The Coolest Off-Grid Stay in the Netherlands
If you're looking for a few days of peace and quiet, surrounded by calm wetlands home to beavers, ducks, and bumblebees, this off-grid cabin in the Netherlands' De Biesbosch National Park is for you! The best part? You can get there by bike!
Off-grid cabins, urban reefs, and pavilions made from flax, hemp, and wood waste are only a few of the sustainable innovations the Netherlands has to offer. From off-grid living spaces in nature, to the annual Dutch Design Week showcasing technologies and textiles aimed at creating a fairer, more ethical way of living, we decided that there’s no better way to glimpse into the future, than by visiting it first-hand.
Earlier this year, we embarked on a two-week cycle trip through the Netherlands to visit some incredible individuals and projects actively creating real change for both people and planet. Watch the YouTube video we made about it, or read the blog here.
We knew we had only just scratched the surface of what the Netherlands has to offer in terms of sustainable innovation however, so we decided we needed to go back…and we were planning on cycling there too!
To get there, we used our Tenways CGO800S e-bikes on this trip, which have an incredible 100km range and the capacity to hold two panniers and a backpack each on the bike’s back rack. This makes them perfect for cycle trips, as well as extremely comfortable and durable. We absolutely love having them for rides around London, as well as on longer haul cycle trips.
London to De Biesbosch National Park
Thanks to Eurostar, we and our bikes were booked on the first train to Brussels this morning! Setting off from home before the sun came up, we made our way to London St. Pancras International Station with all of our gear for the next week strapped to the back of our Tenways e-Bikes. We’re super excited too because since Covid, Eurostar was only allowing foldable bikes on the Paris leg of their journeys. Now, you can take any bike all the way to Brussels, which serves as a great hub for transiting to other central European cities.
Arriving at the back of St. Pancras where the Eurostar Services desk is located, we showed the team our passports, pre-booked tickets for the bikes, and unloaded our things before the staff wheeled our bikes off to be loaded onto the train.
We then proceeded to check in ourselves, go through security, and wait for our platform to be called. Once on the train, it was a smooth 2 hour train ride with a lovely vegan breakfast, a quick nap, and views of the countryside…and before we knew it, we’d arrived at Brussels Midi station.
If you bring bikes on Eurostar, it’s important to not leave the platform without your bikes, as you won’t be allowed back once off. So just wait by the ‘collection point’ sign, and the Eurostar staff will roll your beloved bikes straight to you. From Brussels Midi, we purchased tickets to Rotterdam and Dordrecht, where the cycling was finally able to begin after a quick pit stop to pick up some groceries.
Being back cycling in the Netherlands felt amazing, and we really hope the Dutch don’t take for granted just how excellent their cycling infrastructure is. After a nice 25 minute cycle, we reached the ferry port on the outskirts of Dordrecht that would take us across a narrow river into De Biesbosch National Park. The ferry costs €1 per person with a bike, and takes only 5 minutes. Once inside the national park, it was a short 20 minute cycle to the incredible, remote off-grid cabin that we’d be staying in for the next few days.
Off a hidden gravel road lies Cabin Anna, a completely self-sufficient, solar-powered stay nestled right at the wetlands’ edge. Designed by Caspar Schols initially as a garden shed for his mother, these completely customisable, expandable stays offer the perfect refuge for a few days off-grid in nature.
We arrived in the late afternoon, and had to hurry to get the wood-burning fire going before nightfall. Although the electricity in the cabin is powered by solar, the wood-burning fire offers us heat, warms the water tank for showers and washing dishes, and has a built-in stove and oven for cooking–making this multi-purpose unit a must for winter to make the cabin super cosy.
The next morning, the shining sun and cloudless blue skies helped us rise early, and start playing around with this expandable home we were staying in.
By unlocking interior pins and pulling on a lever, the house seamlessly and easily transforms from a one room cabin with a front deck to a longhouse with a conservatory-like glass room and a covered patio. The heat from the sun made this the perfect place to spend the afternoon reading, relaxing, and watching wildlife. Or in summer, the glass can be pulled to one side, allowing guests to sleep under the stars.
De Biesbosch Museum
The next day, heavy rain was expected in the afternoon, so we set off in the morning to explore a bit more of the park. One of the largest national parks in the Netherlands and comprised mostly of freshwater wetlands, De Biesbosch National Park is home to beavers, a huge variety of birds, insects and pollinators, and plant-life.
Only about 15 minutes from Cabin Anna is the incredible De Biesbosch Museum. Shrouded in native greenery and grasses, the museum reveals the history of the area, all the wildlife it protects, and offers immersive experiences for kids and adults alike to learn more about this beautiful part of the Netherlands. Designed by the architects of Studio Marco Vermeulen, the museum and visitors centre is designed to seamlessly fit in with the surrounding lush green landscapes, while still acting as a modern hub of information and community. The project was completed in 2015, and is truly as magnificent up-close as it seems in photos.
Hitting the Road
After three beautiful, restful days in De Biesbosch, we loaded up our bikes, and hit the road again. Due to Cabin Anna's remote location in the park, we had to cycle around along De Biesbosch's edge toward Werkendam, the nearest town, from where we could pick up cycle lanes that would lead us through the village of Hank and over the Keizersveer Bridge back onto the mainland.
On the way to Eindhoven, we stopped halfway in Tilburg (about 55km from De Biesbosch) for a quick overnight stop to rest, recharge our bikes, and avoid the rainstorm that was rolling in. The next morning, feeling well-rested and relaxed, we set off to complete the final 36km to Eindhoven.
Dutch Design Week
At university, Ben studied architecture and has always loved sustainable design, so visiting Dutch Design Week has been a bucket-list item of his forever! Arriving to see that the whole city gets involved with the event too is truly inspiring, and we couldn’t wait to see what was in store.
In Eindhoven for just two of the nine day event, our goal at Dutch Design Week was to see as many areas of the event as possible. Spread across 100 locations in and around Eindhoven, Dutch Design Week groups participating designers and projects based on 11 programme narratives that help guide visitors toward what they are interested in seeing.
For example, two of the program narratives Ben and I were really keen on seeing included Enabling Our Thriving Planet and Creating Our Living Environment. With a big cluster of projects and innovations located in the city’s Strijp-S area, we started our first day there!
Inside the first of three halls built inside of the former Philips factory, projects ranged from conscious furniture makers, to sustainable, locally-produced footwear designs, and we even caught up with our friends at Urban Reef, who design 3D-printed, biophilic reefs that allow for nature to decide where it wants to thrive.
Outside in the central square, further pop-ups and stalls showcased innovations like this pavilion made from flax, hemp, and wood waste, as well as alternative textiles, thought-provoking urban food system alternatives, vegan food trucks, and more! Eindhoven is a super cool student city, teeming with a rich history of innovation and forward-thinking. We loved our brief tour of Dutch Design Week this year, and can't wait to come back next year for more.
P.S. If you're looking for a good dinner spot in Eindhoven, we can't recommend Ethiopisch enough! For an authentic Ethiopian dining experience with exceptional food and plenty of airy injera, we loved coming here for dinner each night and getting the #29 Combi. Vegan dish for two.
Heading back home the same way we came, but this time in reverse from Eindhoven, we had plenty of time to reflect on the incredible mini adventure we had just been on, and all of the incredible ideas we witnessed come to life along the way.
Part of what we think makes Dutch Design Week so successful and innovative is the Dutch lifestyle and shared values of community, accessibility, and respect for the planet as well as those around you. We believe everyone has something to learn from this, and can truly make a difference if people and planet are put first.
Want to learn more about off-grid stays?
From Australia's northern coast to the Scottish Highlands, off-grid living is creating self-sufficient oases in nature for thousands of people around the world. To learn more about some of the planet's most innovative, interesting, and up-cycled off-grid cabins, check out our YouTube video here, or read the blog post here.