This National Park on the border of Groningen and Friesland is home to over 100 species of birds, that breed in its water, forests and grasslands, and thousands of hibernating geese. The bird migration during spring and autumn is the height of bird-mania. To see 30000 barnacle geese fly above your head is truly impressive. Bird enthusiasts enjoy visiting Lauwersmeer National Park to see its outstanding birds. They know they might get a glimpse of phenomenal birds such as stilts, spoonbills, red-necked phalaropes and even sea eagles, which have been known to use the park as breeding site.
In the past, fresh and salt water mixed together in the Lauwerszee. In 1969, a dam was built out of fear for floods. From the bottom of the sea arose a beautiful new landscape, a true paradise for birds. The Lauwersmeer landscape was so extraordinary that it was awarded the title of National Park in 2003.
The park is home to flora, such as orchids, and fauna, such as foxes, Scottish Highland cattle and Konik horses. However, the Lauwersmeer completely revolves around bird life. They are what makes this park an irresistible wilderness for every bird-watcher and nature enthusiast. A true paradise for birds on a former ocean floor.
Lauwersmeer, a paradise for birds on former ocean floor
The Lauwersmeer, bordering the world heritage site Waddenzee, is one of the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) of Western Europe. The site is an essential for bird migration, which occurs twice a year in spring and autumn. Millions of birds travel thousands of kilometres from their nesting sites to their hibernation countries and back. Many birds in Laurwersmeer are migration birds. Those which breed and raise their young in the high north, like stilts, ducks and geese, travel to the south in autumn to avoid the cold weather. Some hibernate in the Netherlands whereas others travel further south. These birds use Lauwersmeer and the Wadden area to stock up on food for their second long journey. They arrive again at Lauwersmeer in early spring for their journey back to the nesting areas.
The golden oriole, the pied avocet and the spoonbill migrate in early autumn and return in early spring. Lauwersmeer is home to thousands of geese in winter and an incredible amount of migration birds use the park as their ‘rest stop’ in their journey to and from the migration areas.
Out and about
The park offers various hiking opportunities as well as stunning views and bird watching huts. The activity centre is available to help you on your way. Guided tours are also available. For more information, please consult the activity calendar.
Dark Sky Park
The International Dark Sky Association named Lauwersmeer National Park an official Dark Sky Park in October 2016. Here, nature’s darkness is preserved and visitors can experience the darkness in peace and enjoy the beautiful starry sky. This label is particularly special for Lauwersmeer National Park, as light pollution in the Netherlands is ranked high on the global scale.
In this National Park nature’s darkness is preserved and visitors can experience the darkness in peace and enjoy the beautiful starry sky. The National Park is a dark place by Dutch standards; there is little artificial light. In clear weather, for example, the Milky Way is clearly distinguishable here. In principle, this is possible anywhere in the area, as long as there is no disturbing light from street lamps, for example. In the summer months it gets dark much later and there remains a light in the north, where the sun does not set all day.
The access conditions in the Lauwersmeer area (with the exception of the military training area “Marnewaard”) are the same at night as during the day; free walking on roads and paths.
There are three places where you can admire the night sky well:
- At our nature information center Lauwersnest
- from sky platform Achter de Zwarten (past Suyderoogh)
- from sky platform Vlinderbalg (on the Strandweg)
On the sky platforms it is possible to lower headrests and view the stars while lying down. The two sky platforms are watchtowers that are designed to lie up at night when the weather is clear to look at the starry sky.
Dark Sky acivitities
Staatsbosbeheer, the Dutch forestry commission, organises different kinds of excursions to experience the darkness, like searching for moths and finding constellations in the night sky. For more information, please consult the activity calendar.
True darkness is becoming a rarity, as the Western world is increasing its overnight lighting. This phenomenon is damaging both man and nature. The streetlights are influencing the duration of the evening and night time. Overnight artificial lighting can alter the lifecycle and behaviour of animals such as bats, which are known to find less food because of these lights. Darkness is also beneficial to man as it provides us with a good night’s sleep.
Dark Sky worldwide
The International Dark Sky Association [www.darksky.org] has now named 41 parks and reservations as Dark Sky locations. Approximately half of these locations are situated in the United States of America. Only one other location can be found in the Netherlands; the Boschplaat on Terschelling received the Dark Sky label in 2015.
Where can you find what
Are you interested in Lauwersmeer National Park or thinking of visiting soon? The website www.visitgroningen.nl can provide you extensive tourist information regarding ‘see & do’, eating, drinking and ‘accommodations’.
Start your visit in one of the information centres, either Lauwersnest or the Information Pavilion. They can provide you with further information and will have the answers to all your questions.
Activity centre Lauwersnest
This activity centre can provide you with flyers and information about the area and the plants and animals that can be found here. They also have a souvenir shop. The hosts will be able to inform you at all times. Near the centre, you will find a beautiful fire pit, fishing pond in which water critters can be caught, and an adventurous build-your-own-cabin forest. The Kabouterpad, gnome path, is perfect for your little ones. The centre also organises many different activities for all ages. For the current activities, please consult the activity calendar.
Activity centre Lauwersnest, De Rug 1, 9976 VT Lauwersoog / +31 (0) 519-345145 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, Saturdays, Sundays: 11.00 – 17.00.
School holidays: Tuesdays – Sundays: 11.00 – 17.00
The Information Pavilion
The Information Pavilion (HIP) is located in Lauwersoog harbour. Here, they can provide you with information on tourist attractions throughout the area, like World Heritage Site the Waddenzee, Lauwersmeer National Park and Schiermonnikoog National Park. The staff will always be available to help with any questions you may have. Their interactive screens provide information about the area and the ‘Experience’ room is a must-see! The centre provides a beautiful view of the Waddenzee as well as the harbour of Lauwersoog.
The Information Pavilion, Haven 6, 9976 VN Lauwersoog / +31 (0) 519-349070
April – September: Wednesdays – Sundays: 11.00 – 17.00
October – March: Saturdays and Sundays: 11.00 – 16.00