We just got back from a long weekend in De Haan on the Belgian Coast with family to celebrate the birthday of N’s father and sister with six kids and eight adults! We’re missing two more adults & four kids but about 5,500 miles keeps them away – for now.
The Belgian Coast counts 13 seaside resorts in 10 coastal towns. A diverse region with all kinds of of nature, culture, beachlife and recreational opportunities.
De Haan, Belgium: Where we stayed and my favorite.
De Haan is located on the coast in Northern Belgium about 2.5 hours or 225 km away from our house. It’s known for its long beach and restaurant-dotted promenade and to me the nicest and quaintest area of the Belgian coast. The streets of the Concessie district are lined with belle epoque buildings, such as the grand town hall, housed in a former luxury hotel. Its most famous resident was Albert Einstein, who lived in the villa “Savoyarde” for six months in 1933 after leaving Nazi Germany.
There was even a gin shop where I got myself a bottle – super hard to choose!!
The hotel has 20 rooms and our family room #25 was perfect. It was equipped with luxury comfort bed, LED TV with satellite channels, free wifi, USB charging points, ambient lighting, spacious and modern bathroom with bath and shower. In fact, to make it an extra special vacation, we opted for a holiday where no one had to cook so not only did the hotel provide a breakfast buffet we had dinner there too. It was very easy for the youngest kids/baby to go up to bed and we stayed down. At 8 and 10 we are far beyond those baby years.
One day the four of us visited De Panne’s beach area where Soren rode a skelter on the boardwalk.
No one was interested in riding this with me 🙂
While he was going back and forth loads of times, Maebh, Nils & I played in the arcade. It was there where I won the jackpot – 1,000 tickets on the Wheel of Fortune game.
So after dropping ¢40 or we ended up with 9,425 tickets to spend on cheap, plastic, imported from China crap.
The kids had a bit of play time on the sand with the rocket which they got with tickets at an arcade in Dublin before we moved.
Nils and I enjoyed a pint in a local beach cafe. The glass was enormous – biggest beer I’ve ever had! Took me extra long to finish it but it was very yummy!
I had read that Blankenberge and my expectations were very low but I have to say it was pretty good. First we visited the SeaLife Centre with the group. Like all Sealife Centre, you meander through some areas with fish, see some seals, visit a touch tank and then you’re really done and end up in the gift shop. This place did have an outdoor area which was good and the kids climbed a bit but overall – I’d only recommend this place for little kids – who are impressed when they see a fish which they think looks like Nemo or Dory. But at 8 & 10, a few stingrays or shark going by a tank are not enough to keep them entertained for more than an hour.
If you are thinking about going to the SeaLife Centre – check out their website and the ‘Name Your Price‘ feature – where you can enter the date, # of tickets and amount willing to pay. We got our 11 tickets during our breakfast for ¢10.50 each vs. ¢18.50 at the door.
Overall this resort town does a great job with the beach cafes and kids play areas with huge bouncy castles along the Zeedijk. We ate at Havana Club and had a drink at a cozy, trendy place which was great – only didn’t serve food and some of us ere Hangry! 🙂
Blankenberge, Knokke and De Panne and a all other towns [shown above] can be reached by taking the coastal tram – Kusttram. We tried to take it one day up to Blakenberge, but when we arrived at the ticket counter in De Haan and the women said they are in the middle of a strike and not sure if it will come and might just stop running. She suggested we take our cars instead. As my BIL & FIL was getting their cars, the tram arrived, full of people! Grrrr.
Here are some more things you can do in the area when visiting the Belgian Coast.
1, Go to the beach and rent bikes or go-carts/skelters.
2. Rio Cinema. It’s a bit retro and tiny with ONE movie to choose from.
3. Golf at the Royal Ostend Golf Club.
4. Familiepark De Sierk – Playground with a circus theme for small kids 3-6 years old.
5. Visit Zeilschip Mercator in Ostende.
6. Walk Belgium Pier in Blankenberge.
7. Visit Serpentarium – the reptelienzoo!
8. Visit SeaLife Centre in Blankenberge. Tip: check out the ‘name your own price‘ feature on their website!
9. Themepark Plopsaland De Panne.
10. Walk through the Sandworm will art piece in the dunes.
11. Historical Atlantic Wall Museum where history and nature meet.
You can find more on this UK based website which has a LOT of information on where to eat, stay, etc. This post is not meant to do that rather share our time at the coast.
I really have nothing with De Panne – I think it’s a bit tired and rundown. Not many shops open on the beach – the beach cafes were drab. Unlike Blankenberg and Knokke – I’d personally skip De Panne on future trips to the Belgian coast. Then again, to be fair we didn’t go into the town or explore it more than the beach-front area.
We drove by the Atlantic Wall Museum in Ostende which I really wanted to visit but I was the minority and the only person who wanted to visit so we didn’t. Being Dutch and having lived in The Netherlands for many years, they’ve had their fill of all things war. For me, it is history and I’d love to learn more about it and see first-hand exhibitions.
The last day together we visited Knokke, the resort town which is closest to The Netherlands, before heading back home. This town clearly has all the money – the guests and the shops were upmarket and the vibe at the beach club was great and the cars were top. We saw at least three Mazaradi SUVs!
Parking is tricky – save yourself the aggravation find the Ijzerpark (underground) all other parking is one or two hours) or a long walk from the Casino.
Once the drizzle stopped, the kids rode skelter and an electric atv and then jumped in the sea a bit – too cold.
Overall, we had a great time together as a group. The coast was lovely and we’ll definitely be back in the future!