The (Groninger) Veenkoloniën (Dutch for Peat Colonies (of Groningen city)) or Peat District is a region in the southeast of the province of Groningen, the Netherlands. The region used to be uncultivated land, but starting in the 16th and 17th centuries the city of Groningen started to colonise more and more of the area for the extraction of peat, to be used as fuel. The earliest 'peat colonies' were near to the city, such as Hoogezand and Sappemeer in Midden-Groningen. Later, also the bogs further away from the city, to the southeast, were exploited. This is seen as the heart of the Veenkoloniën region, and includes the municipalities of Veendam, Pekela, and Stadskanaal. Talks are ongoing on a possible merger of these municipalities.
Stadskanaal is sometimes also considered to be part of the region of Westerwolde to the east.
The Bourtanger Moor formed a bog in the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe, and the neighbouring German Western Plains region. This area was largely uninhabitable, until large-scale peat expoitation started in the 16th century. Throughout the centuries, numerous canals were dug, for drainage of the peat and transport to Groningen city. Along many of these canals, linear settlements were established. The landscape of the Veenkoloniën is therefore characterised by long, straight canals with linear settlements, and vast agricultural areas in between. The largest towns in the region by far are Veendam (population 27,500) and Stadskanaal (20,000). Especially in Stadskanaal the initial linear settlement along the canal is still clearly visible, and the town is also named after this canal (Stadskanaal means City's Canal, with 'city' referring to the city of Groningen).
- 1 VVV Veenkoloniën (Tourist Information Veendam), Museumplein 5, Veendam (in the Veenkoloniaal Museum), ☏ . Tu-Th 11:00-17:00, F-M 13:00-17:00.
- 2 Tourist Info Stadskanaal, Navolaan 15-11, Stadskanaal (at Stadskanaal bus station), ☏ . M 13:00-16:00, Tu-F 10:00-16:00.
The main road traversing the Veenkoloniën is the north-south N33 expressway. Towards the southwest, the N33 leads to Assen and the A28 motorway interchange (15 minutes). Towards the north, the N33 leads to the A7 motorway interchange at Zuidbroek (5 minutes). From the city of Groningen, take the A7 eastbound, and then the N33 southbound to the Veenkoloniën (20 minutes to Veendam, 30 minutes to Stadskanaal). Other roads into the region include the trunk roads N365 from Bourtange, N366 from Ter Apel and Southeast Drenthe, and N367 from Winschoten.
There is one railway station in the Veenkoloniën, being 3 Veendam railway station.There is a twice-hourly train connection to and from Groningen city, operated by Arriva, with Veendam being the terminus of the line. From Groningen, the trip takes 30 minutes (€6.10). For trips from most other destinations in the Netherlands, a transfer in Groningen's main station is required. To travel to Veendam from destinations in the east of Groningen province (e.g. Winschoten), transfer in Zuidbroek.
In addition to the railway to Veendam, there are several bus routes that are useful to get to the Veenkoloniën, from the main railway and bus station in Groningen city, as well as other destinations in Gronnigen and Drenthe provinces. In addition to Veendam's railway and bus station, the key bus station in the region is 4 Stadskanaal bus station. All buses are operated by Qbuzz.
- From Groningen: bus routes 73 (1-2x/hour via Hoogezand to Stadskanaal) and 312 (1-6x/hour during daytime weekdays to Stadskanaal)
- From Assen via Aa en Hunze: bus routes 24 (1x/hour to Stadskanaal) and 110 (1x/hour to Veendam)
- From Emmen: bus routes 28 (1x/hour to Musselkanaal and Stadskanaal) and 73 (1-2x/hour to Stadskanaal)
- From Winschoten : bus routes 13 (1x/hour during daytime Mondays to Saturdays to Veendam), 14 (1-2x/hour to Stadskanaal), 75 (1x/hour during daytime weekdays to Oude Pekela, Nieuwe Pekela, and Stadskanaal) and 110 (1x/hour to Oude Pekela, Nieuwe Pekela, and Veendam)
The fastest way to get around in the Veenkoloniën is by car. There is an extensive road network connecting the towns and villages. However, the best way to get around is arguably by bicycle. The main towns and villages are clearly signposted with dedicated signposts for cyclists, and in many cases separate cycle paths are available.
The bus routes as mentioned above are useful to get around within the region, notably line 28 to get from Stadskanaal to Musselkanaal, line 75 to get from Stadskanaal to Nieuwe Pekela and Oude Pekela, and line 110 to get from Veendam to Nieuwe Pekela and Oude Pekela. In addition, there is the so-called 'small-scale public transportation network', connecting several of the villages in the region with minibuses and also including minibus route 510 which serves as a city bus in Veendam and Wildervank (1x/hour during daytime Mondays-Saturdays). Oddly, there is no direct bus connection between the two largest towns, Veendam and Stadskanaal. Instead, a transfer is required in Nieuwe Pekela.
The railway is only used as heritage railway, with a few runs per week in summer, and a few runs per month in winter (see below under 'Do'). There are plans to resume the passenger rail service from Veendam to Stadskanaal, which was cancelled in 1953, but it will not be operational before 2019 at the earliest.
Museums and landmarks
- 1 Veenkoloniaal Museum (Museum of the Peat Colonies), Museumplein 5, Veendam, ☏ . Tu-Th 11:00-17:00, F-M 13:00-17:00. Museum on the history of the peat colonies and regional agriculture, and the maritime history of the region (in the 19th century seafarers from the region used to sail especially to the Baltic Sea). The museum is located in a national monument building that was built in 1910 as a school. Adults €7.50.
- 2 Streekhistorisch Centrum (Regional History Centre), Ceresstraat 2, Stadskanaal, ☏ . Tu-F 13:00-17:00, Su 14:00-17:00. Museum on the history of the Veenkoloniën region and the Westerwolde region to the east. The museum is in the national monument villa 'Huize Ter Marse', built in 1884. Adults €3.
- 3 Watertoren Stadskanaal (Water Tower), Ceresstraat 1, Stadskanaal (next to the Streekhistorisch Centrum). From May to October during Streekhistorisch Centrum museum opening hours. Water Tower built in 1935. The tower, 43 metres high with 208 steps, can be climbed for a great view of the surroundings. Entrance of the tower €2.50, combined ticket tower and museum €4.50.
- 4 Kapiteinshuis Pekela (Captain's House), Ds. S. Tjadensstraat C95, Nieuwe Pekela, ☏ . Apr to Oct: Tu Th Su 13:30-16:30. Captain's house built in the 18th century. The museum shows items, books, and paintings related to the history of the village and the region, and the maritime history in particular. In the 19th century, the captains and seafarers used to be out on the sea for months, but most of them still had a so-called 'captain's house' to call home. Adults €3.
Outdoor activities and water sports
- 1 Watersportcentre Veendam, Bergweg 2, Veendam, ☏ . In the Borgerswold recreation park, water sports activities including water skiing and wake boarding.
- 2 Borgerswold Experience, Flora, Veendam, ☏ . In the Borgerswold recreation park, activities including paintball, archery, kayaking, and pedaloing.
- 3 Borgerswoldhoeve, Flora 2, Veendam, ☏ . In recreation park Borgerswold. A wide range of activities including water sports, miniature golf, games, and a buffet restaurant.
- 4 Golfclub De Compagnie, Golflaan 1, Veendam, ☏ . Daily 09:00-21:00 daily. 18 holes golf course. €42.50 for 18 holes.
The railway between Veendam and Musselkanaal (built in the early 20th century) has not been in use for scheduled passenger services since they were discontinued in 1953. However, since 1995 a heritage railway line has been operated with historical steam and diesel trains. With a length of 26 km, this is the longest heritage railway in the Netherlands. The trip provides a great view of the Veenkoloniën landscape.
- 5 Museumspoorlijn S·T·A·R (STAR Museum Railway), Stationsstraat 3, Stadskanaal, ☏ . In summer several times per week, in winter several times per month. In the old train depot, there is an exhibition, which is free to enter upon purchasing a ticket for the heritage railway.
- In addition to the main station of the heritage railway at Stadskanaal, you can also buy your tickets and board the train at the 6 Veendam S·T·A·R station, which is directly next to Veendam's railway station that is in use for the scheduled passenger train services. The other three stations do not have a ticket counter, but you can board the train and buy a ticket from the train crew: 7 Bareveld S·T·A·R station, 8 Wildervank S·T·A·R station and 9 Musselkanaal S·T·A·R station.
- On most days of operation, the route from Stadskanaal via Bareveld and Wildervank to Veendam is operated, while sometimes also the route in the other direction, from Stadskanaal to Musselkanaal, is operated. In summer, usually the train operates at least three return trips Stadskanaal-Veendam per day on Wednesdays and Sundays. In winter the timetable is more limited, with for example special rides during the Christmas holidays. The full timetable is available on the website of S·T·A·R. Prices for adults vary from €7 for a one-way ticket between Stadskanaal and Veendam to €10 for a return ticket, and €15 for a day card (unlimited rides in all directions).
- 10 Stadskanaal Airfield (EHST), Aviaweg, Vledderveen, ☏ . Ultralight aviation airfield with a grass runway.
- 1 Pekelahof, Raadhuislaan 109, Oude Pekela (along the N367 trunk road Veendam-Winschoten), ☏ . Tu-Su 11:00-21:00. Wide selection of meat, fish, and vegetarian dishes. Main courses about €15-20.
- 2 Adriatic (Adriatic International Veendam), Molenstreek 3, Veendam, ☏ . M W-Su from 17:00. Near Veendam railway station and along a canal. Mediterranean food, mainly from the Balkans. Various price levels, e.g. main courses from €10 to €50.
- 3 Pizzeria Ristorante Vittoria, Europaplein 1, Stadskanaal, ☏ . Tu-Su 16:00-22:00. Italian restaurant with pastas, pizzas, and a wide range of Italian meat and fish dishes. Pizzas €6-16, Meat/fish main courses about €20.
- 1 FOX Nightlife (FOX Stadskanaal), Hoofdstraat 94, Stadskanaal, ☏ . F Sa 22:00-05:00. Night club, several times chosen as 'discotheque of the year' of the Netherlands.
- 2 Club Jinx (Uitgaanscentrum Jinx), Prins Hendrikplein 5C, Veendam, ☏ . Sa 22:30-04:00. Night club.
- 1 Hotel Parkzicht, Museumplein 3, Veendam, ☏ . In the town centre of Veendam, next to the Veenkoloniaal Museum and the tourist information office. Double rooms from €93.50 per night.
- 2 Best Western Hotel Stadskanaal, Raadhuisplein 30, Stadskanaal, ☏ . In the town centre of Stadskanaal. Double rooms from €79 per night.
- Groningen — the provincial capital, and economic and cultural centre of the Northern Netherlands.
- Oldambt — region in the east of the province, known for its yellow rapeseed fields, 'windmill city' Winschoten, and spa town Bad Nieuweschans.
- Bourtange — star-shaped fort village, just east of the Veenkoloniën
|Routes through Veenkoloniën|
|Assen ← Aa en Hunze ←||S N||→ Midden-Groningen → Appingedam|