Barging though the Netherlands

  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
  • Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
Photo of Barging though the Netherlands
Photo by flickr user Deacon Steve

Boating and barging is a way of life in the Netherlands. The land is flat, so pack your bike on the roof of your barge and set out to explore the country, along routes paved and watery.

If you look backward into history it turns out that the canals that criss cross this low slung country like veins and arteries were actually built as drainage systems, and the additional transport options they provided was just an added bonus. Whatever the reason for them, over time canals sprang from canals, and today Holland has better barging highways and byways than some countries, albeit small ones, have road networks.

This graphic description is needed to express the plethora of barging potential the Netherlands offers – there's not one classic barging route, there are hundreds.  The main barging centres are Sneek, Groum, Lemmer, Elburg, Strand Horst, Loosdrecht, just a few kilometres from Amsterdam, and Amsterdam, and most of the barges available for short term hire have their 'home mooring' in one of these cities.

WeespChoose either your barge or your route first, there are a myriad of options for both. There are websites where multiple independent barge owners post their barge, like water-borne short-term estate agents, but there are also companies who have a number of barges of their own, and will potentially take care of everything for you, some of them will even steer you along your chosen route.

If you're overwhelmed by the options already you might be more of a join a crew barger, in which case there are travel specialists offering the whole package who can help you out – and you're not actually expected to do crew stuff, not unless you want to that is.

The Buikersloterwegveer ferrySuggested Return Routes:

One week Sneek Return: (80- 200kms): Sneek – Grouw – Princehof – Sloten - Lemmer - Workum – Makkum – Sneek

One week Loosdrecht Return: (168km): Loosdrecht - Amsterdam - Uithoorn - Woerden – Gouda  - Oudewater - Utrecht - Loosdrecht 

Ten day Loosdrecht Return: (250kms): Loosdrecht - Amsterdam - Alkmaar - Edam - Amsterdam - Uithoorn - Alphen - Gouda - Oudewater - Utrecht - Loosdrecht

Loosdrecht Lake (Loosdrechtse Plassen)Suggested One Way Routes:

Great North-Holland Canal (Noordhollandsch Kanaal) (75kms): Den Helder - Alkmaar – Purmerend – Amsterdam

Ten days Sneek to Strand Horst (160-200kms): Sneek-Echtenerbrug-Giethoorn-Elburg-De Eemhof-Weesp-Loosdrecht-Strand Horst

NaardenFor a short barging trip, the little Vecht River, mostly used by leisure boats and sailing craft takes you between Amsterdam and Utrecht, where you can moor at the quay sides or opposite the cathedral.

The Friesian region in the south west, around Elburg, has hundreds of lakes, which join the canals, here the water table is sufficiently stable to leave the locks open during the summer months. Other towns worth visiting in this region are Giethoorn, Spakenburg and Muiden.

Gouda Cheese MarketAmazingly, in many places moorings are free, and more often than not close to a nice cafe or bar. In Amsterdam you can moor in the marina, just across from central station, which you can get a ferry to. You need a permit to barge round Amsterdam, and you do have to pay to stay in the marina, but it's very convenient. The canals have always carried the countries lifeblood, and in many places, including Gouda, of the cheese, the marinas are in the centre of town, proving their importance.

The best time to barge though Holland is between early April and the end of May when your journey will benefit from lines of bright coloured, tulip shaped well wishers on the canal banks.

Check out our list of Amsterdam's best FREE attractions

Comments by other travellers

We re planning arrival 24 May 2013 and then barging 7 days in Netherlands - any ideas, what to look out for, addition alcosts? please advise?

How do i book a barge to travel through The Netherlands???

Nell Rogers

South Africa

Don't forget a couple of days in Giethoorn

On an hours drive or train from Amsterdam / Schiphol Airport

You barge around a traditional Dutch watervillage with no roads only waterways surrounded by vibrant nature. It is also a national park (Weerribben-Wieden).

1 Reply

Sounds lovely! Do you go there on the water as well or is it easier by train?

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The Netherlands, Europe
Journeys, Culture, Family, Outdoors
Best months
April, May, June
1 Week, 2 Weeks, 3 Weeks+
Price range
Budget, Moderate
Physical level
Moderate activity, Mild, Relaxed
Traveller type
Young couple, Family, Mature couple, Group

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