Frisia – a beautiful part of the Netherlands, full of Nature. There are those big lakes called „Meer“ (which in German means sea) with all kinds of boats. From open sailboats to big traditional sail ships. Big canals connect those lakes and make Frisia a great area for cruising. No matter where you are, a port is always close by. One old harbor town is more beautiful than the other. It’s a great area. But all those sailing and many motorboats have one problem: They can’t explore some of the most exciting canals and landscapes in Frisia. The reason is quit simple: Low bridges make it impossible for all those high boats to reach the canals. And some of them aren’t deep either. Even I had to reduce my draft once – the canal was only one foot deep! I just wrote about one of those canals in the last post about my voyage through frisia while march. BEA is a great boat for Frisia cause she can get pretty much everywhere.
But even if you don’t have an inflatable sailboat – you probably have a dinghy. Or a canoe. And if not, there are plenty opportunities to lend one. It will be worth it!
Today, I want to tell you about four of the most beautiful canals I have explored on my three voyages through the province. All can’t be reached with higher boats. And all offer a beautiful landscape, silence, peace. And even some of the most beautiful but not touristic villages.
Maybe you know another magical canal in Frisia most boats can’t reach? Tell me about it in the comment section!
I neither want nor can tell you which one is the most beautiful. They all are great – and if you can, I would recommend you to visit all of them.
Harlingen – Witmarsum
You leave Harlingen to the south. Don’t worry – those buildings you are seeing while leaving the city will soon disappear and you will be out in the nature. A beautiful canal, finding it’s way towards Kimswerd. Soon you will the a tower and the first few buildings of this village. There are some boats tied to the shore while you come closer towards Kimsward, still in the nature. But entering Kimswerd isn’t like entering most other cities. There are beautiful gardens right next to the canal, it’s not a city but a beautiful little village. Old houses, pretty in their own way. Maybe you see a few locals which greet you with a big smile before you leave the village towards the south. It’s not so far till the canal make a turn – now you row or drive east. The canal seems kind of ordinary. Reed, to high to look above it on one side, grassland on the others. A few horses which might follow you as long as they can. Beside them, you are alone, only few boats go here. No it’s not far till Arum – but before you enter this village, you turn western on the next canal. Soon, all you can see is the canal and reed. In front of you, to both sites and behind you is just reed, high and, depending on which time of the year it is green or golden. You don’t know if some human is right on the other side of the reed or miles away. But of course that doesn’t matter. You are in the middle of the nature, even the view landmarks you can find on the map can’t be seen. It beautiful around here. Peaceful.
Soon you reach Witmarsum. I know, the first impression might be not the best – but keep going, it gets better. On the other side of the town are some really old buildings – and a beautiful windmill! You can tie your boat to the shore here and keep a look around. It’s also possible to stay over night – on your boat or, if you want on the camping ground close by. (The camping ground is only opened while season).
Now you have to decide: Go back or explore the next magical canal. Boat canals might be a little bit much if you have to get back on the same day.
Bridge High: 2.5 Meters. I wouldn’t advise more than 1.2 meters cause of the train bridge in Harlingen. You might have to wait there for some time
Draft: 1.5 Meter
The first thing to do is to get to this canal. You can do so from Bolsward, Makkum or Witmarsum (Harlingen).
From Bolsward: Follow the Makkumer Feart westwards. This offers you an interesting option: You can go from Bolsward to the Skraarder Feart, than northwards till Witmarsum and then again south but following the Wytmarsumer Feart.
From Makkum: Leave the town eastwards and follow the canal Grutte Sylroede. At the parting of the canal, go northwards till you reach the Skraarder Feart.
In both cases, looking closely for the canal! It’s not so easy to find it, there is high reed all around. I just saw the canal when I was right next to it. It might be easy to pass by without even realizing it.
From Witmarsum (Harlingen): That’s easy. The way I write about this canal is from South to the North, ending in Witmarsum. Just do it the other way around.
Like I said, after entering the canal you will be surrounded by reed. It feels a little bit like being a child, walking through high grass. Maybe there are houses and humans close by. But they could be miles away – here it doesn’t matter. You can’t see that far and nobody can see you. But why should you care? It’s beautiful around here. The plants, the animals and the peace of this area is amazing.
From time to time, you will come by some open spaces where you actually can see a few landmarks. Just enough to know where you are. But: That wouldn’t be necessary. I really don’t know how navigation should be necessary on this part of the way. There is only one way you can go!
There are more and more holes in the reed and after some time, there is only a little bit of it from time to time. Now, grassland is around the canal. And right in front of you, you can see the beautiful village Schraard. The first thing you can see is the old church tower. A nice little village, in it’s special way. It’s not one of those touristic hotspots. It’s a place for people to live. Clean, peaceful and beautiful without trying.
Still, I would advise you do make sure you know exactly where you are. And I mean exactly. Count the bridges (there are a few). Cause if you leave the village, you have to have a good orientation. Depending on the current water high, there might be canals, which aren’t on the map. With bridges above them, looking like normal canals. So you really have to know where you are to know where to go.
Of course you managed to do that and now you leave the canal northwards. A tree on the shore has grown over the canal, there is just enough space for a dinghy to get through. You can reach the shore with your left hand, the tree of the right shore with your right hand.
There are a few bridges on your way, some of them long and really not high. Beside that, it’s nice to just enjoy the nature. Depending on the wind direction and if you have to row or use an engine, you will arrive at the Wytmarsumer Feart at some point. No just go north a few meters – you have now seen the windmill for some time. That’s the place to go!
Bridge High: 0.8 meters
Draft: 1 meter
Wide: I wouldn’t advise more than 1.5 meters (cause of the tree)
Makkum – Workum
You leave Makkum to the south on the canal right behind the dike. On the other side of the dike is the Ijsselmeer – but the canal is well protected. There are fields on the eastern shore, you might see a few animals on them. But even if not, you will probably some sheep on the dike at some point. After some time, the canal gets wider, you will see some lakes behind the reed. It’s beautiful here, a peaceful place. You wouldn’t imagine this when looking on the map, there is a road right next to the canal. But I saw almost no car and just very few bicycles.
It’s beautiful around here. An atmosphere that seems (at least to me) impossible to forget.
You pass through a village, not more than just a few old buildings.
Soon, you have to go east towards Ferwoude. It’s a quite place, one of those places where almost nobody goes. And at the same time, it’s really close to the next towns – and absolutely beautiful!
In Ferwoude, you turn south. But be careful – the canal you will go on isn’t deep at all. The map says 0.5 meters – but when I was there, it was only 0.3 meters. Right under the bridge. You might want to look at the bridge, there it says how deep the canal currently is.
Now this canal is something most sailors would probably never consider to explore with their boats. This is an area even someone with a canoe would think twice before going there. It’s really not deep – and not that wide either. From time to time, you might have problems rowing, cause your paddle touches the ground.
But it’s beautiful. And for once, you actually can see quit far! Fields, a few Houses… and all couple of meters the next bridge. You have to make yourself as small as possible to fit under them. Since it’s all open, you will see Workum pretty early but it will take it’s time to reach the city. The last part can be spooky if you do it while night. The canal is between the buildings, no light is getting here. But it’s also a fascinating experience – such a little canal but then those high houses on both sides…
Draft: Till Ferwoude 1.1 Meters, between Ferwoude and Workum 0.5 (or less) meters
Bridge high: Till Ferwoude 0.9 meters, between Ferwoude and Workum I would advise to only go with inflatable’s or canoes.
Stavoren – Molkwerum
Again, I know the way out of the town isn’t the most beautiful. Just look away from the industrial buildings – this helps. But after that, you will find yourself in one of the most beautiful landscapes I found in Frisia. A sweet canal, the dike, some sheep. Those lakes between the reed. An old building on the dike. More reed, more water. This isn’t a place to be fast, you might to want to go as slow as possible and appreciate the nature. After some time, you will see an old house with a big tree right next to it. Now it’s not far anymore till you reach Molkwerum – a beautiful village worth exploring.
Draft: 0.8 meter
Bridge high: 1.1 meter
Do you know those (or other) canal in Frisia, the Neatherlands or around the world worth exploring most sailors don’t even know about cause normal sailboats can’t reach them? Please, tell me about them in the comments.