A detailed comparison of alongshore variation in environmental variables along the Holland coast with the observed marked regional differences in decadal nearshore morphologic behaviour reveals that neither offshore hydrodynamic parameters nor grain size are discriminating factors. Rather, the abrupt alongshore changes in decadal behaviour coincide with sharp changes in shoreface morphology and the location of large man-made structures. These structures, such as jetties and a protruding seawall, appear to act as artificial headlands. Once they are built, the coastal stretches on either side of the structure can develop independently of each other; initially small differences in the development of the regions potentially may evolve into larger differences with time. Consequently, on the long term, large man-made structures may affect the behaviour of coastal stretches over far larger distances than was previously known.