Zandvoort  is a beach resort on the coast of Kennemerland in the province of North-Holland in The Netherlands. As beach resorts go, Zandvoort is not a very pretty town, the coastal strip being filled up with unattractive apartment blocks and holiday homes. However, the beach is broad and friendly, with many beach pavilions where you can have a drink or bite in both Summer and Winter. And once you have left the bustle behind, the coastal dunes are waiting to be explored.
Zandvoort was originally a fishermen's village, already mentioned in 1100. From the 19th century onwards, beach tourism became its main reason of existence. The first bath house was opened in 1828, and when the town was connected to Haarlem by railway in 1881 it quickly grew into the most important beach resort in The Netherlands. Most of the architecture in the current town is the result of the post-1950s boom in beach tourism, also since much of the town was damaged during the Second World War when the beach strip was integrated in the Atlantik Wall (the German defense system against a British invasion).
The N200 is the main access road coming from Haarlem. It can be very busy on sunny days, and in Summer and in the weekends traffic jams are common. Parking on the official parking sites is expensive (€12 per day).
Zandvoort is the only beach resort that can be reached directly by train from Amsterdam (travel time 30 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station, one-way ticket €5.40 with OV-Chipkaart).
Bus 80 runs from Amsterdam to Zandvoort, but it is a slow connection. Bus 81 runs from Haarlem railway station to Zandvoort. Again, it is slower than taking the train.
You can cycle from Amsterdam to Zandvoort, but it will take you at least 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The town is small enough to be explored on foot. Bus 80 and 81 will bring you to the beach of Bloemendaal, just north of Zandvoort. Here, it is somewhat less crowded and you will find the more fashionable beach pavilions.
Getting into the dune area is also very easy on foot, or you can rent a bicycle to explore the area.
The dune area offers plenty of opportunities for horse riding, with dedicated, signposted horse trails. In the low season (1 Oct - 1 Mar), you can also ride your horse on the beach.
A spectacular and increasingly popular sport, not just to do but also to watch, especially when there is enough wind. Kitesurfing is restricted to three zones on the beach, these areas are signposted.
The Netherlands are not exactly the ideal spot for wavesurfing. The North Sea winds are too variable to produce reliable high waves. Nevertheless, you can almost always do some surfing in Zandvoort, even when the conditions are not perfect. In winter however, it can be very cold, with sea water temperatures on average around 5°C.
There are various options for wavesurfing lessons:
Swimming in the North Sea is popular on hot summer days, but in practice the water is often too chilly to be pleasant. Summertime sea water temperatures are on average around 18°C. The Dutch coast is also known for its dangerous offshore currents. Every year scores of swimmers have to be picked up from the water by the rescue brigades; even strong swimmers can be surprised by this. When the currents are especially strong, special red warning flags are put up; don't go into the sea then.
Zandvoort also has a luxury swimming pool, which is much warmer and safer - although it lacks the charm of the beach, of course
Although it is not widely advertised, Zandvoort has a 3 km long nudist beach on the south side of town (between beach poles 68 and 71), the most visited in the Netherlands. The area is signposted, but it is quite a long walk from the train station (35 minutes).
In order to keep life interesting, the Zandvoorters organize various competitions during the year, including the Dutch championship potato peeling, mackerel smoking championships, and the Dutch championship shrimps peeling ... The events calendar can be found here.
Zandvoort has over 60 restaurants, and since it is such a major tourist destination, you can expect variable levels of service and food. The advantage is that most of the food is quite affordable, and of course, sitting on the seaside is also worth something: the beach pavilions are the perfect place to enjoy the sunset. But for the best food, head into town - or take the train to Haarlem.
For drinking, the beach is the place to head. Most of the beach pavilions tend to be trendy, many of them going for a semi-Mediteranean or fake Afro-Caribbean style. Drinks can be a little bit more expensive than in town, but prices are usually affordable. Most beach pavilions also rent beach chairs, prices usually range between €6 and €10.
Various beach clubs organize regular and irregular dance parties, but it may not be immediately obvious what is going on where. Consult the DJ Guide website for the latest info.