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This was a fantastic day out: a fabulous hydrofoil trip down the Noordzeekanaal, followed by a not so fabulous bus trip though IJmuiden to the North Sea coast.

IJmuiden aan Zee consists of a large sandy beach backed by sand dunes, a few beach cafes and, a short stroll away, the southern breakwater of the entrance to IJmuiden harbour and the canal.

The breakwater is over 2 km (1¼ mls) long and would make a fine walk in its own right, but even from the landward end there are great views of the shipping going in and out of the harbour.

Fast Flying Ferry

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The Connexxion hydrofoil service from Amsterdam to Veer Velsen Zuid (known universally as the Fast Flying Ferry) used to leave from left-hand most pier on Veer de Ruyterkade immediately behind the Centraal Station. Unfortunately the service stopped running in January 2014.

The best views were from the front cabin if there was room. Seat belts were compulsory in the front cabin but were optional in the main cabin.

There were no toilets or refreshments; "Just like a bus" as the conductor jovially remarked.

The best way to get there now is bus service 82. This passes Pontplein (where the ferry used to land). The café on Pontplien did (and may still do) a waffle ice cream (a sandwich of two Dutch waffles and vanilla ice cream) that I can personally recommend.

The journey to Pontplein through IJmuiden (Aye-Mouw-den - literally IJ Mouth) is not exactly pretty (think Avonmouth in Somerset, but with better architecture).

On leaving the town centre things don't improve as we have to go through an industrial estate and past a caravan site before reaching the coast at IJmuiden aan Zee.


Whilst Amsterdam has long been a busy sea port, by the middle of the 19th century its continuing prosperity was being threatened by the combination of the long route to the open sea (going east and then north trough the Waddenzee and the Zuiderzee), and the increased size of shipping (which had great difficulty in getting over a mud bank known as the Pampus).

Various strategies were employed to try to improve the situation but, eventually, in 1861 it was decided to build a ship canal through the "small of Holland" to reach the sea near the town of Velsen.

Construction started in 1865, but was not completed until 1876 due, in part, to an outbreak of cholera and many difficulties raising finance for the project.

There are three locks at the IJmuiden end of the canal (not, unfortunately, visible from the bus) largest of which is 400 meters long, 50 meters wide and 15 meters deep. This makes it one of the largest in Europe, helping to maintain Amsterdam's place as one of the world's busiest ports.