So dark, you can see everything
Explore Lauwersmeer National Park
Tourist Information Office
Grote Markt 29
9712 HS Groningen
Tel.: +31 (0) 50 313 9741
If you would like to spend this weekend under the stars in a rowing boat, harvest your own oysters straight from the sea, go on safari in a Land Rover or meet some locals in the Noorderplantsoen park, Groningen is the place to be. At just an hour away from London, the province in the North of the Netherlands offers everything for an adventurous road trip. Let us take you with us.
Enter Groningen by car with the empty sweets wrappers on the dashboard and your favourite playlist on the speakers. The first choice: the city or the surrounding countryside? Urban exploration or a discovery trip through the untouched villages and scenic areas?
If you’re not so keen on immediately parking the car, start with a road trip around the province. Exceptional places are just waiting to be discovered in all points of the compass. Make for Niehove and a reviving coffee on the café terrace opposite the church. A place so unblemished by time you could have stumbled onto a movie set. A little further on you will come upon the impressive Elektra pumping station (where the kids use the bridge as a spring board at +25ºC). Follow the picturesque countryside along the Reitdiep canal in the direction of Zoutkamp and pull in at the Theemuseum in Houwerzijl for a cuppa. The museum is located in the renovated church of this beautiful village. This is near Zoutkamp; a charming fishing village with colourful houses skirting the quay front, forming a backdrop for the ample fishing boats and smacks.
You can make Lauwersoog well before dark. Once there, stroll to the 't Ailand restaurant on the very tip of the mainland; an inimitable establishment run by Barbara and Jan just the way they like it. What’s on your plate will have been fished directly from the sea you're looking at. And if time is on your side you can even join the crew at sea to catch your own meal and introduce it to the pots and pans to help prepare it. Nature on a plate; exactly what you eat here!
Take a boat onto the Lauwersmeer lake late in the evening. Reclining on your back you will immediately see why this is an official “Dark Sky Park”. Yes, it really is dark here and you will see more stars than you've ever seen before. For the true adventurers: there are small places on Lauwersmeer lake where you can tie up and spend the night in your boat. So who’s not afraid of the dark then?
“You will find it difficult to begin even to imagine the colours in the sky just before the sun appears over the horizon.”
- Staats Mooibroek
You won't have much time for sleeping though, as tonight you will meet Staats Mooibroek. An impressive name for a man who one day will surely have a statue erected in his honour somewhere on the Wadden mud flats. Mooibroek has been guiding ramblers across the mud flats for many years; ‘clean’ over the sandbanks, through the sludge and low tide pools. He offers guided walks for children, experienced walkers and true explorers alike. Tonight’s walk will be lit all the way to Schiermonnikoog by a full moon. The sky constantly changes from pink to red to orange to white and eventually to blue; like a stroll on a different planet really. There’s little to hear except the sounds of animals and the water moving on the sand. This road trip is now definitely an off-road one.
Once you arrive at the wooden cabins in Noordpolderzijl pour yourself glass and enjoy the silence and a stunning starry sky. You are guaranteed to sleep well in this northernmost accommodation of the Netherlands.
Back on the road again: between Lauwersoog and Groningen you will come across the Borg Verhildersum mansion. A walk down the long driveway is a walk straight back into history. Discover how the Tjarda van Starkenborgh family once enjoyed life here, in this impressive villa. You will also find the Korensant restaurant on the grounds, where chef Wicher continuously challenges his staff by creating new dishes which they have to learn to reproduce. Culinary art for your benefit of course, to ensure you enjoy something delicious in keeping with the season and made with the very best regional produce.
Would you like to wade into even more family affairs? Have a look at the Menkemaborg estate in Uithuizen today. The house has the look as if the Alberda family might arrive home at any moment, fresh from a dinner or hunting party. Fancy watching seals? Absolutely possible! And close by in Pieterburen.
Set up your tent at campground De Roode Haan tonight, where you will be treated to live music on Saturdays. Dance off that full belly in the moonlight!
After all the fun in the province, now it's time to round off your road trip by heading for the big city. This is the province's beating heart. This is where you'll find the extroverted and colourful Groninger Museum, popular music venue Vera, the Zwanestraat with its fun shops and, best of all, streets full of happy people.
"The city of Groningen: the secret gem of the Netherlands"
One in four of our citizens is a student, something you won’t fail to notice. There are more bikes than cars and there's a large and varied range of cafés, restaurants and shops. Groningen is a young city. You can taste it in the air. If you want to experience authentic Groningen, try a picnic in the Noorderplantsoen park; for example on the playground meadow or elbowing in between the students on the banks of the stately pond. If you’re looking for insider tips of ways to enjoy yourself, don't think twice about asking a local. They certainly know where all the best spots are to be found!