Do you want to know a secret? A Zeecret?

Do you want to know a secret? A Zeecret?

With every secret comes a surprise, right? No more so than in Zeeland, the Land-on-Sea, the land with another shore a-yonder. But between two shores, we’ve got even more to pleasure you. Our little secret, k? Come on in. You be Bevelanden.

Between the shores of the Oosterschelde to the north and the southern Westerschelde there awaits unexpected adventure. Truly, a delightful palette of beauty, wonders and exquisite, well, affairs.

This may be your first encounter with the Bevelanden (pronounced Bay-Ve-Land-en), but surely not your last. We’re already looking forward to your next visit! Oh, for the linguist in you, there are two parts, Noord- and Zuid-Beveland, both singular, and once separate islands, but they form one region, where we use the plural.

It’s elementary, biking in Bevelanden

If you really want to know what biking in Zeeland is like, take a spin along the water’s edge. The Zeeuwen (our name for us) live in the lee of the protective dikes and dams. The provincial bike network takes you to all our villages, with infinity vistas over Wester- or Oosterschelde and more. The bike paths of the Bevelanden are often on the exposed water side, and you can choose to be out in the wind, or out of it, landside. Signposts have markers to help you decide.

Wemeldinge is one such place, with a range of surprising bike ride options. It has a route along the impressive Kanaal door Zuid-Beveland, with its panoply of views, ships and water fowl. On the way back to base, you can drift away into the picturesque polderscape of Kapelse Moer.

Equally pleasant: the nearby Kattendijke and the uniquely vast vistas over the Oosterschelde. Do take the time to stop and take it all in.

The pedestrian fisherperson

Talking of walking, how’s about some whelking and winkling? You can enjoy the harvest in a local restaurant – many of Zeeland’s favourite dishes come from the water. But there’s nothing like hoofing it out in your wellies on the mudflats, and handpicking the province’s best members of the Buccinidae family, and other marine gastropods.

The two estuaries are canny places to go welly whelking, their beaches and saltings abundant beds of fertility. Cockles and razor clams are ever so easy to pick. A word of caution: cockles you can eat raw on the spot, but you do need to rinse and boil/steam the clams.

Seaweed is in, so go get some! Virtually all varieties are edible, as long as it’s freshly picked. The firmer, the better.

Walking down the orchard road

Meandering dikes, country lanes, footpaths … the choice is yours all over the Bevelanden. The walking trail network allows you to design just a quick stroll around, or a multi-day plan. Whatever tickles your fancy.

Some sample walks: the banks of the Veerse Meer, the flower dikes around Nisse, or go wetlands hopping among the inlays of Noord-Beveland.

October is an enchanting time, with the last of the summer fruit harvest. Some pickers are still at work, and you can buy your pick of apples and pears at a roadside stall.

You’ll come across orchards in most parts of the Bevelanden. To see the best ones in the real fruit area, plan a route around Kapelle, Hoedekenskerke, Kwadendamme or Oudelande. All home to long-established fruit growers.

Flowery dikes

May we welcome you with a fine bunch of flowers? End-April is the best time to come, but you can imagine what it looks like any time of year. The dikes in the country park Landschapspark Borsele wend their way through the splendid spread of small fields and meadows. It’s known – and rightly so – as one of Zeeland’s loveliest spots, especially in springtime when the fruit trees are blossoming. Need persuading? Take a walk, or pedal around, the area near Nisse. It could almost be pronounced ‘nice’.

You’ll see just how small-scale everything is in the park. Not to make it pretty-pretty, but Mother Nature commanded it be so: the centuries-long struggle with water was waged one polder at a time. Every dike, every field, stands in memory of the days when dikes were breached by storms, polders flooded, fields pumped dry. What were once troubled lakes are now peaceful pastures, adding even more variety to an amazing landscape.

Goes: monumentally magnificent

Always been a regional hub for trade and allied activities, Goes has. Its current iteration as a shopping hub was preceded by waves of wholesale and retail: corn merchants, fruit processors, millers, textiles, you name it. You can see this in the splendid rows of listed buildings as warehouses and town houses on the Grote Markt and along the Stadshaven (town harbour). Part of that prosperity laid the foundations for the oh-so-imposing church of the Grote, or Maria Magdalenakerk. Another monument not to be missed is the old town hall on the Grote Markt, the site of many a – legal or commercial – deal in years gone by.

That entrepreneurial bustle of centuries ago is now served up in Goes the Living Mall. A shopper’s paradise, with its wealth of local boutiques housed in the monuments of yesteryear. You could call it ‘monumental shopping’.

Eating at the source

The best way to eat, we know, is with plenty of source! Now, this is a Bevelanden specialty – we have loads of fantastic restaurants where you can feast your eyes on harbour views or mussel ponds, while savouring the best briny delicacies. Some establishments have been awarded a Michelin star, others are headed that way for sure, while yet others are, as yet, undiscovered pearls in our culinary crown.

One such property is De Katse Kaai where your table feels part of the harbour. At the Katse Veer (ferry house), you’re atop the dike, overlooking the water and the saltings. In the quayside De Viskêête, you’re among the mussel cutters of Yerseke. Funny thing, but the mussels taste even better. And then – le moment suprême est arrivé – Inter Scaldes. On a sliver of land between the Ooster- and the Westerschelde, it has long amazed guests’ pampered palates. After its first two Michelin stars (1978, 1984) the 2018 Guide bestowed the third, warbling “exquisite”. Set on being star-struck? This is where you wanna be, ton appétit.

A taste of Zeeland in Yerseke

There are two ways to pronounce Yerseke: Yeah-se-kuh, or Yummy!! The village is the briny host of the Zeeuwse shellfish sector. Cockles, and mussels, and oysters, alive-alive-o. Fresher than fresh, this is as close to the source as you’ll get. Unless you’re a mermaid. Yeah.

To Yerseke, shellfish is the apple of its eye, and it spares no effort in inveigling you on this culinary delight. Its pride peaks every third Saturday of August, the Day of the Mussel, when it turns itself upside down and inside out with village-style fun, Can’t save the date? No matter, there are regular boat trips out on the Oosterschelde, past some breath-taking views, to see the mussel plots. A mussel-lover’s must. You can visit the old mussel ponds on your own steam (on foot). Or take a guided tour on cultivating mussels and oysters. While you’re ambling around, spare some pixels for all those cutters lined up in the harbour.

Sailing on the Oosterschelde

Now here’s an idea for a full, sporty day: sailing in one the country’s most beautiful nature reserves. The Nationaal Park de Oosterschelde has a particularly rich community of flora and flora and some fantastic stretches for sailing. All around Bevelanden you’ll find a variety of sailing areas. The Veerse Meer lake is known to be relaxed, seducing you to go island-hopping by yacht. More upbeat is the Westerschelde, firmly tidal by nature, and a highway of cargo ships: quite a challenge, but worth every yardarm.

The Oosterschelde itself has a bit of both, in modest portions. Not so many freight ships, but a lively sailing area with tangible tides. Just enough to keep you alert and sharpen your sailing wits. And enticing harbours, marinas, boat rental places and villages to call into during your odyssey. Sail on, sailor!

The Oosterschelde is a dive

Widely seen as one of the most remarkable nature areas in the country, the Nationaal Park De Oosterschelde is a living monument to the endless, timeless, tidal interplay twixt ebb and flood. Above the water, loads of wildlife – water fowl, porpoises and seals – for the spotting, and even more underwater.

Part of that interplay is in the four seasons, underwater. In the winter, it’s minus 2 Celsius down there, come summer, an almost stifling 24. Biodiversity thrives on this, and you, the respectful diver, will too. From far and wide across Europe and beyond, divers find their way here.

Not a diver yourself? Fine. Even up on dry land, you can pick up a lot about our underwater life. In Bevelanden, there are several access points (‘natuurentrees’) to the Nationaal Park Oosterschelde. Here, you’ll see visitor information panels describing the local nature, its history and fauna and flora. There’s even an access point at the 5-star dive-spot at Wemeldinge: go take a look. It’s been crafted in the shape of diving goggles, and looks straight out over the water. Yep, wacky we are too. Welcome.

Water fun and games on the Veerse Meer lake

Hours of fun await you in and around the Veerse Meer, in all manner of water sport. Go out on a sail boat or in a sloop and browse around. That’s real navigation! Moor up a while on an island, until the mood to move strikes. Or go kayaking, swimming and surfing. Ramp up the laughs by going out paddle-boarding (we call it ‘suppen’), sail a banana (really!) or water ski from a cableway. Phew, you’ll say, time for a bit of a breather. Lie down a while on a grassy swathe, or a warm sandy beach. Relax, dudes.

One extra boon of the lake is that it’s nicely sheltered, and good for even the rookiest of rookies, young and old. But if you want to dice some with the dynamics of tide and wind, head out to the water sport areas of the Oosterschelde: next-level edgy.

The surge flood barrier

After the 1953 flood disaster, the Delta Works were launched to protect the province against water. The mouth of the Oosterschelde hosts the most famous part of the Works: the Oosterschelde flood barrier. Over its three-kilometre length, it comprises 65 enormous concrete structures holding massive steel doors which close when there is a surge tide – typically about twice a year. Halfway along the complex, the former work island Neeltje Jans is now a great place for a brisk sea-air walk, or hitting the Deltapark visitor centre. Tip: if you’re up to cycling over the dam, you’ll be sure to have a head wind part of the way. There’s a law about that.

 

The Zeelandbrug

The flood barrier forms a road link between the islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland. Even before the Delta Works were completed, a quality connection was needed – whence the Zeelandbrug. Its 54 pillars support 52 beams of 95 metres. You can cross over by car or bike, even by foot, or you can just stand in its shade and admire the endless row upon row of bridge pillars.

Zwaakse Weel

These days Zuid-Beveland is a calm, quiet sort of place, but it has seen more rumbustious times. The centuries-long battle with the sea was constant, and tough. It often seemed that no sooner had a polder been created than the dikes were breached, and work had to start all over again.

Some time back, the small Zwake river, a busy tidal creek between the Honte, the Westerschelde and Veerse Gat, was impoldered. Now, it is a charming area of natural beauty, one of the largest in the Bevelanden. It lies just to the south of Goes, and features a broad creek, a remnant of the Zwake. The adjoining farmland features authentic fields with ancient crops and a full-size old-fashioned orchard. You can explore here to your heart’s content: there are walking trails, bike paths and bridleways.

Fort Ellewoutsdijk

Standing as a sentinel over the Westerschelde, Fort Ellewoutsdijk takes you back in time, the moment you enter its incredibly heavy wooden doors. For hundreds of years, the Zeeuwen were very anxious about being invaded from the sea. After the Dutch separation from Belgium in 1830, a string of forts was built along the Westerschelde. Most were later demolished, Fort Ellewoutsdijk stayed. Always something there to remind us.

In the fort, you can roam around its underground spaces. Hark! Did you hear the echoes of drums and marching boots? Sure? Outside under the turrets where cannons once stood alert, a panoramic viewer lets you admire birds and boats of all sizes.

Small is beachyful

If it’s wide-open expanses of sea-licked beach you want, go West, westward-ho!. They’re great, too, down where the Walcheren end of the peninsula head butts the passion of the North Sea (hey, Respect, Sea). But, you know, the Bevelanden beaches are cuter, quieter and cuddlier. Size matters, sure, and you’ll just love the numerous small-scale coves and bays: one day, you’ll have your own private beach all to yourselves, other times, you’ll have a smattering of company from other sun-lovers. All around the Veerse Meer lake, or on its many islands, the kids can splash around all day, while you lay back and watch the surfers, sloops and sailboats. Laid back indeed, relaxed XL. Three such lake-side spots are at the Vluchthaven at Geersdijk, nestled in the trees on the Willem Adriaanweg at Kortgene, and with a bit more oomph, at Wolphaartsdijk.

Or pop down to the Westerschelde coast: at Baarland there’s even a beach with a pavilion Up on the Oosterschelde check one out just past the marina at Colijnsplaat, and further to the West there’s a brace of bijou beaches. Sometimes not much bigger than your towel, but the shells you can collect will distract you soon enough.