Imagine, for a moment, a national park boasting vistas reminiscent of Canadian boreal forests, the African plains and lonely marshland. At the heart of this little slice of wilderness is a major art museum housing the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world and a 25 hectare sculpure garden. And best of all, the first thing you see upon entering the park are racks of complimentary bicycles provided so that you can explore at your leisure.
Sounds like heaven, and what do you know, it's located right here in The Netherlands. Called the "green gem of The Netherlands," Hoge Veluwe National Park is 5,400 hectares with 40 km of multi-use paths. We're in love with the way this relatively small (by Canadian standards) national park has managed to inspire visitors with the intersection of nature, art and education.
We took the train and then bus to the town of Otterlo, where we entered the park. We thought the town-wide homage to Vincent Van Gogh absolutely charming! Sunflowers, Van Gogh paintings and creative decorations fill every yard along the avenue to the park.
There is a fee upon entering the park, and at this same booth tickets are available for the Kröller-Müller Museum and a tour of the St. Hubertus Hunting Lodge. The interpretive centre, which we haven't made it to yet, is free. The first thing you see are racks of bikes to use to get around the park. The bikes are for everyone: adult bikes are equipped with child seats, children's bikes are available and even wheelchair attachments are provided. These bikes can be picked up or left anywhere throughout the park, at your leisure.
The Kröller-Müller Museum is a fantastic museum in its own right, boasting the world's second largest Van Gogh collection (second only to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam), and many contemporaries including Mondrian, Serat, Gauguin and Picasso. It also has one of the largest outdoor sculpture gardens in Europe.
After exploring the museum and sculpture garden on foot, we grabbed a couple of bikes and were on our way again to explore the rest of the park.
It has no farmland, no windmills, no churchtowers, no cobbled streets and no wooden shoes, but Hoge Veluwe National Park is a real "dutchy" place for an off-the-beaten path adventure while in The Netherlands. Let us know how it inspires you!