Trekking et Voyage talks about ‘his’ Coastline
A vitamin weekend at the Belgian Coast
It had been a while since I had been at the Belgian Coast. Our country’s coast is a veritable treasure trove for anyone who loves nature, fresh air and excellent food. So, here are a few tips for your next outing to the Belgian seaside!
My name is Maxime; I work as a PE teacher in Belgium and am the author of Trekking et Voyage (Trekking and Travel). For as long as I can remember I have always loved knocking around, being on the move, travelling, discovering, meeting people ... and anything that involves adventure, in the great outdoors, amidst nature. Thank you dad!
As I am also a keen photographer, hiking, which I took up a couple of years ago, is an excellent way to keep my creative juices flowing. But I also love travelling. With a penchant for backpacking, I don’t think twice about venturing into a city, onto an island or into country I have never visited before to seek out far-flung corners, discover bits of heaven on earth and, where possible, meet the locals!
This time around, we spent the weekend in the De Panne region. De Panne is a small seaside resort situated, yep, you’ve guessed it, on the Belgian Coast. This reasonably sized town is very popular among visitors looking for peace and quiet, nature and great food …
The wide beach and the many remarkable natural sites undoubtedly have something to do with that …
In fact, De Panne is surrounded by beaches and nature reserves that offer a unique setting for amazing walks. What’s more, De Panne not only boasts one third of the Belgian Coast’s dunes but is also home to the most stunning ones.
How to get there
- By car: via the E40 (Belgium) or A16 (France).
- By bus: line 56 De Panne - Veurne.
- By train: De Panne train station (in Adinkerke).
What to do in De Panne?
The very first thing is to caper about on the beach where the air is clean and full of iodine, which is what we did, lulled by the sound of waves and spume, diluted by the symphony of seagulls. Refreshing isn’t the word …
The beach in De Panne is huge! You can walk and walk without ever feeling the need to check the time. Sand yachting is popular here … the wind, which can be quite high at times, no doubt helped to make the pastime so popular!
But this stunning beach is also the place to enjoy some endearing scenes … Like the image of this child that discovers shrimp fishing.
A moment full of tenderness …
The Leopold I Monument
While at the seafront, we went to visit the Leopold I monument and its esplanade, the perfect spot to relax and admire the beach.
The greyish wide jacket with the odd bluish tones relaxed me in a way I couldn’t possibly put into words …
This complex commemorates the moment where the first King of the Belgians first set foot on the soil of his future kingdom.
Provincial Visitor Centre
I would highly recommend checking out the Provincial Visitor Centre in Duinpanne which hosts a permanent (and free) exhibition of the dunes, the beach, the sea, and the animals and plants. We found it extremely interesting!
You can have a bite to eat or something to drink here, not to mention soak up the sunshine on the terrace, go for a stroll through the park with its didactic panels or embark on a more taxing signposted hike!
The tourism organisations regularly host guided and free sight-seeing walks. Make sure to check the hike planner!
The Westhoek dunes
While we’re on the subject of walking, we also went to explore the Westhoek dunes, otherwise known as the “Flemish Sahara”, the longest singular stretch of dunes along the Belgian Coast. This 345-ha nature reserve is the only dune area on the Flemish Coast where almost all the dune flora is represented in one and the same dune landscape.
The most amazing fauna and flora prosper here.
This nature reserve is situated on the border with France and is criss-crossed by 11 km of signposted paths.
Pedestrian access only but you can leave your car at the end of Dynastielaan.
Going to the seaside also means feasting your eyes on the fish counters! Of course we had to go and check out the centre of De Panne which is a lovely place to walk around in and the ideal spot if you like shopping, want to listen to a concert in the church, buy yourself some really good bread, and above all, treat yourself to the wonderful fish caught by the local fishermen!
Make sure to call into Zeezot, the region’s renowned fishmonger.
Where to eat in De Panne?
One thing I was dying to check out was the local gastronomy. We randomly called into De Kursaal, situated on the seafront (not too far from the Leopold I statue) and were far from disappointed.
This small restaurant serves original dishes which are excellent value for money given its superb location.
We also had the pleasure of dining at restaurant Armalot by Julia. This restaurant is located in the narrow streets away from the beach and its ambiance alone is worth calling in for. Its setting is refined and (very) cosy. The name of a restaurant is an allusion to the proprietors’ children: Arthur, Marie, Charlotte and little Julia.
We treated ourselves to the exquisite ‘Entre terre et mer’ menu, prepared by Chef Sandrine, with paired wines. Her husband, Francky, is front of house and provided us with an impeccable service. An effective formula for a very pleasant evening! We thoroughly enjoyed our night in a most hospitable establishment that serves excellent food.
Where to sleep in De Panne?
After a delicious meal all we needed was a nice place to sleep. As it happens, Hotel Donny is situated right next to Restaurant Armalot. Practical and efficient, you’ll tell me. Aye to that, I say! This 4* establishment is situated in a residential area. We couldn’t fault it for its hospitality, service and decor.
The rooms are spacious and elegant and the spa very pleasant indeed.
It was an absolute pleasure to spend the weekend there!
Final tips and good ideas
- For ease of parking, leave your car in one of the town’s 2 free peripheral car parks. One is located on Keesjesdreef (perpendicular to Veurnestraat), the other one on Koningsplein (between Westhoeklaan and Koninklijke Baan). The town also has a Park & Ride facility: a car park with 400 spaces situated near the train and tram station. The Park & Ride takes you right into the centre of the town without having to worry about parking. It only costs € 9 and allows you and all your passengers to take the tram to De Panne and back again. You can purchase the ticket in the De Lijn shop but if the counter is closed you can always buy it from the tram conductor. Finally, you can also park free of charge (for 1 hour) in the park-and-pay zone (get your ticket from the parking meter)!
- Once you’re in De Panne, make sure to check out the events calendar, for there is always something going on at the Belgian Coast!
- I would also advise you to print your Coastal Pass which gives you a discount on a host of attractions, for a cumulative value of no less than 200 euro!
- And last but not least, make a point of visiting De Panne (or any of the other seaside resorts) with one of the Belgian Coast Greeters; these local and enthusiastic volunteers take you on a unique and original tour of a region they know like the back of their hand!
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This article came about in collaboration with De Kust/Le Littoral.
However, (as always) my suggestions are free and frank.
Due to the coronavirus opening hours and timetables of businesses may deviate. When in doubt, contact the business directly.