Wander through Belgium’s Nature Preserves

Zwin Nature Reserve in Belgium | Photo by Anna Dudek
Zwin Nature Reserve in Belgium | Photo by Anna Dudek

Wander through Belgium’s Nature Preserves

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

With a wonderfully eclectic mashup of Dutch, French and Flemish influences, Belgium is a fantastic melting pot. From delicious foods such as “gaufres” (waffles) and frites, complex and rich brews to unique cultural traditions, there is so much to discover. However, step away from the bustling metropolis of Brussels and a whole different world opens up. With lush forests, sandy beaches and marshlands, here are five Belgian nature preserves worth checking out.

Blankaart Nature Reserve
In a less densely populated part of Belgium, about 25 minutes inland from the North Sea, is Blankaart Nature Reserve. Visitors can walk along wooden boardwalks through a flood plain surrounding a large pond. Bring your binoculars, as it’s home to plenty of birds — notably geese, ducks, herons and swans. During the winter months, the pond freezes and ices over creating a beautiful wintry landscape.

Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen
Just a few kilometers to the northwest of Ghent is the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen Nature Reserve. This tranquil park has plenty of walking trails, including wheelchair-accessible pathways. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars to check out the waterfowl and nesting birds aloft in the trees lining the natural canals.

High Fens – Eifel Nature Park
Located along the German border, High Fens – Eifel Nature Park actually merged with Eifel National Park in Germany in 1971. One of the oldest and largest reserves in Belgium, it offers diverse landscapes such as lakes, undulating hills, bogs and forests. Beautiful, colorful blooms in the spring and frost-covered grass in the winter make it a great place to visit year-round.

Vallei van de Zwarte Beek
Also known as Valley of the Black Brook in English, Zwarte Beek is one of the largest nature reserves in the Flanders region. Located approximately an hour north of Liège and 90 minutes east of Brussels, this forested and boggy park is great for families. There are plenty of trails to explore, including an interactive footpath the kids will love.

Zwin Nature Reserve
If sand-swept dunes and quiet sloughs are your happy place, you’ll fall in love with Het Zwin Nature Park. Tucked away along the North Sea bordering the Netherlands, this serene spot was once a busy thoroughfare connecting various ports to Bruges and Sluis. With paths crisscrossing throughout the park, it’s great for hiking, cycling and horse trekking.


The bluebells in Hallerbos | Photo by Durk Talsma 

Honorable mention: Hallerbos
A mere 20 kilometers south of Brussels will bring you to Hallerbos — The Blue Forest. Filled with oak and beech trees, the forest floor explodes with colorful bluebells and hyacinths for approximately 10 days in the spring. Blooming any time between late March and early May, the unpredictable nature makes it a little difficult to plan the perfect trip. However, the vibrant hues of cobalt and violet are worth it.

Dust off those hiking boots and explore the beautiful nature of Belgium.

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