The natural coastline
Het Zwin Nature Reserve
This famous nature area lies along the Dutch and Belgian border. For a long time, the area was an important shipping route for the region's economy, but this eventually silted up, becoming the beautiful nature area that it is today with its beaches, dunes, salt marshes and grasslands. The sea has had free rein to carve a tidal gully through the area which keeps the salt marshes wet and the nature reserve is also an important nesting site for birds. You can even find sea lavendar growing here, a salt-loving Zeelandic delicacy.
Het Zwin is an important nesting site for the oystercatcher, the avocet and the redshank. Oystercatchers are easy to recognise by their black and white plumage and their bright red beak and legs. The avocet is almost completely white with clear, black markings on its upper body. One of its most distinguishing features is its long turned-up beak. The redshank has red legs just like the oystercatcher and fairly plain brown plumage.
Hunting for shark's teeth
The most popular activity on the beach in Het Zwin Nature Reserve is hunting for fossilised shark´s teeth that have washed up onto the shore or that have got caught up in the drifting sands. Tip: start hunting from the lighthouse in Nieuwvliet. It´s a well-known hotspot!
The Drowned Land of Saeftinghe
The Drowned Land of Saeftinghe is one of the most important and largest salt marshes in The Netherlands. In the Middle Ages, it was a prosperous area but large parts of it were lost to floods. Then during the 80 Years' War, dikes were destroyed, on purpose, in order to defend Antwerp. This turned Saeftinghe into a salt marsh for good.
Zeeland in miniature
Saeftinghe is unusual, not only due to its breadth and its exceptional natural beauty, but because of the way it reflects how the province of Zeeland has evolved in such a relatively small area. It is almost a miniature Zeeland. The sea transports clay and sand in and out of the gullies, which in turn shapes the landscape.
Saeftinghe is situated in the Westerschelde estuary. The area is flooded by the tide twice a day, every day. The water becomes brackish when the seawater from the North Sea mixes with the freshwater from the Scheldt River. This provides the perfect environment for scurvy grass, which is less common than other salt marsh plant species in the area, such as spear-leaved orache, sea purslane and sea lavendar. Scurvy grass is about 50 cm high with white blossom that flowers in tight bunches. The great expanses of reeds are a giveaway for the fresher waters further inland.
In Saeftinghe, coastal birds breed in their thousands and the salt marshes and mud flats are an important port of call for migratory birds. One of the most eye-catching species of bird is the spoonbill. It is a graceful, white bird with a long spoon-shaped beak. You are most likely to see them along the water´s edge, foraging for food as they pick their way through the shallow waters on their long legs.