Few travellers venture to this far corner of the Netherlands, but those who don't go are missing out on the country's rural heart, a place where traditions are kept alive and prehistoric relics dot the landscape. The Netherlands' best-known walking trail, the Pieterspad, legs it from here, from Pieterburen 490km south to Maastricht.
Provincial capital Groningen is a buzzing, youthful city. Museums, restaurants, bars, theatres, canals, festivals – it's the north's cultural point of reference and a fine base for exploring.
On the coast, try the strangely intriguing pastime of wadlopen (mudflat-walking). Or head to Bourtange, on the eastern border with Germany; its hefty defences are just as forbidding now as they were in the 16th century. South, Drenthe is a great garden with shifting tableaus of sheep pastures, stream-cut peat bogs, marshlands and fascinating hunebedden (neolithic burial chambers), often accessible only by bike or on foot.