While the Frisian Lakes (Dutch: Friese meren, West Frisian: Fryske marren) are not well known among foreigners, the locals flock to this tourist area in great numbers. The Frisian Lakes consist of 24 lakes in central and southwest Friesland that attract boaters from all over the country in the summer. The highlight of the Frisian boating season is the Sneekweek (West Frisian: Snitswike), an annual boating event held in Sneek, the largest town of the area. A visit to the area is easily combined with other activities in the region, such as mudflat hiking to the West Frisian Islands or a visit to other towns in the Northern Netherlands.
The Frisian lakes consist of 24 lakes in Central and Southwest Friesland. The largest and most important lakes are the Sneekermeer (Snitser Mar), the Tjeukemeer (Tsjûkemar), the Heegermeer (Hegemer Mar), the Fluessen (Fluezen) and the Slotermeer (Sleattemer Mar). Among Frisians, most of this region is known as the Zuidwesthoek (Súdwesthoeke), an area with a distinct Frisian dialect. The municipality Súdwest-Fryslân and the upcoming municipality De Friese Meren belong to this area. Some lakes are outside of the Zuidwesthoek, such as those in Grouw and Eernewoude, but these are considered a part of the Frisian Lakes region. Besides Sneek, the largest towns in the area are Joure, Lemmer and Bolsward.
Large crowds find their way to this area on their own boat. A boat is of course a great way to see the best of the Frisian Lakes, and there are ample facilities for boat travellers. Make sure to bring a good map and take the many bridges into account. To get to specific lakes or areas, you will likely need to pass one of the many man-controlled bridges, which are operated during regular hours.
By train, get in via Leeuwarden. Direct trains run to Leeuwarden from Groningen and from the direction of Utrecht. From Amsterdam you'll have to change in Hilversum or Amersfoort. From Leeuwarden, a regional train operated by Arriva runs to Sneek and Stavoren.
Bus connections allow getting into the area from Den Helder or Hoorn in North Holland. These buses cross over the Afsluitdijk, the long dike that separates the IJsselmeer from the North Sea. As train connections in the Frisian Lakes area are limited, serving only a few major destinations, regional buses are your main public transport option to get into smaller towns. Most regional buses are operated by Connexxion.
If you can't bring your own, there are numerous options to rent different kinds of boats for any period. Make sure to bring a good map of the area, or mobile internet. There are specific maps available, with all the mooring locations.
Other ways to get around are by car, bus or bicycle. The train only has a few stops between Stavoren and Leeuwarden, but it could also be useful.
There are many large and small lakes in the Friese Meren area, plus a number of them that are not directly in this South-Western part of Friesland, but are still commonly included when referring to the Frisian Lakes. Below is a list of the most prominent ones for sailing and other water activities. Note that the Frisian names, here indicated in italic, are the official ones. Although information in Dutch is common, you are likely to encounter the local language names here and there on maps and signs. The largest and most popular ones are indicated in bold.
- Heegermeer (Hegemer Mar)
- Fluessen (Fluezen)
- De Holken
- Morra (De Morra)
- Slotermeer (Friesland)|Slotermeer (Sleattemer Mar)
- Groote Brekken (Grutte Brekken)
- Koevordermeer (De Kûfurd)
- Langweerderwielen (Langwarder Wielen)
- Witte en Zwarte Brekken en Oudhof (Wite Brekken, Swarte Brekken en Aldhôf)
- Tjeukemeer (Tsjûkemar)
- Sneekermeer (Snitser Mar)
- Goëngarijpsterpoelen (Goaiïngarypster Puollen)
- Terkaplesterpoelen (Terkaplester Puollen)
- Idzegaasterpoel (Idzegeaster Poel)
- Grote Gaastmeer (Grutte Gaastmar)
- Zandmeer (Sânmar)
- Vlakke Brekken (Flakke Brekken)
- Oudegaasterbrekken (Aldegeaster Brekken)
- Idskenhuistermeer (Jiskenhúster Mar)
- Terhornsterpoelen (Terhernster Puollen)
- Terhornstermeer (De Hoarne)
- Brandemeer (Skarsterlân)|Brandemeer]] (Brandemar)
- Nannewijd (Nannewiid)
There are many cute villages that can be visited, including Hindeloopen, IJlst, Lemmer, Sloten, Stavoren and Workum. Most of these villages have unique historic centres. Lemmer is home to the D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station, the largest steam-powered pumping station in the world that is still in operation. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eat & sleep
This is a major area for domestic tourism and an increasingly popular destination for amateur sailors from Germany and the UK. As a result, all mid-sized and larger villages around the lakes have restaurants, cafés and lodging options, as do many of the smaller towns. Catering to large crowds of visitors in high-season, you'll be able to find anything from haute cuisine to simple snacks and a range of cosy outdoor terraces, excellent for an afternoon coffee break.
If you're looking to stay multiple days in the area, you have several options when it comes to sleeping. If you have (or rent) a larger boat, staying on it is the obvious solution and provides great freedom in terms of where to go. If you're looking for hotels or B&B's, it's a good option to pick a base and make day-trips over the lakes from there, which, given the size of the area is very well possible and perhaps most convenient. Note that prices rise significantly during Dutch holidays and especially for regional events like the Sneekweek.