Latest update: 10 May 2021
Oysters: you hate them, or you love them. I love them, especially when I can pick oysters for free! My friends and I have declared our Zeeland oyster expedition an annual tradition. Tag along!
Collecting oysters in Zeeland
How much do you pay for oysters in a restaurant? Twenty euros for half a dozen? You don’t have to. In Zeeland, a province in the Netherlands, oysters are literally there for the taking. Free. So quickly go on an oyster expedition!
The oyster season runs from September to April. I must say, it took me some time the locate an oyster picking spot. I usually collect free oysters at Goes, Het Sas. It’s a bit further down the harbor, where we park near the DIXI. Always handy to have it nearby.
Japanese oysters in Zeeland
In Zeeland, you will find the Japanese oyster. This oyster is usually called creuse on the menu. In the 1960s, the Dutch flat oyster suffered from an oyster disease. Growers hoped the Japanese version would be stronger- and they were. In fact, they were so strong that a real plague started in the 1970s, almost completely expelling the Dutch oyster. The Pacific oyster needs very little space, and they do well on both hard and soft grounds. They start reproducing at the age of one already and grow extremely fast. An adult oyster can reach a size of 40 centimeters. Wow! I very much doubt that it’s still tasty then.
Have you heard that unsavory story about oysters and herpes? Excuse me? Yes, Pacific oysters can contract the herpes virus. But no stress: people don’t get sick from this. Pfiewwwww….
Tip! Check WildplukWijzer for locations to legally pick oysters.
Almost alone in the world when collecting oysters
There is no one to be seen in Zeeland at the Goese Sas beach – the weather is not that great, but luckily that changes later in the day. There is plenty of space, and it’s so quiet: you don’t have to be scared about fighting over oysters. We easily spend a few hours, and all we see is a few runners, divers, and one other oyster picker.
Guess how many oysters you can pick per person? You’ll be amazed: you can collect ten kilos per person a day! You can also find mussels and cockles, which also count towards those ten kilos.
In some places, people try to catch crabs with a piece of bacon on a string. We stick to oysters. Of course, you cannot pick at the commercial oyster plots, but that seems logical. There is more than enough to be found outside of those.
How and when do you pick oysters?
You pick oysters at low tide. So check when it is low tide, for example, on the website of National Park Oosterschelde. At the foot of the dike, the oysters are literally there for the taking. They are stuck on the stones. Here you can deter them with, for example, a hammer and a chisel. Please note that you only take the ones with closed shells – you don’t want to get sick!
We soon have our buckets full to the brim. When we start, I basically throw every oyster I come across in my bucket, but soon I notice that I can be much pickier. Only the bigger ones come through my strict selection process. Standing in the water with my boots on, picking an oyster, and throwing it in my mouth – just how cool is that?! Very cool! And so fresh and tasty.
Picnic and barbecue with our oysters
We brought a lot of food and drinks and made an oyster feast on the beach. Some of the oysters, we put on the barbecue. Once the shells open, the oysters are ready to eat. We immediately try out the new oyster knife, because we like oysters best raw. Add some finely chopped shallot with Balseto Laudense (not always available at Albert Heijn, unfortunately) and a little lemon: heaven. We do our very best to eat all the oysters we picked, but that is humanly impossible. We end up taking quite a few home. Tired, satisfied, and rosy, we drive back to the Randstad. Best day ever.
Pick oysters yourself or with a guided tour?
Als je het mij vraagt, kun je If you ask me, you should go and pick oysters yourself. Make sure you figure out where to go and when low tide hits. There are also opportunities to pick oysters with an oyster tour. You get some history and details on oysters, and you know for sure that you’ll be searching for oysters at the right spot. I’ve never tried such a tour, but maybe the Oestour is a good option?
Where can you pick oysters in Zeeland?
You can see on the Dutch Wildplukwijzer where you can legally collect oysters in the Netherlands. I have now been a few times at Goese Sas (Google Maps location). If Google gets confused, go to the restaurant De Zeeuwse Kornuit and follow the road next to the water. We parked at the DIXI toilets that you will encounter within five minutes (I assume they are still there). From here, head to the beach to pick your oysters.
Packing list for picking oysters
- Rain boots (Bol.com or Amazon), preferably slightly higher ones (or, if there’s no other option, old shoes)
- A towel
- Clean clothes
- A chisel and/or hammer to pry the oysters loose
- A bucket to collect your oysters
- Oyster knife with an oyster glove (if you want to eat them on the spot) – also available via Amazon
More travel inspiration for the Netherlands
Want more travel advice? Do check all my blogs about beautiful places and fun activities in my home country. Also nice: buy the Lonely Planet of the Netherlands as it has lots of practical information. Available at Amazon and Book Depository. The latter is usually the cheapest but often has a slightly longer shipping time.
First published: september 2015. The article has been updated since.