A day in Koksijde-Oostduinkerke
A trip to the seaside is always a pleasure. The sound of the waves, the healthy air, the wind going through your hair… In its simplicity, there’s something incredibly relaxing about spending time at the North Sea. Koksijde-Oostduinkerke is a peaceful seaside resort that’s mostly populated by seniors, something I actually appreciate since they’re the most respectful crowd. Also, this coastal place boasts a few unique highlights, such as the biggest collection of works by Paul Delvaux and traditional shrimp fishing. So even if you thought you knew the Belgian coast, I’m sure you’ll discover something new over here!
Visit of the Paul Delvaux Museum | Paul Delvauxlaan 42, 8670 Sint-Idesbald
Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) is a Belgian painter that gained international fame with its poetic and surreal works. Although he spent most of his life in Brussels, he developed a strong affection for the seaside where, as a child, he spent his summer holidays with his family. He always kept fond memories of those times and I guess many of us can relate to that (remember times when you chased for shells on the beach). That is how, in 1982, his museum opened its doors in Sint-Idesbald, near Koksijde-Oostduinkerke. With the biggest collection of paintings from the artist in the world, the museum takes you on a dreamy journey through his aesthetic composed of trains, naked women, skeletons and neoclassical architecture. A beautiful world made of idealized childhood memories that will surely touch you, whether you’re familiar with Delvaux’s work or not.
Lunch at De Spelleplekke | Ijslandplein 10, 8670 Oostduinkerke
Koksijde-Oostduinkerke feels very traditional, but believe me when I say it will surprise you from time to time. De Spelleplekke is a casual restaurant along the beach where families go for a no muss, no fuss kind of lunch. On the menu you’ll find the classics such as steak and spaghetti, but also and most importantly dishes with an exotic flair! Thai beef salad, Indian biryani curry, Italian cashew burger… A very attractive offer I didn’t expect to find here (with multiple vegetarian options)! Also, they banned all traditional soft drinks from their menu and offer a variety of homemade drinks instead. Love it!
Shopping and more in and around Leopold II-Laan
In and around the Leopold II-Laan, you’ll find many mainstream shops which are of no interest to me. However, there are also a few one of a kind boutiques which are definitely worth checking out. Obelisk (Albert I-Laan 95) has a fine selection of premium European brands and a special affection for Belgian fashion. Men can find plenty of colorful items from Paul Smith, whereas women can dive into Christian Wijnants’ collection and more. Different kind of atmosphere at concept store Mirà (Leopold II-Laan 238) where women can find a slightly more affordable bohemian chic selection. Last but not least, De Karavaan (Leopold II-Laan 213) has fashion but also lots of accessories and interior items, meaning it’s your go to spot when looking for a gift.
In the midst of these boutiques, you’ll also find Kiss My Coffee (Leopold II-Laan 250) where you can savor the best coffees and teas. The small, cozy interior is composed of a pleasant mix of vintage and contemporary items and the pies to go with your favorite drinks are from Les Tartes de Françoise!
Admiring the shrimp fishermen on horseback
You probably didn’t know that Koksijde-Oostduinkerke is the only place in the world where you can still see shrimp fishermen on horseback. This ancient beach fishing technique dates back to the 16th century. Back then, it was done all along the North Sea coast but nowadays Koksijde-Oostduinkerke is the last place to keep this tradition alive and as such it has been recognized by Unesco as an intangible cultural heritage. To see the draft horses drag their nets through the waves yourself, you should check the schedules online. These are based on the tides, since the fishermen leave half an hour before low tide and return to the beach one hour later, when the nets are filled with shrimp. It takes place mostly in July and August, but there are a few dates in April, May, June and September too. I can’t really explain why, but there is something quite mesmerizing about seeing these Brabant draft horses brave the waves with their two big baskets on their backs!
By the way, Koksijde-Oostduinkerke is home to yet another unicum. The Hoge Blekker is the highest dune on the Belgian coast (33 m!) and a great piece of nature to have a walk in. Should you be looking for bicycles to get there, head to Vanneuville (Albert I-Laan 107).
Dinner at Oh Restaurant | Koninklijke Baan 289, 8670 Sint-Idesbald
Oh Restaurant is a well established culinary spot in Sint-Idesbald and that is not without a reason. Together with his partner Joëlle, chef Ivan Puystiens aims to offer a gastronomic experience, while still keeping it real and relatively affordable. You can order à la carte, but eye catcher is the 4-course tasting menu (€55,00) with a focus on regional products. This means they work a lot with fish obviously, but there’s meat too and they can even make a vegetarian menu for you (just mention it in your reservation)! The interior is minimal and modern, with a beautiful open kitchen, but a clever link was made with the sea through the addition of a contemporary cascade and pond. The service is really attentive and wines are on point, so truly all the ingredients are there for a wonderful night out!
Cocktails at Win’Est | Zeedijk 444, 8670 Oostduinkerke
Back in Oostduinkerke, you can end your night in style at wine bar Win’Est. Since they specialize in wines, you’ll find many special, unique wines to try out, rare gems that come from small wineries. But there’s more! There are generous cocktails to chose from too and you can complement your drinks with a plate of tapas. With its vintage elements and comfortable couches, the place feels very homey. There aren’t that many seats available but since reservations aren’t possible you’ll just have to hope for the best!
This guide is fit for both Saturdays and Sundays since all of the above mentioned addresses are open all weekend. Koksijde-Oostduikerke is close to the French border, so admittedly not the easiest seaside resort to get to. By train it will take you around 2h15 from Brussels, whereas by car the journey will take you about 1h30. Since this city guide is divided between Sint-Idesbald and Koksijde-Oostduinkerke, I would recommend taking the car. You can find details on parking here.