The 18 most magnificent lakes in the Netherlands (near Amsterdam and beyond)

Which takes (or lakes) your fancy? 🌊

Here’s our guide to the best lakes in the Netherlands! Whatever lake-loving adventure you’re after, we’re here to give you all the juicy details to make it happen.

Fancy a freshwater swim or maybe a relaxing barbecue on the beach? Perhaps a sunset sail or a bit of leisurely island hopping?

Hundreds of lakes are splashed across the shallow landscape in this fascinatingly soggy little country, covering 2500 square kilometres. It’s no surprise that the country that was once underwater is still covered in it.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #124: Not care about the fact that they’re living below sea level

But let’s get right to the good stuff. Below you’ll find our 18 favourite lakes in the Netherlands, and the reasons we love them.

With fantastic beaches, fishing, and water sports, as well as kid-friendly play areas and adults-only cruising, there’s something for everyone — and we’ll show you just where to find it. 

⛔️ Safety first!

The best lakes in and around Amsterdam

In Amsterdam, a hot day can sometimes feel torturous — it’s a crowded urban heat island where air conditioning is scarce.

In a heatwave, the rain and wind that pummel us the rest of the year mysteriously disappear. We’re left just as damp, only in more awkward places.

But suffer no more! The city can also be a paradise when you know where to go to cool off. And fortunately, there are plenty of gorgeous lakes nearby and a beach to meet your every desire.

1. Nieuwe Meer

This popular lake among locals sits just alongside the Amsterdamse Bos. There’s a long beach with two official swimming areas.

Nieuwe Meer in the Netherlands at sunset is the place to be. Image: Brin Andrews/Supplied

Around here, you can find private coves, a nudist beach, and Amsterdam’s only officially condoned gay cruising area (where men go to meet). It’s an excellent lake for recreational fishing, full of perch, pike, whitefish, and everyone’s favourite: eels.

If you fancy a bit more adventure, you can always pop over to the Bos, where you can wander through the massive forest and even visit a goat farm, or see the Highland cattle. Canoes, kayaks, and bicycles are available for hire at several locations. 

📍 Where to find it: Nieuwe Meer, southwestern Amsterdam
🧭  How to get there: There are several routes from Amsterdam Centraal by bus, tram, or metro.

2. Sloterplas

This Amsterdam city lake has undergone renovations in recent years and is now in top shape for a leisurely day at the water’s edge. The Rondje Sloterplas is a smooth 5.8-kilometre path for pedestrians and cyclists — perfect for a jog before your dip.

sloterplas lake in amsterdam with sail boat on the water and buildings in the back and a water fountain
Sloterplas Lake is perfect for an afternoon cool-off on a hot Amsterdam afternoon. Image: Mark Ahsmann/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

There’s a recreational beach on the northwest bank where you can head for volleyball, picnics, and lounging, and just over in Sloterpark is also a disc golf course and a petting zoo.

READ MORE | Best beaches in the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to Dutch beaches

On the southeast side is a launchpad for water sports, popular for canoeing, fishing, and sailing. Sloterplas also features a unique treat for the diving community the oldest underwater house in the Netherlands, the ‘Cockelbockel’.

📍 Where to find it: Sloterplas, Amsterdam West
🧭  How to get there: Cycle or take one of several different tram options.

3. Gaasperplas

Gaasperplas is a diverse recreational area, with sprawling lawns and beaches. It even has a nature reserve where you can spot a variety of wildflowers and medicinal plants.

Peaceful orange sunset over lake in the netherlands with swimming ducks.
Nobody has left but the ducks during sunset at Gaasperplas. Image: Oda de Wit/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Bring the kids and head to the sandy recreational beaches on the southern side of the lake: they’ll go wild for the water playground!

Or, venture to the northern end for a different kind of adventure at the nudist beach, which is conveniently grassy. You can sail, surf, or swim your way into the sunset.

READ MORE | Surfing in the Netherlands: where to go and what to know in 2024

And finally, in case you don’t get your fill of nature in the daytime, there’s even a campground where you can pitch a tent.

The cherry on top: metro access! 🤩

📍 Where to find it: Gaasperplas, southeast Amsterdam
🧭  How to get there: Take Metro 53 to Gaasperplas.

4. Ouderkerkerplas

Swimming, diving, sailing, and surfing are just a few of the ways you can spend the day at the Ouderkerkerplas.

Take a dip (and don’t be afraid to get your hair wet!) at the Ouderkerkerplas lake near Amsterdam. Image: Janericloebe/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

A beach with favourably shallow water for swimming is located on the north side of the lake (do check for algal blooms before swimming, particularly on hot days).

At the beach, you’ll find play facilities and a snack cart in the summer months. You can even saddle up for an afternoon of horseback riding, trotting along the 30 or so kilometres of bridleways around the circumference. 

READ MORE5 urban beaches in Amsterdam that give you that holiday feeling

A small nature reserve was created along the lake’s banks, serving as an important wintering place for many birds. For this reason, the lake is closed for nesting from October 15 to April 15 each year.

📍 Where to find it: Ouderkerkplas, southeast of Ouderkerk on the Amstel
🧭  How to get there: Take the metro to Bijlmer Arena, then bus to Ouderkerk.

Lovely lakes just beyond Amsterdam

If you’re willing to venture a bit further from the city, you’ll be rewarded with many more wonderful lakes where you can have fun and relax to your heart’s content.

READ MORE | A guide to the rest of the Netherlands

The next seven lakes are all reachable from Amsterdam in under two hours by public transport, or just a quick zip away by car. And in true Dutch fashion, a few are still within cycling distance. 

5. Loosdrechtese Plassen

Loosdrechtese Plassen is conveniently located between Amsterdam and Utrecht. Come here for boating, canoeing, diving, bicycle boating, or any family-friendly water activity you can dream up.

Five sailboats in "V" formation on lake in the netherlands
This sailboat posse is keeping it cool on the Loosdrechtse Plassen. Image: quatre mains/Wikimedia Commons/CC2.0

You’ll be surrounded by green with plenty of nature to behold — shady trees, water lilies, reeds, and many bird species call Loosdrechtese Plassen home.

In the recreation area of De Strook, you’ll find a wide, sandy beach with picnic benches, barbeques, a volleyball court, pavilion, and toilets.

If you prefer to do your relaxing on a terrace, there are several in the area to choose from, with views overlooking the water.

📍 Where to find it: Loosdrechtse Plassen, southwest of Hilversum
🧭  How to get there: Take the train to Hilversum, then the bus to Oud-Lousdrecht (a little over an hour).

6. Strijkviertelplas

Located in Utrecht, Strijkviertelplas has a recreational beach with abundant space for sunbathing and a gently sloping beach perfect for swimming.

Photo of picturesque lake in the Netherlands with reflection and grass and trees
Discover the beautiful Strijkviertelplas Lake, with plenty of places to sunbathe. Image: Freepik

In an easily accessible location, the lake sits next to sports fields and an industrial area, yet still maintains a peaceful atmosphere. It’s popular for picnics, surfing, and fishing.

Get your daily steps in with a leisurely jaunt along the cycling and pedestrian path that weaves around the lake. With the conveniences of toilets and a snack cart, you can comfortably spend a day here.

📍 Where to find it: Strijkviertelplas, southeast Utrecht
🧭  How to get there: Cycle or take the train from Utrecht Centraal in about 20 minutes.

7. Westeinderplassen

This big beauty is actually one large and several smaller connected lakes combined. With over 50 marinas and plenty of boat rental companies and restaurants, you’ll find all the resources you need for a full day of fun in the sun!

Deep blue lake and sky at a small Dutch harbour.
Visit the charming harbour at Westeinderplassen, close to Amsterdam. Image: Miss of Me/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Be your own captain and hire a boat — you can meander through the narrow channels and tiny islands (mostly privately owned). A little hungry? Relax with a picnic or barbecue, or pop into one of the area’s many cafes or terraces. 

Prefer more physical activities? On a warm day, locals love to swim, surf, and paddle in the clear blue waters. The other 350 days of the year, you might want to opt for a stroll or cycle along the Roendje Poel, a 23-kilometre trail that winds around the polder landscape. 😉

📍 Where to find it: Westeinderplassen, Aalsmeer
🧭  How to get there: A short cycle or walk from Aalsmeer.

8. Veluwemeer

Veluwemeer is about an hour’s drive southeast of Amsterdam. It’s a large lake (30 square kilometres), great for leisure boating and other water sports.

A windsurfer sails on a lake in the Netherlands with wind turbines in the background.
Veluwemeer is a prime spot for windsurfing. Image: Pediant/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Long and narrow, with wide vistas, a sandy beach, and shallow swimming, it’s an idyllic place to lounge or play the day away. You can hire a boat and cruise around to the many tiny islands that speckle the lake — perfect for a picnic!

If you’d like to settle in for the night, there are a number of campsites around the lake where you can set up your tent.

READ MORE | A guide to 11 beautiful national parks in the Netherlands

There’s a small nudist recreation section on the north end of one of the beaches, Ellerstrand. A snack truck parks nearby when the weather is nice, and you’ll be expected to cover up your personal bits before visiting the counter.

📍 Where to find it: Veluwemeer, Flevoland/Gelderland
🧭  How to get there: Drive an hour from Amsterdam or take a train for about an hour and a half.

9. IJsselmeer

IJsselmeer is massive. It’s the Netherlands’ largest lake (1100 square kilometres), linked to the Wadden Sea, though made up almost completely of freshwater.

A small hut sits in the grass in front of the large IJsselmeer. Sailboats in the distance.
Join in the fun with these sailboats at play on the IJsselmeer. Image: Gouwenaar/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Enkhuizen is the closest beach to Amsterdam, though there are many other popular beaches on the east side of the lake as well. These sandy beaches lead gently into shallow water, making it a wonderful place for swimming.

Perfect for leisure boating (how the Dutch refer to motorboating) or any other water sport you can dream up, you’ll have all the open water you need and more.

Fun fact: the IJsselmeer is the parent lake to Gooimeer and Markermeer, which were formed from it after the creation of the Flevoland polder. 💡

📍 Where to find it: IJsselmeer, central Netherlands
🧭  How to get there: The nearest beach is about an hour by train from Amsterdam

10. Markermeer

Markermeer certainly takes after its parent lake, IJsselmeer, as the second-largest lake in the Netherlands. Another prime location for leisure boating and other water sports, you can test your skills in windsurfing, waterskiing, and sailing against the best of them.

A row of houses curves around the bank of a lake.
Catch this and other lovely views of the peaceful villages around the Markermeer lake. Image: Gouwenaar/Wikimedia Commons/CC1.0

Toss your anchor down on the Marker mudflats, the only island on the lake open to the public. From here, you can enjoy the scenery and explore this expansive beach and birder’s paradise on foot, visit the small port, a watchtower, and visitor’s centre.

You’ll find historic and picturesque harbours, with plenty of places to stop and wet your whistle. On the eastern side of the lake, you can check out the lighthouse, Het Paard van Marken, which has been a national monument since 1960. 

📍 Where to find it: Markermeer, northeast of Amsterdam
🧭  How to get there: Cycle, bus, or drive from Amsterdam, all in 40 minutes or less!

11. Gooimeer

Last up in this aqueous little family is Gooimeer. It’s the smallest of the trio (30 square kilometres) but nothing to scoff at. A lovely lake for fishing, sailing, and paddleboarding, there’s plenty to keep you and your family or friends entertained.

A hot day is no match for Gooimeer. Image: Maarten Sepp/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

The shallow water is optimal for swimming, particularly with small children. You won’t want to miss a stop at one of the few gezellig terraces offering sweeping views of the beach and water.

For a bit of history, Gooimeer was the site of the crash of El Al Flight 1862 in 1992, where two jet engines separated and fell into the lake before the plane crashed into a nearby apartment complex.

READ MORE | 7 scenic bike paths in the Netherlands

While diving is common in Gooimeer, you won’t find the wreckage, as it has since been removed.

📍 Where to find it: Gooimeer, southeast of Amsterdam
🧭  How to get there: An hour and a half by train or a half-hour drive from Amsterdam.

12. Kagerplassen

Situated just northeast of Leiden, the Kagerplassen (plural) are a favourite among university students and water sports enthusiasts.

A crowd of people enjoy the grassy beach with boats in the background.
A warm day brings everyone out to play at Kagerplassen. Image: Vincent van Zeijst/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

This unique network of canals, islands, and polders is located in the area with the most windmills in the Netherlands. These, paired with the picturesque old buildings, farmland, and vast skies, form a charming backdrop reminiscent of times past. 

It’s a prime destination for paddleboarding, water skiing, and boating or just lounging the day away. If you feel like picking up a new hobby, there are sailing and windsurfing schools to guide you.

Head to the easily accessible recreational beach, Koudehoorn, on the island ‘t Joppe, for swimming and beach play. Refresh at the pavilion with drinks and bites.

📍 Where to find it: Kagerplassen, Leiden
🧭  How to get there: Cycle or bus from central Leiden in about 20 minutes.

Best Dutch lakes beyond Amsterdam

It’s easy for us city dwellers to forget, but Amsterdam is, in fact, not the centre of the universe. But since we’re using it as a reference point, these next several lakes are a bit more distant.

READ MORE | 21 beautiful towns in the Netherlands that aren’t Amsterdam

Fortunately, though, nothing is really so far away in this little country! Of course, if you happen to live in or around South Holland, Friesland, Drenthe, Gelderland, Flevoland, or Noord Brabant, you’ll be lucky enough to find one of these in your own neck of the woods.

13. Kralingse Plas

A Rotterdam favourite, this popular recreational area is centrally located and offers fun for the whole family. A large playground, children’s farm, and water slide are just a few of the highlights for the little ones.

A windmill and large house sit behind the lake.
You can visit the historic spice mills at Kralingse Plas. Image: Michiel1972/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

If it’s a dry land adventure you’re after, lace up your rollerblades for a tour around the five kilometres of cycling and running paths. You can even go horseback riding or visit the climbing forest with zip lines.

READ MORE6 lakes and beaches in Rotterdam that you must explore this summer

On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, two historic windmills, De Ster and De Lelie (the only active spice mills in the Netherlands), are open to the public. You’ll also find plenty of restaurant terraces and breathtaking views of the city skyline.

📍 Where to find it: Kralingse Plas, eastern Rotterdam
🧭  How to get there: A short drive or 25 minutes by tram from Rotterdam Centraal.

14. Zevenhuizerplas 

A popular South Holland recreational area, just on the edge of Rotterdam, Zevenhuizerplas is the place to go for water sports and nature. It’s a particularly hot spot for diving, with several dive sites and a variety of fish and peat formations to feast your goggled eyes upon.

Map sign on the sandy beach of Zevenhuizerplas
This beach has plenty of sandy space to sunbathe right near the city of Rotterdam. Image: Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單)/Wikimedia Commons/CC4.0

Back on land, you’ll find a diverse population of water birds and plants, tall trees and lovely walking paths. Take your pick from sandy beaches or grassy banks, and bake in the sun or settle into the shade of the tall trees.

A designated swimming area is cordoned off, separating it from boats and other hazards, and a lifeguard is present in the high season. A nude beach is designated in a small signposted area.

📍 Where to find it: Zevenhuizerplas, northeast of Rotterdam
🧭  How to get there: From Rotterdam Centraal, a 40-minute train ride or a 20-minute drive.

15. Henschotermeer

Henschotermeer is a unique area for nature lovers, tucked away in the woods with towering pines, a white sandy beach, and crystal clear water. It’s the perfect destination for a day of recreation.

View from above as the evening sun shines on a bright blue doughnut-shaped lake, Henschotermeer.
It doesn’t get much prettier than this view of Henschotermeer from above. Beautiful drone shot by @rbouwman74. Image: Remco Bouwman/Supplied

Hike, lounge, float, or paddle, the vast, shallow lake offers plenty of space to spread out and enjoy a day away from the city. You can swim or walk across either of the two footbridges to explore the forested island.

Cool off with a freshly tapped beer or a scoop of artisanal Italian ice cream from one of the food stalls on site.

The lake is open to the public from 8:30 AM until sunset. An entrance fee applies of €3.25 to visitors over the age of three from April 1 – September 30.

📍 Where to find it: Henschotermeer, east of Utrecht
🧭  How to get there: An hour by train or a 25-minute drive from Utrecht. Paid parking is available.

16. Berkendonk

Beloved by locals, Berkendonk is located just outside Eindhoven, on the east side of Helmond. It will meet all your aquatic recreational needs: sunbathing, swimming, sailing, windsurfing, paddleboarding, you name it.

Sunset reflecting on the water of berkendonk lake in the netherlands
Go windsurfing or paddleboarding on the gorgeous water of Berkendonk Lake. Image: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

A windsurfing school and rental shop are located right alongside the water.

The lake is divided into two sections for visitors: the water sports recreation area and the general area, where you’ll find a nudist beach on the north end. The beach gets crowded on warm days, so get there early to choose your favourite spot on the grassy lawn or sandy beach.

READ MORE | The 8 greatest forests in the Netherlands for a nature escape

In case you don’t feel like packing a lunch, a snack bar is available on-site, as are toilet and shower facilities. Occasionally, the lake is closed due to blue-green algae, so be sure to check ahead.

📍 Where to find it: Berkendonk, Helmond
🧭  How to get there: From Helmond, cycle 20 minutes or drive for 10.

17. ‘T Nije Hemerlijk

The name says it all, translating to ‘The New Heavenly Kingdom.’ Reminiscent of a tropical paradise, white sands contrast with blue-green water, surrounded by lush greenery.

Bird's eye view of lake in the Netherlands with bright aqua water, trees, and shoreline.
What a contrast of colours at the New Heavenly Kingdom! Incredible shot by @marionstoffels. Image: Marion Stoffels/Supplied

The water is shallow and the northside beach is perfect for a sunbath. Rent a canoe or paddleboard and glide effortlessly over the clear waters.

You’ll find play equipment, toilets, a kiosk, and a restaurant, and close by is DX Adventure Park, where you can fly down mega water slides. A 29-kilometre ‘mountain’ bike route is also accessible from here — these nature trails have true hills with beautiful views.

📍 Where to find it: ‘T Nije Hemerlriek, Gasselte
🧭  How to get there: From Gasselte (south of Groningen), cycle for 10 minutes or take a 25-minute bus ride. Parking is very limited and driving is discouraged.

18. Tjeukemeer

This big blue darling is the largest inland lake in the Netherlands (22 km2), offering ample space for boating, fishing, and other water sports.

Sunset over Tjeukemeer lake in the Netherlads with hay growing
Hay dances in the sunset on a peaceful evening at Tjeukemeer. Image: bps72/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Sailing is one of the more popular recreational activities at Tjeukemeer, with wide-open waters and lovely views of the uniquely Frisian surroundings.

The area is a paradise for people and birds alike, with vast meadow landscapes, rare flora and fauna, and many species of water and meadow birds.

Along the shores, you’ll find abundant beaches, marinas, campsites, and hotels. After a tranquil day on the lake, the lively old fishing village of Lemmer makes a lovely stop for a drink or bite to eat.

📍 Where to find it: Tjeukemeer, North Friesland
🧭  How to get there: A quick drive or cycle from Lemmer.

There you have it. Our top 18 Dutch lakes, from urban oasis to woodsy retreat, boater’s paradise to swimmer’s delight. Hopefully, you found something you can dip your toes into.

If you’re still hungry for more Netherlands adventures, there are plenty of other amazing beaches, surf spots, wild swimming areas to dive into, and lots of nature for camping and exploration.

And of course, make use of our guide to public transport to help you get wherever it is you want to go!

There are many more wonderful lakes in the Netherlands — did your favourite make the list? We’re always on the lookout for the best so comment below to let us know!

Brin Andrews
Brin Andrews
Brin is an avid ice cream eater from the US, calling Amsterdam home since early 2019. As a lover of mountains, life below sea level has been a bit of an adjustment, but she manages to stay afloat with long runs, wine, and frequent travel. Incidentally, these are a few of her favourite topics to write about.

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What do you think?

  1. You left out the Amstelveense Poel in lakes around Amsterdam. With the Urbanuskerk in the background, surely as beautifull as the as the others.


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