The coastline of the isle of Goeree-Overflakkee, in the southwest of the Netherlands, has won multiple international awards throughout the years. And this year, the island, along with Westvoorne, Schouwen-Duiveland and Veere, was voted number one Green Destination in the world over amongst Lake Tahoe in the US and Sani Isla in Ecuador, winning the Best of Nature award.
TEXT: MICHIEL STOL | PHOTOS: MERIJN KOELINK
“When you take a walk or go for a bicycle ride and you look around, there are so many vistas that will take your breath away. From the dunes to the heritage in the villages, the beauty is everywhere here,” says Michel de Bruin, director of Island Marketing of Goeree-Overflakkee. De Bruin himself moved here over two months ago. “As an ‘outsider’, I immediately felt the respect for nature here on the island. And knowing that it is only 30 minutes away from Rotterdam and even Antwerp, made it even more attractive to come here.”
Goeree-Overflakkee is filled with multiple nature reserves which are home to a rich flora and fauna. Seals, porpoises, deer, wild horses, Europeans sea-eagles; the island is home to several exquisite species. Each autumn and winter period, a group of flamingos make a home for themselves on the island. “I often send pictures to my friends, with the question: ‘where am I, Canada or Goeree?,’ grins De Bruin. “The diversity in nature here is indescribable; on the one hand the beaches and the dunes, that are synonymous with the Netherlands, and on the other hand these vast landscapes with beautiful animals and birds that will make you forget you are in the Netherlands.” A definite must-see is the bird observatory TIJ, on the edge of the Haringvliet estuary. This eight-metre-high building, shaped in the form of the egg of a big tern, will give you an amazing 360-degree view of the area. Spotting terns, spoonbills or sea eagles is a treat from here.
Respect for nature
For years, the island has been working to preserve nature. Together with the municipalities of Westvoorne, Schouwen-Duiveland and Veere, the area is known as the Dutch QualityCoast Delta. There are numerous eco-friendly activities and several accommodations are certified by Green Key. As one of only four destinations worldwide, Goeree-Overflakkee has won the prestigious QualityCoast Platinum Award. “Sustainability is in our DNA. During the next few years, we want to become completely energy neutral,” continues De Bruin. “We want to achieve this with windmills, sun energy, biogas instead of electricity and there are plans for a tribal power installation. We are surrounded by water and there is almost always wind. So why not utilise that, so that we can preserve nature and future generations? Goeree-Overflakkee is about respect for the elements, whilst at the same time challenging the elements to preserve the island.”
Culture and leisure
Of course, Goeree-Overflakkee offers more than just this amazing rich nature. “Over the island runs a great new bicycle route, that will bring you to picturesque villages, where you will find heritage from the Dutch Golden Age, and cosy marinas, perfect for lunch or dinner.” For those looking for a bit more excitement, the Brouwersdam is the place to be. The dunes and beaches here offer great opportunities for kitesurfing and beach volleyball. “Around the island are numerous places to spend the night. “Whether you want to go camping or stay in a luxurious holiday home, there is a place for everyone.” Major cities, such as Rotterdam, Breda and Antwerp, are just around the corner. “You can enjoy the thrill of the city, and at the end of the day unwind in the serenity of nature in the blink of an eye.”
Clean air, fresh sea and a laidback life; if you truly want to unwind from life’s stresses, surrounded by amazing flora and fauna, than there is no better place than Goeree-Overflakkee. “A true green oasis,” smiles De Bruin.