The Belgian Coast

Blue skies, hot and sunny weather, what could be better than a day at the coast? Beaches and Belgium, you wouldn’t necessarily associate one with the other, however we found golden sands galore and a perfect family day out. A couple of days later in the week were set aside for war museums and sights, we figured a bit of beach fun for Son before all of that would be just the thing.

The coast is not at all far from Bruges. An easy thirty minute drive and we were at Knokke. We wanted to ride the Kusttram (Coast Tram), if you do it end to end it’s a two hour ride along the whole of the Belgian coast, from de Panne on the French border to Knokke Heist on the Dutch border. Loads of chances to stop off along the way, with beaches, resorts and plenty of enticing things it is a great journey. The whole tram line stretches for 68 km and a day pass at 7 Euro is, (I thought) super reasonable. This tram line has been going for over one hundred years and I read somewhere it is the longest in the world at the moment. Not old fashioned in any way though, this vehicle is sleek and smooth.

08.04.39 - Coast tram

We got a whistle stop tour of Knokke. They say it is the St Tropez of the region with lots of galleries, chic restaurants and cool shops. Husband whizzed us through in the car with strict instructions to look out for the tram stop – we missed it – and missed the delights of Knokke as well. Eventually we found another tram stop just out of the centre. A good thing, there was a parking spot (free) for the whole day, so no car worries. Unable to buy tickets in advance, the platform was in the middle of nowhere with no ticket machine but we bought our tickets on board. The driver told us we should have bought them in advance – it is cheaper – but 7 Euro unlimited tram travelling for the whole day seemed a bargain to me anyway.

Great views out of the tram and super comfy seats meant it was loads of fun. For most of the trip down to De Panne the tram was virtually empty which was an added bonus. We passed through Zeebrugge and Blankenberg and enjoyed the views and ride so much we decided to stay on until De Panne. Endless golden, sandy beaches and sea views – a gorgeous journey. The tram turned inland for a little while before we reached De Panne. We got off in the centre of the little town and after some delicious cakes from a bakery it was time to hit the beach.

Son paddled in the sea, dug in the sand and did all the usual beachy stuff. Colourful beach huts everywhere and loads of seats, I’m not normally a big fan of sandy beaches but I liked this one.

08.04.40 - De Panne

08.04.45 - De Panne

De Panne is on the French side of the coast, we noticed more French than Dutch being spoken and a lot of French tourists seemed to be around on holidays too.

08.04.41 - De Panne

08.04.46 - De Panne

The long beach is lined on one side with some not very appealing concrete apartment blocks, but there is a nice promenade and the beach is good.

08.04.42 - De Panne

Plenty of history about this little town too – apparently it is where King Leopold I first set foot on Belgian soil in 1831. It is also where King Albert I set the headquarters of the Belgian army and his government in WW1 and in 1940 it was between De Panne and Dunkerke that the British troops retreated from the Nazi advance into the Benelux and France.

08.04.43 - De Panne

08.04.44 - De Panne

After a couple of hours on the beach we boarded the tram again and headed back towards Knokke. Busy, busy, busy though, not many seats and for part of the ride it was standing room only. Not quite the relaxed tram ride we had on the way down, my advice would be pick your time carefully. That said, we still loved our tram journey with its sea views and our fun day at the beach.

56 thoughts on “The Belgian Coast

    • I can imagine it would be great on a misty day too Denzil, those views would be different but still splendid. We just loved this day out, had we had more time I would have ridden the tram again and stopped in a whole series of different places, there was so much to see, we just couldn’t fit it all in.

  1. The Coast tram is a great idea – I’d love to do it! I know what you mean about Belgium and beaches. I thought the same about the Netherlands but there is a great beach near the Hague – better than some in Spain and Italy!

    • These beaches were just gorgeous, golden sands stretching for miles, as good as it gets for sure. Thanks for the tip about The Hague too, Holland us on my hit list so good to know about the beach option!!

    • We had such a great day out at the coast, loved Ostende as well and the tram ride is fun. The idea of hopping off and on at beaches where the fancy takes you is a really fun time for kids too.

    • That is a marker so if you or your kids wander off it helps you find your way back to your spot on the beach. This was a green train, they had a red rocking horse and various other things all along that stretch of sand. I agree about the beaches too, we were blown away by them and just half an hour from Bruges.

  2. Looks like you had a great day at the beach. Love the idea of those markers for families. I don’t know why they don’t incorporate them here in the states. Thanks for sharing.

    • It was such a lovely and fun day out George for sure. I thought those markers were superb too, never seen that before, so simple yet so effective. Many a time I’ve struggled to find my way back to our “spot” after being in the sea, this just sorts all that out.

  3. Lovely post! You were lucky to have good weather. We lived in Belgium for two years and never managed to be free on warm weekends (which were few and far between). In fairness, we were also mesmerized by Bruges and Ghent and Brussels (as you know from our blogposts) so the beach was not a high priority for us. Your blogpost makes me think perhaps this was a mistake. Lovely post.

    • We definitely hit it lucky with the weather that day, sun and blue skies made a perfect beach day, we had mixed weather on other times on this trip which would have made a very different experience. I lived in Belgium for a year and went back several times, this was my first visit to the coast so I know exactly where you’re coming from! Having finally made it to the beach though I would certainly go back.

    • Such a bargain Susan, it never ceases to amaze me how cheap public transport is in Europe, or maybe it’s just way too expensive in the UK!! This was a tram ride with a difference too, beaches galore and gorgeous views, we loved it.

  4. We must have been travelling in each other’s footsteps Joy! We too caught the train out to Knokke from Bruges (Monsieur had worked with someone from there otherwise we wouldn’t have thought to go I don’t think). Actually it was rather nice though the beach was packed with bathing boxes and we didn’t go on as far as you to De Panne. We did have a rather delicious lazy lunch at a little restaurant about half way to the beach from the railway station and we were quite pleased as the waiter first spoke to us in French, then Flemish followed by German and finally English so we decided we couldn’t look too touristy! It was a beautiful and unusually warm spring day so we were glad to be in the shade too. I rather liked the feel of Knokke and it’s a great day out from Bruges! Hope you have a lovely weekend 🙂

    • Wow Rosemary, that’s a coincidence!! Our visit to Knokke was too brief for me and I would like to go back and explore it properly. We enjoyed de Panne and I also loved Ostende – that amazed me as I envisioned a bland port but it was lovely. We were lucky with the weather, blue skies and sunshine always helps with a day like this!! Have a great weekend too.

      • I always thought Ostende would be a bland port too Joy – shows it always pays to check places out for oneself! I think the Belgian coast would be very different in rainy weather, although I always like looking at seas in rough weather (especially if I’m watching from a nice cafe undercover) 🙂

      • Just met up with some friends today Joy and funnily enough they mentioned visiting Ostende and Zeebrugge several times when living in the UK. They reckoned the mussels there are the best in the world!!

  5. You’re right! I wouldn’t necessarily have put beaches and Belgium together… but now you have proved me wrong! I love a trip to the coast and it looks like De Panne is stunning. Love how you got the tram there – that’s a nice way to travel to the coast!

  6. Joy, the tram ride sounds like fun with the views it afforded. I guess I never thought that Belgium had beaches! It is wonderful that your son enjoys so many travel experiences! Blessings!

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