Nature lovers are in paradise in this tiny national park protecting the man-made watery shallows of Lauwersmeer, split between Friesland and the neighbouring province of Groningen. The lake was formed in 1969 when the dyke between the Lauwerszee, formed by a flood in 1280, and the Waddenzee was closed. Keen-eyed ornithologists can spot the rare sea eagle, white-tailed eagle and dozens of migratory birds in the shallows, while wild geese and Konik horses inhabit the surrounding grasslands.
Fishing remains the traditional industry in Zoutkamp, a tiny fishing village where fishers' houses are painted a rainbow of colours and eels are still smoked in its quayside rokerij (eel smokehouse). From the port village of Lauwersoog, ferries sail to the national-park island of Schiermonnikoog. A 1.5km-long nature trail at the visitor centre here provides a good introduction to the park; book guided nature walks and birdwatching expeditions with a park ranger.
In 2020 a new seashore seal centre is slated to open in Lauwersoog. Designed by Danish architect Dorte Mandrup, the contemporary glass building will be constructed on stilts above the water and feature exhibitions on the Waddenzee ecosystem, a research centre, a cafe and rooftop seal pools where the once-endemic grey seal can be observed.