Best Beaches in Belgium: A Serene Coastal Getaway

Belgium may not be a tropical paradise, but the little Western European country has its share of beaches, some of which are the most picturesque on the continent with vast expanses of golden sand and oceanscapes that will remind you of watercolor paintings. 

Belgium’s 67 kilometers of North Sea coastline between the French and Dutch borders includes snug harbors, luxury resorts, and laid-back beaches perfect for family vacations. Less than an hour by train from the capital city of Brussels, Belgium’s coastline also has fishing villages that, like other parts of the country,  played a role in the history of WWI. 

Include a day trip from Brussels or a longer stay at Belgium’s beaches. Find your ideal beach from this list of the best beaches in Belgium. 

Knokke-Heist Beach

You’ll find the classiest Belgian beach resorts in the area of Knokke-Heist. The municipality of Knokke-Heist is on the edge of one of Belgium’s best nature parks – Zwin Nature Park, right near the border of the Netherlands. It’s comprised of five coastal villages: Heist,  Knokke, Albertstrand,  Zoute, and Duinbergen. 

Knokke-Heist Beach is actually four beaches in one. Het Zoute, the easternmost of the four is adjacent to the nature park and is 2 kilometers long and 150 meters wide in some spots. This is where you’ll find the most upscale resorts and private beach homes as well as the most expensive restaurants. 

You’ll find the liveliest resorts in neighboring Alberstrand with endless entertainment near the beach and a yacht club on the western end. The more family-friendly Duenbergen Beach starts at the yacht club and extends to Directeur-Generaal Willemspark where you’ll find the last remaining intact dunes in the area. 

Heist Beach is the widest with an average of 270 meters. It extends 1.6 kilometers to reach the port at Zeebrugge. It’s a more developed area and has a variety of amenities such as sightseeing cruises and ferries at the adjacent port that will take you to the United Kingdom. 

De Haan Beach

De Haan beach, Belgium
De Haan beach, Belgium

Stretching for more than 12 kilometers with parts up to 80 meters wide at high tide,  De Haan Beach is Belgium’s longest beach. Resorts and vendors with beach needs from umbrellas to kiteboarding and windsurfing gear are located on the eastern half of the beach. Excursions such as sightseeing cruises are offered at some of the larger resorts. 

The beach’s main section has a brick promenade that leads directly to the sand while the western section is hidden behind tall grassy dunes. It’s quieter and more peaceful since access points are limited. Unless lifeguards are present, swimming in this section isn’t permitted. It’s best suited for beach strolls and sunbathing. 

De Panne Beach

De Pane Beach is located between the towns of De Panne and Saint-Idesbald near the French border and a short drive from Dunkirk in Northern France. The beach is popular for its pristine beauty, varied landscape, and nature reserves that provide a habitat for migratory birds and highland cattle. 

Some sections have resorts right on the water and others are lined with grassy dunes. Organized activities for kids are hosted at several places, and you can rent boats and other watercraft at a yacht club on the east end of the beach.

De Panne is also one of the most historic Belgian beach towns to visit. Like its neighbor Dunkirk, it was involved in Operation Dynamo during WWII. Learn all about it at a museum in town dedicated to the war and how it impacted the area. The town is also the place where King Leopold I first stepped onto Belgian soil in 1831. You’ll see a sculpture in his honor at the sound end of the beach. 

Zeebrugge Beach

Zeebrugge is both a beach town for tourists and a prominent harbor for fishing and trade. The beach is located west of the harbor and extends to Oostende for approximately 20 meters and has a width of 70 meters at high tide. Each morning, a fleet of colorful fishing boats return to the harbor where catches are unloaded and sold at one of Europe’s largest fish markets. 

A combination of flat beaches and elongated dunes, Zeebrugge is popular for surfing,  windsurfing, and kiteboarding. Several vendors along the beach offer water sports equipment, chairs, and umbrella rentals. In the summer, ice cream, sunblock, and various sundries are sold in the shops. 

The central portion of Zeebrugge Beach gets quite crowded in the high season, thanks to its proximately to Bruges. Fortunately, you’ll find plenty of free parking near the beach. 

After spending time on the beach, consider catching a ferry from the harbor for a quick trip across the pond to Felixstowe and Kingston-upon-Hull in England. But first, stop by P&Js, the largest chocolate factory on the Belgian coast to sample delicious Belgian chocolates. 

Oostende Beach

Ostende Beach
Ostende Beach

The beach at Oostende (also known as Ostende) is one of Belgium’s most popular family beaches and is visited by both Belgian and foreign tourists. Located between Nieuwpoort and  Koksijde, the beach is about seven kilometers long and 80 meters wide. 

Although the beach gets crowded in summer, beachgoers will find plenty of space for sunbathing and walking. Swimming is safe with lifeguards on duty, and plenty of facilities are located nearby. Closed rescue stations indicate that swimming conditions are unsafe. 

Accessible beach crossings and a spacious boulevard lead to shopping streets in the town center. Local cafes, restaurants, and terraces serve lunch, dinner, ice cream, and drinks. The local gray shrimp served in the restaurants are backed by the fascinating 500-year-old tradition of shrimping done on horseback. The tradition has been on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2013. Between April and September, you can spot the local fishermen in action. 

Middelkerke Beach

Located in the heart of the great Flemish coast west of Ostend, Middelkerke Beach is more than nine kilometers of wide, white-sand beach. If you’re craving sunshine, you’ll be interested to know that Middelkerke has more hours of sunshine than any spot on the Belgian coast. 

Five coastal villages make up the area and all of them have a seafront that is broad and sandy. Several attractions along the beach such as playgrounds, mini golf, and skate ramps make Middelkerke an excellent beach for families with teenagers. Families with younger children will feel comfortable with the orientation poles, wind flags, and swimming instructions strategically placed along the beach. Lifeguards and crossing guards are on duty during July and August.

The beachfront has plenty of shops to browse, and local cuisine is served in the restaurants along with a good selection of Belgian beers. 

Blankenberge Beach

Located just 18 kilometers from the historic Belgian city of Bruges, Blankenberge Beach is one of Belgium’s top beach resort towns with six kilometers of sandy beach that is 350 meters wide. All of the resorts face the sea, and the atmosphere is lively. 

One of the most popular attractions at Blankenberge is the famous pier built in the 1930s. The pier has a lengthy jetty that reaches out to the sea and a unique circular building at the end. The pier is more scenic than touristy with stunning views from every angle. You’ll find all the action along the seafront with golf and water sports rentals right at the harbor so you can try kiteboarding, windsurfing, and jet skiing. 

Other ways to enjoy the beach include a Sea Life Marine Park featuring one of Belgium’s largest aquariums. Each summer, a Sand Festival is held near the park where sand artists create amazing theme-based sand sculptures. If you like hiking and biking, you’ll find hiking trails and 10 cycling trails on the western end of the beach to explore the dunes and scenic places along the shore.

Bredene Beach

Bredene Beach is located on one of the most natural stretches of Belgium’s coastline and features long boardwalks and beach bars. You must cross over dunes to get to the beach where you can dig your toes in the sand and enjoy swimming and picnicking on a spacious sandy beach. It’s a little less touristy than some of the other Belgian beaches and perfect for a day out with the family. 

The sea is safe for swimming as long as all the flags are green. Watch out for the red and yellow flags and stay out of the water and stick to sunbathing or strolling along the shore. You’ll find signs to a walking path for pedestrians only. And if you really enjoy beach strolls, you can actually walk to nearby Ostend with a 5-km roundtrip hike. On the last bit to Ostend, you can hop on a ferry for the rest of the way. 

Koksijde Beach

Koksijde is a tiny beach town in West Flanders. It’s one of Belgium’s less crowded Beaches but with plenty of activities for kids right on a spacious beach that is 10 kilometers long and 50 meters wide on average. A playground called Beach Village is fenced in and younger children can safely enjoy activities like slides and a bouncy house. Further down the beach, there’s a Ferris wheel the whole family will enjoy taking a spin on to admire the views. 

Resort hotels, rental shops, fast food places, and restaurants are located behind a stone-paved boardwalk overlooking the sea. The beach is safe for swimming with lifeguards on duty all summer and a first-aid station. 

Besides the beach, you can take boat excursions to explore the North Sea coast and spend time in town to admire the architecture and visit art museums such as Museum Paul Delvaux featuring oil paintings showcasing Paul Delvaux’s work. You must also pay a visit to the Abbey Museum of the Dunes, an archaeological site founded in the 13th century that was once a Cistercian monastery.

Oostduinkerke Beach

Oostduinkerke Beach
Oostduinkerke Beach, Belgium (Image courtesy of Luc Mercelis on Flickr)

A 50-minute drive to the west of Bruges, Oostduinkerke Beach is a quiet coastal place surrounded by 240 acres of dunes. The reserve area includes de Hage Blekker, the highest dune in Belgium at 33 meters. The sandy beach is almost one kilometer wide at low tide and stretches all the way to Dunkirk in Northern France. 

Interrupting the quiet is the bustling Promenade behind the beach where you’ll find pop-up vendors, shops, and restaurants along the pedestrian street. It’s level with the beach for most of its length and has no dunes in between. The promenade grows wider at the far western end and is hidden by tall sandy dunes. 

Watersports are popular here, especially windsurfing, and several places rent equipment by the day. The current is strong, so keep an eye on color-coded flags that indicate the levels of safety. 

Nieuwpoort Beach

Nieuwpoort is a long beach with an average width of 50 meters. It’s known as the cleanest beach on the Belgium coast, thanks to the efforts of the locals. It was awarded Blue Flag status, an award reserved for environmental efforts for the sixth time in 2022. The beach offers a wide range of watersports such as fishing, windsurfing, paddling, and swimming. 

This Belgian beach is also famous for its fishing village and fresh seafood located two kilometers from the beach. After dining on delicious seafood, you’ll want to explore the town of Nieupoort itself which has lots of historic offerings including a medieval Old Town with cobbled streets, houses that are centuries old, numerous historic monuments, and the UNESCO-listed Nieuwpoort Bell Tower.

Along with the older buildings, you’ll find modern hotels that face the water. The eastern end of the beach is especially picturesque with a lighthouse abd two lengthy piers. The piers are at the entrance of a wide canal that welcomes both yachts and cargo. 

Best Way To Get To The Belgian Coast

The best way to get to Belgium’s coast is to take the Coastal Tram. It departs from De Panne near the French border and goes to Knokke-Heist, a municipality near the Netherlands’ border. One of the longest trams in the world, it has 68 stops along the coast between the two Belgium beach towns. In the summer, it stops every 10 minutes, and every 20 minutes in winter, so make sure you allow enough time for your journey. 

Best Time To Visit The Beaches In Belgium

The weather is pleasant during the spring and the fall on Belgium’s beaches, but the water may be too chilly for swimming in the North Sea. You’ll enjoy all that the beaches have to offer between July and August since it gets quite warm.  Winter is perfect for dune walks since they’re mostly sheltered from the sea breezes. And between October and June, dogs are allowed on the beaches as long as they’re on a leash, so winter is the perfect time for a walk on the beach with your furry pal. 

Going on A Day Trip to the Belgian Coast

Since Belgium is a small country, it’s easy to take a coastal day trip from almost any city to explore the unique coastline of the North Sea. Ostend is a good choice for a quick day trip since you can get there by car from Brussels on the E40 motorway in less than two hours.  

To travel the entire coastline, take the tram starting either in De Panne or Knokke-Hiest. Direct trains run from Brussels to Knokke-Hiest and Ostend. You may find a direct train to De Panne occasionally, but you’ll have to change trains in Ghent most of the time. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Belgian beach is considered the best?

Ostend is the country’s most beautiful beach and the best one to visit for lazing on the golden sand and taking an evening stroll on the promenade to experience the sunset over the North Sea. The city boasts loads of activities to enjoy including dining, shopping, and museum and gallery hopping. 

Can you swim on the beaches of Belgium?

Yes, you can swim in the waters of Belgium’s beaches. Unless you want to take a “polar bear plunge,” go swimming during June – September when the water temperature averages about 18 degrees Celcius (65 F.)

Are Belgian beaches safe for swimming?

It is safe to swim on Belgian beaches from June to August. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 am until 8 pm. Any other time, you are swimming at your own risk. Keep in mind that the North Sea can be treacherous. 

What are the best Belgian beaches for dogs?

On the beach at De Panne, dogs can roam unleashed on a designated one-third of the beach. On the beach at Knokke-Heist, dogs can roam the whole beach between October and March. 

Are there beaches in Bruges?

The beaches at Knokke, Zeebrugge, and Blankenberge are only about a 15-minute train ride from Brugge. Ostend and Blankenberge are the best since the train stations are closer than they are at Knokke. Ostend is best if the weather is less than desirable because there is so much to do in town. 

Are there beaches in Brussels?

The beaches of Ostend, De Haan, Blankenberge, and Knokke Heist are less than two hours away from Brussels by train or car. Knokke Heist is the closest but only by a few kilometers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top