In the 1870s, Yerseke on Zuid-Beveland was chosen for large-scale oyster cultivation to serve the French market.
Before long, mussels, which had always flourished in the Eastern Scheldt estuary, overtook oysters as Yerseke’s main source of income.
Mussels and oysters are still a huge industry for Yerseke, and this is the only harbour in the world where there’s a dedicated mussel auction, as well as a day in summer celebrating this shellfish.
So if you love seafood Yerseke will be something close to heaven, especially if you arrive between July and April when mussels are in season.
You can visit an oyster bed, dip into Zuid-Beveland’s flood-ridden past and of course indulge in Yerseke’s delectable oysters and mussels.
Yerseke has an inordinate amount of seafood restaurants, primed to cope with the many hungry visitors who cross borders for the Eastern Scheldt’s lobster, crab, langoustine periwinkles and crab, but especially oysters and mussels.
From July to April (mussel season) or September to April (oyster season) the freshness and quality of the seafood in Yerseke is out of this world, and there are 19 highly-rated restaurants to choose from.
This is crazy when you remember that Yerseke is a small-ish village.
Mussels should be a priority, and the traditional way to serve them is in a wine or beer sauce, but you can get them au gratin, raw or grilled.
Take a tour of one of the oyster beds in the village, and try freshly -shucked oyster right out of the water.
We’ll go into detail on a famous oyster farm below, while the best-reviewed restaurants in Yerseke are Nolet’s Vistro, Oesterbeurs, De Branding and De Viskeete.
Yerseke’s seafood rush that began in the 1870s continues to inspire fascination, and you can find out all there is to know at this museum in the old town hall, dedicated to the Eastern Scheldt region.
You’ll be able to get to the bottom of Yerseke’s mussel and oyster culture with the help of antique nets, baskets, model boats and lots of black and white photographs.
A standout exhibit is a 4 x 6-metre panorama painting of Yerseke by Willem Vaarzon Morel, depicting the oyster trade in its prime.
Also thought-provoking are the hundreds of artefacts from the towns and villages on Zuid-Beveland that were obliterated by flooding in the 16th century, starting with the catastrophic Sint-Felixvloed of 1530. In one go, this flood washed away a huge chunk of the island and killed more than 100,000 people.
Up on the Havendijk there’s a seafood farm that has been in business since 1906. Something to love about the Oesterij is the transparency of it all.
You’ll be free to look around the historic oyster beds where oysters are kept in fresh seawater before they’re sold, and head into the quayside sheds, one of which is equipped with antique equipment, footage, photographs and documents.
You can also watch mussels live being sorted and packed up for foreign markets.
There’s a museum shop, but the thing that attracts the most traffic is the restaurant, where you can tuck into some of the best mussels and oysters you’ve ever tasted, paired with a crisp glass of white wine.
4. Strand Yerseke
Yerseke is small enough that if you head west along the dike you’ll soon leave the town behind and come to a small but appealing sandy beach.
There’s a dramatic difference between high and low tide here, with a narrow band of well-kept beach when the water is up, and an enormous spread of little pools and silty sand at low tide.
There aren’t many facilities at Strand Yerseke, so you’ll need to bring your own food and drink, but it’s an agreeable place to laze on a warm day and watch the sun go down.
Walkers can continue along the dike, gazing out over the Eastern Scheldt to the former island of Tholen on the opposite bank.
If your appetite for knowledge about Yerseke’s oyster business is still unfulfilled the only answer is to go out into the estuary on a boat.
A family operation, the Oesterbaron sails from the harbour at 15:00 every day from June to September.
On the two-hour voyage you’ll get to know how oysters are grown and harvested in the Eastern Scheldt, with plenty of time to sit back and savour the scenery.
Best of all is when you’ll get to try an oyster fresh from the water with a glass of wine.
6. Yerseke Moer
Immediately west of Yerseke is a landscape shaped by humans over hundreds of years.
The Yerseke Moer is peatland that was closed off from the sea by a dike some 1,000 years ago.
The peat remained rich in salt and was excavated in a haphazard way in Medieval times.
At one point this humble-looking landscape supplied salt across Europe.
To reach the peat, workers had to penetrate a layer of clay, which was discarded, to create the strange hollow appearance that greets you at the Yerseke Moer today.
Thousands of geese overwinter here each year, among them pink-footed geese, barnacle geese, greater white-fronted geese and brent geese.
The 2.5-kilometre red walking trail is set up with information boards, and is open from July to October, when you may catch sight of waders like pied avocets, redshanks, black-tailed godwits and little-ringed plovers.
7. Marstrand Rondvaarten
Also based in the harbour at Yerseke is another company ready to take you out onto the estuary for a variety of themed tours.
One trip you won’t soon forget deposits you on a sandbar at low tide.
You can climb off the boat to walk around knowing that in a matter of hours this spot will be 3.5 metres underwater.
Marstrand also offers 2.5-hour seal-spotting tours (binoculars included), as well as educational trips when you can pick up first hand insights about Yerseke’s mussel and seafood trade.
You’ll see mussels growing on the bed of the estuary and learn about the stages they go through before they’re ready to be harvested.
“Mussel Day” is the third Saturday in August, traditionally at the start of the mussel season, although this now begins a few weeks earlier.
The event pulls in tens of thousands of people, many travelling from Belgium, France and the Netherlands on the trail of Yerseke’s “black gold”. Mosseldag kicks off with a dance festival on the Friday night, and on the menu the following day there are free cruises aboard mussel-catching boats, market stalls, a funfair, parades, beer tents and endless opportunities to try Yerseke’s favourite shellfish.
Mosseldag ends in bold fashion with a rock concert and fireworks display over the harbour.
9. Standbeeld de Mosselman
In case you’re in any doubt about the high regard to which Yerseke holds mussels and the people who cultivate them there’s a statue of a “mussel man” by sculptor Lou Boonman on the northern pier of Koningin Julinanahaven.
This was placed here to commemorate the opening of the harbour, and was unveiled by Queen Juliana on June 18 1981. It was funded by Yerseke’s fisherman’s association and depicts a mussel catcher carrying a basket.
A monument with a difficult past, the Sint-Odulphuskerk dates from the 14th century but was practically burnt to the ground in 1532. The three-aisled hall church was rebuilt by the 17th century, while a 51-metre neo-Gothic tower replaced the original in 1887. Sadly that was lost during a sea battle on the Eastern Scheldt in 1940, along with most of the church interior.
The tower was raised once more in the mid-1970s, while the church merits a visit for its impressive dimensions.
A lot of the 14th-century choir has made it intact to the 21st century, while over the eastern entrance on the Kerkplein is a plaque from 1604 flanked by a pair of lions holding a coats of arms.
11. Pluktuin La Fleur
This garden is open from the end of March to the start of September, growing flowers that you can pick yourself.
Pluktuin La Fleur charges per stem, and has thousands of tulips, alliums, daffodils and irises in spring.
Visit in summer and there will be sunflowers, dahlias, gladioli, as well as lilies at the start of the season.
Prices range from €0.20 (irises and daffodils) to €0.50 (sunflowers and lilies). The obvious benefit of picking your own flowers is that they’re much cheaper and will keep for longer in the vase.