Nope, not in the Caribbean or in some other tropical location—it’s right in the North Sea along with four other islands with unpronounceable names (Schiermonnikoog, Ameland, Terschelling, and Texel). All of these islands are wonderful holiday destinations cherished by the Dutch and pretty much nobody else. They’re cold and windy. But they’re also really pretty and pretty fun.
The Dutch have a way with preserving nature and avoiding the worst excesses of capitalism. Although you’re free to go anywhere on Vlieland, the entire island is protected government land. There are no chain hotels, fastfood restaurants, or even cars. There are no fences either—it’s just beach, forest, camp grounds, and a dear little town with a fascinating history.
In my childhood there was only one, but now there are a handful of beach bars strategically spread out over the uninterrupted beach that frames most of the island. They’re sophisticated in an understated way. One is actually a fantastic fish restaurant and all of them take the weather and your every need into account—you can sit there during any weather, try any local specialty there is, and nobody minds your loud kids.
At our favorite camp ground Stortemelk, which is the big one, there are activities for adults and for kids. I have no idea about the former but the ladder are great. Every day our kids happily run off to do arts and crafts, play soccer, get their face painted, or watch silly theater. Every day is pretty much the same, which they love. My daughter: “Mom, I already crafted a bird, a car, and a turtle. I CANT WAIT TO SEE WHAT I’M MAKING TOMORROW!”
We rented a tent instead of bringing anything, as most Vlieland visitors seem to do nowadays. Gone are the ragtag campers of yore—it’s all upper middle class folks sleeping in giant tents, in real beds, dining at the camp’s restaurant every night. Unbelievably, the restaurant offers a vegan version of almost any dish on the menu. It’s definitely more comfortable now but somehow I miss the thrill of wondering when (not if!) the next island storm will take out half the camp with floods and winds ripping through tarps and canvasses.