Here is an overview of sailing areas in The Netherlands which are most popular for cruising:
This is probably the favourite sailing area in Holland. It’s protected from the open sea, it’s not tidal and has minimal water level fluctuations with depths mostly around 2 to 4 meters throughout the biggest part of the area. But the reason for being the most favourite spot is undoubtedly the charme of Dutch harbour towns surrounding the area, possibilities to discover the culture, local gastronomy and plenty of choice for moorings – be it in a top-level marina or just at a quay of a picturesque town. Enkhuizen, Hoorn, Volendam, Urk, Medemblik, Lemmer – these are all the places you will never regret you’ve visited. Still there is lots of space for sailing and there is always another interesting place just a (half) day sailing away. All in all this is the place to be for cruising sailors!
This area is partially tidal. Westerschelde and Oosterschelde are tidal waters to be precise while Grevelingen, Volkeraak, Hollands Diep and Haringvliet are not (look at the detailed page for Zeeland to understand where different waters are). The Westerschelde area is often busy as it gives access to the large commercial port of Antwerp. Grevelingen is known for its peace, many small islands, bays and clear waters which makes it great sailing area for families with kids. Chances are that you will see seals and porpoises whose presence is regularly reported in Zeeland. One will need to take into account locks and bridges while sailing in the area.
A beautiful nature reserve between Friesland and the Wadden Islands. It’s a tidal area, it has tidal flats, currents, shipping routes and rich wildlife. Seals and diverse birds population are hosts there while sailors and tourists are only guests. As of 2009 Wadden Sea is also included in the Unesco World Heritage list. Visitors enjoy observing the wildlife and mudflat walking the most. For sailors it’s a challenging area for navigation due to many shallows, narrow channels and tidal streams. It is therefore necessary to prepare well for sailing trips in the area and to have tidal sailing experience. On the other side, Wadden Sea offers opportunities to fall dry with a suitable boat in remote places and to enjoy mudflats as nowhere else. It adds even more charme and makes the experience unforgettable if the boat is a traditional Dutch flatbottom one like a Lemsteraak.
It’s the yachts with a very shallow draft that benefit from this sailing area because the water depths are often not more than 1 – 1.5 m in the Frisian Lakes. And of course the Dutch traditional flatbottoms excel here. In this area your trip will be a combination of sailing on open lakes and narrow canals either passing through wide fields or meandering in Frisian towns or villages. Sailing here is perhaps more about discovering pretty Frisian towns, culture and cuisine.
Of course, the North Sea coast is one of the most challenging sailing areas in The Netherlands and maybe not always suitable for cruising though. Shipping routes, wind turbine parks will require sailors’ attention and caution. Some cities/towns along the coast to welcome sailors in their harbours are: IJmuiden, Scheveningen, Rotterdam.