Since I hadn’t planned a trip abroad in July and August this year, it was an ideal time for me to discover beautiful places close to home. And, in what seemed to be the only sunny weekend in the Belgian summer, me and my friend Aurélie went on a weekend full of adventure in Scheldeland.
Introduction of the region Scheldeland
Scheldeland is a large area that extends along the rivers Schelde, Dender and Rupel. (from Ghent in the west, Antwerp in the east and Ninove in the South) Knowing that at every destination I mainly look for nature, and with the rivers being the main eye-catchers in Scheldeland, it only made sense that I would explore the region from the water. But Scheldeland has much more to offer. You will also find beautiful hiking and biking trails and trendy places to eat or drink something. For culture lovers there is also plenty to discover. In short, Scheldeland is an ideal destination to spend a day or a weekend.
Day 1 weekend Scheldeland
The active part : canoeing in Scheldeland
Enjoying the tranquility of nature, but in a different way? Why not take a kayak or canoe down the Dender? The possibilities are endless and you can plan your own trip, at your own pace.
Practical tips for your canoe trip
- Kayaks and canoes can be rented at The Outsider with possible departures in Overboelare, Denderleeuw and Aalst.
- You can opt for a trip of one or two hours or for a multi-day trip. For the multi-day trip your starting point will be at Geraardsbergen. Keep in mind that in this case you will have to take your canoe out of the water a number of times to get over the locks (=sluizen).
- Each canoe has a barrel in which you can store material that can’t get wet. I also took a waterproof bag with me, just to be sure.
- On the two-day route you can spend the night in Ninove. We arranged with Hotel Kalvaar to pick us up, after we had stowed our canoe. There are a number of B&Bs in the area that offer this option, but be sure to arrange this in advance.
- The boats can be rented from April till September (and possibly afterwards, if the weather is nice)
- The outsider composed a map with possible starting and stopping points, accommodation options and stops along the way.
Our canoe trip on the Dender : Geraardsbergen -> Ninove
Me and my friend Aurélie started our adventure at Het Bruggenhuis in Geraardsbergen. We got a fairly large boat and after a friendly gentleman had given us some last instructions, we left on the ‘wild waters’ of Scheldeland. Only 15 minutes later the first lock came, and we had to give our all to get the colossus out of the water. A precarious, but in the meantime also a hilarious situation. 😀 Luckily now we could enjoy the peace and quiet on the water for quite a long time. After a while we got the hang of it and picked up the pace quite a bit.
Exploring a region from the water is alternative and active, but also very relaxing. Children will undoubtedly find this activity on the water a great adventure.
After an intensive but enjoyable canoe ride, we arrived at our final stop Ninove, 15km later.
The relaxing part : wining and dining in Ninove
As usual, after the effort, comes the relaxation. Fortunately, Ninove has a lot to offer in terms of trendy addresses. I had only been to the city once before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I like to be surprised and the city didn’t disappoint.
Bar Sajet is one of those places where you feel welcome as soon as you step inside. It is also so beautiful that you don’t know where to look first. The perfect place to take a rest after our canoe trip and enjoy a delicious wine on the colorful terrace. But in addition to being a hip place where you can eat and drink, it is also a shop where you can buy wool and other gadgets. In short, definitely worth a visit.
After our wine, it was time for another wine 😀 The friendly owners of Bar Sajet had recommended us a brand new wine bar on the cozy Graanmarkt. And here too we were welcomed with open arms. Still new and with loads of energy the staff of Lovd pampers its guests. Not only do they serve quality wines, but the nachos are also highly recommended. I know it from hearsay 😉
Last but not least it was time to fill our stomachs. We went to Carte Blanche : the restaurant is located in a shopping mall, but it has a spacious terrace. There you are guarantueed a service that is taken care of down to the last detail and delicious mussels, among many other dishes.
We spent the night at Hotel Kalvaar. A decent hotel with a restaurant (with garden/terrace) that is full every night, so the food there is undoubtedly delicious. You can find more places to stay on the map of the Outsider or on the website of Toerisme Scheldeland.
Day 2 weekend Scheldeland
After a good night’s sleep, but with tired arms and sore muscles from the canoeing, we were ready to discover another piece of Scheldeland, not from the water this time.
The active part : exploring nature
As in any destination, whether near or far, I love to immerse myself in nature and discover the most beautiful natural areas of the region. That’s why I’m going to take you with me to some of the wonderful places that Scheldeland has to offer. Whether you make a weekend out of it, or a day trip, these places will appeal to both young and old.
Nothing better than to cool off in the forests on a hot summer day, am I right? ‘Het Neigembos’ is 70 ha in size and a truly ancient forest. It is a gorgeous place to walk, and the height differences are made easy for you by nicely constructed stairs.
Most of you, when thinking of blooming forest hyacints, will think of the Hallerbos. But did you know you can also behold a carpet of purple flowers in ‘het Neigembos’?
But in my opinion, forests are magical in every season and therefore always worth a visit. Toerisme Scheldeland mapped out a beautiful hike that you can download here.
Den Dotter Aaigem
The next beautiful piece of nature we discovered in Aaigem, the nature reserve Den Dotter. (The name of the nature reserve is derived from the ‘dotterbloem’, which you can find there in spring)
At the church starts a 9,5 km walking route. This hike is full of variety : from sloping valleys to refreshing forests, creeks, panoramas and flower fields. Your walk will occasionally be brightened by animals on the side of the road, and friendly farmers may also cross your path. At one point, we were even preceded by galloping horses.
The relaxing part : coffee breaks & summerbar chilling
After the brisk walk, it was almost time to wrap up our weekend. But first we were going to let ourselves be pampered a little more in the surrounding trendy places.
Groot Geluk Aaigem
There is nothing more delicious than enjoying a delightsome coffee and a piece of pie after an effort. The charming coffee house ‘Groot Geluk’ is located close to the starting point of the ‘Dotter’ walking route and is therefore an ideal place to recover. Moreover, the super cozy coffee house has no less than two terraces. I tried the guilt-free ‘holy pie’ and it was divine.
Bloom Zomerbar Aalst
We ended our weekend in Aalst, at the super chill summer bar Bloom. The perfect place to unwind completely with a delicious cocktail in hand. Summer season of Bloom ends on the 12th of September. But the good news is that from September 2nd you can go back to Vila Villander, which undoubtedly offers a good alternative.
I hope that after reading the story of our weekend in Scheldeland, you are convinced that there is a lot of beauty to be found in this region, and above all that you can also enjoy weekends away close to home.
Whether on the water, by bike or on foot, there is no shortage of natural beauty and surprisingly nice addresses are not lacking either. Feel free to take a look at the website of ‘Toerisme Scheldeland’, or order the free ‘holiday book‘ from Toerisme Scheldeland, and get even more inspired.
Have fun exploring!