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Escape the heat: Come on in, the water’s lovely
Belgium’s largest lakes, Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, offer myriad water sports, nature activities and other pursuits. It’s located south of Charleroi; spend the night or longer in the holiday village, gîtes or hotel.
Kayaking surrounded by the industrial landscape of the Brussels-Charleroi canal has its own charms. At the CRBK kayak club in Anderlecht, even beginners can rent all the equipment they need and freely explore the waters after a short introduction.
The rivers Lesse and Ourthe all have stretches where you can hire a kayak and explore the region’s waters. Pick up that paddle and discover instant access to freedom, nature and wildlife. Just don’t forget a set of dry clothes! Grizzly Outdoor Dinant has launched the new activity of packrafting. Drift down the Meuse in an inflatable lightweight boat. It promises to be a relaxing ride.
Whether wild swimming, paddling with the kids or taking a refreshing dip, pick one of Wallonia’s recommended bathing spots where the water quality is checked every week. They include the garden paradise Bambois Lake (pictured, main image) in Fosses-la-Ville (Namur province), Renipont beach near Rixensart (Walloon Brabant) and Canal-Plage (Hainaut).
Flanders also has a choice number of spots for an outdoor splash. Next to Mechelen’s Planckendael Zoo, the 172-hectare nature reserve Bloso Domein Hofstade offers a wide, sandy beach on a tree-lined lake. Lifeguards are on duty along the 650-metre stretch of sand, which also links to many hiking and biking trails in the reserve. Just beyond Ghent’s historic centre, the Blaarmeersen ( ) has four giant waterslides and a swimming section with a small sandy beach. Pedal boats are also available to rent. Boekenberg Park is a natural, chemical-free pool in Deurne. It’s an idyllic spot for a swim with a large 73m pond and a small play pool with a depth of 50cm. It’s also easily accessible by public transport from Antwerp, but reservations are recommended. Book a spot at De Ster, a green oasis just outside the town of Sint Niklaas. A large lake has been transformed into a water recreation site, including a 400-metre long clean swimming zone. Domein ter Heide in Rotselaar, north of Leuven, boasts a fantastic swimming zone, de Plas. Weekends are busy, but it’s easier to snag a slot during the week.
Many people find the North Sea a wee bit too cold to swim in, but you can still enjoy it up close from the comfort of the Seastar. With the option to take cover if needed, the little cruise ship also has a large deck from which to feel the breeze in your hair as you sail up and down the coastline or along canals leading from inland cities to the coast.
Kayaking, rafting paddleboard, windsurfing – you can do it all at Sint-Pietersplas, an artificial lake specifically geared to water sport. Situated northwest of Bruges, it’s surrounded by forest, with trails for jogging. It’s also only a 20-minute drive to the coast, so it’s easy to combine with a trip to Bruges or the sea.
Buy a seasonal fishing permit and cast your rod in one of Wallonia’s many rivers, streams or ponds. The Ourthe Valley, Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure and Pécrot pond in Grez-Doiceau are just a few of the spots in the south of the country where you can net yourself pike, perch, trout and other freshwater fish.
Do you like a nice boat ride but don’t like the noise and petrol associated with them? Hop aboard Mechelen’s electric boats, which will take you all around the beautiful city. Sign up for the standard trip or one of the themed tours, such as the music boat, the culinary boat or Mechelen by night.
The popular water park Aqualibi in Wavre is a crowd pleaser for all ages. Among its attractions are a series of slides, wave and rapids pools, beach and relaxation areas. There’s a restaurant and a variety of passes and ticket offers.
As many tourists as commuters take to Brussels’ seasonal waterbus, which sails up and down the canal from Vilvoorde to Sainctelette until October, offering opportunities for mini cruises as well as an alternative way of travelling between the centre and Van Praet bridge, Neder-Over-Heembeek, Schaerbeek and Vilvorde. The little ferry has several stops along the way and space for bikes. It runs weekdays, adding weekends in July and the first half of August.
Pedalos and rowing boats can be rented on the picturesque island in the middle of the ponds in Brussels’ Bois de la Cambre, which is reachable by a short ferry ride. And when you’re tired from all that pedalling and rowing, there’s a lovely restaurant with summer bar on the island to recharge your batteries.
It’s not exactly cruising life, but sit back with a glass in hand and watch the world go by with a boat trip in Namur. The 50-minute cruises ply the confluence of the rivers Meuse and Sambre. If you need longer to relax, step aboard a cruise boat at Liège for a three-hour ride to Visé.
This article was updated from the The Bulletin's summer travel guide 2021
More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide 2021
- Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
- Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
- Top spots for spectacular scenery
- The best culture this summer is outside
- Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
- Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
- Local food at its finest
- Come on in, the water’s lovely
- The finest spots for a summer apero
- Big days out for all the family
- Seven cycling experiences to discover
- Top heritage sites for a fine day out
- Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium