Holland, Michigan

Kayaking Windmill Island

Originally added by John Clairmont

This short route weaves outdoor adventuring with the Dutch culture prominent in Holland, Michigan.

Windmill Island features an authentic and operational Dutch windmill called "De Zwaan" (The Swan) as well as gardens planted with over 100,000 tulips. The windmill was built in 1761 and moved to Holland in 1964. Notably, this windmill is not only the oldest authentic, working Dutch windmill in the United States, but it is also the last windmill to ever have left the Netherlands. 

Begin your trip at the parking lot just before Unity Bridge on the downtown Holland side. Here, you can unload your kayaks or canoes and carry them down the path to the water. This is an out and back trip, so you will return to the same parking lot. Follow the river east (away from the bridge) and towards the giant windmill. You can go around the island either way, but note the channel on the south side of the island is a canal with a sluice gate so there may be times when it is closed. There are also a few low foot bridges over the canal, so if the water level is high it may be difficult to float under them. The current is minimal on most of this route so you will be able to relax and take pictures along the way. The water may be cold, but if you come in early May you can also enjoy the famous Tulip Time hosted in Holland! 

Please note: From April to October you must pay ($10 for adults, $5 for kids 3-15) to get onto the island, so barring any emergencies please do not land/dock on the island as you circumnavigate it. 

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A New Way to see the Windmill!

Holland and it's Windmill are most visited during the Tulip Festival in May, but you can see the Windmill all year round, and by kayak is a new way to see it! Easy waters for the average kayaker and a cool view of Windmill Island!

Windmill Island is a unique destination suitable for first time kayakers

Our group of 7 traveled about 90 minutes from the Indiana/Michigan state line for this outing. We all enjoyed the destination. We roamed around in the marsh area where there seemed to be good wildlife viewing opportunities - herons, swans, ducks, beaver, and the occasional fish jumping out of the water. We did not find a way to the island through the marsh, so turned around and skirted the edge of the marsh to the island. Seeing the old windmill after reading of its history was impressive. Only 3 of our kayakers went under the first bridge as the water level was high. There was a barricade under the center part of the bridge that extended down to the water level, so those going under did so under the south side of the bridge. They were able to go around the island and meet back up with the group that turned around at the bridge. Several in our group were first time kayakers. It was a suitable trip for them with mild temperature and very little wind on the day we went.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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