Sail along the Dommel through the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve
Nowhere in the Netherlands will you find a nature reserve in such proximity to a city center, separated only by the city walls. We are referring to the Bossche Broek Nature Reserve, which is located next to the medieval city of 's-Hertogenbosch. It’s a marshy, wetland area rich in reedbeds, grasslands and meadows, where unusual plants attract specific bird species that are not easily found anywhere else.
Best time to visit: all year long
Sailing from city walls to country estate
Explore the area while sailing along the Dommel, just past the city wall, towards the beautiful Nieuw Herlaer Castle. Disembark here and climb the 15th-century tower stairwell or go for a lovely and captivating walk. It is a beautiful route through forests, along old avenues, past meadows and the fields of the Haanwijk estate. This is a place where nature has free reign amongst the rich cultural history. You’re in for a pleasant surprise!
From defensive fortification to meadow bird region
's-Hertogenbosch is indebted to the Bossche Broek. Medieval enemy armies were not able to approach the city because the Dutch could flood the wetlands and make them impassable. Hence the legendary nickname for 's Hertogenbosch: Moerasdraak (Marsh Dragon). The Bossche Broek is now primarily known as one of Brabant’s most important meadow bird regions and a nice rest stop for birds migrating across Europe. You will find proper meadow birds here such as godwits, redshanks and lapwings, along with other bird species such as meadow pipits, bluethroats and European stonechats. Badgers also roam about the area. If you visit the Bossche Broek in the early morning or evening, you might get lucky and spot some deer.
Take your time
Centrally located on the Haanwijk estate is the charming 't Haantje coffee and tea house, which dates back to 1649. Visiting Huis Haanwijk is like stepping back in time, with its old courtyard, walled garden and centuries-old trees. You may want to delve even deeper into history at the Museum Romeins Halder in the town of Sint-Michelsgestel and experience up close how people used to live here.
Back and forth
In the Bossche Broek, there are various locations where you can cross the Dommel river valley by ferry. There is a hand-operated cable ferry connecting the nature reserve with the Bossche city wall. A few kilometres further along is the Sint-Janspontje ferry that connected Olland and Kasteren with Liempde across the other side for centuries. It is the shortest connection for churchgoers or sightseers to visit the Sint-Janskapel church. This is the Dommel at its best. Don't forget to take a minute to read the sign at the ferry, which says: 'De zin van mijn bestaan, is heen en weer te gaan' (The meaning of my existence is to go back and forth). What does that mean to you?
Culture and nature: the perfect combination
Culture and nature lovers are in for a treat on the 7.5-kilometre (4.6 miles) walking route past sights in the fortified city of 's-Hertogenbosch and the Bossche Broek.
Maurick Castle is the ideal stopover. Its history dates back to 1257, when the lords of Vught built a manor on an elevated island. The castle owes its name to a member of the Maurick family, who married one of the daughters of the first inhabitants. In around 1600, Prince Maurits of Orange quartered here but nowadays you can stop and enjoy a high tea or picnic in the surrounding gardens or get a table in the charming brasserie or restaurant.