Except where the sea has broken through them, the dunes form an almost continuous band. Since the sand is usually fixed by vegetation, they are strong enough to break the furor of waves and winds. On their outer side a beach, wide at low tide and protected by many stone piers, invites bathing in summer. Many summer resorts line the coast, the best known being Scheveningen, the beach of The Hague. In addition to the waterways of the Scheldt and Rhine two artificial shipping canals cross the dunes--the New Waterway leading seaward from Rotterdam on one of the Rhine branches, and the North Sea Canal giving an outlet to Amsterdam. The Rhine outlet itself is of minor economic importance, but the Scheldt opens the way first to the Dutch harbor of Flushing (Vlissingen), the continental terminus of one of the main crossings to England on the route between London and Berlin, and then farther inland to Antwerp, the harbor of Belgium.
The straight Dutch coast does not favor seafaring. Nevertheless, fishing is still important. Steam trawlers have replaced the old flatbottomed boats, and the fishing has been concentrated in a few important harbors, notably Ymuiden on the North Sea Canal, where herring are the main catch.
On the inner side of the dunes a zone of sand forms a transition to the polder region. Here the soil is very favorable for the raising of fruit, vegetables, flowers, and nursery stock in the form of young trees and bushes. Near Haarlem are the famous bulb fields, which supply a rather unusual item in Holland's exports. The many hothouses where large grapes and tomatoes are raised for export form a truly unique feature. They illustrate how effectively Dutch energy masters such geographical disadvantages as those of a summer too cool for many of the finest fruits. This transition zone is the site of many flourishing towns and villages. These profit from the firm soil which is more suitable for building than are the polders, and is also good for trees and flowers so that many parks and gardens add to the beauty of the scenery. The Hague, the residence of the queen and parliament, although Amsterdam is the actual capital, is the largest city of the transitional zone. It is comparable to Washington in its dignity, in its large proportion of homes of officials, and also as a center of wealth and a retreat for pensioned colonials.
The Lowland. --The Dutch lowland, or polderland, most of which is below sealevel, represents Holland in its most typical form. Seen from the air or on a large-scale map, it shows an intricate pattern of polders with innumerable ditches separating the fields and providing drainage towards steam pumping stations. These stations ordinarily pump the excess water into the wide drainage canals, but in dry seasons they are used to pump water from the canals back to the land, thus making Holland doubly secure against crop failures. Windmills, which many people think of as the most typical feature of Dutch scenery, have lost a great deal of their importance. Extensive bodies of water represent parts of the former swamps where the underlying soil (peat or sand) was not worth reclaiming, while some of them were actually formed by man who dug out the peat as fuel and did not fill the depressions thus made. Dikes higher, and broader than those of the canals protect the lowland from the waters of the inland marine basin of the Ysel Lake, as the Zuider Zee is now called, and from the two branches of the Rhine River which flow across this polderland. Most interesting is the new polder south of the island of Wieringen. Until recently this dotted area was part of the Zuider Zee, but now it is a perfectly flat, treeless plain on which the shelly soil and the remnants of shipwrecks lying on the meadows among grazing cattle join with the new and gayly colored brick houses to betray the recency with which the polder has been reclaimed.
In the polder region as a whole grass is the dominant vegetation on the peat and on part of the clay. Green meadows studded with large farmsteads are surrounded by borders of trees. Roads, canals, tramways, and railroads provide transportation facilities to bring milk, butter, and cheese from the dairies to the towns.
On the higher clay soils grain does well; it is tile dominant product in Zeeland at the southwest corner of Holland and also in Groningen at the northeast corner. In addition to wheat the major crops are sugar beets, fodder, and seed. The type of garden agriculture prevailing on the inner edge of the dune zone with its sandy soils extends into the polder region where local areas are well known for their vegetables, fruits, and tree nurseries. Moreover, especially between Rotterdam and The Hague, the hothouse type of agriculture has invaded the lowland.