With a total length of 492 kilometres (305 miles), the Zuiderzeepad earns the title of the longest, and probably best-known, long-distance hiking trail in the Netherlands. The Zuiderzeepad is also referred to as LAW8, which stands for long-distance walking trail number 8. Here, we guide you along the route in an anticlockwise direction, but you can walk the 28-stage route in either direction; it’s signposted both ways.
You can choose whether to walk stages in one go or select a few of your favourite sections for a day trip or weekend away. If you walk one stage every other week then you will complete the entire Zuiderzeepad within one year. Most of the stages are between 15 and 20 kilometres (9.3 and 12.4 miles) long.
The entire route makes a round trip around the IJsselmeer, the biggest lake in the Netherlands. Before the major construction of the Afsluitdijk dam and causeway, the water was not a lake, but a sea: the Zuiderzee. The first stage starts in the town of Enkhuizen on the banks of the IJsselmeer. During the Golden Age, this was the most important fishing town in the Netherlands and a trade hub. From this town, you walk to Amsterdam via other well-known harbours such as Hoorn, Volendam, and Monnickendam. Water is the focal point on every walk; as well as the former Zuidersee, the route takes you along rivers, canals, ditches, lakes, and the Wadden Sea.
In times gone by, the lives of the inhabitants living around the Zuiderzee was often hard and dangerous. Hard storms, floods, and overfishing shaped the history of the region as small fishing villages grew into large port cities. You can imagine how life would have been as you explore old cities and tiny villages, visit museums, and look over the vast waters of the IJsselmeer.
You walk to Muiderslot, Naarden, and Het Gooi before visiting the traditional towns of Bunschoten-Spakenburg, Nijkerk, Ermelo and Nunspeet during the southern part of the trip. You’ll briefly meet the Veluwe ridge of hills and catch glimpses of Flevoland, the youngest Dutch province and perhaps the strongest example of Dutch reclamation.
You continue to the Hanseatic cities of Elburg en Kampen and hike through the Noordoostpolder to the province of Friesland. Vast farmland, woodlands and many lakes characterise the landscape as you visit some of the Frisian Eleven Cities and follow the coastline from Stavoren to Hindeloopen.
Slowly but surely on the horizon, you see the Afsluitdijk dam which is the reason why we now call the Zuiderzee the IJsselmeer. In one long stage, you cross the Afsluitdijk from Zurich to Den Oever.
You walk across the Wieringermeerpolder, along a section of the dyke directly on the banks of the IJsselmeer, and visit Medemblik before arriving back where you started in Enkhuizen. A round trip around the island of Marken adds a few more kilometres should you wish.
Please note that not some starting and finishing points are easier to reach by public transport than others so you should plan in advance. Of course, you can also park your car at the end of a stage, and then take the bus or train to the starting point of one or more stages before.
Are you planning to hike several stages in one go and stay the night? If so, be sure to check if there is accommodation in the smaller villages. In the larger villages, towns and cities, you can always find a B&B or hotel. Advanced booking is recommended.
The Zuiderzeepad starts in the historic core of Enkhuizen. The imposing Zuiderkerk is one of the most striking old buildings in this place. Moreover, Enkhuizen was a fortress, which you will see at the start of your walk when you walk along the Vest with the old Water Gates.Via the Broekerhaven you walk to the Zuiderdijk, which you follow until the end in Wijdenes. You walk the whole part directly along the Markermeer. Get a breath of fresh air guaranteed!
The second stage of the Zuiderzeepad runs from Wijdenes via Schellinkhout and the picturesque Hoorn to Scharwoude. In Hoorn you walk along the old harbor and the Oostereiland, an artificial island that was already created in the fifteenth century to increase the harbor capacity of the ever-expanding Hoorn. While it was first warehouses and some houses that were built on the island, later a shipyard, beggar's houses and a prison were set up.After Hoorn you walk over the Westerdijk with the Markermeer on your left and the Trekvaart on your right to the end point.
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Stage 3 of the Zuiderzeepad starts in the cute little town of Scharwoude. The village is now safe behind the high dike that protects the residents from the water, but when the Markermeer was still the Zuiderzee, the sea regularly brought misery. For example, you come across the memorial stones where the dike broke in 1675 and the cold salt water drowned the hinterland.You walk along the Natura2000 area Polder Zeevang. This polder is a flat and wide peat landscape, which, like many peat areas, also consists of a lot of water. Ideal for spotting meadow birds.Note that some parts of this stage run slightly differently during the breeding season so as not to disturb the birds.
The fourth stage runs from Edam via Volendam to Monnickendam. Volendam is of course best known for its fish trade, traditional costume and eel sound. Yet it is also just a cute place with authentic wooden houses and an amazing view over the water.You leave Volendam via the old harbor and marina and continue on the Hoogedijk. You can even see Marken from the dike. You follow the course of the coast until you cross the water and arrive at today's end point, Monnickendam.
In this fifth stage of the Zuiderzeepad, you not only follow the dike along the water, but you also regularly walk a bit more inland. From Monnickendam you first follow the Zeedijk, but before it changes into the Waterlandse Zeedijk, turn right onto the Dijkeinde. You keep walking parallel to the Molensloot.
Then you walk into the Opperwoudpad and you understand why the municipality is called Waterland here. You walk along really countless ditches.At Uitdam you end up on the Zeedijk again and you see the familiar Markermeer looming again. When you leave Uitdam, you enter Amsterdam territory and the Markermeer changes into the IJmeer.Via the picturesque village of Holysloot and the dike around the Kinselmeer you arrive at the end point today, Durgerdam. Both Holysloot and Durgerdam are cute and very photogenic villages.
The sixth stage of the Zuiderzeepad starts in Landelijk Noord, in Durgerdam. Because of the church, the chapel and the typical houses Durgerdam has a protected village view. You can see from here Vuurtoreneiland, but also the Buiten-IJ, Amsterdam-Noord and Zeeburg.You follow the route via the Durgerdammerdijk towards Schellingwoude. Schellingwoude also seems to come from a postcard with the characteristic and authentic houses.If you continue walking, you will enter Amsterdam North, a stone's throw away, built at the beginning of the last century as a garden village for the workers and designed by Berlage.From the Buiksloterweg next to the Tolhuistuin and the A’dam Toren with the famous giant swing with which you float high on the roof above Amsterdam, you can cross the ferry to Amsterdam Central Station. Via the old center you walk towards the east of the city, where your walk ends at the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal just past the Flevopark.
Stage number 7 of the Zuiderzeepad runs along the Muiderslot. Allow enough time for a visit to this medieval castle that was already on this site in 1285. But before that happens you first walk a bit through Amsterdam. You start with a crossing of the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal and walk through the Diemerpark towards Muiden. You will see the IJburg district on your left.After you have crossed the large lock over the Vecht near Muiden, you will see the lock in front of you. After the Muiderslot you walk about five kilometers on the Dijkweg with a view of the Markermeer and IJmeer. You will end this stage in Muiderberg.
From Muiderberg you walk under the A6 via the IJsselmeerweg. Flevoland is connected to the mainland via the Hollandse Brug and thousands and thousands of commuters drive back and forth every day.You walk along the golf course and marina of Naarden, clear signs that you are in Het Gooi. In this stage you can see the beautiful fortified city of Naarden from all sides. You walk through the historic center past the Grote Kerk and through the old fortress walls and bastions. If you have time, you can visit the fortress museum. Via the fortress path around the city you can take a good look at the old part from a distance.Via beautiful estates and the first heath you arrive at the end of this eighth stage: Blaricum.
In stage 9 of the Zuiderzeepad you usually follow the water, just like in the other stages. Only this time it is not the coastline of the IJsselmeer, but canals, canals and rivers.You leave Blaricum and walk along Laren and through Eemnes. Then you follow the dead straight Eemnesservaart, until you reach the Eemnes pumping station. You cross the water and follow the winding path until you can cross the Eem.On the other side of the river you follow the Eemdijk back to the north, where you mainly walk through agricultural area with many meadows. Eventually you end up in Bunschoten-Spakenburg, which used to be on the Zuiderzee.
The tenth stage of the Zuiderzeepad is only a short one compared to the rest. Less than 12.5 kilometers long, from Bunschoten-Spakenburg via the Zeedijk to Nijkerk. Just over half the route you walk directly on the water and you see Flevoland on the other side.Be sure to stop at the museum harbor of Bunschoten-Spakenburg at the start of the walk. You feast your eyes on the old ships.At the harbor of Nijkerk, turn right and follow Arkervaart. The last few kilometers you walk through the built-up area and the center of Nijkerk, until you arrive at the station, today's end point.
The eleventh stage of the Zuiderzeepad starts at Nijkerk station. The first part you follow the course of the track. After about five kilometers you will arrive at Castle Oldenaller. Oldenaller Castle is an estate, manor and former castle from 1655, although a castle probably already existed on this site before that time. The castle is not open to visitors, but fortunately you can admire the outside from the public road.About five kilometers further you come to Kasteel de Vanenburg, built here centuries ago, but regularly rebuilt or even rebuilt. The castle has also been used over the past century as a holiday colony, as a prison camp for Jews during the occupation, and as a training school for the protection of civilian population for the government. Today it is a hotel.You continue your way for another five kilometers towards the end point Ermelo. Although you did not walk directly on the former Zuiderzee today, you still walked almost parallel to the coastline.
Stage number 12 of the Zuiderzeepad starts on the outskirts of Ermelo. You walk through agricultural landscape towards Horst and you soon reach the city limits of Harderwijk.As soon as you have crossed the Rijksweg via the Botterbrug, you are almost immediately at the water. You meander along the coastline via the Zeepad, with the buildings of Harderwijk on your right and the Wolderwijd on your left, as the water between Harderwijk and Zeewolde is called.There are several small beaches on the water, perfect for a short break. Often there is also a bench to enjoy the wonderful view. Ultimately, the stage ends just past the Grote Kerk and you have covered a total of about 8.5 kilometers. A nice, fairly short walk.
Stage 13 of the Zuiderzeepad starts in Harderwijk and you first walk a bit through the city before you visit the countryside. You walk through farmland until you come to Kasteel de Essenburgh. Today this is a hotel, but the surrounding estate is freely accessible. Nice to have a look.The next part of your route you walk through farmlands and occasionally through the forest, until you cross the A28. The environment changes immediately, because you come here on the Veluwe and you can recognize that immediately by the drifting sand areas and extensive heath.Then you walk back into the forest and through the Willemsbos and the Hendriksbos you come back to the north side of the Rijksweg. Just a short distance and you are at Nunspeet station, today's end point.
The fourteenth stage of the Zuiderzeepad starts in Nunspeet. Before you actually set off, you can climb the viewing tower at the parking lot on the south side of the station. This is also where the Veluwe visitor center is located.
The first part is almost parallel to the track. You walk through the forest, but sometimes you see a piece of the golf course on your right.Then you turn towards Doornspijk and you come to Elburg, where you could easily cross to the Flevopolder. That is not our goal today, so we stay on this side of the water and continue to Oosterwolde, where today's finish is after a stage of more than 19 kilometers.
The stage starts at the Oosterwolde cemetery. It is not known exactly why, but probably because there is also a bus stop there. You will in any case find the first recognizable marking of stage 15 of the Zuiderzeepad here.After a few hundred meters you will barely come across any buildings and you only see the dead straight meadows with - ahead - the occasional farm.Once at the water, you follow the summer dyke and you have a good view of the Veluwerandmeren and the islands that lie there. As soon as you turn away, you can already see Kampen in the distance. Via the Oude Buitenhaven, the old center and the IJsselbrug you reach Kampen station, which is the finish line.
From the starting point of this stage you look over the IJssel and the IJssel bridge. The inland vessels sail back and forth here. But we leave the water behind us for a while and walk north via Kampen.At Grafhorst you will find the water again and walk along the Ganzendiep through the Zuiderzeepolder. If you feel like coffee or tea with a delicious cake, a stop at Theetuin Bettea is a good tip. You cross the water via the Prinsensluis.You come back to the coast and walk along the Zwarte Meer, which was once the Zuiderzee. This lake was created when the polder dikes of the Noordoostpolder and Flevoland were constructed. Ultimately, the finish of the sixteenth stage in Genemuiden will be on the water.
You start today's stage from Genemuiden with the ferry. Cross the Zwarte Water and turn left, after which you keep following the Zwarte Water. First you walk along the floodplains of the river and more inland along a wetland and swampy area.Via the village of Sint Jansklooster you continue with a wide view and follow the course of the Vollenhover Kanaal. Today's end point is therefore in Vollenhove. When you get there, you will have covered a little over ten miles.
Stage 18 is another long one. In about 21 kilometers you walk from Vollenhove to Ossenzijl. From the starting point you walk along the Vollenhovermeer towards Blokzijl. Blokzijl is a cute little village, which, due to its winding streets and façade buildings, looks a bit like Amsterdam.Then you walk into the Weerribben National Park, the largest peat bog in Western Europe. At the beginning you can deviate a little bit from the path and pause in the bird hide. Also nice to use it as a place for lunch. After about ten kilometers through the nature reserve you arrive in Ossenzijl. The end point.
Today you walk in less than 23 kilometers from Ossenzijl to Delfstrahuizen / Echtenerbrug. You get to this quite a lot of kilometers because you can only cross De Tsjonger with the pull ferry, so that you first walk along the right bank in a northern direction and then on the other side again to the south. But that is absolutely no punishment, it is beautiful.You now walk along the Rottige Meenthe and Brandemeer, peat areas where peat used to be cut. It was very hard work and the workers worked here under appalling conditions until well after the beginning of the last century.Your walk ends at the Turfkade at the Pier Christiaansloot, but you can also walk to the Tjeukemeer, or Tsjûkemar as the lake is called in good Frisian. You can also wait for tomorrow's stage if you are going to walk it, because it also runs along the lake.
Stage 20 of the Zuiderzeepad starts with a beautiful stretch along the Tjeukemeer. In Frisian, this largest inland lake in Friesland is called the Tsjûkemar. About halfway through you come across the Echten pumping station and a statue of Tsjûke en March. These were two Frisian sisters who, in good faith, took care of the name of the Tjeukemeer.That is the case. They were together when a fire broke out, but the dense smoke made it impossible for them to see. They called each other's name to find each other by ear, but that failed. Those who listened carefully would hear Tsjûke, March, Tsjûke, March long afterwards. This is how Tsjûkemar got its name.After about eleven kilometers you walk into Lemmer and you pass the harbor. Always good for a snack or a drink. You walk along the beach on the IJsselmeer and end at the Prinses Margriet lock.
The 21st stage of the Zuiderzeepad starts in the western tip of Lemmer. You start along the Prinses Margrietkanaal and then walk directly along the IJsselmeer.
There is a bird hide at the lake Sondeler Leien. If you have time, use it for a break here to watch the water birds in peace.You pass Nijemirdum and end today in Oudemirdum. The place names are quite Frisian, but the landscape actually not. Instead of wide, open, windy and green, it is more sloping here with the occasional wood embankment. This landscape was formed in the Ice Age, when drifting ice pushed soil and stones in front of it and left behind in what are now the hills. This area is home to the rare badger, which was reintroduced at the end of the last century after its extinction in 1958.
In stage 22 of the Zuiderzeepad there is a walking route of about 18 kilometers waiting for you. You walk on straight roads from Oudemirdum to the Rijsterbos, which you will encounter after about 4.5 kilometers. This forest was once created by an Amsterdam family who could get wood from here. They lived in the woods in a beautiful house, Huize Rijs. Now you walk across the beautiful estate until you reach the IJsselmeer again.You continue your way via the IJsselmeerdijk to Laaxum, which is also called the smallest fishing village in Europe. While there were eight houses in the early 1700s, there were fewer at first, and now there are eleven and a farm. That you can enjoy the peace here is beyond dispute.Finally, walk to Stavoren, where your walk ends today. You have covered about 18 kilometers in total.
Are you ready for stage 23 of the Zuiderzeepad? You start in Stavoren, the end of the previous stage. Stavoren is the oldest city in Friesland and also one of the Frisian Eleven Cities. Did you know that with a good view you can see Enkhuizen from the statue of the female of Stavoren? Be sure to stop by this statue of the woman who peers over the sea with one hand above her eyes and get to know her story!You walk past the lighthouse and follow the dike along the Noarderdyksfeart. You walk close to the water of the IJsselmeer, and along the way you come across several small beaches. Especially in the summer very nice for a break or even a refreshing swim.Small Hindeloopen has a nice old harbor and a cozy atmosphere. So you can just stick here for a while. After passing Workum - also one of the Frisian Eleven Cities - today's stage ends in Ferwoude.
Stage 24 of the Zuiderzeepad awaits you today. You depart from the tiny village of Ferwoude and walk through the west of Friesland. Much of the area was drained in the second half of the nineteenth century.On the way you will pass Allingawier, which is called a mound village, although the village may be a bit ambitious. In 2019, 85 people lived there, 70 of which lived in rural areas.A little further away is Makkum, which, given its location, used to be called the Poort naar de Zuiderzee. After the Afsluitdijk had turned the Zuiderzee into a lake in 1932, the name changed to IJsselmeer. You end your walking tour today on the Frisian side of the beginning of the Afsluitdijk, in Zurich.