Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Sand Dunes of Ostend

Having grown up a California girl, I like soft, sandy beaches.  Not for me laying on slabs of concrete like they do in Monte Carlo or rocky shingle lake shores like at Lago di Garda.  With summer on its way, I was recently thinking of a sandy beach my family used to love to visit when I was a kid, and that's Ostend, on the North Sea coast of Belgium.  Talk about sand!  Behind the vast, gently sloping beach of extraordinarily fine, soft sand in Ostend, are sand dunes up to 60 feet high, and my young brothers and I could have played on these all day.  Ostend is definitely a family-friendly seaside town.

Ostend (Oostende in Flemish/Dutch, Ostende in French) is one of thirteen seaside resorts along the Belgian coast, which are all linked together by an efficient and scenic tram line.  The Kusttram (Coast Tram) begins near the French border at De Panne and runs the entire 42 mile coast to Knokke, which borders the Netherlands.  It departs every 10 to 20 minutes in the summer and stops at 70 places along the way, taking about 2 hours from end to end.  (Purchase your tickets from an automat before you board, it's cheaper.  A day card costs 5€ and allows you to hop and off all day.  Children under 5 ride free.)  Sightseeing on the Coast Tram is a fun activity in itself for children, especially with occasional hops off and on to have lunch somewhere interesting or grab an ice cream cone.

Besides the sand dunes, two other delightful features of Ostend's beach are the wide beachfront esplanade and the pier.  Strolling around the pier you'll find excellent seafood dining opportunities.  In addition to walking, similar to my favorite beach in Belgium, Blankenberge, pedal cars can be rented and cruised around with plenty of room.  Bicycles can be rented at the Ostend train station (in the center of town near the Fishermen's Quay) for €9 a day and there are a number of great coastal biking trails around Ostend.

Oddly enough, my absolute favorite thing in Ostend when I was little, was the floral clock:

I just always thought it was really fabulous.  The diameter of the flowerbed is almost 30 feet and the large copper hands are covered with gold leaf.  The Department of Parks and Gardens uses 15,000 flowers and plants each year for the clockface.  The horse-drawn carriages around town will always swing by here and it's a delight to see.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds exhausting, playing in those dunes... perfect for parents ;)


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