Bike & Barge in Holland - Cycling the Southern Circuit
If you’re looking for flat cycles, quaint Dutch towns, idyllic farmlands and the most delicious (free) cheese adventure – look no further. Holland’s Southern Circuit Bike and Barge tour covers all of the above pretty much every day of the trip! Not forgetting the comfort of staying in one place but in a different location almost every night and experiencing the real Holland.
My adventure started in bustling Amsterdam (Tip: Drop off you your bag at the boat as early as 9 am to explore Amsterdam carefree!) crossing a fraction of the 2,500 bridges, wandering around the floating flower market and of course enjoying some beverages on the river Amstel. Then head to the boat which is only a 20-minute walk from Amsterdam’s main attractions, make yourself comfortable in your cabin and learn how you’re going to live your life for the next week!
The first day of biking takes you 25m/40km to Utrecht which is known for its cool student vibe and the medieval architecture. Enjoy following the river Vecht and swooning over the beautiful townhouses Holland has to offer in the most peaceful surroundings. Today's bike ride is fairly quiet which makes a nice change from Amsterdam and then eases you back into city life in Utrecht. If you’re back at the boat early, enjoy a free city tour or take advantage of the complimentary tea, coffee and cake! Tonight, you will sail to the wonderful Rotterdam while watching the sunset and enjoying dinner (Tip: You have the opportunity to brag about all the coffee and stroopwafels you have devoured as tables are shared with other guests!).
Day two has you completing a 30-mile loop cycle (don’t worry its very flat!) starting in Rotterdam and taking you through Schiedam where you will see the first of many windmills on your trip! From here you cycle along canals and through quaint Dutch villages listening to the church bells ring and stopping to take pictures of the picturesque cobbled streets. Next stop is Delft – the perfect location to stop for lunch and people-watch in Delft Square. Today you can go to the Delftware factory with your tour guides and learn the ins and outs of how Porcelain is crafted. That evening there is a free city walk around Rotterdam which the majority of the boat's passengers takes part in – I highly recommend!
The third day is the day you cycle through Kinderdijk (UNESCO World Heritage Site) where you will be able to stop (multiple times) to take pictures of the famous windmills or even go inside a working windmill! From here you jump on a quick ferry (Tip: Bring some extra coins for ferry rides!) and then make your way to Gouda. The route then takes you to the center of Gouda where there are an abundance of cheese shops and a couple of bars and cafes along with a supermarket to stock up your snack supply. After a bit of road biking (the cars are very generous with the amount of space they give cyclists) you make your way to Schoonhoven where the boat is docked. The small village is known for its silversmiths and has a great ice cream shop right beside the boat!
Over the next couple of days, get to know the Dutch countryside (very well)! You will cycle past honesty boxes with homegrown apples, pears and pumpkins depending on the season you travel during for your bike and barge adventure. Enjoy the opportunity to stop off at a working cheese farm (Tip: Take advantage of the complimentary tea, coffee and cheese!) and try their various types of cheese and possibly meet the very friendly first-generation farmer who will no doubt have his clogs on! If you’ve not had the wonderful opportunity to visit Scotland yet, then you may be lucky enough to meet some Scottish Highland cows in Zuid Kennermerland National Park. The route also takes you through sand dunes and then to the beach for some well-deserved fish and chips and the famous mayonnaise!
On your final day, you can either brave the long route of 31 miles or take the shorter route of 20 miles. This is one of the most scenic days (we took the long route) which takes you through Dutch farmlands which are very beautiful [Tip: Beautiful but super windy so prepare yourself!]. Next catch an extremely small ferry which takes about 5 seconds to cross the canal and then cycle to Schellingwoude which is a very pretty seaside town with cobbled paths and fishing boats lining the docks. From here, cycle a short distance and catch a ferry back to Amsterdam where the boat waits for your farewell dinner.
To sum up, if you’re looking to sleep in the one place (no packing and unpacking!) but explore Holland to its full extent then a Holland Bike and Barge tour is the one for you! You will experience the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam and Rotterdam but then jump to the quaint old sleepy towns of Delft, Gouda and Schoonhoven. Enjoy the abundance of cheese, stroopwafels and wonderful Dutch people. It would also be rude not to have a Heineken every now and then to rehydrate after a long cycle…