Dutch Bike & Barge Tour / Cycling Barge Cruise
Between Rotterdam and Gouda
Enjoy a bike and barge tour on a cycling cruise along the famous canals of Holland aboard the luxury Dutch Hotel Barge Aurora as she takes you to lovely towns and flourishing cities. Aurora's tour guide accompanies guests on bike rides. For lunch, packed lunches or stopping at a nearby bistrot will be arranged or, if Aurora is in the vicinity, lunch will be aboard the barge. Experience the best The Netherlands offers with a barge charter aboard Aurora. Great tours, awesome cruising, and delicious cuisine make this a week to remember.
Sunday, Day 1 - Schiedam (Rotterdam) : 15 or 20 km
Pickup from the hotel/airport is around 1pm and guests can be aboard Aurora by 2pm. Once on board, guests are introduced to Aurora and the crew with a welcome drink/apéritif and canapes. After settling in, guests have their bikes fitted, followed by time to explore the local area via a short bike tour around Schiedam, or if preferred, take a 2.5-hour cycling tour from Schiedam to Rotterdam and back. Cycle to the city of Rotterdam stopping by Euromast, Market Hall, Cubic Houses, Old Port, Erasmus bridge, and Holland America next to SS Rotterdam. Approximately 15km. If a longer route is desired, do the loop around the Kralingen Lake as well and return to Schiedam for dinner at around 7pm. Approximately 25km.
Monday, Day 2 - Schiedam via Delft to Leiden : up to 50 km
Aurora departs during breakfast at 8:30am. We pass through the lock at 9am onto Maas River, then onward to Euromast via Parksluis at 10am. Past Overschie, we return to peaceful inland waterways and head for Delft. In Delft, between 11:30 and noon, guests disembark and hop on their bikes. We have lunch and admire the famous town for a while.
From Delft, we cycle toward The Hague, through ‘het Haagse Bosch’, and by the former Royal Palace ‘Huis ten Bosch’. The tour leads you over tranquil cycle paths through the dunes to Wassenaarse Slag. Here you can see the remains of the Atlantikwall where brick tunnels of nearly 3000 feet connect five bunkers. The underground network now serves as a bat reserve. Our route continues through the dunes to Katwijk aan Zee, an old fishing village. The inhabitants of Katwijk still speak their own dialect, ‘Kattuk’. Following the course of the Oude Rijn (Old Rhine) river, we cycle to Leiden. Leiden boasts 14 museums, including the Rijksmuseum.
Aurora is moored near the Zijlpoort, a gate that once formed part of the city river walls. The shorter bike route leads you inland after ‘Huis den Bosch’ and brings you along to ‘Vlietlanden’, a 130 hectare recreational lake to Leiden. This longer route is approximately 50km, including a few kilometers around Delft and Leiden to meet Aurora, moored at Zijlpoort.
Tuesday, Day 3 - Leiden to Haarlem : 40 or 50 km
Today’s cycling route varies depending on the season: through the tulip bulb fields from March to May, or after flower season, the Haarlem/Leiden Dunes route.
- Leiden – Keukenhof – Haarlem: Approximately 40km. March to May. From Leiden, head north past Kaag Plassen, towards Lisse and Keukenhof; the most beautiful flower garden in the world, with its overwhelming blaze of colors. Admire seven million flowering tulips in a magnificent 80 acres of traditional and modern gardening architecture. You can also view various hyacinths, daffodils, and many other colorful flowers.
In the afternoon, cycle to Haarlem. Take a tour through the old capital of the North Holland province to stop by typical “hofjes” (almshouses), or to admire the “Grote Markt” (main square) with a plethora of outdoor cafes, the Butcher’s hall, the town hall, the Cathedral of St Bavo, etc. Aurora’s mooring is within a stone’s throw from St. Bavo’s at the Donkere Spaarne.
- Leiden-Haarlem: Approximately 50km. After flower season, we suggest cycling along the Haarlem-Leiden Dunes Cycle Route. This bike trip winds through quaint villages and beautiful natural surroundings with woods, dunes and meadows. Ride along the North Sea coastline and, once leaving the vibrant university town of Leiden (Rembrandt’s birthplace), cycle through the fishing village of Katwijk and the seaside resort of Noordwijk. Then decide to either ride past the country estates near Vogelenzang, through the forest, and by the Cruquius museum into Haarlem via this southern route, or keep following the beach into Zandvoort and Bloemendaal, and return to Haarlem.
Wednesday, Day 4 - Haarlem to Zaandam : 39, 52, or 60 km
We depart Haarlem around 9am, due to bridge opening. Aurora goes through the Spaarnsluis (the lock) and cruises the North Sea Canal to our mooring spot in Zaandam, usually by the Zaan Theater. From here, our guests will cycle to Zaanse Schans about 6km away. The Zaanse Schans, with its traditional weatherboard doll houses, warehouses and windmills, may give you a “blast from the past” feeling of stepping back into the 17th or 18th century. Yet this is no open-air museum, but a lively neighborhood where people live and work. Visit a cheese farm, a clog maker, an old-fashioned bakery, a clock museum, and other interesting sites. Lunch will be in the village so you can taste the authentic local cuisine in one of many cosy restaurants.
From Zaanse Schans, cycle one of two options of the Zaanse Schans Cycle Route, either the 3.5-hour, 52km route or the 2.5-hour, 39km route. For those more sportive, the option to cycle east across the beautiful countryside towards the picturesque villages of Broek in Waterland, Monnickendam, and Marken can be scheduled with the option of taking a ferry across to Volendam. This is an ambitious 60km ride.
Thursday, Day 5 - Zaanse Schans to Alphen aan den Rijn : 40 km
Aurora departs early from Zaandam and cruises through the heart of Amsterdam. At about 11am, at the lock just past the Olympic Stadium, disembark by Ijsbaanpad and start today’s bike ride past the beautiful Amsterdamse Bos forest, Amstelveen village, passing by the Schiphol Airport and the big lakes, Westeinde Plassen and Braassemermeer. Stop for lunch along the route and carry on through the pastoral Green Heart, a giant patch of lush green pastures and polders, arriving at Aurora’s mooring in Alphen a/d Rijn. This route is approximately 35-40km. To shorten the bike trip by about 20km, catch up with Aurora at Oude Wetering by the lake, hop on board and enjoy the cruise across the lake all the way to Alphen a/d Rijn.
Friday, Day 6 - Alphen aan den Rijn to Gouda : 40 km
From Alphen, cycle over country roads, along river banks and channels through Green Heart to the city known for its cheese: Gouda. Approximately 20km, 1 hour.
Gouda is not only about cheese, pipes, ‘stroopwafels’ and pottery, but also of beautiful stained glass windows, a fairy-like Gothic town hall and atmospheric canals. Gouda is a beautiful old Dutch city with a mostly intact city center. Here you will have lunch and decide to either have a leisurely cycle around this charming town or to travel on through the scenic water-rich, rural region past the Hollandse Ijssel river, following the dyke and towpath along the river to Haastrecht, Hekendorp and the Heksenwaag (a weighing house where alleged witches from all over Europe came to be weighed to prove their innocence) in Oudewater. Continue via the Reeuwijske Plassen (lakes formed by turf-cutting) and the route takes you back to Gouda. Approximately 40km.
As on most days, after dinner you can take a walk through the city.
Saturday, Day 7 - Gouda to Schiedam : 45 km
Aurora departs early this morning for the last cruise. We leave the capital of cheese and candles behind as we cruise along the winding Ijssel river until we reach Rotterdam. We have a 40-minute cruise through the city harbor, ending back in Schiedam around 11am. Depart Aurora around noon.
If some enthusiasts wish to spend their last day cycling, they can ride through the Green Heart of Holland and follow the winding river Rotte to enter the modern city of Rotterdam, and follow the path all the way to Schiedam. Approximately 40-45km, 2.5 to 3 hours.
- This is a sample itinerary. Excursions are tailor-made to suit your interests.