The Belgian coast: my article in The Bulletin Magazine Summer 2017

The Belgian coast 

The Belgian coast does not seem to ‘inspire’ a lot of people. I often hear comments about how ‘ugly’ the Belgian coast is, about the concrete buildings (we often use the description ‘the concrete coast’) etc etc

With those remarks often comes a comparison with the French ‘Opal coast’ or with the seemingly untouched dunes at the Dutch resort of Cadzand. Both the French and Dutch North Sea resorts seem to be a better alternative to that unattractive Belgian coast. 

Those remarks may ring true in some aspects, but they are also based on prejudice, not on experience. There are large stretches of Belgian coast, with those typical generous golden beaches, that are absolutely beautiful.

 If you want to know why Belgians insist on flocking to their own coast, you have to understand a bit more about how tourism started in the first place.

Belgian coast_The beach near Ostend, Belgium
The beach near Ostend, Belgium

The Bulletin Summer 2017

So when the editor of The Bulletin asked me to write something about the history of coastal tourism in Belgium for their Summer issue, I jumped at the opportunity. The Bulletin Magazine Summer 2017 issue was published a few weeks ago, and my article about the Belgian coast can now also be read online here. 

However you feel about our coast, you can’t deny it’s typically Belgian. Belgians don’t like to sit around all day at the beach. Kids don’t just spend their time swimming, usually they are bit more industrious. Have you ever seen children digging canals at the beach? Sand castles are only complete when a functioning moat surrounds them. Others spend their afternoons making paper flowers and ‘selling’ them for sea shells. That particular tradition has existed for decades. You can eat and drink everywhere, which is why a day at the coast usually ends either in a restaurant or in the ‘frituur’ (guess what the kids prefer).  

And no day at the coast can go by without a ride on the cuistax (a sort of go-cart) with the whole family.

Belgian coast_The port of Ostend
The port of Ostend

Try a Belgian day at the coast 

When I talk to expat parents about their life in Belgium, they often tell me they don’t know what to do with the kids. Well, next time you don’t know what to do, take the train to Ostend.

Stay away in the weekends, try to choose a weekday if you can. Take the coastal tram to just outside of the city, say for instance to Raversijde, where the beach is a lot less crowdy than in Ostend or in Blankenberge.  

Make sure to take spades with you and everything else you need to spend the day digging and building. Raversijde doesn’t have lots of shops or brasseries to buy drinks and food, so it’s best to take enough water and snacks with you. After a few hours, take the tram back to Ostend. Hire a cuistax and explore the promenade along the dijk/digue. After that, stroll along the promenade a bit more, look around in the tourist shops and think about what you want for lunch or dinner. 

If you have time, visit Fort Napoleon in Ostend for an exposition or make time to see the Raversyde Atlantikwall open-air museum. If you prefer going to Knokke, consider taking a walk in the Zwin. On the blog This Must Be Belgium you can find great tips to visit Koksijde. Whatever you do, your kids will love it. 

And whatever you do, relax and don’t over plan your day. Enjoy your day with the family, enjoy the sun when you can, leave time for some spontaneous activities or visits, and don’t forget to have a nice meal. And repeat that as many times as you can over the summer. There is always something new to explore at the coast 

If you do all that, you will be doing what hundreds of thousands of Belgians do each year and what Belgian kids never seem to get enough off. Nothing boring about that is it? 

So tell me, what do you like to do at the beach?

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