You close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the island.. there is no mobile phone reception here, only the sound of the water lapping, the patter of hooves as some resident sheep fleetingly run past, disturbed by the strange visitors. The wind is strong and refreshing, and you feel a cold light spring rain against your face. You pull your coat closer as you take in the old lighthouse, rugged scenery, and old bunkers, remnants of a long derelict fort. As you turn a corner on the uneven ground, you smell the inviting aroma of cooking and wood smoke. Fire pits are lit, with seats around the outside. The lights are warm and comforting. You are stranded on this island until later tonight, when the boat will take you back to the mainland. You decide to follow the warmth and see where the adventure takes you..
This may sound like an excerpt from a (perhaps not very good!) fictional novel..but this is exactly the experience you will have on a visit to this remote Lighthouse Island. Read on to discover more!
In today’s busy technological society, where everyone is apparently “time-poor” and juggling endless commitments around family and work, it’s hard to find the time to really take a break and “get away from it all”. Whether you live in Amsterdam, or are just visiting, a trip to Vuurtoreneiland is the perfect idyllic place to spend an entire evening, unplugged, far away from the mainland, enjoying delicious local food and an excellent wine cellar. It’s like a whole “mini-break” in one evening.
The ferry to the island leaves from opposite the Lloyd Hotel at 6:30pm. We rode our bikes down there and locked them outside the hotel. It’s easy to spot the ferry and the friendly crew will tick your name off the list and get you on board.
Th trip over to the island will take around an hour. The ferry is an old wooden trawler, with long benches and tables inside. There are some bread rolls, cold meats and chutney laid out, and you will be served a lovely cider (or other drink of your choice) during the journey. This part of the trip wasn’t my favourite, mainly due to the fact that there’s not a lot of space in the seats, so you’ll be sitting elbow to elbow with other guests. However, everyone is ready for an adventure and you’re all “in the same boat”. It’s basically like being in a busy local pub on the water. If you’re travelling with your partner, I would recommend sitting next to each other, rather than facing, as it can get quite loud!
During the boat trip, the crew give an overview of the history of the island, and the restaurant, but this is in Dutch. They did do a short English version to individual groups. I would recommend checking out the website or other articles to learn about the island before you go.
On arriving at the island, and disembarking, I realised I had made a good decision wearing my Barbour jacket and all-weather boots, rather than the normal evening dress and heels! There is no place for heels on this adventure! And you will need a warm/waterproof coat. I imagine even in the summer you need to be prepared, as it seems to have its own microclimate.
We visited last week, when the weather was pretty cold, but the island is set up to welcome visitors in all seasons, with winter and summer dining areas (the summer restaurant is currently being renovated and will be open again in June 2018).
After taking some photos of the old lighthouse and a little bit of exploring, all the guests made their way around to the old bombproof bunker, where historically troops were stationed to protect the capital against Prussian raids. Outside, there are various fire pits, seating areas, and fairy lights strung in the trees. A quick glance in the old buildings reveals vintage Ford farm vehicles, which have probably never left the island! It all brought back fond memories of my childhood in the wilds of Yorkshire.
Dining & The Winter Restaurant
Inside the bombproof shelter, you will be welcomed into a cosy atmosphere, with soft lighting and candles, and make your way through the long tunnels into the main dining areas. Have a peek into the incredible wine cellar on your way! From the outside, it’s difficult to imagine the restaurant could be so well designed, with all mod cons.
All the food is cooked over a wood fire, just as it always would have been in the kitchen here. There is an emphasis on smoked flavours, such as the smoked eel, and perfectly cooked winter vegetables, carrots, potatoes and other roots. All the courses were well thought out and tasty, and the menu was a perfect amount of food, without being too filling. The wine pairings were also excellent.
The timings are well rehearsed, to allow guests to have a relaxing dinner, with fine wine and conversation, and good space between courses – always keeping in mind that you need to catch the boat back home! It’s also a very intimate atmosphere, allowing you some quality and relaxing time with your other half or friends.
NB: as there is no water supply on the island, it is all transported over from the mainland by boat, so you need to be aware of water restrictions and sustainability. This means things like keeping the same cutlery throughout the courses, and being cognisant when washing your hands etc.
By the time we were guided out of the restaurant and back to the boat, the weather had turned pretty wild, so it was a refreshing walk! I actually enjoyed the trip back a lot more than the way out. This may or may not be due to the very generous wine pairings! 😉. We also headed to the back of the boat and had a lot more room (and a couple of blankets), so it was more comfortable. On the way back to civilisation, you can have coffee and after dinner drinks (and maybe a little after dinner nap :))
Overall, this was a really enjoyable evening, which constitutes an entire adventure in itself. Highly recommended for couples or friends looking for an interesting evening around Amsterdam. Note that the island is not suitable for children, and this is stated on the website (link below).
We were lucky enough to be given the dinner as a gift from my partner’s work colleagues .. it’s not too often we get a free dinner, so we really appreciated it!
Full details of how to reserve are on the website – the tickets are always being sold 2 months in advance, and apparently sell out quickly, as there are limited spaces for each trip.
We will definitely be heading back to Vuurtoreneiland in the summer months, for what will no doubt be a completely different experience.. watch this space!