Holland's quietest resort? It may be off-season Vlieland, 1.5 hours by ferry from the mainland.
Peace and quiet--that's what you'll find off-season on Vlieland, a tiny dune-ridged island 1 1/2 hours by ferry from Holland's mainland. After a hectic big-city tour of Europe, Vlieland's cobblestone streets and forested trails are a welcome break.
From the moment you step off the ferry and the hotel's horse-drawn carriage arrives to pick up your luggage, you'll be living at the easy pace of one of Holland's quietest resorts.
You can bicycle or walk across meadows or through forests to the island's birdfilled marshes or wide sandy beaches. On the Wadden Sea side, look for the berm-- kwelder in Dutch--where silt deposited by the sea has built up the shoreline. Beyond this, retreating tides reveal a vast mud flat. Large colonies of birds--including the protected eider duck--breed in four nature preserves.
The island's sole village, located near the ferry landing, has hotels, cafes, bike rental shops (bike rental costs about $2 per day), bars, and souvenir shops (cranberry jam is an island specialty). Some old churches and buildings date back to Holland's 17th-century trading heyday.
Vlieland's small family-run hotels are comfortable (many have private baths) and inexpensive. Off-season, full room and board ranges from $18 to $25 a day. Most hotels are within walking distance of the ferry landing, but buses will meet each ferry and take you there. Opposite the ferry landing is the tourist office (V.V.V.), where you can get information on the island's attractions as well as excellent maps.
The ferry (about $9 round trip, half-fare for children 4 to 10) to Vlieland runs two or three times daily from Harlingen, a 3-hour train trip or 2-hour drive from Amsterdam. If you go by train, you must change trains in Leeuwarden. You can park your car in private garage space in Harlingen for about $2 a day (garage owners will seek you out).
For a Vlieland brochure, write to the Netherlands National Tourist Office, 605 Market St., San Francisco 94105. Even if you go off-season (September through June), it's advisable to make hotel reservations in advance through a travel agent or the V.V.V., Postbus 1, 8899 ZN, Vlieland, Holland.
Photo: Silt deposited by the Wadden Sea built up the island's shoreline berm--called kwelder in Dutch
Photo: Gabled brick houses, bars, and shops were residences of Dutch sea captains in 17th century
Photo: Sand on floor and cozy wood-burning stove await at Posthuis restaurant near road's end; you can stop for coffee and pastry or a full meal
Photo: Small island facing the North Sea, Vlieland is reached by ferry (dotted line) from Harlingen
Photo: Crowding gangway, islanders and vacationers board ferry for 1 1/2-hour crossing to Harlingen on mainland. Ferry runs twice daily in off-season, three times daily in summer
Photo: Dutch child and mother share piping hot French fries, popular snack on ferry