Blogster Nina Tack from Travelboulevard reports
Hi, my name is Nina and, together with my boyfriend Jempi, I blog on travelboulevard.be. Because we love to travel and travel a lot, our blog is the ideal platform to unashamedly talk about our trips and to share tips that are useful to others too. But our main aim is to inspire others to hit the road and to enjoy wonderful and unforgettable experiences. Often we head for the other side of the world but we just as much love travelling around our own country. One of our favourite nearby destinations has to be the Belgian Coast. Why? Because of the variety! From stunning nature, art and culture, to unwinding in the cosy beach resorts or discovering trendy shops, bars and restaurants in the vibrant cities, the Belgian Coast has it all. Beach life here is top-notch and there is always something new to discover. And at a culinary level - whether you are looking for a quick bite to eat or an elaborate meal - you’re always in for a treat. In sum: the Belgian Coast energises us and it doesn’t take hours to get to.
A WEEKEND AT THE SEASIDE: UNWINDING AND INDULGING IN CULINARY DELIGHTS IN BREDENE
Of all the places on the Belgian Coast, Bredene was the one great unknown. Plenty of campsites and a nudist beach: that much we knew. In our book a great excuse for a weekend away. Unlike many of our other trips we decided not to do too much research and to simply take things as they come. To go with the flow as they say. So with set off for Bredene with few expectations and returned home with a genuine love for this picturesque seaside town. Our experience of a weekend in Bredene? All will be revealed in the post below.
“But… uh, where might we find the promenade?” No sooner arrived in Bredene, than we decided to start our weekend with a walk on the promenade. But no promenade in Bredene. Sure, plenty of shops and restaurants but if you want to get to the beach you first need to cross Koninklijke Baan and make your way through the dunes. Bredene is the only coastal town that doesn’t have a seawall. Here the dunes seamlessly run into the fine-sand beach so that you get to experience sea and beach as Mother Nature intended: nature in its purest form.
After our first exploratory walk along the beach we headed into town and were pleasantly surprised: Bredene may be small but is a pleasant hive of activity. Some of the shops and hospitality businesses looked wonderfully authentic (as if time had stood still) while others were really modern and trendy. It wasn’t until later that evening that we would discover that Bredene has a number of serious culinary surprises in store.
To the beach
The 4-kilometre beach in Bredene is virtually unspoilt. No dyke here but large pedestrian bridges that lead to the beach. The unspoilt nature beckons you to stroll along the beach and water for hours which is exactly what we like to do when we’re at the seaside. Bredene is known as a hot spot for nature lovers and we understand why: beach and dunes as far as the eye can see and here and there a beach club. A wonderful change if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the other seaside resorts, a place where you have room to move around and can enjoy the peace and quiet and nature, even on a hot summer’s day.
Dunes, dunes and dunes
As we mentioned, Bredene has an extensive dune line that entices you to go for long walks. A bracing walk in the dunes and filling your lungs with the healthy iodine air, we love it!
For the record, a paved path has been created through the dunes so that people with a disability can also enjoy the natural beauty.
Tip: keep an eye out for the work Plastic Nightmare (at the entrance to the beach near post 6). It’s Bredene’s way of making people aware of the effects of plastic waste on the sea and beach. The work of art is a container full of plastic and other waste material that was collected on the beach. The information panel explains the issue of pollution and its impact on the ecological system. Make sure to stop and read it: keeping beaches and the sea clean is in all our interest.
Chilling out at the beach club
In Bredene you can walk through the dunes and along the beach for hours and if you’ve worked up a thirst the beach clubs will provide happy relief. The 4-kilometre beach numbers 4 beach clubs that serve tropical cocktails during summertime and hot chocolate or a glass of mulled wine during the winter months. It goes without saying that the beach clubs are more than purveyors of drinks: sports enthusiasts come here to indulge in their passion for kiteboarding, windsurfing and other beach or water sports.
Walking all the way to Ostend
Walking to Ostend as a tip for something to do in Bredene may sound a little odd but it’s the actual route we’re recommending: via the dunes you can walk to Spinoladijk, which will take you to Ostend and Fort Napoleon. From the Oosteroever (east bank) you can take the free ferry to the centre of Ostend. A stunning and varied walk.
Fishermen’s chapel O.L.V. Ter Duinen
A visit to Fishermen’s Chapel O.L.V. Ter Duinen really brings it home to you that life at sea is fraught with danger. The chapel is a popular pilgrimage site for Flemish fishermen, full of ex-votos and photographs of fishermen who went missing at sea or crews that perished during a shipping disaster. There is also an altar where open-air masses are conducted.
The chapel has a long history: once upon a time it was nothing more than a dirt track that ran behind the wild dunes. Between 1710 and 1715 a statue of Our Lady in a little chapel on a stick made its appearance. Later, a small shelter and a wooden chapel were built. In 1736, the wooden chapel was replaced with the current stone chapel.
The fishermen’s chapel is situated at the junction of Kapelstraat and Klemskerkestraat.
Bredene’s culinary feats
Bredene may be a modest seaside resort but if you’re looking for the finer things in life you’ve come to the right town. Foodies from wide and far will think they’ve died and gone to heaven in Bredene: aside from the typical dishes you would expect to find at the Belgian Coast (tomato filled with shrimps, mussels, stews, French fries!), no end of tasty culinary surprises await.
We’re happy to share our tips but do bear in mind that our weekend in Bredene wasn’t long enough to work our way through all the businesses. If anyone has any suggestions for our next visit, do let us know!
For the sweet-tooths: the best ice cream on the Belgian Coast
One of the tips we had been given was to try out the ice cream at Mdue. A tip that hadn’t fallen on deaf ears! After a long walk on the beach we called into tea room Mdue for a well-deserved cup of coffee, a hot chocolate and a true classic: a delicious banana split with all the trimmings. What a treat! All the ice cream is home-made and so good that the tea room has repeatedly been named the best ice-cream parlour on the Belgian Coast. Nice to know: last year Mdue launched its ‘Blafijs’ (doggy ice cream): a healthy treat for man’s best friend!
To ‘refuel’ while cycling: ‘t Fietskotje
If you’re going to explore the area by bike and follow the Paddegat and Breduinia cycle routes you’ll come across ’t Fietskotje (between nodes 5 and 96). One word of advice, make sure you’ve worked up an appetite because ‘t Fietskotje serves pancakes per running metre, literally. The menu features both sweet and savoury pancakes.
For atmosphere and conviviality: Alaska and Moeder Lambik
Alaska is a business with many hats: a chipper, diner and pub. An all-rounder in other words. Alaska is located near a campsite and started life as a modest ice-cream stall that catered for campers, hence its icy name Alaska. We called in for a quick lunch: stew and French fries. The place was fairly busy and judging by the banter, many of them were regulars.
Moeder Lambik has been residing at the Belgian Coast for 100 years although it was taken over by its current owners in 2003. Moeder Lambik is a restaurant, a tea room and a pub. They even have a Volkswagen T2 transporter converted into a draught beer counter you can hire for parties and events.
For the epicureans: Le Homard et la Moule
I may as well admit it: dinner at Le Homard et la Moule was one of the main reasons why we had been counting down the days to our weekend in Bredene. This gastronomic restaurant mainly serves fish and shellfish but Seaweed Chef Donald Deschagt has a penchant for seaweed and algae from our own North Sea and that’s what we wanted to check out.
The chef cuts his sea greens on the breakwater and picks his herbs in the Bredene dunes in person. And he incorporates all those delights in his dishes in a manner that is nothing short of sublime. The result? Exquisitely flavoured dishes and super healthy into the bargain. In our opinion there is no better way to savour the Belgian Coast!
No need to worry that you’ll be presented with plates full of seaweed here: the sea vegetables are used as a salt substitute, are incorporated into the bread or complement the vegetables on your plate. We sampled the home-made algae bread, seaweed butter and seaweed salt, and the sprig of seaweed gave our G&T an extra dimension.
Because we wanted to discover as many different tastes and menus as possible we opted for the ‘Terre et mer’ menu with paired wines, bliss from start to finish. The menu is updated on a regular basis because everything we were served at the time has meanwhile been tailored to the season. All the more reason for us to return soon and to try out the new dishes. And for wine lovers: the paired wines are original and delicious choices, definitely worth discovering.
Tip: The book Zeegroenten (Sea vegetables) by Seaweed Chef Donald Deschagt contains original and doable recipes with seaweed or sea vegetables as the main ingredient. A great buy if you want to try your hand at cooking with wonderfully versatile greens like glasswort, sea lavender, wakame and kombu. The book tells you step by step how to prepare a spelt croque with seaweed pesto, mussels with glasswort and wakame or a smoothie with sea lettuce. And if you can’t find all the ingredients for your culinary adventure in the regular shops you can order them here.
Tip: Donald Deschagt is also an ambassador for the Epicurean West, an initiative that spotlights all the great fair West-Flanders (so also the Belgian Coast) has to offer.
Other things to do in Bredene:
Park ’t Paelsteenveld
A walk through park ’t Paelsteenveld is definitely worth the effort. The park is an oasis of tranquillity and you get to discover rare coastal flora. Further details.
This traditional polder farmstead dates from 1737 and immediately takes you back in time. It houses a folklore museum and a stunning collection of North Sea shells and fossils, including mammoth bones that were fished up along the coast. During the summer, free folk concerts and folk-dance evenings are organised here. Further details.
Walking and cycling
The selection of walking and cycling routes in Bredene is enormous. Aside from the beach and dunes there are quite a few nature reserves where you can walk or cycle for miles on end. Via this link, you can get more info about the cycling routes and here you can find inspiration for your next walk.
Sleeping (and not just on campsites)
Bredene is a camper’s mecca. Mind you, that doesn’t mean that there are no hotels or B&Bs to choose from, quite the opposite. We stayed at the three-star hotel Aura Maris (which is also a B&B). Its location is excellent: in a quiet neighbourhood behind Fishermen’s Chapel O.L.V Ter Duinen, a mere 7-minute walk away from the dunes, the tram stop, the restaurants and Meeting and Event Centre Staf Versluys. We were delighted with this charming little hotel: Aura Maris is run by a couple who look after everything themselves and still have enough time for a chat with their guests. It doesn’t have a restaurant but it does have a cosy breakfast room where you can help yourself to an extensive breakfast buffet in the morning.
Nice to know: free car parking and a secure bike shed with charging points for electric bikes.
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