We’ve been going to Duinrell now for quite a few years, since our first visit back in 2012. We have been to The Netherlands on a number of occasions previously, mostly in and around Amsterdam. We came across Duinrell while looking for places to go, we’d previously had a day trip to The Hague and it looked like a nice place to spend a bit more time, so we decided to give it a go.
For those that don’t know, Duinrell is a holiday and amusement park, situated in the town of Wassenaar, about 12km north east of The Hague. The amusement park isn’t massive, but does have a number of attractions for all ages. Outside of the amusement park, there are large camping areas, chalets called Duingalows as well as holiday homes provided by the likes of Alfresco, Eurocamp and Canvas.
As you’ll see, we’re big fans of the place. It really is a great location to go for family holidays, the kids love it and The Netherlands as a whole is really family friendly. We’ve recommended it to a few people, many of whom have chosen to go back again.
Just to be clear, I’m not paid or associated with Duinrell or any of the holiday companies based there. Though given the amount of additional customers I’ve got them, I probably should be!
Well, if you’re reading this blog and you’re considering a trip to The Netherlands, then I’d hazard a guess you probably have an interest in cycling and getting to see some Dutch cycling infrastructure.
I can safely say that a trip to Duinrell won’t disappoint. The experience of riding in The Netherlands is so vastly different to the UK, that it’s almost like two completely different activities. This is particularly true when you add kids in to the mix. In the UK, going anywhere near roads with kids can be a stressful experience. In The Netherlands, it’s a breeze.
Whether you’re just looking to potter around on bikes nearby or you’re looking to do something a bit more ambitious like get on some of the more rural or intercity cycle routes. There really is something for everyone.
We tend to drive to Duinrell with our bikes, then rely completely on our bikes while we’re there. My family are probably a little less enthusiastic about cycling than I am. That tends to limit how far afield we travel.
I have friends who fly there and hire bikes when they get on site. I’ve also got friends who arrive off the Rotterdam ferry on bike and travel the country on them. So there’s plenty of options.
Much of the cycling infrastructure around Duinrell is of a high quality. You’ll see plenty of protected fietspads (cycle paths) and fietsstraats (cycle streets). There are also plenty of rural cycleways that are million miles from our national cycle network. Particularly the routes through the dunes.
It’s not all perfect though, expect to see plenty of unprotected door zone cycle lanes, particularly around The Hague.
It’s definitely worth familiarising yourself with road signs and markings, so you know what you’re doing and where you can and cannot ride. It’s also useful to know how the numbered cycle network works.
For most of our visits to Duinrell, we’ve stayed in Alfresco holiday homes. We’ve found the Alfresco homes to be pretty decent. They’re a bit on the small side, but they’re reasonably equipped. We’ve had the odd problem, but their reps have always been helpful in sorting things out.
The Alfresco homes are also not too crammed in, and have plenty of green space around them. We’ve noticed the homes from some of the other providers (Eurocamp, Canvas etc.) can be quite close together, with very little green space. We’ve also heard of problems friends have had with Eurocamp and Canvas.
We’ve also camped in a tent at Duinrell. The area we camped in, Lindenveld was a nice location with decent sized and maintained pitches and good facilities close by. It was quite far away from the Plaza area, but we found that to be a benefit. Plus we had the bikes for getting about.
It’s fair to say you get what you pay for when it comes to the camping pitches. The smaller pitches near to the plaza looked a lot less pleasant to us. The grass was typically very worn and you a lot of people passing through.
We’ve never stayed in the Duingalows. As holiday homes, they look quite substantial. But they don’t seem to have much in the way of outdoor space. Many of them also look dated. They also have quite a price premium over the other holiday homes.
Things to do on site
Now, we’re not really amusement park type people, though we do have kids (now aged 5 and 8) who are more into that type of thing. It isn’t on the scale of something like Alton Towers, but it does have stuff for kids of all ages. Many of the rides you need to be at least 1.2m tall to use though, which can be disappointing for the smaller kids.
The roller coasters are always a popular choice, then there’s things like the new Wild Wings ride and the various outdoor water rides. There’s a roller coaster for the smaller kids, and things like little trains they will enjoy. For something a with a little less speed, there things like miniature golf and bumper boats.
The amusement park is set in woodland. There’s plenty of shelter if it rains, so you don’t even get that wet. Quite often, we’ll save the rainy days for going round the amusement park. It tends to be busier at weekends when the weather’s good, so if you go in on a rainy weekday, you’ll almost get the amusement park to yourself.
Another popular choice is the Tiki pool. This is quite a substantial mostly indoor fun pool, with lots of slides and rides to keep the kids entertained. There’s a cafe and areas to sit, so it’s possible to make a whole day of it, if you like that kind of thing. There’s an outdoor pool too, though as this being northern Europe, it’s often closed due to the weather.
The pool can get quite busy at times, usually in the afternoons. It tends to be a lot of teenagers too, so can be quite rough for the smaller kids. So I’d recommend going weekdays mornings if you can.
Things to do elsewhere
We’ve been to Madurodam a number of times now and the kids never tire of going. Madurodam is a miniature park like no other. It’s situated on the outskirts of The Hague, not far from Scheveningen. It features highlights from the whole of the The Netherlands, so you’ll see everything from buildings in Amsterdam, to the sea defenses in Zeeland in miniature.
There’s so much to see and do here, you can easily entertain the kids for a whole day. It’s very interactive, so the kids can understand how canal locks work by navigating a miniature canal system, they can put boat fires out and load shipping containers. This being The Netherlands, water is a recurring theme.
May not be of interest to everyone, but the Louwman Museum has a fantastic collection of historic cars going back to the very early days of the internal combustion engine. There’s so much to see, from the very first Benz to one of Elvis’ Cadillacs, via the Fiat 110 Boat-Car.
The Louwman Museum is located on the N44, not far from Duinrell and on the way to The Hague. Given the indoor nature, it’s perfect for a rainy day.
Stoomtrein Katwijk Leiden
All is not what it seems with the historic railway though. You may think it’s always been there, but it’s actually only been at the lake since the early nineties. The trains and lines were originally located on the Katwijk dunes, but were moved due to concerns about pollution.
As part of your visit you get to ride round on some historic trains, go round the workshops and visit the station, gardens and café/museum. You are encouraged to wander and touch whatever you like (within reason). The volunteer guides are really friendly and will happily tell you the history of the railway.
The setting is wonderful and on a sunny day it really is very picturesque. Unfortunately, if you happen to be there at the weekend in the sun, it can get very busy. One for a midweek visit if you can.
We visited Kinderdijk on our way back to Calais in the car, so we didn’t have much trouble getting there. Though it’s situated in a rural location, so it can be a bit tricky to get to if you’re relying on public transport.
Food and drink
The plaza area in Duinrell has a number of options for food and drink. There’s restaurants, takeaways, a pub and a supermarket. They’re generally all quite good, though the food tends to be on the expensive side. Service can also be a bit iffy, particularly in La Place where you can spend an age waiting for a pizza.
The pub is a bit of dungeon, but they often have entertainment for the kids and have a good selection of Belgian beers, which keeps me happy. There’s also a mini bowling alley and things like air hockey to keep the kids entertained.
Around the park, there’s a number of smaller places selling food and drink, such as poffertjes stands, fast food outlets and sweet shops.
If you head out of Duinrell, there’s plenty of options in Wassenaar for places to eat. We’ve had lovely pancakes at the Pannenkoekenhuis round the corner, great pizzas at La Scala and amazing ice creams at Luciano. There’s many other options, including places to grab lunch or go for a drink.
The supermarket in the plaza isn’t bad, and is useful to have if you’ve run out of something or want fresh bread and pastries in the morning. For bigger shops, we tend to go into Wassenaar to the Jumbo or Aldi. These aren’t that far away, particularly on bike.
One of the big attractions for visiting the North Sea Coast is the amazing beaches and dunes stretching for many kilometers along North and South Holland. There’s really something for everyone, from bigger resort type beaches at Scheveningen nearby, to some idyllic beaches only accessible on foot or bike.
The closest beach to Duinrell is Wassenaarse Slag. This is about 5km away from Duinrell and is just a short and very pleasant ride across the dunes. The beach itself is very child friendly, with miles of sand and quite calm water. Facilities wise, there’s a wide selection of nice bars serving pretty decent, if slightly expensive food and drink.
Katwijk aan Zee is a little further away, at about 8.5km, but is equally a very pleasant ride. The beach itself is very similar Wassenaarse Slag, but the surrounding area is much more built up as it is situated in the town of Katwijk.
Scheveningen is the biggest and most well known beach in the area, situated on the outskirts of The Hague. Anyone familiar with a typical British seaside will feel at home here. It has that slightly dated seaside feel to it as you get at some British resorts. It’s still a lovely beach though, and there’s plenty of things to do there.
It’s a 10km ride from Duinrell, again across the dunes. There’s a few things to see on the way, such as old water towers and Scheveningen Prison. Interesting, though might not be to everyone’s tastes though.
Nearby places to visit
Duinrell is situated in the town of Wassenaar and the town centre is only a short walk or ride away. It is one of the most affluent towns in The Netherlands, though it doesn’t feel showy like some of the wealthier places in the UK.
There isn’t a huge amount to see, mainly shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. There’s a few nice parks and green spaces, and the odd windmill. It’s just a really nice place to potter about and grab some lunch or an evening meal.
The city of Leiden is 11km ride from Duinrell, on a very picturesque and mostly rural route. It’s a smallish city with many typical Dutch features, rivers, canals and very Dutch architecture.
Leiden has a rich history that can be traced back to 860 and has played a part in a few historical events in The Netherlands. It’s also the birthplace of Rembrandt.
It’s a great place to go for a wander and check out many of the old buildings. It’s also a fantastic place to relax, browse the markets and go for an ice cream.
The Hague or Den Haag is the third-largest city of the Netherlands and is the seat of the Dutch Parliament. The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are located in The Hague as well as most foreign embassies, many of which you pass if you cycle there. It’s a 12km ride from Duinrell, either through the dunes or parallel to the N44.
Given it’s relative size and importance, The Hague feels like quite a relaxed city. It doesn’t have the madness or sheer number of tourists that Amsterdam has. Although it has many old buildings, The Hague feels more spacious than your typical Dutch city. It also has some fantastic green spaces and the beach not far away at Scheveningen.
As part of one of our trips to The Netherlands, we spent a week in a rented apartment in The Hague and had a lovely time. It has a chilled out feel and is really close to many cities and towns, with great public transport. Some of the cycle routes could be better, but overall, it’s pretty darn good.
Rotterdam is the second largest city in The Netherlands, but it doesn’t feel or look like any other city in the country. Rotterdam is an old city, but much of its character today is due to the heavily bombing during World War II, when it was all but flattened.
Since the war, Rotterdam has rebuilt itself in a very uncompromising and unique style. It’s not to everyone’s tastes, but I think it’s fantastic. Whether it’s the pedestrianised shopping precinct (one of the first and the basis for many a UK shopping precinct) or the truly unique Cube houses. There’s something round each corner for those that appreciate a bit of modernism or post-modernism.
Rotterdam is famous for its massive container ports and harbour with its huge cruise ships. Much of Rotterdam feels on that scale, big and bold. It’s still a great place to go for a wander, though from a cycling perspective, it’s not a great. I’ve heard it’s getting better all the time though.
One of the best things about Duinrell is that there’s so many great places relatively close by that are easy to visit. All part of being situated in the Randstad.
Places like Delft and Gouda can be reached relatively easily by bike, if you’re willing to do a few kilometers. The likes of Utrecht, Haarlem and Amsterdam are probably a bit far to be reached by bike, but there’s excellent public transport to get you there.
Nowhere’s perfect and that’s true for Duinrell. Probably the biggest negative for many will be weather. If you’re looking for somewhere with guaranteed two weeks of sunshine, The Netherlands isn’t going to be for you.
Like the UK, the weather can be quite varied. We’ve been there around May/June, August and September and we’ve generally had pretty decently weather. Though we’ve also seen plenty of rain and a few storms.
A problem that’s more specific to Duinrell is the behaviour of some of the people staying on site. On the whole, we’ve generally not had much trouble, but there has been times where it’s been noisy until quite late on. This is particularly true if you’re staying near The Plaza, which is open late at the weekends.
On one of our visits, we left our car in the car park near the plaza on our first night and awoke to see that someone had decided to kick our wing mirror off. This left us without a car for the best part of the week while it was repaired. Not a problem as we tend to just use bikes all the time anyway, but it was still inconvenient, annoying and costly.
The Alfresco reps helped us find somewhere to get the car fixed. But the Duinrell staff and security were pretty useless.
Ironically, given it’s The Netherlands, cars can be a problem on site. There’s no restrictions on cars, so at times there can be quite a few coming or going. This can be a problem if the kids are out playing on the paths, particularly if you’ve hired go-karts.
Having stayed at campsites like Camping Geversduin that strictly control car access. I think it’s much more pleasant to have the site car free. Duinrell is quite big, so it might not be wholly practical, but some kind of restrictions or modal filtering would be good.
For more about the area around Duinrell and further afield in The Netherlands, see the following posts from the past couple of years.
- Dutch bikes
- Around Vlissingen
- The route to Middelburg
- The route to Katwijk aan Zee
- 5 myths about cycling in The Netherlands
In addition, some useful websites and posts:
- Main Duinrell website
- Alfresco Holidays website for Duinrell
- Holland-Cycling.com with lots of useful information for cycling in The Netherlands
- Couple of posts from the excellent Cycle Sprog website, This has been the most depressing week ever and How to hire a kids bike in Amsterdam
- Couple of posts from the excellent Subversive Suburbanite, Holland at last and Part 2
- Duinrell With Toddlers: Everything You Need To Know from Kiddieholidays
- Family Cycling UK Facebook group is worth joining if you’re looking for help and advice
- #FamilyCycling hashtag is worth following for useful information