When marinas are sold and purchased, the development of a marina by the new owners is often a slow process, with just as many changes behind the scenes to make the business operate efficiently as there are customer-facing improvements. One marina in the Netherlands has been undergoing this process since a change of ownership in 2013, but the speed and transformation has taken staff, businesses and the industry by storm.

The purchase of Jachthaven Biesbosch, previously called Drimmelen Marina and owned by the local municipality, was completed by Yacht Havens Group in early-2013. The marina group already owned eight award-winning locations in the UK, and Jachthaven Biesbosch was the Group’s first venture into Europe.

“It was a large marina, in a beautiful location next to the Biesbosch National Park, with plenty of scope for improvement"

“We were attracted by the vast potential of the marina. The Kalis family were part of Boskalis dredging company based out of Sliedrecht, a town just to the north of Drimmelen, so we have local roots in the area from previous generations. In fact, my father remembers his uncle keeping a sailing boat in the old Drimmelen harbour!”

- Dylan Kalis, Yacht Havens Group Managing Director

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Built in the 1960s, Jachthaven Biesbosch is located on the River Amer close to Dordrecht and Rotterdam. Originally, the marina was a little over 400 berths in one main basin. However, an second basins was built in the 1990’s resulting in the Jachthaven becoming the largest in-land marina in Europe at the time with over 1,000 berths. A third basin was added in 2005 taking the total size to 1,500 berths.

The marina lies adjacent to the vast expanse of the Biesbosch National Park; a unique sailing area and Europe’s largest freshwater wetlands covering over 35sq/miles of rivers, lakes and waterways, popular for boaters, family holidays and rare flora and fauna.

Photo (c) June 1968, Dick Coersen, The Netherlands National News Agency (ANP) 

Jachthaven Biesbosch 6

Work Begins

Transformation works began immediately with the installation of a new on-water fuel station and visitor berthing quay within the first six months of the purchase in 2013, followed by a wave of shoreside investments. A children’s splash park and adventure playground followed, along with a new marina office with iconic red roof, new brokerage offices, washrooms, pontoons, Wi-Fi and a grocery store. But what came next was key…


Local business buy-in

“What we really needed was for local businesses to join us in the project and buy into our vision”, Dylan explains. “We have been fortunate to find willing business owners and neighbours who saw the potential of the marina. They too invested and expanded their businesses and, subsequently, improved their offerings to customers to help build the marina as a year-round destination.”

Private investment came in a wide variety of forms; from the construction of new restaurants to a hotel, sailing school and supermarket. This was further complemented by a new Camper Park which opened in 2016 and subsequently extended in 2022 due to strong demand.

JHB Ferry Sally

Infrastructure upgrades

As popularity grew, so did the need to look at the entire site from a logistical standpoint. Roads were diverted and new roads built, car parks created, along with a vast new system of lighting and shoreside landscaping. Marina security improved with ANPR car parking and new fob access systems for berth holders.

Flexible seasonal contracts were introduced, a first for the Netherlands, allowing small boaters to leave their boats on the pontoons for the summer season. Dutch boaters suddenly had the ability to not be tied to annual contracts, or to pay daily visitor rates. There was now a new option.

Despite all the major infrastructure and business investment, one of Kalis’ proudest installations was a feature that’s both novel and completely free to use. A hand-operated chain ferry was launched in 2017 connecting the east and west basins, to provide easy access to the marina office and children’s’ splash park playground on the central land tongue. “The ferry took some creative thinking and ingenuity, but it’s been a huge success!”.

Jachthaven Biesbosch Luchtfoto

The Jachthaven Today

And it didn’t take long for the boaters and shoreside visitors to come. Marina visitors rose from a little over 1,000 in 2016 to almost 2,500 in 2022, with marina occupancy rising from 60% to full capacity in 2022. Camper Park visitors grew from 600 in 2016 when the park first opened, to 2,600 in 2022.

So what’s next?

“The area has become a secondary village next to the old Drimmelen village and harbour. We can see the need to manage the use of resources as well as taking steps to protect nature in the local area will be crucial.”

- Dylan Kalis, Yacht Havens Group Managing Director

Biesbosch River Amer

Discover the Biesbosch National Park

JHB Biesbosch Motorboat Cruising

How to find the Jachthaven

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