It’s summer time! While many escape to the south to relax by the sea (after travelling at a snail’s pace on the Autoroute de Soleil with the rest of Belgium), you can enjoy that beach feeling at several outdoor swimming places in and around Ghent. Read on for where to chill on a hot summer day!
In the summer of 2020, all swimming places will adjust their opening times and request visitors’ registration to respect the government measures to limit the spread of Corona. Check the website of each location for the latest information and bookings.
The main Ghent beach is the place to be on a hot day in the city. The sandy beach and the grassy meadow fill up with colourful beach towels and happy Gentenaars as soon as the sun pushes the temperatures over 20 degrees. The atmosphere is lively and you are sure to bump into someone you know.
The main swimming area has a large slide, while the sports beach a few metres further has beach volleyball courts. Besides the main beach area, there is also a small krekenplas (creek) for children with benches for easy monitoring by parents.
The designated swimming area is about 360m long and the water is 2m deep at its maximum. There are lifeguards on duty and the water quality is measured regularly (the results are posted online). The cafeteria and toilets are located in the main building, there are also several toilets at the beach itself.
The Blaarmeersen beach is open daily in July and August. In June and September, it opens when the weather allows it. The entrance is free, but you will need to pay to park your car. Note that glasses and glass bottles are not allowed on the beach and swimming area.
The main swimming area (and in fact the entire Blaarmeersen lake) is not accessible to dogs, but there are a special dog beach and swimming pond at a sidearm of the Watersportbaan (Yachtdreef, see nr. 24 on the map). This is strictly a doggie beach – no swimming allowed for the owners!
The largest indoor swimming pool and sports centre of Ghent also has two outdoor swimming pools. The heated one is accessible all year round, while the ‘recreational’ one opens only in the summer. Additionally, there’s a small children’s pool for the young ones. Next to the swimming pool you can lounge on the green meadows or let the children enjoy the playground. With all the extra facilities for children, it will come as no surprise that Rozebroeken is especially popular with families.
In general, the swimming pool is open between 9am and 6pm, but check the exact opening times online. This is one of the most expensive places to swim in Ghent (full price 11EUR for adult Gentenaars), so don’t forget to swipe your UiTpas to collect points for future discounts.
This is one of the true natural swimming areas around Ghent. A twisting arm of the Lys (Leie) river forms a perfect spot for nature lovers and organised outdoor swimming has been going on here for more than 120 years. The fenced-off meadow is well-kept and clean, while a raft in the water keeps the children happy.
The swimming area is managed by a group of local volunteers, the non-profit De Vrienden van Vosselare Put, which keeps the entry price low. The parking spots around the pond get full fast, so arrive by bicycle if possible.
There is a small cabin with toilet facilities and a cafe where you can get some food as well. The pond is open in July and August almost every day when the weather is nice, from noon-ish at the weekend. Check the opening times on their Facebook page. During opening times a lifeguard is present and the water quality is monitored regularly. Be aware that dogs are not allowed.
Vosselare Put has its own winter swimming section which you can join if you are interested in outdoor swimming regularly outside of the main summer season.
Among the many possibilities to enjoy the outdoors at the Provincial sports centre Puyenbroeck is also a 50m-long outdoor swimming pool. I haven’t tested it out yet, but this one looks the most promising for sport swimmers who like to do laps. Having said that, I would expect it to get crowded later in the day when the families arrive. Besides the large swimming pool, there is also a small splash pool for kids and a large meadow.
If you don’t want to spend the whole day swimming, there are also open-air tennis courts, golf court, beach soccer playgrounds, a climbing wall, mountain bike routes and walking paths. In short, if there’s a sport you’d like to try, you can probably do it at Puyenbroeck.
The outdoor swimming pool’s opening hours differ a bit from the opening hours of the whole domain, so be sure to check the times in advance. You can book a sports court and prices and follow their Facebook page for interesting events.
5. Windsurfing, Heusden
Heusden lies just east of Gentbrugge – in fact, you could make a cycling trip of it – and this is probably the closest place to Ghent where you can do windsurfing on a lake.
If it’s your first time on a board, get in touch with the windsurfing club to learn how to windsurf! In fact, it is probably wise to begin on the calm inland water, before you show off your skills on the windy Belgian coast.
Approximately half-way between Ghent and Dendermonde lies an old arm of the Scheldt river which now forms Donkmeer. Next to it is the recreational area Nieuwdonk, where you can swim or just enjoy the beach life. The main entrance lies next to the Zonnevallei restaurant on Dendermondsesteenweg in Overmere. The access to the area is free, but bicycles are not allowed inside.
Dogs are allowed but need to be on a leash and the owners properly trained (pick up the poop, people!).
Donkmeer, next-door to Nieuwdonk, is mostly a nature reserve where you can follow hiking trails, rent a boat or just chill while listening to the many birds.
This nature domain just before Kortrijk might be interesting for people living SW of Ghent (Deinze, De Pinte …), as it is just a short hop on the motorway for them. The domain has a large lake with a swimming zone and several hiking and cycling paths, as well as bird watching huts.
The area is divided roughly into what you could call ‘human zone’ and ‘nature zone’. Human zone contains bars, restaurants, the beach, sporting facilities … and the nature zone contains birds and peace and quiet. The two zones cohabit nicely and each have their own special activities, for example outdoor cinema and guided nature walks.
Check the website and the Facebook page for all the practical details (opening hours, registration …). While it is easiest to get there by car, you could also take the train and bus or the train and bicycle. The timetables can be consulted on NMBS or Google.
Have we forgotten your favourite outdoor swimming location? Let us know your experiences and tips below!