The lighthouses of Zeeland

Lighthouses are landmarks for the ships at sea. Their lights warn seamen that the coast is nearby and stop the ships from running aground. Zeeland has a large number of lighthouses, not only because of its great expanses of coastline, but because of the region’s treacherous stretches of shallow waters that are dangerous for low-lying commercial vessels. Many of the lighthouses have been around for a long time, giving them each their own individual and historical architectural style.

The lighthouse in Goedereede
With a church next to the tower of Goedereede and the sea such an awfully long way away, one might ask whether it is a lighthouse or a church! Everything points to the latter, but if it were a church, then there is something not quite right about it…

The tower started life in 1512 as part of a cathedral. When that collapsed, a smaller church was built next to, but separate to the tower, which is why, at 39.5 metres, the tower looks out of proportion.

The harbour in Goedereede used to be connected to the sea, but once the estuary silted up, the church´s spire dismantled and the tower was turned into a lighthouse. It served as a lighthouse from 1833 to 1912 and both the tower and the church are now open to visitors from June to the middle of September, 14.00 to 16.30 hours, every day of the week except Sundays.

Light signals
If every lighthouse had the same signal, you would not be able to tell, in the dark, whether you had reached the mouth of the Oosterschelde estuary , or the Westerschelde estuary. This is why each lighthouse has its own different light signal: a flashing light (flashing rapidly on and off) for example, or a slower beam of light. If you look carefully, you can tell from its signal, which lighthouse you are looking at.  All the signals can be found online at

Bargain-price for lighthouse in Burgh-Haamstede
It is a long time ago since the Guilder was an accepted currency in the Netherlands, but perhaps you will still recognise the Westerlicht Lighthouse in Burgh-Haamstede from the purple-red 250 Guilder note (approx. 100 euro) which was designed by graphic designer Ootje Oxenaar. He originally intended it to use the Rietveldhuis on the note, but that idea was rejected as too many of the country's other cities, with impressive architecture, might feel left out. So Ootje Oxenaar chose a magnificent building of a very different kind, and wouldn't you agree that one hundred euros for this building, all 53 metres of it, with its beautiful red and white stripes, is an absolute bargain?

Westkapelle Lighthouse
The Zuiderhoofd lighthouse in Westkapelle (South Head) also started life as a church, except in this case, all of the church was destroyed during the Eighty Years' War. Then at the start of the 1800s, the 57-meter high tower was converted into a lighthouse. The tower offers a magnificent view over Walcheren, the Westerschelde estuary and the North Sea, but you will need to climb 207 steps in order to see it.

Artistic fame
The Zuiderhoofd lighthouse became world famous by the studies and paintings made by Piet Mondriaan. These particular works are important because they were the first time Mondriaan used colours as he perceived them, rather than how they were in reality. In real life, the tower is a beautiful brown colour, warn and weathered but in the works by Mondriaan, it is painted with stripes and dots in bright red and shades of purple.

Lights in lighthouses need to shine a long way and mirrors and lenses are used to extend the reach of each beam. In the case of the Zuiderhoofd lighthouse in Westkapelle, the light can be seen from 36 kilometres away and is a bright as 2.6 million candles.

Breskens' wrought iron lighthouse
Nieuwe Sluis Lighthouse in Breskens is the oldest wrought-iron lighthouse in the Netherlands. The 28.5-metre tower was completed in 1867 and has been in disuse since 2011. The tower currently has eye-catching black and white stripes, but it has also been yellow, and was painted in camouflage colours during the Second World War.

Helping ships to navigate
The waterways throughout Zeeland are punctuated by red and green buoys, and you will see pilot boats sailing in and out of the harbour in Vlissingen quite regularly. This is because commercial vessels are legally obliged to take pilots on board to help them navigate the difficult waters of the Westerschelde estuary. If you would like to find out more about sailing and navigating the Westerschelde estuary, visit muZEEum, Zeeland´s maritime museum.