69km (43 miles) N of Amsterdam
A short ferry trip from Den Helder, family-orientated Texel (pronounced Tess-uhl) is the largest and most populated of the Wadden Islands archipelago. With just 14,000 permanent inhabitants, that's not saying much. Texel, 24km (15 miles) long and 9km (6 miles) wide, has a varied landscape of tidal gullies, sand dunes, and rolling meadows. Its entire North Sea shoreline is just one long beach. It has some of the serenity intrinsic to islands, even allowing for the many visitors who pour in during summer months.
Getting There -- The TESO line (tel. 0222/369-600; www.teso.nl) operates a car-ferry service from Den Helder across the Marsdiep strait to 't Horntje on Texel -- a 20-minute trip. In Den Helder, Ferries depart hourly at peak times and reservations are not accepted. Round-trip fares are 2.50€, and free for children 3 and under. Additional fees for traveling with a car, bike or motorcycle.
Visitor Information -- VVV Texel, Emmalaan 66, 1791 AV Den Burg (tel. 0222/314-741; www.texel.net), is just off the main road from the ferry dock into the island's main town. The office is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5:30pm, and Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Getting Around -- Cars are permitted on Texel and buses connect the villages and the main beaches, but the best way to get around and to respect the island's environment is to go by bike. Bring yours over for free on the ferry, or rent one from dozens of outlets around the island.
Beaches, sailing, biking, hiking, and bird-watching are Texel's big attractions, but eating, drinking, and partying certainly have a place too. The main village, Den Burg, is a bustling settlement near the center of the island. To gain an insight into Texel's centuries-long relationship with the sea, head to nearby Oudeschild on the island's east coast, to visit the Maritiem & Jutters Museum, Barentszstraat 21 (tel. 0222/314-956; www.texelsmaritiem.nl), at the small town's harbor. The museum is open July to August, Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm; and September to June, Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm.
You're allowed to freely visit the dune and forest area belonging to the Staatsbosbeheer (State Forest Authority), so long as you stick to the marked trails. Wildlife biologists from EcoMare, Ruijslaan 92 (tel. 0222/317-741; www.ecomare.nl), a Wadden Islands research center, conduct guided tours of some of these areas. EcoMare's visitor center, amid the sand dunes just south of a coastal village called De Koog, houses a small natural history museum featuring Texel's geology, plants, and its wildlife of land, sea, and air. The Wadden Sea is rich in seals, and EcoMare has a seal rehabilitation facility that cares for weak and injured seals until they are strong enough to be returned to the sea. Another of their rehabilitation projects cares for birds affected by pollution and other hazards. The center is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm. Admission is 13.50€, 9.50€ for children ages 4 to 13, and free for children 3 and under.
Some 300 bird species frequent Texel, of which around 100 breed on the island. Among the avian stars: Oyster-catchers, Bewicks swans, spoonbills, eider ducks, Brent geese, avocets, marsh harriers, snow buntings, ringed plovers, kestrels, short-eared owls, and bar-tailed godwits. Observe these and more in the De Schorren, De Bol, and Dijkmanshuizen -- three protected nature reserves that you can only enter if you're on an EcoMare-conducted tour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.