Enjoy a boat trip on the Westeinderplassen. From the extraction of peat and the cultivation of strawberries to the transformation of horticulture into a water sports setting.
The Dutch lake, known as the Westeinderplassen in Aalsmeer is not only rich in terms of nature, but also in terms of culture. During a leisure cruise on the Westeinderplassen you will sail from the Kleine Poel to the Grote Poel and back again. You will cruise past present-day Aalsmeer, where stories from the past come to life. A cruise with the Westeinder Rondvaart tour company is the Aalsmeer experience, with a touch of humour added in for good measure!
While you’re waiting at the jetty located next to the tea house, known as the Tuinhuis, in the Historical Garden, you can’t fail to see the boat belonging to the Westeinder Rondvaart approaching from the distance. You can’t miss it, due to its bright red accents and Henk, the skipper – or one of the other skippers – standing straight and proud at the helm, sailing towards you. Once you have embarked, the tour on the Westeinderplassen can begin.
The boat trip starts at the Kleine Poel where you will pass through the ‘leisure craft district’ of Aalsmeer, as Henk cheekily puts it. You will recognize this description as you sail along the waterway behind the exclusive houses located on the Stommeerweg. On the left you can admire the beautiful homes with their well-kept gardens and boathouses. From time to time a sloop will leave the boathouse; one of the most popular type of boats amongst the residents these days. You will also sail pass different marinas such as the Dragt Marina, the oldest in the village.
The closer you get to the Grote Poel, the more visible the Water Tower becomes. Every now and then you will often observe a sloop, dinghy or windsurfer passing by. When you arrive at the Grote Poel, you will get to hear about one of the oldest trades in Aalsmeer: peat extraction. A trade which was widespread in Aalsmeer from about 1300 to 1900. For approximately six hundred years, peat has been extracted from the earth to be used as fuel for stoves and ovens and suchlike. It needs little imagination to realise that this created a huge cavity which filled with water over time. Quite a good thing, because without it, a cruise on the Westeinderplassen would never have been possible.
Between the Grote Poel and the Kleine Poel you can zigzag between the green islands. In this area there are about four hundred islands of which about 30% are still used by growers. Lilacs are particularly popular here. You will sail past lilac bushes that are eighty to ninety years old and which are cut by hand every two years to be harvested later in the greenhouses. This is all done by hand, a method that hasn’t changed for decades.
Tip: Would you like to learn more about the lilacs in Aalsmeer? De Westeinder Rondvaart organizes lilac cruises every March and April under the name Lilac Experience.
The islands on the Westeinderplassen were only used for horticulture in the past. This is has all changed, as nowadays, you will see many private islands on all sides as you sail through this peaceful environment. Many of the nurseries were also transformed into marinas at some point. Times change, as it became more profitable to moor boats rather than to grow flowers and plants.
Cultivating strawberries is a slightly more recent profession than peat extraction, but older than horticulture. Aalsmeer is also known for its strawberries and that is reflected on the red, green and black Aalsmeer flag. The colours represent fruit, leaves and earth. Passing the famous Aardbeiensloot (strawberry waterway), the Westeinder Rondvaart skipper is happy to provide you with numerous Aalsmeer strawberry facts and anecdotes. Following the Haarlemmermeerpolder ring canal, an important waterway in Aalsmeer, you will sail past the Historical Garden back to their “home port”: the jetty located at the Tuinhuis on the Praamplein.
That the Westeinder Rondvaart is more than just a leisure cruise on the Westeinderplassen is evident. It is an experience, a voyage of discovery over Aalsmeer waters. Would you like to take part in a leisure cruise yourself? The fixed sailing times from 1 May to 1 October are: