Your bucket list of 10 in Zeeland
Our watery wonders are perhaps known to you, but do make sure to see what awaits you upcountry. Your starter list – yes, essentially coastal – of the Top 10 sights of Zeeland.
Oosterschelde flood barrier
Here’s the numbers of the best known of the Delta Works, the Oosterschelde flood barrier: 9 km long, 65 pillars and 62 sluice gates. When the sea rises to 3 metres above the NAP level, the gates come down and the hinterland is protected against it. Some call the barrier the Eighth Wonder of the World, with visitors coming from far and near. Take a tour – you can go inside one of the pillars. Heavy metal it is, but all tastes will be impressed.
Look east from the Oosterschelde barrier, and see the Zeeland bridge loom large on the horizon. Five kilometres long, it is the longest bridge of the Netherlands. Since its opening in 1965, it has been the permanent link between the islands of Schouwen-Duiveland and Noord-Beveland. Before, the only way to cross over was by the Zierikzee-Kats ferry.
Crossing the Zeelandbrug north towards Zierikzee, long before you see the stately town, you’ll see the Sint Lievensmonstertoren – people call it Dikke Toren – emerging on high. It is the surviving part of a Gothic church which was burnt down in 1832. It was originally planned to be 130 metres high, but the funding ran out at 62 m. Easier for you to climb up, an easy 281 steps. Aloft, the quilted landscape and estuary-scape as far as the eye can see.
Another man-made statement above its city is the Lange Jan tower in Middelburg. Some 90 metres high, it is part of the Abdij abbey complex. Your visit upstairs today, a modest 207 steps. No laughing matter though, your exertion is rewarded with the staggering sights of the entire island of Walcheren.
One and only belfry
Over in Sluis in West-Zeeland-Flanders is the Belfort Sluis belfry, the only one in the Netherlands. A medieval watchtower with bells on, it would be heard far away at the dead of night. Now quietened down a bit, it houses a museum on several floors, covering the history of the fortified town of Sluis. A winding staircase will lead you skyward.
The town walls of Hulst
Another fortified town in West-Zeeland-Flanders is Hulst. Its centre is still ringed by the original authentic town walls. A splendid marked route of 3.5 kilometres is best enjoyed with a guide. Be sure to appreciate the old town gates, and the Sint Willibrordus basilica. Its imposing steeple can be seen from afar, rising above the town.
The Grote Kerk of Veere
Not to be missed either is the Grote Kerk in Veere. A magnificent place of worship, it is more than worthy of the prosperous times of Veere as a trading centre. – the town has moved on to function now as a touristic town with a marina. The church has moved with the times too: in its day, it has served as a military hospital, a pauper home and, in its present iteration, a cultural centre.
Lighthouses of Westkapelle and Burgh-Haamstede
A land-on-sea needs lighthouses, to be the beacons for shipping. Our most famous is the
Westerlicht lighthouse in Haamstede, known for having featured heavily in the design of the old banknote for 250 guilders (NLG).
During its first century, the lighthouse was plainly coloured. Later, it was painted with its now characteristic vivid stripes, to improve its visibility for aeroplane pilots. Admire it fully from the outside, the Westerlicht is closed to the public
The connection of the House of Orange with Sint-Maartensdijk goes back over centuries. The present monarch, King Willem-Alexander, bears the title of ‘Lord of Sint-Maartensdijk’. The Oranjekamer museum recounts the long links between Orange and the ‘smalstad’, a special status for seven small Zeeland towns centuries ago. It features the construction, the rise and the fall of the castle, once here and now long gone. Today only the castle moat is be seen, on the outskirts of town.
You have a coastline of 650 kilometres. What you need, then, is a well-woven line of defence. Zeeland has it. At Ritthem, Fort Rammekens is the oldest sea fort of Western Europe. Built in 1547 on the Westerschelde, it has been mauled and marked down the centuries by cascades of wannabe conquerors and defenders. You should visit Fort Rammekens for what it stands for, and for what it stands amid: an amazing view over the Westerschelde ands beyond to Zeeland-Flanders.