North Sea national parks are great places to meet (from a distance) your seabird and sea mammal friends, and where you can enjoy long stretches of ever-changing beach as well as inland areas of staggering beauty and diversity.
One third of the biggest contiguous area of mudflats in the world, which extend from Holland's North Sea coast as far as Denmark, is located along the coast of Schleswig-Holstein Wattenmeer National Park of Germany. You’ll see the sea floor and “temporary: islands when the tide is out, and always the dunes, beaches and salt marshes. It takes two more national parks, the Hamburg and the Lower Saxony Wattenmeer National Parks to protect this unique and fascinating bit of beachfront.
De Hoge Veluwe is Holland's largest national park and appeals to all the senses with an important Van Gogh collection at the Kroller-Muller Museum, a sculpture garden, a forest, and hunting lodge. Visitors to the park can use one of the 1,000 'white bikes' free of charge and cycle through 26 miles of paved paths, including the outdoor sculpture garden.
Twenty other national parks are sprinkled throughout Holland from top to bottom - impressive for a compact country! You can find tidal flats, bogs, woodland, heath, and even a glacial ridge, which isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you consider the Low Countries.
Belgium officially has one National Park and some lovely nature reserves, parks and gardens. Shared between Belgium and Luxembourg, the Upper Sûre Natural Park covers an area in the Ardennes regions of both countries, which share a joint project to develop this cross-border area, basing themed visits on local legends. That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Splash at will doing your favorite water sport on the Upper Sûre Lake and cycle or walk peacefully in gentle terrain. Then get some of that café action going, it’s part of the plan!
Denmark’s national parks on the Jutland peninsula include Thy National Park, where freshwater lakes adjoin this entertaining seaside area. Climb lighthouses, watch fishermen at work, visit the aquarium, or cycle along the dunes and marshes. Mols Bjerge National Park, in Denmark’s hilliest region, offers up gentle bathing beaches perfect for children, Bronze Age ruins, and salt marshes harboring a wealth of bird and insect life. Coming soon are Skjern Å National Park, another avian haven and perfect for canoeing; Waddensee National Park, to make visiting the coastal marshland accessible and safe, and Kongernes Nordsjælland National Park, near Copenhagen in a lovely setting graced by Denmark’s two largest lakes.
Go north, and then north some more in Norway to Svalbard and see what it’s like where the polar bears outnumber the bi-peds (that would be you). Jostedalsbreen and Jotunheimen are the national parks where you can gasp at Norway’s majestic fjords. Hardangervidda National Park is a high mountain plateau beloved by mountain cyclists; Forollhogna a protected habitat for a unique herd of reindeer; Jostedalsbreen boasts the biggest glacier in Europe on dry land; experienced hikers, try Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella and Dovre National Parks for spectacularly beautiful and rugged treks. You’ll find diverse and always enthralling sites in the 40 national parks of Norway.