We were looking for a great family holiday on a tight budget - and Center Parcs De Eemhof delivered. We sailed from Harwich to The Hook of Holland on Stena Line: if you collect all of your Tescos Clubcard vouchers over the year, they are worth four times their value with Stena Line. We had £40 worth of vouchers, so only had to pay a balance of £30 or so for a return crossing for our Volvo Estate with five passengers and a roof box. The crossing took 6 hours, although this wasn't a problem - we drove straight on and off and there was lots to do on board, with a children's play area, cinema, cafe, restaurant, shop, outside decks and children's show. De Eemhof is a straightforward hour and a half drive from the port.
We chose a standard chalet, so we weren't expecting luxury, although it was clean enough with a beautiful stretch of grass leading down to a pond (we had to keep a close eye on the children, especially our eighteen month old, who was fascinated by the ducks). There were a couple of downsides - it smelt of stale smoke and needed an airing (there was no option of a non-smoking chalet when we booked) and there was no cooker - only a gas hob and microwave. Next time we go, we'll take our own barbeque.
The onsite facilities, especially for children, were excellent. The swimming complex was fantastic, with areas to suit all swimming abilities and keep all ages entertained, from babies to teenagers. The children's entertainment was great, with a disco and bedtime story most evenings, which the staff were happy to translate into English. The daytime children's activities were great for younger children. They run a 'Wannabe' programme, where the children can pretend to be a painter or a farmer, for example, for an hour or so. This programme is run from the Action Factory - a huge clubhouse with bowling, pool tables and a soft play area - so we could relax and enjoy a cup of coffee whilst keeping an eye on the children (not that they needed it). Most children's activities are free, unless you are paying for materials (the Wannabe a Painter session was five euros each, but for that they got to bring home their own painting on a proper canvas).
Other leisure activities on site are reasonably priced. A zip wire descent costs five euros (great fun!), a pedal boat six euros for half an hour, a pony trek three euros for fifteen minutes, a five seater/four wheeled bike twelve euros for an hour. The pool complex is free, as is access to a delightful beach on the banks of the Eemerdijk, with safe (albeit cold) swimming. The park is relatively small, so you can easily access all areas on foot, even with small children.
Eating out on site is rather expensive - even with the summer holiday offer of free children's meals. An evening meal, on average, cost twenty euros per adult without drinks. A family with two paying adults could easily spend between sixty and a hundred euros on food and drink per day, if they never ate at the chalet. The onsite supermarket is well stocked, but again fairly expensive. We will take all of our own non-perishables next time and try to find a local off-site supermarket to stock up on fresh food. The onsite bakery, however, is amazing and sells delicious bread, cakes, waffles and pastries - often warm out of the oven - dangerous for the waistline!
Overall, I would say that you would be hard-pushed to find a better family holiday if you have KS1 children. Yes, the park is a bit tatty in places, but the staff are friendly and extremely helpful (all speak English), the weather is usually better than in the UK (we had temperatures in the late 20s with bright sunshine and a cool breeze, whilst England had temperatures in the early 20s and drizzle), and the facilities are great. Our children both cried when we had to come home and are already begging to go back next year.
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- Also Known As:
- Center Parcs De Eemhof Hotel Zeewolde
- Center Parcs De Eemhof The Netherlands/Zeewolde, Europe