When you think of Belgium, you think chocolate, beer, and Moules-Frites. What you don't think is beaches. But that's a mistake. Belgium is blessed with 42 miles of pristine sandy coastline. Whether you favor secluded little harbors or long stretches of golden sand, you won't have any problems in finding something that suits the brief. Here, we take a look at some of the very best beaches in Belgium.
How to Get There
The Belgium coast is just 50 minutes by train from Brussels. Although you could get there by any one of a number of different routes, the best way to enjoy as much of it as possible is by taking the scenic Coastal Tram from De Panne near the French border to the fascinating little seaside town of Knokke-Heist. The Coastal Tram, which takes 2hrs 27 mins from start to finish, is the longest tram route in the world. Sit back and enjoy as it takes you through some of the most stunning seaside resorts and towns in the country.
When to Visit
There's no bad time to visit the Belgium coast, but if you prefer some sun with your sand and sea, visit during July - August for the best weather.
Where to Go
With 42 miles of stunning coastline to enjoy, Belgium is the ideal place to enjoy some beach culture. If you can only pack a small selection of its beaches into your itinerary, don't miss these top picks.
If you prefer action-packed resorts to sleepy little hideaways, you're going to love Blankenberge. The long stretch of beach is studded with colorful beach huts that can be rented daily. Running parallel to the beach is a promenade packed with food stalls and shops. The town itself is home to a huge variety of bars and restaurants, making it the ideal destination for anyone looking to experience Belgium's nightlife as much as its beaches.
Ostend isn't just one of the liveliest cities in Belgium, it's also one of the country's best beach destinations. As Travel Triangle writes, the city boasts a multitude of activities for you to enjoy, including sightseeing, shopping, dining, and visiting one of the many museums or galleries. If you'd prefer to spend your day lazing on the beach, you'll find the long stretch of golden sand ideal. The promenade, meanwhile, is a great place to take an evening stroll and watch the sun setting over the ocean. Best of all, the city is within easy reach of Brussels, letting you pack in both the beach and the metropolis on the same day. Trains leave for the capital every 30 minutes.
De Hann is a gorgeous little resort packed with charming Anglo-Norman cottages and quaint little villas. As it's set a little off the beaten track, it's ideal for people hoping to enjoy a relaxing, quiet day at the beach free of the noise and crowds of bigger resorts like Ostend. As The Culture Trip writes, one of the best ways to get to De Hann is to rent a bike in Ostend train station and then cycle the coastal path to De Hann. If you prefer to take the lazy route, take the equally scenic Coastal Tram instead.
You don't go to Oostduinkerke to lie back on the beach and enjoy the sun. Well, you could, but that's not the primary attraction. What's been bringing droves of people here for generations is the town's 500-year-old history in gray shrimp fishing. Typically performed on horseback, the tradition has even earned the town a mention on the UNESCO list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Visit between the months of April and September to check out the fascinating tradition for yourself. During your trip, be sure to indulge in some fresh fish, crab, and, of course, gray shrimp at one of the many restaurants and bistros lining the seafront.
Comprised of five coastal villages, Middelkerke boasts a 6-mile stretch of broad seafront. With plenty of fun and games on offer (including playgrounds, mini-golf, and skate ramps), it's a great place to take the whole family. Once you're done at the beach, don't miss sampling some delicious local food and beer at some of the great little restaurants scattered around the shore.
As Holiday Park Specials writes, the old fishing port of Nieuwpoort has been transformed in recent years into a swanky resort. Hugely popular with water sports enthusiasts, Nieuwpoort is a great place to head for some water-based fun. Whether you want to sail, swim, or take a boat ride around the shore, there's plenty of fun activities to keep you entertained. Whatever you end up doing, make sure to schedule plenty of time for lunch - the resort is as legendary for its restaurants as it is for its beach. Come evening, a sunset stroll on the pretty promenade comes highly recommended.
If you like your beach resorts to ooze sophistication, head for Knokke-Heist. Comprised of a total of 5 beaches (Heist, Duinbergen, Albertstrand, Knokke, and the Zoute), the area is replete with high-end attractions. There's a casino for round-the-clock fun, a golf course for a few rounds, the Scharpoord cultural center for events, and more art galleries than you'll be able to pack into a week. The gorgeous, stately villas that line the tree-lined avenues are worth checking out too. And then, of course, there are those five awesome beaches to check out.
Located just 16 miles from Ostend is De Panne Beach. If you like quiet, calm seaside resorts that feel a million miles away from the hustle and bustle, it's ideal. The area is famous for its stunning stretch of golden sand backed by sand dunes. At low tide, the beach stretches almost 500m wide and several miles long. Whether it's because of its size or something else, the beach rarely feels crowded: even in high season, you won't have to jostle with crowds to find some space. Like most of Belgium's beaches, De Panne can get gusty. If you're visiting outside of the calmer months of July and August, embrace the weather and try your hand at some surfing. Aside from its beach, De Panne is also renowned for its many nature reserves, the most famous of which, Westhoek, is home to thousands of migratory birds and highland cattle. While you're in the area, it's well worth paying a visit.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson