Texel – The Largest Island in Holland
We started our journey from Enschede Kennispark station, it’s about a 4 hours train journey to Den Helder, the last NS station in the northwestern part of the country. From there, it is a 20-minute ferry ride to the beautiful land – Texel island.
There is no direct train from Enschede to Den Helder, so we had to change 3 trains to reach the place. First, we boarded the 6:39 Blauwnet Sprinter train towards Zwolle from the Enschede Kennispark station. Then from Zwolle, we got onto the NS Intercity to Amsterdam Central, which is an excellent place to pick up a quick breakfast if that is part of the ‘overstoppen’ or train change. But be aware that not all the shops would be open during the morning hours. We picked up our breakfast from AH to go, which had a decent selection of cold breakfast items to choose from located at the station itself. After a wait for 5 mins, we took another NS intercity to Den Helder (changing trains are so common in the Netherlands and easy too). It’s best to check the latest schedule on ns.nl/en or the NS mobile app.
One thing you would realize is that this is one of the longest train journeys you can take within the Netherlands so that it might seem never-ending! Nonetheless, the scenery along the way is breathtaking, and we got to see how the landscape changes as we moved across the country. There are vast farmlands and pockets of industries around the big cities, while as we got closer to Amsterdam, there were tall buildings and urban clusters all along. Moving away from Amsterdam, the buildings changed to cute country houses, and soon extensive mechanized farmlands started again.
Finally, when we arrived at Den Helder, we were excited to start our next leg of the journey, the ferry! We were lucky to be present on the day of Sinterklaas Intocht. We got to see celebrations that were being held to welcome Sinterklass to Den Helder. The streets along the route to the docks, where his boat would arrive, had been decorated. Families had brought their kids along to watch his arrival, the mayor of the city was seen ready to greet Sinterklass.
The town had even opened up boats to be used as viewpoints for Sinterklaas Intocht. While we walked towards the ferry point, we came across a Maritime Museum and had a first look at the Dutch submarine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HNLMS_Tonijn_(S805)). After shooting enough photos, we continued for a short distance and reached the TESO ferry terminal.
The ferry ticket is EUR 2.50 and is only needed to go from Den Helder to Texel. While returning, there is no ticket checking, and you can walk on to the ferry. The arrival of the boat was announced, and we noticed that it was running on an hourly schedule during the weekends (half an hour basis during weekdays). Depending on the day of your travel, it could also be running at half-hour frequency, so it’s best to check on their website for the time table (https://www.teso.nl/en/). The ferry is quite large and can take up to 1750 passengers, along with cars and trucks. On hopping on to the ferry, we entered the lounge, which had a large seating area and a modest buffet spread. There were also souvenirs on sale, which we picked up on our return journey! The best place to experience the short trip is not inside, but outside, at the front of the deck. It gives a splendid view of the sea, and the final port is visible from the start of the ride. We spent all of our time outside enjoying the sights and capturing it on our cameras. From the front deck, we also get an obscured view of the captain’s quarter deck, which is also interesting to see. A pro tip, if you got bread crumbs along with you, you can feed a large number of hungry seagulls that follow as the ferry cruises. Also, keep an eye out for seals in the sea! We were lucky to catch a glimpse of one, abit just a fraction of a second. The arrival of the ship to the Texel ferry harbor is also a lovely sight to watch. As the ferry approaches the land, it fits neatly into the small bay just large enough for it.
While getting out of the ferry, take the exit on the right side, as the bus stand and cycle rental shop is on that side. An essential thing to remember is the public transport system within Texel. Here’s an extract from https://www.texelhopper.nl/en
“Public transport on Texel consists of a bus line that runs at fixed times and small buses that you have to reserve on prior. Bus 28 runs between Veerhaven, Den Burg Centrum, and De Koog. For all other destinations, you can reserve the Texelhopper minibusses. The Texelhopper minibusses take you to and from a few hundred bus stops.”
Travel from anywhere in Texel is EUR 3,00 by bus, and the OV-chipkaart works just fine. It is also good to know that the bus service is aligned with the ferry timings. So, on our trip, as the ferry was running on an hourly schedule, so was the bus on Texel. We had no idea about public transport in Texel. We missed out on going to, probably the most famous Texel landmark, the Lighthouse Texel because it requires the public transport to be booked in advance, at least a half-hour.
There is also an option to hire bikes on Texel, which cost about EUR 11,00 for the whole day. The distance from the ferry terminal to the De Koog city is more than 12 KM one-way, so we had decided against it. We took the bus that started once the next ferry arrived, and got off at De Koog 20 mins later.
De Koog is a picturesque Dutch town, geared toward tourism. The main attraction is the beach there, and the city itself is about a 1 km radius, so walking around is pretty straightforward. The bus drops close to the center of the town, and the whole place is dotted with restaurants, clothing and souvenir shops. We were there in a low tourist season and found quite a few restaurants to be closed. There is a variety of food that can be seen being served there, including European, American, Donners, and even an Indian restaurant. But, unfortunately, was also closed during our visit. We had our lunch at “Bar & Restaurant Eigeweis!” and the food was delicious! The servings were large and sufficient for a hearty meal, and the cost came out to be around EUR 10,00 per person on average, including the famous Texel beer.
After our lunch, we headed towards the beach to relax, what we had come there for! The route from the city is short, but there is an inclined pathway to get there. There are hotels lined up along the way, and some of them also have restaurants in them. As you start to climb down, you would get the first view of the beach and its expansive! The route forks on either direction and the white sand beach stretches wide. There are benches at the fork and a beautiful place to relax before choosing which side to go!
If the weather is good, then you could go into the waters, but as we were there in November, we did not want to get sick! It will also be a good idea to get beachwear if you plan to enjoy the beach longer. We were on the beach about an hour clocking picture in every angle possible, before our hands started to freeze in the chilly Arctic winds! Luckily there was a cozy restaurant right in front of the beach where we headed for some warm chocolademelk! (chocolate milk). The place was filled with locals along with their house pets and seemed to be enjoying their weekend meal there.
As it was starting to get dark, we decided to start our long journey back to Enschede. We headed to the city but got to know about the construction activity, which had diverted the bus to the ferry terminal. Looking for the next bus stop, we asked around from the locals and were given directions to the next bus stop. We were unfortunately not aware of the route the bus took and had to walk about 6 km (🥶) to get to the next bus stop, which we believed the bus would stop. It was an agonizing wait until we finally saw the bus emerge just a few mins from the scheduled time. We quickly boarded the bus and warmed ourselves in the comfort of heating! We reached the ferry terminal ahead of time for the next ferry, and there is a nice waiting room made there. The ferry arrived at its scheduled time, and we boarded it. This time we didn’t want to go out again, so enjoyed sitting in the lounge, recharging the batteries while sipping an excellent beer! The ferry company also operates a complimentary bus service to the train station, which we were happy to avail of. The signs are visible as soon as you get off from the ferry, and it is towards the right of the ferry at Den Helder.
The return journey was pretty straight forward. We planned the trip in the NS app, took two NS intercity, and one Blauwnet train to finally reach Enschede Kennispark at about 11 at night.