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This area's list of attractions is topped by its fine beaches, where all manner of seaside sports are available. Beach activities range from half-hour sea trips in amphibious vessels launched right from the beach to sandcastle-building competitions and kite flying. In Knokke itself, take a 30-minute ride through the streets in the miniature train that departs from Van Bunnenplein at the promenade.

For a different kind of fun, head to Casino Knokke, Zeedijk-Albertstrand 509 (tel. 050/63-05-05; www.casinoknokke.be), across from the Albertstrand beach. This place, which dates from the 1920s, is the epitome of elegance, with plush gaming rooms, slot machines, nostalgic bits of Art Deco, and glittering chandeliers illuminating a festive, dressed-to-the-nines clientele. Two nightclubs and a ballroom feature leading European entertainers. The magnificent Salle Magritte dining room is a tribute to surrealist painter René Magritte, whose paintings have been transformed into gigantic murals that adorn the walls. You'll need to be decked out in dressy attire and bring your passport. The minimum age is 21 and admission is free.

A Great (Small) Nature Reserve

Along this stretch of coast in the Middle Ages, the Zwin inlet met the sea and made Bruges a leading European port. The silting up of the inlet (leaving Bruges to settle into a landlocked prominence of quite another sort), created a salty, sandy marshland. It's now the Provinciaal Natuurpark Zwin, Graaf Léon Lippensdreef 8 (tel. 050/60-70-86; www.zwin.be), east of Het Zoute.

The park covers just 150 hectares (370 acres), yet it's one of the most important remaining wetland breeding zones for birds on Europe's northwest coast, and one of Belgium's last scraps of coastal wilderness. Among the 100 migratory and indigenous species that enjoy its facilities are avocets, storks, snipes, plovers, geese, and ducks. The spongy soil nurtures an amazing variety of vegetation, making the park a colorful place to explore, especially in summer, when it's tinged with lavender.

There's an aviary near the entrance; the Vlindertuin (Butterfly Garden); a restaurant, the Châlet du Zwin; and a bookstore. The park is open Easter to September daily from 9am to 5:30pm, and October to Easter daily from 9am to 4:30pm. Admission is 5.20€ ($8.30) for adults, 4.40€ ($7.05) for seniors, 3.20€ ($5.10) for children ages 6 to 11, and free for children 5 and under.

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.