As it’s holiday booking season I thought I’d finally share our summer holidays from 2019…. at the start of 2019 we knew we’d take 2 weeks off during the school holidays in August and that we’d try and go on holiday, depending on cost….
Booking the holiday to Duinrell
The OH was happy to drive us somewhere like France to stay in a holiday parks in but he didn’t want to do any driving while we were there, so we struggled to find a camp where there was plenty on the doorstep to walk to. So then we stumbled on Duinrell, not only a holiday park but a holiday park with a theme park! Over dinner with the girls one night, a friend mentioned that she’d had a family holiday there and they absolutely loved it…. so we booked it!
As we’d been researching via sites like Eurocamp and Canvas, we ended up booking through Canvas holidays – costing about £1,600 for 12 nights – we only booked in May, 4 months before going. As you can imagine, it’s a lot cheaper outside of school holidays – probably £1,000 cheaper!
The journey there – ferry from Harwich to Hook of Holland – and drive to Duinrell
This was our first ferry trip and it was great! We stayed in the Premier Inn in Harwich the night before and then got the Stena line day sailing which I think took about 8 hours. It was during a storm so it was a little bit rough. The sailing cost about £170 each way, including one of the cheaper cabins – I’m glad we got the cabin as we all had a family nap, and it was a space to play games and hang out. Up on deck was good though – we had food in the restaurant and the kids enjoyed the play area and magic show.
I think it took about 45-60 mins to get to Duinrell from the ferry – all pretty straightforward with a sat nav, the roads are all really good but the layouts are a bit different to British roads. Straight away you get a sense of the Netherlands in terms of the houses, the windmills and the flower nurseries.
First impressions of Duinrell
When we arrived it was a bit confusing on where we were supposed to go. After driving in circles, it turns out we had to park up and then walk to check in (I guess we were expecting a Bluestone/Center Parcs style drive-through check-in). There was a bit of a wait at the Canvas check-in desk and after checking in and then going for a wander, we got a bit lost – it took us a while to get our bearings!
Two tips for checking:
- Bring a photocopy of a passport photo for each of you. They then give you a paper pass to get in and out of the park. If you have the photos ready, it saves a bit of time
- You have to pay a tourist tax when you check in, and it’s got to be paid in cash. I hadn’t realised this (it was on my booking but I hadn’t noticed!) so they kept one our passports until we paid up the next day
The Canvas accommodation at Duinrell
We were staying in a 3-bed Cosy Plus mobile home and it was lovely! It was as expected – pretty basic but modern, clean and plenty of room for all our clothes etc. We had outside decking and a nice big grassed area right outside which was great to play on. The best thing about our accommodation is that we were less than a 5 minute walk from the theme park!
Duinrell – the theme park and Tikibad swimming pool
Staying in Duinrell gives you free access to the theme park and we loved it – we went there every day! With boys aged 3 and 5 we basically did the little train rides every day but I did persuade W to go on a brilliant log flume, Splash, and one of the smaller rollercoasters with me – he cried on the first time around, and laughed his way around the second time!
There is so much to keep a young family entertained there – play areas, a walk up to a view point, a cycled-powered pedalo thing, big wheel, slides, trampolines, boating lake and a really funny part of the park where you press buttons and get soaked! There are also the park characters, Ricky the frog and co, who the boys loved spotting.
Within the theme park complex is a big indoor and outdoor swimming pool complex called Tikibad. Despite having been on family holidays to Center Parcs, Bluestone and Butlins’, this was by far the biggest complex we’d been to. Again – something for everyone, a wave machine, a couple of toddler areas, slides for children and adults and a nice, new outdoor area including a splash pad and sunbathing places. You have to pay for Tikibad, but if you book accomodation directly through Duinrell it’s included in your price. It was handy being able to walk from our chalet to the pool in our swimming gear etc. We really enjoyed the pool but it can get busy at times, especially when the weather was bad as it’s the easiest and best thing to do on a rainy day!
Eating out in Wassenaar
Despite this being a self-catering holiday, we ate dinner out every night! The town of Wassenaar is just a 10-15 minute walk from Duinrell and this was another holiday highlight. It’s a typically Dutch town in terms of architecture etc but it’s quite well-to-do with quite affluent people leaving there including a lot of American and British ex-pats. So it’s full of great restaurants and nice shops and boutiques.
We tended to spend the day at Duinrell (theme park/swimming pool) including a light lunch in the mobile home, then we’d head into Wassenaar for dinner. Our favourite restaurants (we went to these two times, each!) were:
- Chester’s which is one of the first ones you come across on the main street (they serve a bit of everything but we were very impressed with the kids meals here – as high quality as the adults!)
- Di Alfie’s – an Italian restaurant on the same street as Jumbo supermarket (which is also great for food shopping!) the food was great here but also they really spoiled the boys, even letting them into the kitchen to choose their ice-creams!
- Mue Li’s – a Chinese restaurant (also on the same street as Jumbo’s) – we can’t vouch for the main dishes but we had dim sum/small plates there and they were all to die for!
Other popular restaurants are Pop’s American diner, and a Turkish restaurant next to Chester’s but we didn’t try either. We did try the Greek restaurant which was really good, but the portions were a bit big and too rich for us.
After dinner every night we went to the legendary ice cream parlour, Luciano’s. Legendary because it seems like all the town’s residents and holidaymakers descend on it every evening! Great ice cream, made fresh on the premises – a wide range of flavours (our family favourite was banana), very good value (Something like an euro each!) and a plenty of seating indoors and outdoors – a lovely vibe!
Days out near Duinrell and Wassenaar
Well our holiday was pretty lazy in terms of spending most of our time in and around the theme park. There is so much to do as it’s ideally located half way between Amsterdam and The Hague, with Leiden also nearby. We only really had 2 days out:
- We got a bus directly from Duinrell to The Hague, and then a tram, to Schevingen beach… a big beach resort nearby with a pier, lots of beach restaurants, a sea life centre etc. I loved this place
- We hired bikes from Duinrell, just for a day, and cycled to Wassenaar beach with was just a few kms’s away (although some hills involved!) – as a family that doesn’t usually cycle, this was a great, fun experience for us! And we loved the beach when we got there – miles of golden sands and again really great beach restaurants serving very good food!
We absolutely loved our holiday and only 2 things let us down – both were unavoidable – the weather and wasps. I think Dutch weather is very similar to British weather – it’s very hit and miss. Unfortunately during the 2 weeks we were there we had nearly daily rain showers and a few blustery days. The temperature was ok though – T-shirt weather! We didn’t let any rain ruin our fun, but it would have been nice to have some slightly better weather!
Another thing you can’t control is wasps – I think as we went during late summer, this is when they’re at their worst – so we couldn’t eat outside much and W got stung by one at the beach. Knowing this, next time we would prepare with repellents – things like peppermint oil etc.
Our top tip
If you’re thinking of, our planning to, holiday at Duinrell – my number one tip would be to join the Facebook group called ‘Duinrell – chats and tips for holidaymakers’ it’s one of the most useful and friendliest Facebook groups I’ve joined, with plenty of regular customers on hand to share tips on everything from transport to food.
Summary – would we go back?
In a word – yes! We’re hoping to go back in summer 2020 as we loved it so much! For us, it was the perfect family holiday in terms of having a theme park on our doorstep on one side, a cycle ride to the beach on another and a town full of great food on the other – what more could a family want?! Also the locals were all super-friendly and welcoming.
We are just trying to work out our options – Canvas was great, but booking directly is also an option with slightly different accommodation types. We’re also considering spending a few nights somewhere else to extend the trip e.g. Beekse Bergen safari holiday park, Efteling theme park or a city break. Watch this space!
Leave a comment if you have any questions about Duinrell, or the area, that I might be able to help with.
Disclosure: I wasn’t asked to, or paid to, write about our holiday. We paid for the holiday ourselves and the park didn’t know we would be writing a review about our holiday.