Is it Canada? Is it Finland? Nope, it’s Belgium. At only a 1,5 hour drive from Brussels, you’ll find yourself in the largest recreational lake district of the country. A lovely hidden gem, even for Belgians.
What? An 1800 acre site in Wallonia consisting of five artificial lakes that form the ‘Land of the Lakes’ (Les Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure in French), the largest recreational lake district in the country. Together, the lakes have a total shoreline length of 70 kilometers, which is longer than the Belgian coastline (65 km).
Where? 50 kilometers (31 miles) south from Charleroi, a 1,5 drive from Brussels.
Why? Because it’s a great place for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the Belgian cities. AND because it’s a hidden gem, even for Belgians. You can do all sorts of outdoor activities here, like swimming, walking, cycling, sailing, aqua golfing, waterskiing, zip lining and much more.
Belgium has relatively few large lakes compared to its neighbors, like France and Germany. But the lakes we do have, are beautiful in many ways. A long time ago, the whole area of what would become the Land of the Lakes, was a valley with the l’Eau d’heure river running through. As soon as it started raining – and that happens a lot in Belgium – the river would burst its banks within the hour and the water would cover the whole valley. That’s how the river got its name: L’eau d’heure literally means ‘water of the hour’. To get control over the flooding, a huge dam was built in the seventies, creating five artificial lakes covering a total of 600 acres. Along with the adjacent 600 acres of forests and another 600 acres of grasslands, this young nature reserve is slowly blooming into a successful recreation area for both Belgians and tourists: the Land of the Lakes.
THE FIVE LAKES
- Lac de la Plate Taille: the largest lake of the five (as well as the largest lake in the whole country). This is where you’ll find most of the accommodations and activities, like sailing, diving, kayaking and much more.
- Lac de l’Eau d’Heure: the second largest lake on the other side of the dam, also the home of a jetski club.
- Lac de Falemprise: a small arm of the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure, with a large beach and fun family oriented activities like minigolf, trampolines and a playground.
- Lac du Ry Jaune: the small middle arm of the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure. No activities here apart from fishing, just a whole lot of nature.
- Lac de Feronval: the small upper arm of the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure, with a spin cable park.
TOP THINGS TO DO
Explore the largest dam of Belgium
The La Plate Taille dam is the biggest of its kind in Belgium. You’re treated with spectacular views when you get on the skywalk platform at a height of 107 meters (with a partial glass bottom floor!) AND you can see the dam from the inside, quite a unique experience! Walk through the belly of the dam and gaze at the four powerful turbine pumps as they turn water into green energy.
Show off your skills at the biggest bikeparks in Europe
A brand new bike park with obstacles and trails for BMX, dirt bike and mountainbike. You can find it at Hameau du Badon in Cerfontaine, set on a hill overlooking the lakes and dam.
Play golf on the water
Aim for the hole in one of the 15 islands floating in the Lac de la Plate Taille, Europe’s largest Aqua Golf centre with measured targets from 25 to 175 meters. The balls float in the water, but they still have the identical weight to official golf balls.
Walk and cycle along the banks of the rivers
There are walking and cycling paths (350 kilometers in total) running all around the different lakes. Two of the best cycling paths start at the welcome centre: the path along the Plate Taille (15.4 km) and the path along the Eau d’Heure lake (20,2 km), both following the shores of the lakes. The walking trails also start along the shores, with walking distances from 2 to 24 km. For bike rental, go to Cerfontaine or visit the bike rental shop right next tot the Plate Taille lake, across from the Spa Centre.
Go for a swim
There are two public swimming areas in the lakes. One is near the aqua centre (Plate Taille lake) the other is at Lac de Falemprise. Another option for swimming is the Aqua Centre with an outdoor and indoor area.
Playtime for kids
Plenty of things to do around the lakes for kids: laser shooting, a tour with the ‘Crocodile Rouge’ amphibious bus, pedal boats, minigolf and so on!
Hang around in trees
Here’s one for small (starting from the age of 3) and big children: the Natura Parc of Eau d’Heure, with 10 tree trekking routes in the forest, a Tyrolean traverse route (unique in Belgium) with two back and forth journeys above the water and a 15-meter elastic jump.
Test your waterskating skills
At the Spin Cablepark you can practice waterskiing, wakeboarding, kneeboarding and waterskating without a boat.
WHERE TO STAY?
There’s no actual hotel on the site just yet, so your only option for now is a camping stay, a holiday home rental or a hotel room outside of the lake district. A Best Western hotel is planned to open in 2017.
WHERE TO EAT?
Three tips for a nice bite to eat:
L’heure Bleue: Beach house style restaurant, tucked away between the Lac de l’Eau d’Heure and the Lac du Ry Jaune. French/Belgian food, awesome chef!
Le Tri-Marrants: set on the banks of the Plate Taille lake on the opposite side of the visitor centre. Local food with a stylish touch and lovely terrace.
Crocodile café: near the visitor centre, nice spot for lunch in the sun, right on the shores of the Plate Taille lake. While you’re here, try the local blonde or brown beer: La dame des Lacs aka ‘the lady of the lakes’.