Wadlopen, or mud-flat walking, is a popular and strenuous Dutch pastime, and the stretch of coast on the northern edge of the provinces of Friesland and Groningen is one of the best places to do it: twice daily, the receding tide uncovers vast expanses of mud flat beneath the Waddenzee. It is, however, a sport to be taken seriously, and far too dangerous to do without an experienced guide: the depth of the mud is variable and the tides inconsistent. In any case, channels of deep water are left even when the tide has receded, and the currents can be perilous. The timing of treks depends on weather and tidal conditions, but most start between 6am and 10am. It’s important to be properly equipped; recommended gear includes shorts or a bathing suit, a sweater, wind jacket, knee-high socks, high-top trainers and a complete change of clothes stashed in a watertight pack. In recent years, wadlopen has become extremely popular, and as excursions are infrequent, between May and August it’s advisable to book a place at least a month in advance. The VVVs in Leeuwarden, Dokkum and Groningen can provide details, or you could contact one of the wadlopen organizations direct.
Prices and trips vary according to location, and how long (and far) you choose to go. You can do a full trip crossing to one of the islands – Ameland or Schiemonnikoog – and coming back by ferry, or just do a circular trip across the mud flats and back again. Pieterburen is a popular place to start: a circular trip from there costs €16.50 per person, and takes three and a half hours; while a full trip to Schiermonnikoog and back by ferry costs €75 a head.