In May half term we decided to combine our love of travelling and camping, and took our van Dawn to a campsite in The Netherlands for the week.
Both Rich and I had visited The Netherlands before, but not together and not since having children. We had both been to Amsterdam plus a few other places, and had a rough idea of where we wanted to go.
We found a brilliant campsite called Het Grote Bos which is set in a beautiful national park called Utrechtse Heuvelrug near Doorn. The campsite is set in gorgeous woodlands with excellent facilities. We arrived on the Saturday afternoon after taking the Eurotunnel from Folkstone to Calais, and driving up into The Netherlnads via Belgium. It took us around 9 hours from Somerset all together.
We kept the boys entertained on the long journey with their ipods (which they have music and games on) plus LOTS and lots of snacks!!
The campsite that we stayed in was just perfect for a family. We were given a spacious pitch for our van plus awning tent (with electrical hookup) right among the trees. It was so peaceful! A big hit with the boys was the fact that they could cycle everywhere! The campsite had a couple of kids play areas with the usual play equipment as well as a zip-wire and bouncy pillows. Best of all though was the outdoor heated pool with water-slide which both the boys loved! We were blessed with some hot days and it was a perfect place to have fun as a family.
There is a restaurant and a take-away on site and a shop stocking essential items such as bread, fruit and veg and drinks. The nearby town of Doorn is not very far by car or bike, and has a small but well equipped supermarket called Albert Heijn. We were so impressed to find it stocked a large range of vegan food items such as plant milks, yogurts, plant-based burgers, sausages, cheese, hummus, biscuits and so on. Google translate was our friend for labels we were not so sure of!
We visited Amsetrdam, which was only an hour away by train from our nearby town of Doorm.
On arrival, we went stright to the Anne Frank museum as we had pre-booked tickets. You are only able to purchase tickets for the museum online, which you can do on the day if you like. They cannot be purchased from the museum directly.
The museum was incredibly moving as you would expect. The visitors exhibition had been completely renovated since I last visited over a decade ago, and is now a smart, modern building containing information and pictures/films relating to Dutch life in the second world war as well as Anne and her family and friends. There was an audio guide available too. Once you have walked around the exhibits, you enter the part of the house (the Annex) where Anne Frank and her family hid during the second world war. Much of the original home has been preserved, including the pictures that were on Anne’s wall whilst she lived there. Although I had talked to the boys about Anne Frank before we visited, seeing the Annex for real really brought history alive for them.
After visiting Anne Frank Museum, we spent the afternoon exploring the pretty city with its cobbled streets, canals, tall yet thin houses and, of course, lots of lots of bikes! If you visit with children, be especially careful when crossing roads as people ride their bikes everywhere and at speed!
We went on a canal cruise in the afternoon for an hour – Rich and the boys enjoyed it but it made me feel sick due to my motion-sickness issues! The canal tour was guided and is a great way to discover more about the city’s history and culture…assuming you don’t suffer from travel sickness that is…
The flower market was close to where the canal tour finished so we took a stroll through. You can purchase various bulbs to take home with you including the famous Dutch tulips, narcissus, amaryllis and many more. The market is a real treat to walk through – it’s so pretty and smells beautiful!
We rounded off our day out in Amsterdam with a visit to the famous Vegan Junk Food Bar for dinner. Oh wow, the food was absolutely amazing!! It was just as well we were all so hungry as the portions were huge!! The food was super-tasty and the service speedy and friendly, I can highly recommend it.
We also visited nearby Utrecht during our week away camping. My 8 year old wanted to visit the Miffy museum, whilst his older brother wanted to visit the train museum (along with Rich thankfully!) I was a big Miffy fan as a little girl so didn’t mind walking around this museum at all. Although aimed at children under 8 I would say, there were a lot of art installations, as well as information about Miffy’s creator, Dick Bruna. I am told that the railway museum was excellent too!
During the week we also enjoyed all the facilities at the fabulous campsite where we were staying. The pool was very popular on warm days!
Rich and I hired bikes from the park reception (we brought the boys along with us from home) and went cycling locally on the many cycle ways, all safe and traffic free. Lots of the cycle paths went through the forest of the national park.
The bikes were fine but very heavy and very different to our mountain/road bikes back home. We’d bring our own next time I think!
Also available to hire from reception, as well as bikes, were pedal cars of various sizes. We hired one that fit all four of us in, brilliant fun!
We had such a brilliant week in The Netherlands, and would definitely visit again and camp at Het Grote Bos. It was such a relaxing and tranquil place to be. There was plenty to do for us all at the campsite, and with Amsterdam only an hour away by train, and Utrecht only 20 minutes, the location was spot on for us.