In a gap between high dunes on the west coast of Walcheren, Zoutelande is an amiable village on what is known as the Zeeland Riviera.
The Blue Flag beach at Zoutelande is at a kink in Walcheren’s coastline, and so faces south, granting it more hours of sunshine than any other location in the Netherlands.
In the early 20th century Zoutelande’s beautiful light and coastal scenery caught the eye of artists like Piet Mondrian and Jan Toorop, both of whom painted sights around the village.
The dunes on Zoutelande’s margins are giants, and until recently featured the tallest dune in the Netherlands, at 54 metres and topped with a lookout and wartime bunker.
1. Strand Zoutelande
Five kilometres long, Zoutelande’s wide sandy beach disappears into the distance in either direction.
To get there from the village you have to scale the dike, and at the top you’ll get a sense of just how big the beach is, and can marvel at the unbroken views of the dunes that border Zoutelande on both sides.
This is also the only south-facing beach on Walcheren, which is where the label, Zeeland Riviera comes from.
This beach has won a Blue Flag every year without fail since the early 1990s and in 2003 and 2004 was hailed as the “Schoonste Strand van Nederland” (Cleanest Beach in the Netherlands.
The North Sea wind can be refreshing on a hot day, and is appreciated most of all by the many kite-flyers.
If you need some respite just find a table at one of the beach pavilions (De Strandzot, De Branding, Neptunus, De Zeeuwse Rivièra), for lunch, dinner or casual drinks on a sheltered terrace.
Almost all of Zoutelande’s amenities and dining options are funnelled into this one lively pedestrian street behind the dike.
Langstraat welcomes Zoutelande’s weekly market in summer, which burgeons into a shopping extravaganza for four weeks in high season.
As you make your way along Langstraat you’ll be greeted by lots of cafe and restaurant terraces, facing south and catching the sun, as well as ice cream parlours, a couple of fashion shops and a supermarket.
About halfway along you’ll be at the foot of the dike, where Zoutelande’s perfect beach can be accessed up a flight of steps.
3. Bunker Museum
In the Second World War Zoutelande was a link in a continent-spanning coastal defence, built by the Germans and known as the Atlantikwall.
This chain of bunkers, command posts and tank barriers ran from Norway right down to the French-Spanish border.
In Zoutelande two bunkers in the dunes, belonging to the Stützpunkt Lohengrin complex, have been reopened.
These were built about 1942 and are roughly 200 metres away from each other.
The first is a bomb-proof shelter for 20 men, with walls and a roof two metres thick.
The second is an artillery observation post set on one of the tallest dunes in the Netherlands.
This one has a steel cupola with a periscope for scanning the sea, and in case of an invasion, the coordinates would be worked out in a calculation room and then relayed by radio or telephone.
The bunker museum shows you around both facilities and opens on Sundays in summer.
The highest point on Walcheren is also in Zoutelande’s dunes, and there’s a scenic path through the scrub to the top.
Known as the Duintop, this spot is 54 metres above sea level and commands a view of the beach, North Sea and Walcheren countryside that merits at least a few minutes.
Ten different church towers are visible from this vantage point on a clear day.
This used to be the tallest dune in the Netherlands, but lost its title in 2014 when a dune was measured at 55.5 metres in Schoorl, North Holland.
The island of Walcheren has a vast web of safe, paved cycling trails, adding up to more than 140 kilometres.
This is incredible when you remember that the island is only 15 kilometres wide and long.
Riding out from Zoutelande you could reach the monument-rich city of Middelburg, a base for the Dutch East India Company, in half an hour.
The next Blue Flag beach is 15 minutes away at West Kapelle, and you could plot a journey through a jaw-dropping dunescape.
Meanwhile, Walcheren’s countryside is beloved for its historic estates, founded by wealthy families from Middelburg and rare for boasting oak and beech woodland so close to the sea.
Being a tourist-friendly kind of place, Zoutelande has a few bike rental companies, like Fietsverhuur Wim Koppejan on the Duinweg, and De Vriewieler on Timmermanstraat.
Zoutelande’s Protestant church is a Dutch heritage site (Rijksmonument), still intact after some difficult moments down the years.
In 1573 during the Eighty Years’ War the choir and north aisle were destroyed, while services had to be stopped in the last months of the Second World War after the bombardment on 2 November 1944. The exterior still has hints of the building’s long history, especially on the tower, which features early-Gothic elements from the 13th century in its blind arches and slender window openings.
A compelling detail about the tower is that it’s bigger than it looks, because the lower portions were buried by a Medieval sand drift.
Piet Mondrian also painted the Catharinakerk when he visited Zoutelande in 1909.
7. Zoutelandse Molen
There’s a lovely old smock mill on the north side of the village, which went up in 1722 and was commissioned by the city of Vlissingen.
From 1801 until 1970 four generations of the same family milled corn at the Zoutelandse Molen.
Up to that time the millstones dated back to the 1500s, and were replaced by a pair from the 17th century, brought here from Westkapelle.
As a rule of thumb, if the sails are turning on a Saturday, then the mill is open for visits and you’ll be welcomed by a volunteer miller.
8. Speelboerderij Mariekerke
This dairy farm and petting zoo in Zoutelande’s bucolic hinterland charges just €3.00 per person.
For people travelling with children a spot like this can be a godsend, and there’s enough at the Speelboerderij Mariekerke for at least a few hours.
Kids can play and cuddle with giant rabbits and dwarf goats, while lambs and baby rabbits are born every spring.
There are also tame Highland cows, which can be hand-fed, as well as chickens, geese and ducks of all varieties.
Together with the petting zoo you’ll find a playground, maize maze, play barn, a hayloft with a slide, a large trampoline and a garden for picking flowers in spring and early-summer.
9. Lichtopstand Zoutelande
A small curiosity in the dunes in Zoutelande is the lighthouse dating back to around 1951. The Lichtopstand Zoutelande is one of a line of lights on the west coast of Walcheren illuminated to guide ships through the narrow but deep Oostgat, a channel at the entrance to the Western Scheldt estuary.
The brick-built tower is 12.8 metres high, with a tented roof, while the automatic white-coloured beacon has a range of 12 nautical miles.
10. Toeristenmarkt Zoutelande
For four weeks across the peak season in July and August there’s an extended market trading from 10:00 to 21:00 Tuesday on along Langstraat and on the Willibrordusplein in front of the Catharinakerk.
The first of these falls in mid-July, and at all four you’ll find useful things for the beach, like towels, buckets and spades, inflatables and books.
You can also browse for postcards, jewellery, clothing, regional produce and freshly made treats like waffles and pancakes.
Outside these few weeks, a weekly market trades from May to September at the same location on Tuesdays, but with fewer stalls and hours of 12:00 to 19:00.
At the beginning of October the Willibrordusplein is the finish line for the most scenic and most difficult marathon in the Netherlands.
Starting at Burgh-Haamstede on the island of Schouwen-Duiveland to the North, the Kustmarathon carries runners along the windswept coast, over dikes and dunes before ending by the Catharinakerk.
The main race starts at 12:00 on the Saturday, but there’s a packed programme of smaller events like an illuminated run from nearby Domburg to Zoutelande on the Friday night, a mini marathon, 5 and 10k races for women, an MTB race and a walking marathon on the Sunday.