Europe > Benelux > Netherlands > Southern Netherlands > Zeeland > Westkapelle (Netherlands)
Westkapelle is a coastal town on the far west end of the Walcheren peninsula, a former island on the North Sea coast of the Western Netherlands. It's a small town with a tumultuous but proud past and for long, this was a rather closed community. Today, Westkapelle has embraced tourism and visitors flock to its still relatively quiet beaches and cosy establishments.
Historians believe this was once a thriving fishermen's town and known place of commerce. It suffered from repeated viking raids and the location on the edge of Walcheren (then still an island) made it vulnerable to the force of the sea. Over the centuries the town was repeatedly struck by floods. By the end of the 14th century, the sea had claimed ever larger parts of the dunes and outer parts of town were swallowed by the water. It was only through the following construction of the large sea dike that the rest of the town could be secured. Still today, this dike is one of the sturdiest ones, strengthened from both sides since no other part of the Dutch dikes suffers more attacks from the water than the Westkapelle dike does. In the centuries that followed, however, the commerce disappeared and the once lively city became a poor village of dike workers. A rather closed community emerged, with strong cultural traditions of which, to some degree, glimpses can still be found during celebrations today.
While times improved in the early 20th century, the town was largely destroyed by a British bombing in WWII. German troops had set up several strongholds on Walcheren. Although the allied forces had freed Antwerp and Zeelandic Flanders, the German positions made it impossible for them to use the strategically important water way to Antwerp, which became vital to bring in Allied troops and machinery for the Battle of the Bulge. In order to weaken the German position, Walcheren was flooded by bombing the dikes. In these bombings, the Westkapelle community suffered 158 casualties and the town was ruined. The Kreek, a salty lake next to the village, remained after the hole in the dike was finally closed over a year later.
Today, tourism is an important aspect of life in the area. Westkapelle has some 2705 permanent inhabitants and is an administrative part of the Veere municipality.
- VVV I-Point Westkapelle, Polderhuis, Zuidstraat 154-156, NL-4361 AK Westkapelle, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Though it isn't a full Tourist Office, the I-Point is an electronic info point, which will supply you with what you wish to know. If that is insufficient, then the VVV Zeeland can be contacted.
Via the N288, Westkapelle is about a 25 minute drive from Vlissingen, where it connects to the E312 highway. The local Prelaatweg and Walcherse weg is the quickest route in from Middelburg (20 minutes), while the 288 heads north of Westkapelle towards Domburg and Oostkapelle.
By public transport
There's no train service to Westkapelle, but buses connect this (and other towns on the peninsula) to the train stations of Middelburg and Vlissingen. Buses to and from Westkapelle run every hour, but the last ones leave around 20.00h and on Sundays the service is limited to every two hours.
- Bus line 53: Middelburg - Koudekerke - Biggekerke - Meliskerke - Zoutelande - Westkapelle - Domburg.
- Bus line 864, known as the Summer Express, runs only in the summer holidays, between Middelburg and Vlissingen, with stops at the main beaches (including Westkapelle) and some other places of interest to visitors. Stops include Domburg, Veere and Oostkapelle. You can use an OV-chipkaart, buy a day ticket for €3.50 or a family day ticket (allowing two adults and three kids) for €14.30.
Hiking or biking
If you're looking to cycle here, you are in luck. Both the long distance EV12 North Sea Cycle Route and Euroroute-R1 pass through here. They connect Westkapelle with the Hook of Holland and The Hague to the north, and with Vlissingen to the south-west. Even if you're coming from another direction, the cycle-friendly Dutch roads will pose no challenges. For serious hikers, the E9 European long distance path passes through too.
The town itself is small and easy to explore on foot. From the village centre, it's a 15 minute walk to the pavilions on the south beach, and all the other sights are within the same kind of distance. A bicycle makes the distances even shorter, and also makes it easy to explore the rest of the Walcheren peninsula and nearby towns. Out of the town centre, there are plenty of dedicated cycling paths. If you didn't bring your own, it's possible to rent a normal or electrically supported bike. While elevation is limited, keep in mind that on a windy day, the sea winds can make cycling slightly challenging.
- 1 Fietsverhuur Westkapelle, Zuidstraat 125, ☏ . Daily from 9.00-12.00 and 13.00-18.00, closes at 16.00 on Saturdays. If you're looking to rent for more several days, it's possible to make a reservation. Especially in high season, it's a good idea to call ahead. From €6 per day, or €16.50 for an electric bike.
- 1 Westkapelle Hoog (Light Tower), Kerkstraat 1. Closed in winter (Oct-Ma). The rest of the year open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 18.00-20.00, Wednesdays from 13.00-16.00, Saturdays from 10.00-13.00.. Westkapelle has two light towers. The highest one, Westkapelle Hoog, is the most prominent landmark and its bright (2.600.000 cd) light can be seen from a distance of 28 nautic miles. Remarkably, it doesn't sit on the sea side of town, but on the land side, protecting it from damage in the historically frequent floods. The approximately 50 meter high brick tower was constructed in 1470 as a church tower. After the church was destroyed during the Eighty Years War, the light was placed in 1817. The light tower is still active today, showing a light flash every 3 seconds and guiding ships through the ship canal. Together with Westkapelle's second light tower, the so-called Noorderhoofd, it forms a white line of light in north west direction and, with a smaller light beacon in nearby Zoutelande, a red line towards the south-east. Visitors can climb the 207 stairs to the top of the brick part of the tower, from where you get excellent views over the surrounding area.
- 2 Westkapelle Laag (Noorderhoofd, Light house). The smaller light house of the two sits on the north side of town. It's an iron, 11.5 meter high structure and -contrary to its larger counterpart- sits along the sea dike on the beach. It was designed in 1875 by Quirinus Harder, who designed many light houses in the Netherlands, and it has been painted in typical red and white colours. The main, 6000 cd strong light is seen every 10 seconds, but the structure has additional green and red lighting too. It's not possible to climb it, but it makes a perfect destination for an evening stroll.
- 3 De Noorman (Windmill), Molenwal 25. This 1852 windmill is open to visitors on Saturdays from 10.00 to 16.00. There were once three windmills in town, but the other two were destroyed in the 1944 bombing. At a height of 23 meters, De Noordman is the second highest building in Westkapelle, after the light house, and is a determining part of the town's skyline.
- 4 Het Polderhuis, Zuidstraat 154-156. The local history museum covers the town's past through archeologic finds, historic photography, films, costumes, model interiors and more. There's obviously a lot of information about the WWII time here, and the flooding of Walcheren. A special bridge connects the museum garden to the military tank on the dike. On the bridge are the names of those who died here in the war and of those who have helped to make the memorial bridge possiblem. From the museum's watch tower you'll have some nice views over the town, the dike and the beach. There's also a small café and a museum shop, selling books and souvenirs. € 5.50 for adults, €1 for children.
- 5 Sherman tank. This militairy tank overlooks the beach and is a reminder of the huge impact WWII had on this village. There's some information available. The tank is connected to the museum garden with a memorial bridge, but is freely admissible.
- Enjoy the beach - The blue flag on Westkapelle indicates the clean quality of its sea water, and its narrow but sandy beaches are the main reason for many people to come here. Like on most beaches, swimming, sunbathing and building sand castles are the main activities, although strolling along the beach and having a drink in a pavilion is an excellent alternative, especially when the unreliable Dutch summer makes swimming a chilly affair.
- Note that the main "bathing season" runs from May 1st to September 15th. During these months and hours, extra regulations apply. Dogs must be on a leash, horses, surfing, double-line kiting and approaching the beach with a motorized boat is not allowed, while they are allowed outside these hours. Open fire, nude (sun)bathing and camping are prohibited at all times.
- Water sports varying from kite-surfing to swimming to sailing can be practised on the North Sea or on lakes such as the Veerse Meer, in between Westkapelle and the island of Noord-Beveland.
- Several cycling routes cross through the municipality of Veere, amongst which are the Middelburg and Vlissingen cycle routes.
There's no large shopping area, but the town centre has a few shops to meet daily needs of tourists and visitors alike. You'll also find basic things a tourist might search for, including greeting cards, some souvenirs and beach supplies.
- 2 Spar supermarkt Minderhoud, Koestraat 14, ☏ . Mo-Fr 8.00-20.00, Sa 8.00-18.00, Su 8.00-12.30.
- VOF Melis, Zuidstraat 59, ☏ . This family-run store sells a rather wide range of things, including drug store articles, gifts, beach supplies and toys. It also sells fishing gear.
In summer, usually in July and August, a seasonal market is set up every Friday afternoon from 14.00 - 19.00h on the market square and adjoining streets. In addition to the usual foods and non-foods you'll find at a weekly market, there are sellers with local produce, souvenirs and other tourist oriented goods.
There are plenty of establishments, both on the sea dike and the beach and in town. They serve a range of dishes and are also fine for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake. Keep in mind that in winter the beach pavilions close and many of the other establishments have limited hours too.
In the village
- 1 De Zeezot, Zuidstraat 101, ☏ . This place gets the best reviews in town. It serves a good selection of nicely plated seefood dishes, prepared with local catches. There are some meat and vegetarian options as well, however. Call ahead in high season, as this place gets sold out regularly.
- 2 De Fontein, Markt 73, ☏ .
- 3 Pannen & Koeken, Zuidstraat 99, ☏ . 11.00- 21.00, but from Dec-Feb they close on Mo-We. Despite the name, this place serves more than just a wide range of pannenkoeken, or pancakes. It's open for late breakfast, lunch and dinner and on its menu you'll find sandwiches, salads, pastas and a good selection of meat and fish dishes in the evening. €29.50 for a 3 course diner, pancakes €6-11.
On and around the dike
- 4 Melis Seafood, aan de dijk, ☏ .
- 5 Melis Frituur, Abraham Calandplein 4, ☏ . Summer: daily 11:30-19:00, in winter only open in weekends.
- 6 Dijkpaviljoen Westkaap (On the sea dike), ☏ . Mo-Su 10:30-22:00, open in winter.
On the south beach
The south beach is a 15 minute walk from the town centre, so even if you are not here for a day at the beach, it's a good option for a scenic dinner.
- 7 Scheldezicht, Zuiderstrand Joosesweg, ☏ . This place can get very crowded on weekends, so arrive early.
- 1 Fletcher Zuiderduin Beachhotel, De Bucksweg 2, ☏ . Check-in: 3:00PM, check-out: 12:00PM. Close to the beach with modern facilities, a cocktail bar and a swimming pool, this mid-sized hotel is one of the most popular options and is usually sold out in high season. Reserve well in advance. from €79 for a double.
- 2 Hotel de Valk, Zuidstraat 97, ☏ . Clean, classically decorated hotel on the market square. Breakfast is included in the price and is also available for visitors who are not staying here. Early booking is advised, but only part of the rooms are sold through large online booking sites, so even when those state that the hotel has no available room, check the hotel's own website. From €95 for a double in high season.
- 3 Vakantieappartementen Zuiderstrand (Vikingpark en Duinpark), Duinweg 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Flats for 2, 4 of 6 personen, tennis court , swimming pool,
The Walcheren area is especially popular with domestic, German and Belgian visitors. Many of them, including lots of families, come here for camping holidays. As in all tourist oriented areas of the Netherlands, well-maintained camp sites are readily available in and around town. Some of them also offer ready tents or holiday houses for rent, if you didn't bring your equipment.
- 4 Camping Zuiderduin, Joossesweg 9, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Has a shop with fishing gear on the premises.
- 5 Camping t´Hoekje, Joosesweg 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. A mid-sized camp site and very close to the beach. It has well-maintained facilities, bike rental and a small supermarket. € 23.50 per night for caravan or tent, incl. max 3 people.
- 6 Camping t´hoge Licht, Hogelichtweg 4, ☏ . 10 min walk to the beach
- 7 Caravancamping, Joossesweg, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 8 Camping Kreekebos, Joosesweg 3, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com.
- 9 [formerly dead link] Minicamping Manege de Zandbooi, Oude Zandweg 29 en 31, ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 
- 10 Minicamping Vuurtoren, Prelaatweg 1, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- 11 Minicamping de Ark, Prelaatweg 11, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of the hotels and camp sites offer WiFi, although quality varies and some only have it in a central area. Mobile coverage is good.
Post cards and stamps are available from several shops around town, but there's also a postal service point in the Spar supermarket.
There are quite a few worthwhile destinations in the area, and especially those on the Walcheren peninsula are easy enough to reach for a day trip, even by bike. Plenty of school kids cycle to Vlissingen or Middelburg every day, so nothing should stop you from doing the same, although catching a bus is just as easy.
Slightly further, off the peninsula is Zierikzee, another typical Dutch coastal town. If you have your own car, Sluis is a comparable option, but the major Belgian city of Antwerp and the Dutch city of Breda are, at about an 80 minute drive, just as far. Rotterdam is the nearest large city in the Netherlands, and is a 90 minute drive.