Yerseke is Zeeland’s premiere mussel and oyster village. Life here revolves around shellfish, with constant activity in the harbours and oyster beds. A delicious occupation.
Yerseke has a long history of cultivating oysters, building oyster beds to increase their numbers. The oyster trade brought so much prosperity to the village in the 19th century that it became known as the ‘Klondike of Zeeland’, named after the famous American gold rush town.
The oyster trade faced disaster in 1885, when a harsh winter and outbreak of disease decimated the harvest. Many oyster farmers called it quits. But the trade continued: today some 30 small companies are active in breeding and/or processing oysters. Oysters are mainly grown in the Oosterschelde estuary and Lake Grevelingen. They are kept watered in concrete oyster beds and then harvested by hand. Hire a guide to lead you on a stroll around the oyster beds in Yerseke.
Yerseke is also a hub of mussel fishing and processing. The mussels are mainly grown and fished out of the Wadden Sea, or sometimes the waters around Zeeland. All the fishermen bring their catch to be sold at the mussel auction in Yerseke. There, employees from the Mussel Office ensure the quality of the mussels. Only the best for our mussels and frites! You can attend the mussel auction by appointment.
While in Yerseke, visit the Oosterschelde Museum, housed in the old town hall. Here you can learn everything about oyster cultivation and mussel, crab and cockle fishing. Look at photos, watch a film and see the tools used in the fisheries.
On the outskirts of Yerseke lies the Yerseke Moer (moor), a salty and wet nature reserve inhabited by birds. This is one of Zeeland’s most valuable natural and cultural landscapes: shaped by the sea and marked by human design. It was once a peat bog, until the sea scoured deep gullies through it and left layers of salt in the soil. The creek ridge was later grazed by sheep. In the 15th century, part of the moor was excavated for salt mining. Uneven covering of the excavated ground with clay created the moor’s characteristic bumpy landscape.
An annual highlight of life in Yerseke is the Mussel Day, held on the third Saturday in August. During this big village party, you’ll eat mussels and stroll around the large street fair. You can find these and other happenings in Yerseke in our Events Calendar.