Would you ever consider spending the night in a lighthouse, harbor crane, or a life boat? Many of these unusual dwellings can be found in Harlingen, a charming Viking settlement in the Northern province of Friesland, an hour and a half drive from the nation's capital. The fishing town’s picture-perfect canals and inner harbors, well-preserved gabled houses, narrow cobbled lanes and bridges, and residents who still make time for a friendly chat while getting their daily groceries.
Imagine spending the night at a lighthouse in this quaint town. The stairs lead to an amazing view overlooking the harbor where you can listen to weather forecasts and messages from ships at sea over the marine telephone. Fair-weather nights can be spent on the wrap-around deck, admiring lights from the harbor below. In the morning, guests are pampered by a local baker who personally delivers fresh rolls straight from the oven.
Harlingen’s restored harbor crane, once used to load cargo on ships in the harbor, is not far from the lighthouse. In the past, there were 9 or 10 in the harbor, but technology has rendered them obsolete. Visionary Gosse Beerda stepped in just in time to save the last crane from ending up in the junkyard. He converted the crane into a luxury accommodation for two, renovating it completely while maintaining its original look. The crane hotel has the latest gadgets to ensure a comfortable stay: designer furniture, a touch screen computer that manages lights and high-tech equipment, and an incredible shower built for two.
You are transported to the cabin of the crane by way of two narrow elevators. Using the driver's handle, you can turn the upper part of the crane in any direction you like, or step out on the small terrace to watch the sunset over the harbor while sipping champagne from the mini-bar. In the morning expect a lavish breakfast delivered by the local baker.
For water lovers, the life boat Lilla Marras, now moored in the picturesque inner harbor opposite City Hall, is an excellent accommodation alternative. Its wooden bathtub for two is very inviting, as is the heart-shaped designer bed in the saloon. The small foredeck offers a magnificent view of the restored gables of Harlingen. If you are looking for more action on the water, the captain is more than willing to navigate this nautical hotel through the harbor and Wadden Sea for a few hours. There is small kitchen onboard, but it would also be worth your while to try the catch of the day one of the nearby fish restaurants for a truly memorable dining experience.