A Tour of Saint Philips’ Land

Sint Philipsland is a relatively unknown part of the Netherlands, much less frequently visited than other regions in the province of Zeeland. Twelve years ago, during a stage of the Oosterscheldepad, I could already observe that this is not entirely fair. Unfortunately, the area is difficult to reach by public transport. But fortunately, I was able to convince travel companion C., who has a camper van, to take a trip to the south. It led to a wonderful hike under dramatic cloudscapes, as the English say.

Windmill De Hoop in the village of Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands with camper in matching color
In matching color…

Island or peninsula?

Apart from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, Sint Philipsland is the only part of Zeeland that is not an island. It is a peninsula connected to the province next door, North Brabant. At least, that’s what I learned in school. But it’s a bit more complicated than that.

For centuries, Sint Philipsland was a true island. From time to time, small polders were added to it, but occasionally land was lost as well. In 1859, it became a peninsula with the construction of the Slaakdam, connecting it to North Brabant.


But since 1976, there is water again between Sint Philipsland and Brabant: the Schelde-Rijn Canal. This would make the area an island once again, if it weren’t for the Krabbenkreekdam connecting it to the island of Tholen and the Philipsdam linking it to Schouwen-Duiveland and Goeree-Overflakkee. Anyway, there are now so many dams in this part of the country that real islands are rare.

Landscape on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands, with field with crops, a dike, a cloudy sky and wildflowers
Fields of crops


We take a chance by traveling to Sint Philipsland on this day because the weather forecast mentions the possibility of heavy showers. And indeed, the Grand Prix in Zandvoort and the Feyenoord-Almere City football match in De Kuip are temporarily halted due to severe weather. But our gamble pays off: on the highway, just past Fijnaart, we’re in the middle of a downpour, but upon arrival in the village of Sint Philipsland, it’s almost dry. And for the rest of the day, no more rain is coming down. At least not on our heads; to the north and south of us, we still see very dark clouds passing by.

Asphalt road on a dijk on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands with in the background wind turbines under a dramatic sky
Very dark clouds…


Through a few narrow and quiet country roads between fields of crops, we reach the north coast of the (pen)insula. Beyond the dikes there’s a salt marsh area, with low vegetation intersected by creeks.

View from Sint Philipsland, Zeeland towards Philips Dam with wind turbines and grassy nature
The Coming of the Martians

Wind turbines

On the other side of the Slaak, on both sides of the Philipsdam, there are dozens of enormous wind turbines. I know people who don’t like those things, but for a photographer, they are fine subjects to capture. Especially with the expansive landscape around them and the threatening sky above. I get a bit of an H.G. Wells feeling: the Martians from War of the Worlds with their tripods (okay, three arms) that have just landed to conquer humanity. But fortunately, these giants have friendlier intentions.

Country road with farms on both sides on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands
A few farms


Although we don’t see any signs indicating this is an official “zone of silence”, Sint Philipsland is an oasis of peace. This is mainly because there is no through traffic, and the local traffic is minimal, with only one village, one hamlet, and a few farms.

Somewhat dilapidated sheds on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands
..and a few sheds


Furthermore, the area has not yet been discovered by tourism. It could also be partly due to the weather forecast, but we don’t encounter any other hikers. Cyclists are also entirely absent. We only see the occasional dog walker and some groups of people searching for oysters or mussels on the sandbanks.

View from the dike on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands, towards the ferry across Zijpe
Approaching the ferry


After 9.5 kilometers, we reach a small harbor at the western tip. Until 1988, the Anna Jacobapolder-Zijpe ferry used to operate here. Older people in the Netherlands may remember that ferry from weather forecasts: it was often temporarily taken out of service during dense fog. Once, the ferry was an essential link in the tram connection of the RTM between Steenbergen and Bruinisse. Later, a perfectly straight highway took over the tram’s role.

In the early 1960s, almost a million passengers crossed annually. But with the Zeeland Bridge and the Grevelingendam, alternatives emerged. After the construction of the Philipsdam, the ferry became entirely obsolete, and Sint Philipsland became the quiet corner it is today.

Incidentally, in the summer months, there is a ferry for pedestrians and cyclists on some days. But today is Sunday, and in these god-fearing regions, there is no sailing.

Dike on the southwestern end of Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, with a view of Oosterschelde estuary
The south coast


Restaurant Het Veerhuis is open. At least, there is an inviting sign on the sidewalk, and the front door is open. However, we have to literally walk into the kitchen to get our drinks. Anyway, they taste excellent on the terrace overlooking the Oosterschelde estuary, while thunderstorms pass in the sky over neighboring islands.

Nature reserve Bruintjes Creek on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands

South coast

We continue the route along the south coast. Here is a large sandbank with the poetic name “Dwars in de Weg” (Blocking the Way). And on the other side of Krabbenkreek (Crab Creek) is the island of Tholen, with which Sint Philipsland forms a single municipality. We go a very short distance inland to include the Bruintjeskreek nature reserve. The skies remain spectacular but become somewhat friendlier in character.

Partly overgrown mudflats on the banks of Oosterschelde on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands
The shores of Oosterschelde


We walk for kilometers along a slightly uneven grass path on top of the dike. On either side of the dike, there are entirely different landscapes. To the left, almost abstract, large-scale fields with occasional clusters of trees or a farmhouse. On the right, an extensive area with mudflats and salt marshes: sand and mud with occasional vegetation and a fine network of water channels.

Almost abstract landscape on Sint Philipsland, Zeeland with fields, trees and clouds
Almost abstract landscape
View from Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands, on Oosterschelde estuary, with mudflats and in the background the island of Tholen
Mudflats and marshes


After kilometers of grass dike, the path turns into asphalt, and we return to the village. We take a little stroll through its streets. There are few people outdoors; hymns can be heard from the church. After a walk of 18.6 kilometers, we are back at the ochre-yellow painted windmill De Hoop, where travel companion C.’s bus is parked.

Little church in the village of Sint Philipsland, Zeeland
Hymns from the church


In summary, Sint Philipsland may not be the ideal hiking destination in all weather conditions. But if the weather is a little cooperative, it’s a beautiful part of Zeeland with stunning landscapes and a tranquility that’s rare these days.

Windmill, watertower and shelter in the village of Sint Philipsland, Zeeland, The Netherlands
Windmill and friends

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