I’ve been coming to the Maasvlakte all my life. On this Rotterdam beach, I feel at home and at peace. The car drive from the city is itself an experience, on the motorway, through all the grinding, steaming industry. Then you leave your car, climb over the dunes with the busy port behind you. And suddenly, you are on that quiet beach, with just the sound of the waves and the screeching seagulls. Nothing else…

For me, the Maasvlakte is certainly not just interesting in summer. I come here all year round for walks with the family and our dog (who is also welcome here in summer!). In the summer, I swim and stare out to see. Looking out for a seal suddenly popping its head out of the water or watching those comical sandpipers running away from the waves, as if they are constantly surprised by them.

Maasvlakte industrie haven strand 1 – Esther Dijkstra
On one side of the dunes, the harbor in motion, on the other, the silence of the sea. Image credit: Esther Dijkstra

Have the beach to yourself

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And when it gets too cold, I come here to hunt for fossils in the sand, and to collect dead birds for the Natural History Museum. I study them and prepare them for the collection. You find lots of birds here. They love coming to the Maasvlakte (the biggest seagull colony in Europe is here too!), but because of the industry and the roads that crisscross this area, they can get caught out. Along the side of the road and under windmills, you will find dozens of them.

As a child, I used to come with my grandparents who always went to the nudist beach. When I got a bit older, I didn’t want to go with them anymore, and went to Hoek van Holland or Rockanje which I could reach on public transport. That’s a bit harder here. You can get here from Rotterdam, but it’s quite an undertaking. Which may be why the beach here is a lot quieter: if you go a bit further to the right or left from the beach access points, you have the beach to yourself!

Dode meeuw windmolens Maasvlakte – Esther Dijkstra
Dead gulls are regularly found under the wind turbines. This victim could no longer be prepared for the collection of the Natural History Museum. Image credit: Esther Dijkstra

There are no cafes or restaurants here, just the two snack containers in car parks P1 and P3. But that’s fine, because what’s nicer than some chips when you’ve just been on the beach? Then going home in the dark through Europoort, with all its lights blazing, is like driving through a futuristic city.

Facts and figures

The Maasvlakte is a port extension area 40 km to the west of the centre of Rotterdam, built in the mid-1960s. There was an expansion in 2013, which is called the Tweede (Second) Maasvlakte. In this special port area, you can find a lot of wildlife living alongside industry. The industry is mainly to the north, while to the south there’s the beach and the Vogelvallei.

How do you get there?

You can get to the Maasvlakte from Rotterdam on public transport. However, it will take you at least 1.5 hours, with 2 or 3 changes from tram to bus to the Maasvlaktehopper. This bus doesn’t stop at the beach, and it’s a fifteen-minute walk from the Zwarte Zeeweg bus stop. There’s also a ferry from Hoek van Holland to Futureland, which also takes bikes. By car is much easier and faster, but it’s still forty-five minutes to drive from the centre of Rotterdam. There’s plenty of parking in P1 (red poles), P2 (yellow poles) or P3 (blue poles).

Attractions & activities:

Futureland – the information centre about the port of Rotterdam. For a tour of the port, you can take the Futureland Ferry.

KiteSpot Slufter – on the south side of the Maasvlakte, there’s a place for (kite) surfing.

Flora & fauna:

Despite being in an industrial area, you will see lots of animals here, like seagulls, spoonbills, the natterjack toad, seals, foxes and much more. You can birdwatch from the bird observation point on the Maasvlakteboulevard. And because the Maasvlakte beach consists of sand reclaimed from the North Sea, it is a popular area for fossil hunting (from the Pleistocene).

Information Maasvlakte:

For more information in Dutch or in English, check these websites.