A Family Day in Hellevoetsluis, Day Trip From Rotterdam
While I will never be able to pronounce the city name Hellevoetsluis, I give it my highest recommendation for a day-trip. It’s a town full of Dutch delights from a windmill to a historic fort – both accessible to the youngest of visitors. Beware, however, as German tourists have found Hellevoetsluis and you’ll be surrounded by them!
This post will give you a full day’s itinerary for the sights in Hellevoetsluis. You can reach this city by car in 40 minutes from Rotterdam or just under one hour from The Hague. Parking around the city is super easy and in most places, free. You can also reach Hellevoetsluis by public bus but that’ll take you an hour and a half from Rotterdam. It’s best to drive. In this post, I will tell you about the National Fire Museum, the dry dock Jan Blanken, Fort Haerlem and the windmill ‘De Hoop.’
They have a kids quiz that will earn your little a paper-folding fire engine upon completion. Ask for the quiz appropriate for your child’s age because they have several options.
Inside the museum, you’ll find the requisite fire engines from all periods of Dutch history. But more interestingly, you’ll find a fascinating collection of fire helmets, models and fire extinguishers.
Just inside the entrance, there is a kid’s area with an engine kids can climb on – a coloring table – and big trucks for kids to play with.
Budget about an hour for your visit to the National Fire Museum.
Next, walk four minutes north to the dry dock Jan Blanken. It’s an amazing sight to see with kids, helping them understand how you build, repair and paint ships. The site is over 200 years old so there’s plenty of history but also loads of engineering feats to marvel at. Hours vary so see their website for particulars. You should know that there are a couple of other ships in the Hellevoetsluis harbor you can visit which are part of the maritime museum. The big stop should be the lighthouse ship. It’s hard to miss as this boat has a giant lighthouse sitting on top, used to guide ships during particularly foul weather.
By now you’ll need lunch, so head to any of the cafes lining Kerkstraat. This street is easy to find – just follow the German tourists. If there are no tourists, this street is just south of the National Fire Museum. You’ll also find an afternoon treat on Kerkstraat at one of the numerous ice cream shops.
After lunch, it’s worth your time to take your kids to the beach playground. From the harbor area, it’s a 10-minute walk (southwest). On the beach (called Strand Hellevoetsluis on mapping programs), there’s a great sunken pirate ship wooden playground.
It’s good for 1-2 hours of sandy play.
The water here is nice too, as it’s not open ocean. In warmer weather, wading and splash play can be loads of fun. Walking to the beach from the harbor, you’ll pass a lighthouse (rarely open, inquire at VVV). There are benches at the beach for a superb picnic but there’s not a great little grocery store for supplies nearby.
We packed plenty of sand toys and our boys, now accustomed to the Dutch weather, were happy to play on the beach.
Fort Haerlem is always open and consists of gun emplacements and munitions storage bunkers (outside only). From the tops of the emplacements, you’ll catch great glimpses of the surrounding waters.
My kids loved running up and down the grassy hills. The fort is on the western side of the Hellevoetsluis harbor so if you’re traveling clockwise from the National Fire Museum, it will be near the end of your visit.
In this area also is the ‘De Hoop’ windmill. Check their website as visiting hours change. It’s run on donations. During our visit, the mill was operating and our kids could climb to the top.
The volunteer docents were extremely knowledgeable and helped our boys mill some grain in smaller, hand-operated mills.
You’ll find a small playground along Glacisweg at the intersection of President Paterstraat (and free parking) if your kids have extra energy to burn off. But given all the cool outdoor Dutch attractions in Hellevoetsluis, I don’t think you’ll need it!