The Belgian coast, a place undiscovered by foreign visitors, is lined with scenic towns, fishing ports, sand dunes, wide beaches and nature reserves. It is arguably the most underrated camping destination in Western Europe. Being from Belgium myself, you might think I’m biased, but I do love that part of my home country—so much that I wanted to write a blog post about it.
The Belgian Coast – 6 Places Not to Skip
From the port city of Ostend and the Belle Epoque town of De Haan to the Zwin nature reserve and the shrimp fishermen on horseback of Oostduinkerke, the Belgian coast has plenty to offer. Even though it’s only 65 kilometers long, it’s packed with attractions and fantastic beaches. Many campgrounds line the coast, most of them located in or around the towns, so you’ll definitely find a spot to park your rental RV or campervan.
Fun fact: the coastal tram that runs the entire length of the Belgian coast is the longest tramline in the world! It makes it super-easy to travel from town to town, stopping wherever you please on the way.
By far the largest city on the Belgian coast, Oostende (Ostend in English) has no less than nine kilometers of sandy beaches and tons of attractions. Home to a large port, the city is where you can see the Mercator, a ship designed by Arctic explorer Adrien de Gerlache. Other highlights include the James Ensor House, Fort Napoleon, and the Royal and Venetian Galleries.
At the northeastern end of the Belgian coast, on the border with the Netherlands, lies Het Zwin. This small but beautiful nature reserve is one of Belgium’s most important conservation areas. It protects tidal flats, wide beaches and a variety of salt-resistant plants. A great place to go for a walk on the beach, it is extremely popular among bird watchers.
One of the star attractions on the Belgian coast are the fishermen on horseback in Oostduinkerke. This is the only place in Europe where you can still see this traditional fishing method being used. It’s so significant that UNESCO declared it Intangible Cultural Heritage. Besides this cultural highlight, Oostduinkerke has plenty of natural delights as well. Specifically, the Ter Yde nature reserve and the Hoge Blekker dune are fantastic places for walks in the dunes. There are several superb seafood restaurants, too.
If you’re looking for nightlife and other classic tourist attractions, Blankenberge is the place to be. With boardwalks, a 350-meter pier, a SEA LIFE center and a fishing port, this is quiet a bustling town during the summer months.
In De Haan, the one major attraction is the Concession residential area. This neighborhood is renowned for its quintessential Belle Epoque villas. De Haan is also unique because, unlike in the other coastal towns, there are no high-rise buildings. It’s so peaceful and tranquil than none other than Albert Einstein lived there for a short while in 1933. The house where he lived is still there.
For peace and quiet, head to De Panne, situated near the French border. This green corner is home to the widest beach on the Belgian coast as well as large expanses of sand dunes. This is a great motorhome rental or campervan hire destination for sunbathing, swimming, walking, kite-flying, wind surfing and even sand-yachting. Remember that you can easily get here from anywhere else on the coast with the iconic coastal tram.
Have you ever been camping on the Belgian coast? What did you like most?