Fancy a freshwater swim, or maybe a relaxing barbecue on the beach? Perhaps a sunset sail or a bit of leisurely island hopping? Whatever lake-loving adventure you’re after, we’re here to give you all the juicy details to make it happen. Here’s our guide to the best lakes in the Netherlands, and (spoiler alert) many are in or around Amsterdam!
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. The human influence that miraculously shaped cities out of swampland is also responsible for forming the lovely lakes we enjoy today (thank you, dams, dikes, and Dutch engineering!).
But we know you’re not here for a lesson on landscape development, so we’ll 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, kid-friendly play areas, and adults-only cruising, there’s a bit of something for everyone — and we’ll show you just where to find it.
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.
This popular lake among locals sits just alongside the Amsterdamse Bos. There’s a long beach with two official swimming areas. Around here you can find private coves, a nudist beach, and a 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.
This Amsterdam city lake has undergone renovations in the past years and is 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. There’s a recreational beach located on the northwest bank where you can head for volleyball, picnics, and lounging, and just over in Sloterpark is a disc golf course and a petting zoo.
On the southeast side is a launchpad for water sports, popular for canoeing, fishing, and sailing. The oldest underwater house in the Netherlands, the ‘Cockelbockel,’ is located here — a unique treat for the diving community.
|📍 Where to find it: Sloterplas, Amsterdam West|
🧭 How to get there: Cycle, or take one of several different tram options.
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. 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 and, in case you don’t get your fill in the day’s time, 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.
Swimming, diving, sailing, and surfing are just a few of the ways you can spend the day at the Ouderkerkerplas. 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.
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 recreate to your heart’s content. The next seven lakes are all reachable 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.
READ MORE | A guide to the rest of the Netherlands
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. 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 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).
Located in Utrecht, Strijkviertelplas has a recreational beach with abundant space for sunbathing and a gently sloping beach perfect for swimming. 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.
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! Be your own captain and hire a boat — you can meander through the narrow channels and tiny islands (mostly privately owned). 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.
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. 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.
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.
IJsselmeer is massive. It’s the Netherlands’ largest lake (1100 square kilometres), linked to the Wadden Sea, though made up almost completely of freshwater. 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
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.
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!
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 paddle boarding, there’s plenty to keep you and your family or friends entertained.
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. 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.
Situated just northeast of Leiden, the Kagerplassen (plural) are a favourite among university students and water sports enthusiasts. 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. 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.
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. 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.
On Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, 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.
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.
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.
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. 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 €2.95 to visitors over age 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.
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. 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.
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.
‘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. 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 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.
This big blue darling is the largest inland lake in the Netherlands (22 km2), offering ample space for boating, fishing, and other water sports. 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 toe into. If you’re still hungry for more Netherlands adventures, there are plenty of other amazing beaches, surf spots, and wild swimming areas to dive into, and lots of nature for camping and exploration. See our guide to public transport to help you get wherever it is you want to go!
|Covid-19 note: accessibility and facilities may vary due to coronavirus restrictions. Check your destination in advance.|
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!
Feature Image: Remco Bouwman/Instagram
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2020, and was fully updated in June 2021 for your reading pleasure.