Since August 2014, I've been living in Europe. I first moved to Delft in the Netherlands to do a year of research (and a lot of kayaking) through a Fulbright grant. Then I moved to Antwerp, where I spent 1.5 years exploring inland kayaking routes and learning about coastal engineering on the Belgian coast. In March 2017, I moved back to the Netherlands (Rotterdam), where I'll be joining a local kayaking club and continuing to work as a coastal engineer.
Water is an integral part of life in the Netherlands and Belgium, with canals, levees, locks, and bridges around every corner. Society could not exist without this complex flood management infrastructure: 50% of the Netherlands is below 1 meter above sea level. Much of this land was "reclaimed" by diking and draining marshes since the 16th century. More about that in the water nerd posts...
All this water makes for interesting kayaking opportunities, so I'm trying to explore as much as possible during my time here. If you have recommended paddling destinations, let me know and I'll prioritize them!
To facilitate kayaking by those of us without boats, I've put together a map of kayak/canoe rental companies in Belgium and the Netherlands.
And finally, here's a post with Dutch kayaking and canoeing vocabulary for anyone who plans to paddle in the Netherlands or Belgium!
Ardennes - Lesse and Ourthe River (whitewater kayaking)
Dinant - Lesse River
Durbuy - Ourthe River
Gent - Leie River to Gent Centrum
Kasterlee - Kleine Nete River
Lokeren - Moervaart Canal to Sinaai (and a second time canoeing)
Wachtebeke to Sinaai
Wachtebeke to West
Trogir - Historic city near Split
Dubrovnik - Zaton Mali and the walls of Dubrovnik
Grande Canal de Versailles (rowing)
Normandy - Les Îles Chausey + Fishing!
Marseille - Les Calanques
Lefkada and Meganisi (overnight)
Amsterdam - Amstel River
Biesbosch - South
Biesbosch - Jantjesplaat & again by canoe!
Delft - Abtswoudse Bos
Friesland - Southwest corner
Giethoorn - Venice of the Netherlands
Grevelingen - Ouddorp around Hompelvoet Island
The Hague - City center, Haagse Bos, Clingendael (and again!)
The Hague - Windhappers Clubhouse to Madestein
The Hague - Madestein and Wennetjessloot Canal
The Hague - Poeldijk Loop, Long
The Hague - Poeldijk Loop, Short
Haringvliet - Hellevoetsluis to Middelharnis
Haringvliet - Tiengemeten from Nieuwendijk
IJssel River - Dieren to Olst
Lauwersmeer - Nieuwe Robbengat
Leiden - Centrum
Linge River - Tiel to Buren
Linschoten, Montfoort, Oudewater
Keukenhof - Tulip viewing!
Markermeer - Marker Wadden islands
North Sea - from Stellendam
Oosterschelde - Sint Maartensdijk to Rattekaai
Rotterdam - Downtown and Maas River (and again at sunset!)
Rotterdam - City Center (Dragon Boat Race!)
Rotterdam - Rotte River (and again in winter! and again in fall!)
Rotterdam - Kralingse Plas (and again in winter!)
Utrecht - Centrum
Utrecht - Kromme Rijn to pancake house
Wadden Sea - Holwerd to Ameland
Trondheim - Nidelva River
Jostadelsbreen Glacier - Nigardsbrevanet
Lofoten Islands - Reinefjord
Balearic Islands - Mallorca - Pollença
Canary Islands - La Gomera - Playa de Santiago
Interlaken - Lake Brienz
Morges - Lake Leman (Lake Geneva)
Click on an icon above to learn more about the amenities and conditions at each location, as well as a link to a blog post.
Camping, Hiking, and other Activities
Antwerpen City Trip
Texel Island Bike Touring
Schiermonnikoog Island Wadlopen (Mudflat Walking)
Windmills at Kinderdijk
Sand Engine (De Zandmotor)
Storm Surge Barrier Closure (Maeslantkering)
Oyster Restoration in the Oosterschelde
Roadtrippin' through the Dutch Delta Works
Hiking in the Lofoten Islands
Seven Sisters Cliffs on the Sussex Coast
Kayaking Organizations & Links
Below I provide some links to kayaking organizations, companies, or informational sites that I have used and can recommend. None of these are affiliate links, and any connection between me and the company is described in the text.
The first online booking portal for paddlesports
This site has been up since 2017, and aims to become a central place where you can book all paddling activities. In my experience, this is a much needed service, as I've always had to search through poorly constructed website in languages I don't speak to find and book kayak rentals. I'm working with pagaja now to get more European paddlesports providers up on the site. Contact me if you'd like more information.
Kralingsche Cano Club “Never Dry”
Kayak and Canoe Touring Club
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
The club's website emphasizes touring, including some sea kayaking trips, unlike a second club that seems to emphasize whitewater and kayak polo. As of March 2017, I've moved to Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, and I strategically chose a new apartment that was convenient (10 minute bike ride) for paddling! So stay tuned for more info about this club!
De Windhappers ("The Windgrabbers")
Boating Club of All Varieties
Den Hague, The Netherlands
This paddling group entertains paddlers of all sorts: relaxed touring, sea kayaking, whitewater, kayak polo, canoeing, surf kayaking, and more. Their cozy warm clubhouse in the Hague is open and serving drinks every Wednesday evening. Though the members tend to be younger or older than me (a common situation in kayaking clubs, oddly), they've welcomed me into their group. So far, my roomie Elizabeth and I have practiced polo, toured on the canals nearby, and joined a whitewater excursion to Belgium. Looking forward to more adventures with the Windhappers!
Johan's Kayak Site
Kayak Touring Route Information
I discovered this helpful website before arriving in the Netherlands, and continue to reference it often. Johan meticulously documents paddling routes with hand-drawn printable maps, launch info, the nearest rental shop, and beautiful photos every time. An essential resource for any touring kayaker in the Netherlands!
You can read about our trip on the Amstel River and through the canals in Amsterdam in my blog post.
High Tide Kayak School
Sea Kayak Rentals, Tours, and Instruction
Rentals of British sea kayaks and other great equipment. Dave was incredibly responsive and flexible enough to let me rent a boat in Interlaken while he was out of town, and with his detailed directions it all went seamlessly.