The Dutch windmills that you've probably seen in many pictures are located 10 miles east of Rotterdam, in a village known as Kinerdijk (KINDER-DIK). The village has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Getting There (From Rotterdam)
Easiest Method: Call an Uber or a Taxi. Or if you have a car, take the A20, to the A16, to the A15 until Exit 22 - Alblasserdam / Kinderdijk / Papendrecht-West. Follow signs toward Kinderdijk.
The Waterbus Method (Seasonal): Between April and September, you can take a watertaxi direct to Kinderdijk. Take line 202 from Rotterdam or Dordrecht.
The Hardest (Longest) Method - Bus: If you're visiting outside of the waterbus season, this will be your only public transportation to/from Kinderdijk. From Rotterdam Centraal, first, take a train to Rotterdam Zuidplein, then connect with a Bus Route 154 to Kinderdijk.
In the 13th century, the Grote Hollandse Waard (what we now know as The Netherlands) suffered a great flood from a tidal surge. A heavy storm near the North Sea caused dikes to break, creating floods that sent the region into devastation.
Kinderdijk and its province, Alblasserwaard, started suffering from this natural disaster. The citizens dug large canals to drain water out of the area. This only mitigated the problem, so the community needed to come up with an alternate solution. It was then decided to build windmills to pump water out of the now-flooding canals, and into reservoirs. Today, two diesel stations pump water out, however, some windmills are still functioning today.
Cat and The Cradle
Kinderdijk translates to "children's dike" in English. Legend has it that during the tidal surge from the St. Elizabeth flood of 1421, a villager set out to see what land could be salvaged. The villager witnessed a wooden cradle out in the distance floating on water. Inside the cradle was a cat trying to keep the cradle balanced. As the cradle floated closer to land, a bystander picked up the cradle and inside lied a baby, dry as a bone. The cat put all of its efforts into balancing the cradle, preventing it from flooding, and this legend is what is known as The Cat and the Cradle!
What to Do
When you arrive at the parking lot, you're first greeted by the Wisboom Visitor Center. This would be the perfect spot to grab a cup of coffee, or a quick snack before walking along the trail. Stop by on your way back to pick up a souvenir or two!
Continuing along the path, you'll see windmills on both sides. There are some outlooks that allow for perfect photo opportunities - you might get three or four windmills in-frame. Some of the bridges are open and you can cross the canals.
During the spring and summer months, there are boat tours that cruise the canals, giving you a better photo-op of the windmills. Unfortunately, I visited in January, so this wasn't an option for me. However, the crowd sizes are much smaller in the winter.
Special Note to Uber or Taxi Riders
If you took an Uber or taxi to get to Kinderdijk, and it's the offseason for the watertaxi, plan for some extra time getting back to Rotterdam. You won't find an Uber for 20 miles, and they won't be available to pick you up. Your only route back would be by bus, which takes about an hour. The Wisboom Visitor Center can provide you with a bus timetable, however buses run once an hour. Kill any extra time you have at the Visitor Center, but be sure not to miss the last ride out of the village!