Camping in the dunes on Texel: our first bikepacking trip
Date: 24 – 25 July, 2022
Location: Texel, The Netherlands
Total distance: ≈ 50 kilometres cycled
Summary: A one-night stay on the island of Texel, our second camping trip together in 2022 and our first ever "bikepacking" trip.
Highlights: Camping and hiking in the dunes, strawberry picking, seeing the Milky Way, getting to explore somewhere new together
Early on a Saturday morning in July, Brett and I grabbed our bags, pumped up the tires on my parent's bikes and cycled to the nearest train station. It was the start of our very first "bikepacking" trip, and I was feeling excited about finally getting to camp on one of the Dutch Wadden Islands.
According to Alpkit, bikepacking is a "combination of multi-day cycling and lightweight backpacking. Rather than using racks or carrying everything in a rucksack, your kit is strapped onto the bike itself." Like backpacking, there are many different intensity levels of bikepacking. Although riding on paved cycle paths and staying at an established campsite meant this trip was definitely on the tame side, Brett and I were still excited to try this new adventure together.
The first step: getting our bikes to the island. Taking our bikes on the train was slightly stressful – if there's no room for your bike in the designated spots, you're not meant to get on – but we were lucky to find both trains had enough space for our bikes.
By 9:30, we had arrived in the northern town of Den Helder. We cycled the short distance to the ferry terminal, where we bought ferry tickets to Texel, the southern-most and largest of the Wadden Islands. The Dutch are well known for their cycling infrastructure, and this ferry trip was no exception. As foot and bike passengers disembarked from one side of the ferry, we walked our bikes onto the other side. We were impressed at the number of bikes and scooters that were able to fit in the underbelly of the ferry, completely separate from the cars and vans on decks below us.
After pulling away from the port, we walked up onto the upper deck, where we enjoyed watching someone feed the seagulls off the side of the boat.
While planning our trip, we had debated the pros and cons of bringing our own bikes (aka my parent's bikes) versus renting bikes on the island. We weighed up the cost of bringing the bikes on the train against the cost of renting bikes for two days. When we arrived onto Texel and cycled away from the ferry, we felt very glad we had decided to bring our own bikes – not only had it been the cheaper option, but the queue for the bike rental looked pretty long.
And so we set off to explore the island! After passing through the small town of Den Hoorn, we cycled through the Nationaal Park Duinen van Texel on the way to our campsite. The weather was beautiful as we weaved through open fields and lush green forests. For the most part, we managed to stick to the cycle paths, with the occasional short section on sleepy roads. It was heartwarming to see the cycle paths filled with families with small children, either relaxing on the back of their parents' bikes or cycling alongside.
When we arrived in De Koog, we had some time to kill before we could check in at the campsite. We grabbed a snack in the small town centre – Brett tried some traditionally Dutch fish sandwiches and I got (way too much) ice cream.
After eating, we made our way to the Kogerstrand campsite, where we would be spending the night. When we eventually found our pitch, I was immensely pleased with our campsite selection. Many Dutch campgrounds are just huge grass fields – it's impossible to feel like you're in nature when the tent next to you is just metres away! The Kogerstrand campsite offers something a little more unique, with the individual pitches nestled amongst the dunes, offering much more privacy. It allowed us to feel like we were wild camping, something that isn't allowed in the Netherlands! (I guess that experience comes with a price – the campsite was pretty pricy at €40 per night.)
After relaxing in the shade and eating our packed lunch, we set off again to cycle south-east, following one of the Texel's main roads. The weather was glorious and with the wind at our backs, we sped across the width of the island. Our destination was the Voedselbos Texel, a farm where you can pick your own fruit. Strawberries were in season during our visit, so we enjoyed picking a punnet and then eating them as we lay in the shade.
On the way back to our campsite, we stopped in Den Burg, the largest town on Texel and home to around half of the island's population. After relaxing at a park for awhile, we grabbed cold drinks and traditional Dutch apple pie at a cafe downtown.
In an attempt to avoid the main road, we followed a different route back to De Koog, passing the vast, flat expanse of the Waalenburg nature reserve. When we got back to our campsite, we set up our bivys on top of our picnic blanket in an attempt to minimise the amount of sand that got into our sleeping bags. Although it was only our second (and last) time camping together in 2022 (which seems wild after how much camping we did in 2021), we had chosen the bivys over our tent in order to save room on the bikes. Plus, our tent was still in Exeter, so it wouldn't have been very useful anyways!
After setting up camp, we walked back into De Koog and grabbed dinner before finding a bar to watch the Women's European Championship quarter-final. The Netherlands was playing France, and after a frustrating game, we left at full time with the score still 0-0. As we were getting ready for bed, we learnt that the Netherlands had lost during extra time, bringing their time in the tournament to an end.
At 2 in the morning, our alarm startled us awake and we made our way down to the beach. We had been hoping to see zeevonk or "sea sparkle," which is caused by bioluminescent algae and often visible after hot days. While the sea was, unfortunately, dark, the sky above us sparkled with stars. I was impressed that we could see the Milky Way stretching out above us – not something that is common in Netherlands, which is highly light-polluted.
The following morning, we slept in and were awoken by the sun rising hot over the dunes. We had planned to cycle the rest of the way around the island (roughly 45 kilometres), but the strong winds made that option immediately less appealing. Instead, after having a picnic breakfast in De Koog, we cycled out to the Duinpark and went for a hike.
We followed the trail through the forest before making our way out into the dunes. We could see heather starting to blossom, carpeting the ground in purple.
After our short hike, we continued cycling, retracing the beautiful route through the forest we had taken the previous day. We stopped multiple times to eat snacks and relax in the shade.
The path emerged from the forest and we cycled into open fields. The landscape reminded us of traditional Dutch paintings hung in museums across the country.
We were getting close to the ferry terminal, but I wasn't about to leave the island without having gone for a swim in the sea! As we continued cycling south, we turned off the main path and headed towards Strandpaviljoen Paal 9. We were quickly cycling directly into the wind and progress towards the beach was agonisingly slow. By the time we arrived, I was sweaty and ready to cool off in the sea. The wind sprinkled our bags in sand as we spent 15 minutes playing in the waves. It reminded me of the times we went body surfing in San Diego last summer.
As we dried off, we began the cycle ride back to the ferry terminal. With the wind at our backs, we were speeding along, reaching over 30 kilometres per hour at some points! Despite the wind, the ferry trip back was just as smooth as it had been on our way to Texel. Back in Den Helder, we grabbed snacks at Albert Heijn and began the journey home.
Having completed our first bikepacking trip, I can easily say I would do it again. The ease of cycling in the Netherlands makes it a fantastic place for bikepacking and I would love to explore more of my adopted home country in this way.
Getting to Den Helder: Take the intercity train from Amsterdam (takes 1h15). For routing, use https://www.ns.nl/en/journeyplanner/#/
Getting to Texel: Take the ferry from Den Helder. Tickets can be bought at the ferry terminal or online at https://www.teso.nl/en/
Renting a bike: If you want to rent a bike near the ferry terminal, you can prebook it at https://txveerhaven1002.cyclerent.com/Regform.aspx
Camping in the dunes: Book your pitch at the Kogerstrand Campsite here: https://www.krim-texel.com/campsite-kogerstrand. Make sure you select "dune pitch" when booking.