Sandbanks, the largest of bed patterns in shallow sandy seas, pose a potential risk to shipping. They are also valuable elements of natural coastal protection, dissipating the energy of waves. In the Southern Bight of the North Sea, several sandbank areas have been reported in the literature. However, based on an objective crest–trough analysis of the bathymetry of the Dutch continental shelf, the present study shows that sandbanks are more widespread than commonly considered. These banks are relatively low, presumably explaining why they have not been documented before. This widespread occurrence of sandbanks in the North Sea is in agreement with theoretical predictions based on stability analysis techniques. The possible interference between large-scale human activity and low-amplitude open-shelf ridges implies that one should be careful not to overlook these patterns if none should appear in a preliminary (visual) assessment. The only part of the Southern Bight in which no ridges can be seen is a circular area with a diameter of about 50 km near the mouth of the river Rhine. Here, freshwater outflow affects the direction of tidal ellipses and residual flow, and suppresses the formation of open ridges.