Travel Guide Europe Netherlands Friesland Terschelling



Terschelling is one of the Dutch Wadden Islands of which the town of West Terschelling is the seat. The island as we know it now was formed during the late Middle ages.




The island of Terschelling was formed in medieval times after a sand bank known as De Schelling merged with the island located east from it, Wexalia. The name of Wexalia, the then name for the group of islands and sandbanks located where Terschelling lies now, has been out of common usage since the later medieval ages. The oldest settlements to have been found on Terschelling date back from around 850, being a little wooden church near Striep. A church list dating from the eleventh century mentioned the church of Echternach (Luxembourg) owning two churches on Terschelling.

Being located on the North Sea in an age in which the Dutch did not yet have their ability to protect against the seas, Terschelling was often damaged by storms and floods. The worst of these to have ever happened to Terschelling was in 1287, named the Saint Hubertusflood. This flood removed the ability to walk to the island via an shallow passage in the Wadden Sea, connecting to the island near Hoorn. The main connection shifted to the west at this point, making West-Terschelling the main settlement of the island.

Terschelling has been divided into two municipalities in 1612 after differences between inhabitants of the eastern and western parts of the island came to an all-time high. West-Terschelling became the capital city of West Terschelling, while Oost Terschelling was controlled from Midsland. Only after French occupation in Napoleonic times was the island reunited into unison.

Terschelling has been part of multiple countries and provinces, the last time of which was in 1942, when during German occupation the island along with its neighbour Vlieland was transferred from the province of North Holland to Friesland.

After a merchants fleet was destroyed on the Vlieree, the strait of water dividing Vlieland from Terschelling, on August 19th, 1666, West-Terschelling was attacked by the British navy the following day, led by captain Robert Holmes and Dutch deserteer captain Laurentz van Heemskerk. They attacked West-Terschelling since Vlieland, their original target, has prepared itself for possible attacks. Terschelling hadn't done so, and was therefore an easy target. The three hundred houses in the Town of Brandaris were burned to the ground without much resistance from the locals. The lighthouse Brandaris was one of the sole building to survive Holmes' Fire. Through help from up the hierarchy, namely the authorities of the district of Holland, the town was rebuilt successfully within several years. The layer of burnt ashes is still visible to this day, pitch black, it is found by digging down for about a meter. As of 2016, 350 years after the matter, a part of the ashes has been made visible in the Commandeursstraat, one of the oldest streets of West-Terschelling.

Nowadays, Terschelling counts roughly 8,300 permanent inhabitants, with that number tripling in high season. Like most of the West Frisian Islands, Terschelling thrives on domestic tourism who usually stay several days to enjoy the quiet, rural island atmosphere, spend time on the beaches and take bike trips to see the nature.

Terschelling is also the birthplace of explorer Willem Barentsz.




There are no real cities on the island. West-Terschelling is the biggest town, with around 2,600 inhabitants. Midsland with around 1,000 inhabitants is already a lot smaller. All others are far smaller, with towns counting as little as 14 inhabitants as is the case with Kaard. The towns of Hoorn, Formerum, Lies and Oosterend all count more than 125 inhabitants.



Sights and Activities

  • Waddling is the act of walking on the bottom of the sea at low tide and can best be done in the Dutch and German parts of the Wadden Islands. Read more about waddling here.
  • Brandaris, West-Terschelling. The islands light house is the oldest still operating one in the country, and a landmark that can't be missed. Locals refer to it simply as "the tower", and it's a square shaped, late 16th century structure. Unfortunately, the interior is not open for visitors.

Harbour of West-Terschelling. The village harbour is a picturesque place. It's the arrival point for the ferries, but otherwise home base for many smaller boats. There are cosy cafés around, allowing to sit back and take in the atmosphere.

  • Formerum Windmill, Formerum. The only remaining mill on the island, it once was used to mill the grains for the local community. Now, it's called the "Koffiemolen" or Coffeemill, for the coffee bar that's housed inside it. The building is a national monument and was constructed in 1838. About 40 years later it was moved from it's original location near West-Terschelling to its current place.
  • Museum 't Behouden Huys, Commandeurstraat 30-32 West Terschelling, ☎ +31 562-442389. Housed in two historic commandor's mansions, this small but pleasant museum has an interesting collection on the island's history. There's a yearly changing exposition as well as a permanent exposition space. The museum is named after the shelter on Nova Zembla that Willem Barentz, born on the island, famously built in 1596, to survive the northern winter after his ship became stuck in the ice. € 4/2 for adults/children.

Bird watching. On the western side of the island is Natural Reserve De Boschplaat. Some 65 to 70 different bird species roam and breed here, making it a popular destination for bird life enthusiasts. Note however that the area is closed in summer, March 15 - August 15, for the breeding season of the animals. There's no entrance fee.



Events and Festivals


Oerol on Terschelling is a cultural event that takes place in the summer. Because of the populartity of this event, hotels and campings are fully booked way before the festival.


Terschelling is the only Wadden island on which cranberries grow. In 1840 a ship carrying cranberries sank in front of the coast, and the cranberries washed ashore. The people from Terschelling started to grow them, and nowadays there are pretty big fields where they grow cranberries. During the year there are competitions between bakeries trying to make the best cranberry cakes.



Getting There

The ferry to Terschelling leaves from Harlingen and is mainly operated by Rederij Doeksen. The large regular ferry, named ms Friesland, makes its way to the island in about an hour and 45 minutes, allowing also for the transportation of bikes and cars. Note that you need to make reservations in advance if you plan on bringing a car, via the Rederij or via the tourist office. For passenger transport, reservations are not required but they are advised, and can be made online via the same channels, or via phone: +31 900-3635736. The ferry runs multiple times a day, but the times can vary. Always check on the ferry company's online schedule. One way tickets cost €25 for adults, bikes are another €14. Cars can be brought for no less than €140. The island is small however, and you might want to consider parking your car at the dedicated parking area at the Harlingen Harbour.

If you're not bringing a car, you can also opt for the fast service, which takes only 45 minutes and is carried out with smaller boats. Obviously, this is the preferred transport for locals, while visitors tend to enjoy the longer, regular ferry trip over the Wadden Sea. The fast boats also run a few times per day between Terschelling and neighbouring island Vlieland.



Getting Around

The island is fairly small. Cars are allowed but, also due to the high ferry costs, most people don't bring one. Biking and walking are the main ways around. Most hotels and the tourist office can rent out bikes. Despite its small size, the island has over 200 km of hiking paths, for which the tourist office has an excellent map.

Three buslines serve the island, all starting in the harbour of West-Terschelling. These are:

  • Line 1 to Oosterend.
  • Line 2 to Midsland Noord/Zee-Paal 8.
  • Line 9 to Oosterend (night bus, replaces line 1 after 22:00).

Public transit information found in 9292ov and other services for planning your journey with the Dutch public transit is often wrong when it comes to Terschelling and the Waddeneilanden in general. Instead, refer to either the brochures found at Tourist Information (VVV) Offices and other points of interest or simply ask a bus driver. Unlike what you might hear, subscriptions on your OV-Chipkaart also apply on the Waddeneilanden. Plenty of taxi companies are active on the island as well, should you want to avoid the hassle of public transit all together. Taxi's are often the cheaper solution when travelling in bigger groups.




There are plenty of places to eat, in all of the major villages. Most of the food is simple, bistro-style stuff for reasonable prices. In summer, many establishments have pleasant outdoor terraces where you can enjoy your meal.

Most places to eat are in West-Terschelling and Midsland, but don't forget the nice places along the beaches.




There are about 50 hotels, B&B's and other accommodations on this small island, so finding a place to stay doesn't seem too hard. In high-season, however, places can fill up and prices do rise. Terschelling is not a cheap place to stay, with budget rooms starting around €70 at most places. The tourist office has an easily searchable database of vacation homes, hotels, chalets, campsites and more, which includes practically every place to stay on the island.

  • Hotel Buren, Burg. Mentzstraat 20, West Terschelling, ☎ +31 562-442226. This simple, family-run hotel is a 5 minute walk from the ferry landing point. It's located in the village centre, in a building formerly used as the local school. The rooms are not too large, but they are clean and well-equipped. Service is also friendly. €80-130, depending on which room.
  • Hotel Altijd Wad, Trompstraat 6, West-Terschelling, ☎ +31 31612317154. A hotel with a style of its own. The rooms are clean and well-equipped, and decorated almost as if you're in a family home. The staff is very nice, and breakfast is descent. Rooms are on the small side and internet connections are poor, but otherwise this place gets great reviews. From €89, incl. breakfast.
  • WestCord Residentie Boschrijck, Sportlaan 5, ☎ +31 62-443055. A 4 star chain hotel offering rooms as well as apartments, and a wide range of facilities. There are good wellness arrangements, and a nice indoor pool. The apartments are quite spacious and well-appointed. Note that there's no proper internet reception at times and that cleaning costs can be added to your bill. From €79.

Camp Sites

  • Natural campsite West-Terschelling, ☎ +49 562 442675, fax: +49 570-747222, e-mail: [email protected]. Open April to October. Some 75 spots at the edge of a forest. In July and August you will have to reserve a spot. A Natuurkampeerkaart is obligatory.
  • Natural campsite Lies, Duinweg, Formerum, ☎ +49 562 442675. Some 24 spaces
  • Natural campsite Hoorn, Duinweg, Hoorn, ☎ +49 562 442675, fax: +49 570 747222. 58 spaces south of Hoornse Bos (Hoorn forst). No caravans or pets allowed.

View our map of accommodation in Terschelling



Keep Connected


Internet cafés are not as widespread as you would expect, but you can easily find one in the popular cities. Most hostels, hotels and camp sites have several computers, so you can keep connected with folk at home. Here is a list of internet cafés that could come in handy for travellers. Otherwise, most libraries have lots of computers and prices are around the €2-3 per hour range, although sometimes it can be even more expensive.

Wireless internet access using wifi is becoming more popular and is usually available at most hotels and increasingly at train stations. Also in trains (at least in most first class wagons, but also more and more in second class) and some buses you can use wifi. Finally, places like McDonald's and Starbucks have free wifi, and smaller individual business like cafés and restaurants are on the rise too offering these services. More often than not, these service tend to be free of charge, though there might be a limited time you can use the internet.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The country code for the Netherlands is 31. The outbound international prefix is 00. The general emergency number is 112, like many other countries.
0800 numbers are toll-free and for 09xx numbers are charged at premium rates. Mobile phones have numbers in the 06 range, and calls to cell phones are also priced at higher rates.

From internet cafés, it is also usually possible to make long distance international calls. Like in other countries, telephone booths have almost disappeared, though some are still found around public transport stations, where you can use a few coins to make calls. It is only recommended for local calls.

The cellular phone network in the Netherlands is GSM 900/1800. The main providers of cell phone networks are KPN (Dutch only), T-mobile and Vodafone, who cover the whole country. Other operators, like Hollandsnieuwe, Simyo or Tele2, use one of these 3 networks basically.

It is best to buy a SIM card when in the Netherlands for use in your cellphone, as this usually works out cheaper than using the one from home. If you are planning to study or work in the country and stay for several months, buying a cellphone is the best option. A simple one, sometimes with €10 worth on it, can be bought from around €25. The simplest smartphones are around €75.


The rate for sending a postcard or letter up to 20 grams within the Netherlands is €0.64 (2014). Since 2010 there are stamps available for domestic post which no longer include the value in €. Instead, there are stamps available with either a '1' or a '2' as a substitute for value. The '1' can be used for letters and postcards up to 20 grams, while 20-50 grams require you to use the '2'-valued stamps (or two '1'-valued stamps of course).

Sending items to other EU countries and the rest of the world (there is one price since 2014) will cost €1.05. Stamps are sold at post offices, supermarkets and smaller shops/kiosks; often the place where you buy your postcards can also supply you with stamps.

Sending parcels abroad is more costly. A standard-sized parcel between up to 2 kilograms will cost you €9 for destinations within the EU and €18 (both without Track & Trace) to the rest of the world. Prices with Track & Trace start at €13 and €24.30 respectively. Parcel service is available from major post offices only; standard-size boxes are on sale there as well. For sending parcels, it might be just as competitive and fast to use a company like TNT, UPS or DHL.

If you need to receive mail while moving around, you can have it sent poste restante (to be called for) to a post office of your choice, where it will be kept for a month. If you come to claim it, bring a valid ID, and make sure to have told the sender that the name on the envelope must be an exact match with that in your passport. For addresses of post offices, as well as more information, consult the TNT website.


Quick Facts



Accommodation in Terschelling

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This is version 6. Last edited at 11:08 on Sep 19, 18 by Utrecht. 5 articles link to this page.

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