Cycling with children Family cycle touring

Netherlands cycling holiday: 2) Renesse to Delft

After our wet ride to Renesse, it was a relief to set off in sunshine on the next step of our Netherlands cycling holiday towards Delft. This is the second post detailing our long family bike ride from Zeebrugge to Vlieland along the north sea cycle route. In part one, we cycled from Zeebrugge to Renesse and enjoyed ourselves along the way.

Across the Brouwersdam

Our day began with a cycle ride across the Brouwersdam, another flood barrier, across a huge sea inlet, built to protect coastal areas of the Netherlands from storm surges. Being high up on the cycle path gave us beautiful views of the sweeping expanse of beach. The kite surfers and wind surfers were having lots of fun there. Halfway along, we stopped to eat our sandwiches and enjoy a run around on the soft sand. It’s quite amazing how much sand a four year old can get covered in during a relatively brief stop!

After lunch, we left the province of Zeeland and continued into South Holland. Here we had a pleasant ride close to the shore of the Grevelingenmeer, Europe’s largest saltwater lake. The North Sea route heads briefly inland before reaching a 1km long road bridge separating the Haringvliet estuary and the North sea. Instead of cutting off the estuary from the sea, there are sluice gates which close in case of flood. This is the northernmost Delta Works structure.

Finding the way

Falk cycle map (necessary for any Netherlands cycling holiday)
Falk cycle map (necessary for any Netherlands cycling holiday)

We had a total of 42km to cover this day of our Netherlands cycling holiday, which is not that far on bicycles but the time soon passes with young children. We used the excellent Falk cycle maps (1:50,000) to navigate. In the Netherlands each cycle junction has a number and you can plot your route by noting down a series of numbers to head to. Everyone had a go at remembering which number junction we needed to go to next. The North Sea cycle route is well signed too.

Arrival into Brielle

Our youngest spent much of the day chilling out in the bike seat. This meant that Daddy got a good workout without any contribution from behind. Mummy and our eldest spent lots of time playing number games as we cycled along. The afternoon was a pleasant one, with warm temperatures and beautiful Dutch countryside. Flat fields and quiet cycle paths, punctuated by quaint windmills were the order of the day. As we neared our campsite, we stopped on the outskirts of Brielle to stock up at a supermarket. We turfed our youngest out of the bike seat back onto his bike in order to secure a bagful of groceries in the seat instead. Then we headed to Jacthaven De Meeuw, our campsite for the night. This campsite is only about 13km from Europoort for those arriving on the Hull-Rotterdam ferry.

Studying the cycle signs
Studying the cycle signs

Jachthaven de Meeuw

Although we arrived after office hours, the receptionist was waiting for us. Earlier that morning, we had phoned ahead and we definitely recommend doing so where possible. Most campsites in the Netherlands will squeeze in cycle tourers but it can help if they know you’re coming. As we set up camp and made a hasty pasta dinner, the clouds gathered. Our shower-averse eldest was delighted to find a bath in the campsite family bathroom. Just as we cleared everything up and everyone was ready for bed, the first raindrops fell. Snuggled in our sleeping bags, we enjoyed the sound of rain pattering on the tent, glad we had had a dry cycling day.

Onwards to Delft

Next morning, we were ready for our last consecutive day of cycling before a week’s holiday in Delft with the Grandparents. With only 25km to ride, we were confident that we would be at the campsite early afternoon.

However, the pack-up wasn’t particularly swift as we attended to the children’s needs to explore the campsite and play ball and arrange the bunny in a seemingly unattainable way in the bike basket and so on. This meant it was 11.30am by the time we were back in the saddle. After a couple of kilometres, the children asked to stop for lunch and voted with their feet when they saw a playground by the side of the Meer. We acquiesced and settled at a picnic table to make up sandwiches for lunch. Despite the adults’ desire to make more progress, it’s usually a good plan to feed hungry children.

Bridges and Ferries

Waiting for a swing bridge

One of the few uphill slogs of the trip occurred next, as we made our way up to the road bridge to cross the Meer. This was immediately followed by two more bridges over canals. Soon after, we arrived at another body of water, the Nieuwe Waterweg. This time, though, we had to wait for a small ferry to transport us to the other side. Ferries leave every twenty minutes and it costs €1,40 for a cyclist. The journey takes ten minutes. We enjoyed the variety these small ferries and different types of bridges gave to the route on our Netherlands cycling holiday. The conversations with locals and other travellers, or people just watching gave us insight into the areas we were journeying through.

Towards Delft

After the ferry, we got into our stride and made reasonably fast progress towards Delft. The children were impatient to see Nanna and Grandad and tell them all about our adventures so far. The cycling was easy, along canal towpaths or cycle lanes entirely separate from the road. We reached the outskirts of Delft and felt like the end of our three day tour was in sight.

Lost in Delft

Delft canal and towers
Delft canal and towers

However, Delft had other plans. There seemed to be roadworks everywhere and we followed diversion sign after diversion sign, only to end up where we had started half an hour earlier. Frustrated and grumpy adults don’t make for cheerful children and everyone was fed-up. The map we had didn’t have enough detail to show us exactly where to go and the usually helpful cycle junction system didn’t work in conjunction with the roadworks. Fortunately, the locals were usually very friendly and willing to assist so after stopping frequently to ask for directions we finally got back on track. This was before data roaming in Europe was the same cost as in the UK, so our smartphones were no help.

So near yet so far

We arrived at Ikea which was very close to the campsite. The map showed a cut-through which would lead to the site. We took it and found ourselves going steeply (for the Netherlands) and unexpectedly uphill. Our youngest, who had had enough of cycling for the day, decided to change his gears rapidly up and down. We heard the clicking and both told him to be gentle with his gears. He persisted. The gears crunched and his chain jammed. It wasn’t a quick fix. Rather than stop for a repair when we were so close to our destination, we strapped the bike on top of the luggage trailer and he sat in the bike seat. The bike slipped and slid a little but was secure enough for slow cycling.

Bicycle help from Grandad
Bicycle help from Grandad

The path then curved steeply downhill. The rough gravel was slippery and my heavily-laden bike with our six year old and her bike attached was rather unwieldy. I took the slope slowly but as I reached the bottom, there was a bend in the path and I felt the bike skidding beneath me. So I braked hard and jumped off, wrenching my shoulder in the process. The injury was not severe and didn’t stop me riding but was to cause some pain for the rest of the trip.

Finally, around 5pm, we reached the campsite. And there, sitting outside their log cabin, were my parents, poised to offer juice, tea, beer, wine, crisps and childcare. Hooray for grandparents! Watch out for Part Three of this family cycling trip, as we cycle from Delft to Texel.

Jem and Louise

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4 Comments

  1. Ooh – this is so great to read!
    We are tentatively planning a tour for this summer with our twin 5 year olds from the Hook of Holland, up the EV12 as far as maybe Groningen, then taking a train back to Rotterdam and the ferry home.
    It’s great to see your gear set up – we’re trying to decide between two Weehoos or two follow me tandems. The former for ease and distance, the latter for independence…
    Will look forward to reading part 3!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, we did Hook of Holland to near Groningen on a different trip and it was fab. We stayed at Lauwersoog which we would highly recommend.

      1. We also travelled from Lauwersoog over to Schiermonnikoog, which was quite magical too!

        1. Stuart Balkham says:

          Great – I’ll definitely look into Lauwersoog and Schiermonnikoog. Thanks for the tips!

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