Although often overlooked by travellers, the Belgian coast is an great holiday destination. Cooler than its French counterpart, it's also more relaxed and less crowded, with miles of white sand beaches as well as coastal walking and cycling trails, historic cities and fantastic dining.
A visit in summer is the best way to enjoy the Belgian coast in weather that lets you explore the beaches and not just stay in town. A holiday to the Belgian Coast is popular for taking the invigorating coast breeze and fill up with iodine, and fish feasts.
The most famous of coastal Belgium's features are its long sand beaches. These gentle beaches stretch along Belgium's 70 km of North Sea coastline, attracting holidaymaker and nature lovers from throughout Belgium and, increasingly, the rest of Europe. The sandy coastline is dotted with resort towns, all of them linked by a tramway that runs from De Panne in the southwest to Knokke-Heist in the northeast. From the rustic charm of De Haan's thatched cottages to the busy modern resort of Blankenberg, the coast has a wide range of different beach experiences.
Beach resorts aren't the only thing the Belgian coastline has to offer. The region's historic towns are well worth exploring. In just a short distance, the towns of the Belgian coastline showcase great cultural diversity. The southern stretch of coast is right by the French border, and it's not uncommon to hear French rather than Durch. The town of Ostend was once the playground of Belgium's idle rich, but the Second World War and subsequent decades of property development have not been kind. Still, there's a lot worth seeing here, and a walk along the beach to nearby Mariakerke's Our Lady of the Dunes is very rewarding. Music lovers can also follow the path of soul legend Marvin Gaye, who spent months in Ostend recovering from his substance abuse problem and rediscovering his faith.
Nature lovers have a lot to enjoy on the Belgian coast. The Westhoek nature reserve is home to many local species, including pole cats and even wildcats. The Zwin's vast expanse of dune and salt marsh is home to dozens of species of bird, including avocets, cormorants and oystercatchers. The Coastal Walking Path covers 180 km of beaches, dunes and varied terrain, allowing walkers to get a feel for the Belgian coastal landscape.
Perhaps more than anything else, sports such as surfing and windsurfing bring visitors to the Belgian coast. This region was also the birthplace of the unusual sport of land yachting, in which wheeled vehicles equipped with sails cruise across the dunes and flat land of the coast.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, seafood dominates the cuisine of the Belgian coast. But it isn't all about mussels, although no one should visit the region without trying the shellfish, that Belgians surprisingly serve with French fries, at least once. The Belgian coast has a wide range of different dishes to offer.
Size: 3.144 square kilometers (Western Flanders)
Population: 1.150.000 (Western Flanders)
Provinces: Western Flanders
Landscape: Fine, sandy beaches, dunes, canals