Someone asked me recently if I could recommend a walk along a coastal path in Belgium that is free from high-rise apartments and amusement arcades. I began to explain how Breskens fits the bill perfectly — and then realised to my embarrassment that Breskens is actually in The Netherlands, not Belgium. It’s an easy mistake to make if, like me, you forget that the stretch of “Belgium” along the southern bank of the River Schelde is actually part of The Netherlands. Anyway, as it’s so close to Belgium, it’s worth including in Discovering Belgium! So travel to Breskens, park in or nearby the Breskens-Vlissingen ferry terminal, and Go West!
It’s not completely unspoilt; holiday villages and camp sites are present, but they are fairly modest in size, and well concealed behind the dunes. So you can walk along an excellent coastal path; one which is also ideal for children’s buggies.
Head towards the lighthouse, which is the oldest remaining cast-iron lighthouse in The Netherlands. Amazingly, it survived being bombed during the Second World War, possibly because it was camouflaged. (If you are wondering how to camouflage a lighthouse, the answer is easy: it was painted in camouflage colours!)
Walk for half as long as you want to, and then turn round and retrace your steps. Alternatively, for a change in scenery you can take one of the many inland roads and circle back to your starting point.
If you are a keen birdwatcher like myself, you will probably spend more time standing still with your binoculars to your eyes than walking, as it’s a superb place to observe birds such as godwits, curlews, oystercatchers and various sea ducks and divers. But for some really amazing sights, you should visit Breskens in spring. From March to May, birds migrating north from Africa follow the Atlantic coastline up through Calais, along the Flemish coast, and end up in Breskens before launching over the Schelde into The Netherlands to continue their journey north. During easterly winds even more birds are driven to the coastline and the numbers flying past Breskens can be spectacular. Rarities seen in Breskens last spring included golden orioles, red-rumped swallows, cirl buntings, black storks, purple herons, various kites and harriers, as well as incredible numbers of commoner birds, such as thousands of swallows, swifts, larks and pipits.
For the kids – A trip to the Fish Museum in the town of Breskens may interest you. It’s located by the harbour and contains displays on the local fishing industry, a seawater aquarium and a collection of fossils dredged up by fishing boats.