbus which sails between Sint Jansklooster, Giethoorn and Blokzijl (natuurmonumenten.nl). Before you drive home, catch your breath at the teahouse next to the visitor center (theeschenkerijdewieden.nl).