The drive from Calais through Belgium to Holland is filled with charming towns, stunning scenery, vast farmlands and places that will inspire your child’s imagination.
This is our second time travelling to the Netherlands with the kids (7 and 9 yrs). This time to a town called Eersel near Eindhoven, South Holland. The whole country is flat and adorned with cycle paths, so cycling is perfectly safe for children. Each cycle path takes you on a magical journey through beautiful and vast green lands, dotted with windmills, canals, waterways and pretty towns.
We based ourselves at the 5* star campsite: Recreation TerSpegelt, Postelseweg 88, 5521 RD Eersel, Netherlands. This campsite provides everything for children from an indoor swimming pool, indoor sand and water playground, lake and outdoor slide, pump track, playground, air trampoline and restaurants which served good quality food. I booked a chalet through Belvilla but you can book directly through the campsite.
With a full car, roof box and bikes on the back, we drove across to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais. A short crossing of 1 hr 30 mins which is about as much as I can bear (I am not a seafarer at best!).
As the journey potentially could take 3-4 hours (depending on traffic on the Antwerp ring road) we took a detour south of Antwerp and stopped off at a gorgeous forest park called Bospark in Lokeren to have a picnic and let the kids play. It’s worth noting that the cafe only opened at 1.30pm, so it might be best to pack your own food.
Day one: travelling day
Day two: After a long journey the day before, we were reluctant to get back in the car. With two very excited children, we spent a day at the campsite swimming in the morning, then cycled to the nearest pretty town of Eersel. It was super hot at 30 degrees so we stopped for a well deserved yummy ice cream at De Smaak. In the afternoon we swam in the cool refreshing lake, whizzing down the slide and building sand castles.
Day two: Cycling in Oisterwijkse Bossen and Kampina: About 45 minutes drive North of our campsite we headed to a National park in the heart of North Brabant. Although a long 3-hour cycle ride, the kids coped really well, especially with the promise of a sweet treat at the other end! Our cycling journey took us through forests, fens, heathlands, past a lake, streams, train track and farms. Made even more fun by the loud boom of the thunderstorms and pockets of downpouring rain. The scenery was so beautiful. Back at Oisterwijkse Bossen visitor centre, we indulged in warm hot chocolates and the famous Dutch apple tart.
Day three: Efteling: Never have I seen such a magical, enchanting and creative theme park. It reminded me of chitty-chitty bang bang and the Baron Bomburst! My favourites are the dark storytelling rides. And definitely not the dragon ride! although my daughter would tell a different story as she likes the fast-paced, sick inducing (felt by me and my son!) thrilling rides! The rides are fantasy themed with lots of magical elements to make even the hardiest person smile. Put it this way my husband loved the day at Efteling and he normally hates queues, rides and generally theme parks! How he will cope when we go to Disneyland is another story… or blog!
Day four: This time we cycled from the campsite through lush green forests to Postelseweg. An 18km cycle ride that takes you past the Belgium border with a stop off at a cafe for waffles, fruit and chocolate! yum! In the evening we ventured out to a restaurant called Bij De Neut in Westerhoven (15 minutes drive). We chose this restaurant as it had a fantastic indoor play area for the kids which gave us time to chat and relax!
Day five: I really wanted to visit Limburg, the southernmost part of the Netherlands. We parked at the historical white village of Thorn, which dates back to the 10th century. It has a fascinating history which you can read here. With the rain pelting down we were compelled to stop at a delightful little restaurant for a scrumptious lunch of asparagus soup. Thorn is very pretty with cobblestone streets and a beautiful Abbey, which we visited. The children found it captivating, especially the gory mummified body in the basement! We then cycled through the splendid Maasplassen network of lakes, crossing by ferry to the other side and through a large town. However, I think we got on the wrong cycle path and ended up far further than planned. Another 3-hour cycle ride – sorry kids!!
Day six: Waking up to rain we stayed inside and played board games until the rain dried up.
Day seven: After a sad farewell to the campsite, we travelled across Holland from Eindhoven towards a town called Goes. Here we stopped off at a cafe/restaurant called Hollandsche Hoeve which had an awesome play centre inside. The food was lovely, lots of choice for children, meat eaters and vegetarian appetites. Once again the Dutch know how to entertain children perfectly. From Goes, we travelled through the toll tunnel to Calais. It was a slightly longer journey but a very pleasant drive through the Dutch landscape.
Belgium and the Netherlands for children are brilliant, it’s evident the countries love them. Everywhere we went there were play centres and playgrounds but not just any play area, fantastic, imaginative, clean spaces for little and big children to play on. I love travelling here and hopefully will visit again soon!