Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park (the Dunes of Loon and Drunen National Park) is one of the largest sand drift areas in Northern Europe. The locals call it the Brabant Sahara, because of the large area (30 km2) of shifting sands. In this complete guide to the Dunes of Loon and Drunen National Park you will find all related travel information you need to plan your perfect visit.
The Dunes of Loon and Drunen are one of the 20 National Parks in the Netherlands, together with De Biesbosch, the Dunes of Texel, De Meinweg and many more. The name in Dutch is Loonse-en-Drunense Duinen and basically refers to the location of the park: the dunes between the small villages of Loon op Zand and Drunen.
- How to get to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen?
- Entry points to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park
- When is the park open?
- Where to stay when visiting the Loonse en Drunense Duinen?
- What to do in the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park?
- How come there are drifting sands in the Netherlands?
- Explore the different areas of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park
- WWII and the Loonse en Drunense Duinen
- Final words
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How to get to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen?
The Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park is located in the Dutch province of North Brabant. Getting there by public transport can be a bit difficult, but not impossible. The best way to reach the park however is by car.
By public transport
Getting from Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch) or Tilburg train stations to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen
Take the train to Tilburg or Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch). The bus stations in both cities are just in front of the train stations. Then you have the following options:
- Bus line 136 to Tilburg/Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch): get off at bus stop Akkerlaan in Waalwijk and walk towards the entry points De Roestelberg (45 minutes) or Het Genieten (40 minutes).
- Bus lines 136, 301 or 302 to TiIburg/Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch): get off at bus stop Overlaatweg in Waalwijk. It takes 5 minutes more to reach the entry points or get off at bus stop Horst in Kaatsheuvel and you’ll reach both entry points after 40 minutes.
Getting from Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch) to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen
- Bus lines 239 and 639 to Udenhout: get off at bus stop Gommelsestraat and the entry point De Rustende Jager is only at 20 minutes walking.
Scroll further down to the map to see the location of all entry points to the National park and the bus stops.
You can plan your trip by clicking on the Plan my journey button bellow. It will take you to the official site of the Dutch Public Transport Service.
Arriving by car at the Loonse en Drunense Duinen
The Loonse en Drunense Duinen are easy to reach by car. It takes about an hour and a half from Amsterdam. The Dunes are perfect for a day trip from Amsterdam, if you want to escape for a while the city and reconnect with nature. If you are already staying in Den Bosch, which I highly recommend, the nearest entry point (Giersbergen) is only a 25 minutes’ drive.
Read more: Discover the best things to do and see in Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch).
As the national park is close to the Dutch-Belgian border, it takes a little bit over an hour to get there from Antwerp or an hour and 45 minutes from Brussels.
Entry points to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park
This nature preserve is quite large with an area of more than 35 km2. There are 8 entry points to the national park. At each entry point, there’s a lovely café. Most of them have bikes for rent, some offer horse riding and horse carts, and a few have accommodation attached. You can also park at these entry points.
There are 5 entry points that give you direct access to the drift sand area:
- De Roestelberg – a café with a bungalow park and bike rental services;
- Het Genieten – a holiday park with camping and chalets, and a café;
- Giersbergen – the De Drie Linden café;
- De Rustende Jager – a café and a bike rental service, and
- Bosch & Duin – a café.
The 3 other parking places are located at the edges of the national park, where the forests are:
- De Klinkert – a café and a bike rental service;
- Natuurport van Loon – a hotel, a hostel, a café and bikes;
- Het Galgenwiel – a café and a restaurant.
Here on the map you can see all entry points to the National Park together with the nearest bus stops.
When is the park open?
The Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park is open all year around. However visitors are not allowed in the park before sunrise and after sunset. There is no entry fee to the park.
Where to stay when visiting the Loonse en Drunense Duinen?
Although you can visit the Dunes of Loon and Drunen only for a day, a short break of a few days in the region is an amazing opportunity to relax. You can choose to stay in one of the surrounding big cities: Den Bosch (‘s-Hertogenbosch), Tilburg or Breda, or in the small towns and villages around the park: Waalwijk, Sprang-Capelle, Kaatsheuvel, Drunen, Loon op Zand, Udenhout, or Helvoirt.
There is a vast choice of accommodation: from cute country-style bed and breakfasts to farm campings, from posh hotels to hip hostels. If you want to stay in the heart of the park, then you should consider some of the entry points that offer accommodation as well.
What to do in the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park?
If you want to take only a glimpse, than you can visit the Loonse en Drunense Duinen for a day, but if you want to explore this National park with all areas and subareas (Plantloon, the Dunes and De Brand), then you should probably stay there a week. Here are some of the things you can do and see in Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park:
Go for a walk!
There are numerous walking trails starting at each of the entry points with different lengths. You don’t need to be very fit or have special equipment to embark on them. Just remember you will be walking in the sand, so be prepared to get sandy all over. If you are walking on a sunny day in the summer, make sure you always have water with you, otherwise you’ll feel like crossing Sahara without water. Also, be careful when crossing the mountain bike routes and do not use them as walking paths. It can be quite dangerous.
Biking is popular in the Netherlands and bikes aren’t missing even in the national parks. You can rent a bike at the entry points to the park (see above for more info), or at your accommodation, and explore the Dunes on a bike. However, there are special bike routes, so you can’t bike everywhere. This is a wonderful way to explore the whole park in a day. Do not forget to stop at the cafés at the entry points for refreshments and small breaks.
Go mountain biking!
Understandably, there aren’t many places in the Netherlands where you can go mountain biking, and the Loonse en Drunense Duinen are one of them, offering a great terrain over sandy slopes and through forests. There are special routes marked for mountain bikers. When biking in the Dunes watch out for people that are walking on the trails or crossing them. As the terrain is hilly, at some places you will see them at the very last moment and this can create dangerous situations.
Ride a horse!
There are special horse riding trails in the park, so you can explore the nature preserve on the back of a horse. I can’t give you a first-hand advice on that as I have never done it, but it looks fun.
Sledge down a slope!
No, I don’t mean on the sand. On the rare occasions when it snows in the Netherlands, but it still happens at least once a year, the Dunes are great to go there with your sledge and slide downhill the dunes. The kids would love this!
Take tons of photos!
This place is magical at sunset or dawn. In the winter, when the sand dunes are covered with snow, you can make amazing photos. For landscape photography that doesn’t look like being taken in the Netherlands – the Loonse en Drunense Duinen are the right place. In the autumn when the heath is in bloom, the place gets a surreal pinkish-purple haze. At dusk, the temperature of the air cools down quickly and the sand is still warm – then you have this haze that hovers above the sand.
Visit quaint Giersbergen!
Giesrbergen is a tiny hamlet at the north-east side of the national park. There are a few old long facade farmhouses with thatched roofs, typical for North Brabant.
Walking through the only street in Giersbergen brings you back in time, you can smell the peat burning in the chimneys, you can hear the yelling of the workers on the bogs, and you would almost walk over a goose and her goslings crossing the road.
You can stop for a short break at the Drie Linden café.
How come there are drifting sands in the Netherlands?
Originally, the area was a rugged sandy moorland. During the Middle Ages through overgrazing and peat extraction from the heathlands, the area got desolate and the exposed sand plains allowed for the sand to drift. There were even whole villages buried under the sand: Westloon and Efteling.
Fun fact: The Efteling is an amusement park near the Dunes of Loon and Drunen and is named after the medieval village that once disappeared under the drift sand.
Explore the different areas of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park
Although this nature preserve is named the Dunes, there aren’t only sands to see. There are three distinctive subareas in the national park, each with its own characteristic flora and fauna.
Located at the northern side of the national park, it used to be a country estate. It became part of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park in 1994. There are forests, meadows, lanes and even farms. The Galgenwiel is quite an unique part of the Plantloon – it developed in the 17th century after an overflow of the Meuse River. Today, it’s a marsh area and a lovely place for a walk.
The sand is still alive in this area and is constantly moving. This is pretty amazing if you visit the place a few times over the years – the landscape will be just different, as the dunes would have moved. The highest dunes are about 24 m.
De Brand is another nature reserve that has been added later to the national park. It is located at the southern side of the Dunes and is a forest land with some meadows. In the 13th century the place was a large peatland. De Brand is a border area to the sand dunes.
WWII and the Loonse en Drunense Duinen
The terrain of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen played an important role during the Second World War. Not many people know this, but there are 5 monuments for remembrance of what had happened during this dark period in the history of Europe:
- the monument at Distelberg near Helvoirt;
- the cross in the dunes near Helvoirt;
- the Maria Chapel in Udenhout in the area De Brand;
- the Memorial for 14 members of the Resistance near Bosch en Duin;
- the Peace Memorial on Eftelingsestraat in Kaatsheuvel.
During the war the Germans had a munitions depot in the south-east part of the national park, which they blew on Mad Tuesday (5 September 1944) in the morning. There’s also a dedicated walking trail in the Dunes that will take you along bomb craters, trenches and latrines.
The Dunes are still keeping one of the darkest secrets of WWII: the mass grave of the 14 members of the Dutch Resistance who were shot in one of the firing ranges there. Until today this secret remains covered by sand.
When you walk through the park be careful, as munitions from WWII can still be found. In 2013 there was found even a grenade.
Whether you will choose to visit the Loonse en Drunense Duinen National Park for a short walk, or to spend your holidays there, you will not regret. Thanks to the diverse nature and numerous recreation possibilities, you won’t get bored if you stay longer in the area. The holiday parks near the Dunes are a popular summer holiday and mid-term holiday destination among the locals.
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