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With Zeeland and water so inextricably intertwined, many of the joys of the province are to be had on that water. Rough tough water, like the North Sea and the Ooster- and Westerschelde with their tidal currents. Or the calmer inland lakes, free of tidal influence. On sail boats and motor boats. In a race or on a pleasure cruise. The thing about the waters of Zeeland, every sailor will tell you, is that they make you want more.
The amenities of Zeeland marinas are first class. Toilet facilities are excellent. Often there are good restaurants nearby, such as in Bruinisse and Wolphaartsdijk. Typically, Wi-Fi access is free. At some you can borrow a bike, as at Delta Marina in Kortgene or hire one, as in Marina Wemeldinge – great for doing the shopping. In most marinas there are extensive maintenance facilities and a water sports shop.
The North Sea
To go out onto the North Sea, the best departure harbours are Stellendam, Vlissingen or Breskens, with some astonishing boats berthed up The open sea demands singular attention: the choppy North Sea will keep you alert. Set sail towards the Belgian coast. Or turn into the Westerschelde estuary, and moor up in the Terneuzen marina. Just step over the harbour dike ands you’re downtown in this Schelde town. Pause awhile atop the dike to watch the endless succession of cargo ships toing and froing to Antwerp and back.
The Oosterschelde is tidal: the flood barrier is lowered only in times of danger. The estuary is part of the Nationaal Park Oosterschelde, and sailing on it is a delight. On a lucky – and sunny – day, you’ll see the seals on the sandbanks at ebb tide. Dolphins will come and play around your boat. So why not just drop anchor and lap it all up? One charming aspect of the Oosterschelde is marina-hopping. Often, as in Goes, Zierikzee and Middelburg, the marina is in the town centre. Your entrance is dramatic indeed, quite an experience. Moor up, skip ashore and you’re all set for a nice meal.
Zierikzee is the starting point of the famous Delta Weekend race, well known to racing sailors. The harbour is lined with boats, the cafés are bursting at the gunwales – but you’ll find a spot. Your neighbours are all nautical, their yarns those of a true sailor, with nary a misplaced word. Decency rules the waves. Another must-moor place is Stavenisse, where the clock has stood still for decades. Due west, the marina of Colijnsplaat, at the heart of the Oosterschelde. On the opposite shore, Burghsluis calls. A memorable picking: a sublime fish dish at the ’t Oliegeultje restaurant.
The marina in Goes, in a former shipyard, and one of the finest and most gezellig harbours in the province. Past it is the town harbour where you can tie up between the monumental quays. The journey alone to Goes is worth it. After the Goese Sas locks, you sail down the harbour canal: the bridge keeper in Wilhelminadorp will open up especially for you.
Want to avoid tidal water? Set sail for the Veerse Meer and Grevelingen lakes, much favoured by water sport enthusiasts. Drop anchor at an island, and linger. Need to shake off those sea legs? In Veere, the Oostwatering shipyard in Veere is next to the Veerse Bos, a splendid wooded area for walks and recreation. At the Oesterhaven in Wolphaartsdijk, you can hire log cabins if it’s a night on shore you’re after.
Sailing and children go together very well in Zeeland, a real must. You can always drop anchor a while, for a swim or to get some crabs. The Delta Marina has a well-equipped playground, while the water palace at the Paardekreek campsite-cum-villa park is another option. The name means ‘horse creek’. On Grevelingen, the Port Zélande marina is perfect for kids. There’s a sizeable playground in the centre with swings, a slide, climbing frames and tumble bars. And a football goal, a ping-pong table and basketball hoops. On a nice day, the Noordzeestrand beach beckons, to go swimming or kiting. There’s a sub-tropical swimming pool, ten-pin bowling lanes and, for animal lovers, a children’s farm. Talk about child-friendly!
The Roompot Oosterschelde marina is similar, with luxury facilities and loads of activities. Lazing on the beach is one, swimming in the sub-tropical pool another. There’s a wave pool, slide, sauna and spa. Want to get away? Take a bike trip in the countryside. But calling you back are fruit machines, bowling lanes, fishing facilities, a ping-pong table, indoor playground and trampolines, to get you bouncin’ away.
The marinas of Zeeland are managed by private companies, or water sports clubs which usually operate as associations. The Rest Nautic company, for example, runs marinas in Kats and Wemeldinge. One of the largest clubs is Watersportvereniging De Arne in Middelburg, with harbours in Middelburg and Veere (Oostwatering).