If it weren’t for holiday’s we’d all be a pretty stressed out bunch. With a chance to get-away from it all, see something new and most of all, have some much needed ‘time-out’, we look forward to these days of open-ended freedom like Indiana-Jones to the Holy Grail. Nevertheless, if you are travelling with little ones ‘time-out’ is possibly not going to consist of endless days reclining on a beach towel… Indeed, little minds like to be kept busy so we’ve come up with 8 destinations that we think offer up enough interest to keep even the most animated of young adventurers occupied… Good luck!
If family fun is what you’re after, Tenerife certainly has it covered. With sunshine bathing the island in a sea of infectious happiness you don’t need to spend a fortune here to entertain your little-ones. Indeed, a bucket and spade on one of the island’s sandy beaches should keep children happy for a good few minutes while you can look on from the comfort of your lounger. Pack a picnic and make a day of it, take a beach ball, slap on the sun cream and get stuck into saving your carefully crafted masterpiece from the incoming tide… (you, at least, have an excuse for behaving like a big kid on the sand!)
If your family like watery pursuits (and you are also partial to a waterslide or two…) Siam Park, Europe’s most impressive water adventure land, is well worth a visit. Home to one of the world’s biggest wave machines and some pretty impressive (and steep!) slides, older children will love it here. Alternatively, if you are holidaying with younger children, Aqualand, has tamer slides and a dolphin show which is bound to get them smiling. Both of these attractions are in the Costa Adeje area.
If you are in Puerto de la Cruz, Loro Parque is well worth seeking out with its parrots, gorillas, tigers, penguins, flamingos, jaguars, chimpanzees and tortoises (phew!) There are also shows put on by the parrots, sea lions, orcas and dolphins to amuse and entertain included in your entrance fee. Family Tickets can be purchased that allow discounted admission to both Loro Parque and Siam Parque –well worth hunting out if you’re thinking of visiting both.
Last, but by no means least, you could always hop on a boat excursion (available in Los Cristianos and Playa de las Americas). With a range of vessels to choose from (including pirate ships!) you can be as chilled or as adventurous as you and your family dare. There’s also the option of a submarine safari, dolphin watching excursions and for the older ones - speed boat rides…
Another sun-kissed location where families are in their element is the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus. Again, you can’t go wrong with a beach or two and Cyprus has enough to choose from with soft sands and turquoise waters crying out for you and your family to while away the hours. If your brood are more adventurous (and slightly older!) than the average bucket-and-spade-brigade, there is also the option of water sports and diving.
Cyprus is also home to its own impressive animal attraction: Pafos Bird and Animal Park. Here you can explore the 100,000 square metres of natural landscape where over 170 bird species, rabbits, tortoises, kangaroos, deer and crocodiles call home. There are of course many more creatures that you can find here – including the baby albino wallaby born in June 2009. As well as being one of only four albino wallaby’s born in captivity he is even more amazing since his mum and dad are both brown!
As well as the animals, you can also check out the talks held in the onsite amphitheatre as well as traditional craft demonstrations in the shop. As the fourth biggest animal and bird collection in Europe it’s certainly well worth checking out if you’re in Pafos.
If underwater adventure is likely to get your family dashing for their swimsuits, Undersea Adventures in Protaras and Ayia Napa offers up an unusual way to get up-close-and-personal with the underwater world from Cyprus’s shore. Their innovative B.O.B (Breathing Observation Bubble) allows you to explore the seabed without the need for diving lessons as you ride this underwater scooter through the sea – it has to be seen to be believed! If you prefer something a little more conventional, The Yellow Submarine, (also in Ayia Napa) is a great way to see the colourful marine life from the air-conditioned comfort of their vessel. With an upper and lower deck available for visitors you can relax in the sunshine or check out the sealife… with snorkelling equipment available for those who want it…
If you are heading to Sydney, Australia (whether you’ve got little ones in tow or not…) you’re going to want to hit the beach at some point right? Indeed, travelling to Australia and not getting some sand between your toes is akin to a trip to Paris without catching sight of the Eiffel Tower... So, with that in mind our local experts have tracked down two of their favourite beaches if you’re travelling with children, starting off with Shelley Beach. This sheltered spot of sand is located right round the corner to Manly Beach and is an ideal place for families with its sheltered beach and barbeque area. Bronte Beach is also a good choice as it has its own ocean pool with a section of gentle water for younger swimmers as well as a park next-door with a playground… and of course that all important barbeque area.
If you’re in the car, an hour’s drive from Sydney’s Central Business District you’ll get to Palm Beach where you can take a 10 minute ferry across to the Basin. This beautiful part of the world is great for families with a large lake for swimming and an array of wildlife to check out including goanna’s and a kangaroo camp. It’s also great for little ones as no cars are allowed (getting about is by foot or boat).
If wildlife is a winner for your children, Sydney Wildlife World or Featherdale Wildlife Park are top places to spend the day while the Sydney Aquarium and Manly Oceanworld should keep underwater enthusiasts satisfied for a while…
Alternatively, if it’s just the water that gets your family enthused Aqua Fun Park offers up water, fun and a plethora of activities to keep everyone amused.
You can try and ware your brood out with a trip to Sydney Olympic Park where you can hire bikes and follow 'The Amazing Chase' trail, hang out in one of the many playgrounds, take a Stadium Tour, play a round of mini-golf, visit the Monster Skate Park or swim in the wake of Ian Thorpe at the Aquatic Centre. There are also bike, self-guided, Segway and Olympic Games-themed tours, outdoor films in the summer and plenty of places to picnic or grab a meal.
Finally, if you feel you want to have fun and see the sights, a trip on the Ferris Wheel at Luna Park is recommended – the views of the Harbour, The Harbour Bridge and The Opera House are just amazing…
With beaches featuring highly on any youngsters list of holiday-essentials, Mallorca's beaches have a lot to shout about. While Magaluf might be the place to head if you are looking for a foam party, Alcúdia is the place to go for long, sandy, gently shelving beaches. Coupled with the clear waters of the Mediterranean, lifeguards and plethora of beachfront activities to hand, this is child heaven in a bucket.
As well as a gorgeous, palm lined beach, children can also make the most of the island's theme parks - including the extraordinary upside down House of Katmandu, the world class Palma Aquarium and the ever-popular Marineland. For a bit more excitement older children can explore the many caves on the island or if mum and dad are feeling flash, there’s always a hot air balloon ride to consider…
Spanish culture is extremely family friendly with restaurants and hotels in Mallorca both very welcoming to children and their needs. Hotels also offer up special children’s menus, activities and even in some cases kids clubs. And if you happen to be around during a local fiesta you’ll notice that they open their doors to locals and holiday makers of all ages…
Croatia is another sun-kissed haven of holiday heaven where children can make the most of the temperate climate and sunbathed summers along its sparkling coastline. Mild wind, warm sun and low rain level are just some of the main arguments why children would adore this country. Known for its rugged shores, children are best supervised at all times where snorkelling, rock pooling, swimming and searching for fish are top past-times. Korcula or Vis islands are ideal for this kind of thing – keeping children amused for hours.
Sandy beaches are however, available if you know where to look. There is a beautiful sandy beach on island Rab called Paradise Beach that is popular with little ones. You will need to take a ferry to get there – but this adds to the adventure!
Croatia also offers up numerous other family friendly activities including entertainment programs, trampolines, slides, playgrounds, ice cream bars, water activities and a zoo. Zagreb Zoo, located in the pretty Maksimir Park is home to a range of exotic animals, birds, reptiles, fish and mammals. Visitors can also take in the various educational programmes on offer - a chance to learn more about many of these magnificent creatures.
Another option for the family is a boat tour around some of the many picturesque islands along Croatia’s coastline. There’s nothing quite like sailing on the sparkling sea as you get the best view in the house of Croatia’s spectacular coastline – and when it comes to lunch time nothing works up an appetite like a quick dip from the boat. And if you and your family really take to life on the sea you can even hire out a yacht for a few days to learn how to sail – a great holiday adventure for your little ones.
The Algarve, Portugal
When it comes to child-friendly holiday locations, the Algarve is a destination that couldn’t be better suited to parents and their little ones. With a wide array of family-friendly attractions, long, sandy beaches and a warm welcome from the locals, those travelling with youngsters shouldn’t find it hard to have a good time.
First up, the beaches here in the Algarve have a lot to offer those with children as the soft sands and gently sloping coastlines make it easier for parents to keep tabs on their offspring. It also means that having a paddle and making sandcastles is top of the menu – don’t forget those towels…
Waterparks are another firm favourite for families and Slide and Splash comes highly recommended. With a range of slides and a good reputation for cleanliness and supervision it’s a good spot to soak up the sun, slides and fun of Portugal’s Algarve with the family.
Alternatively, there’s always Zoomarine, where you can watch dolphin and sealion shows - as well as swim with dolphins at Dolphin Emotions. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity gives you an educational talk followed by around 30 minutes of swimming time with these amazing creatures – where you can also learn a couple of tricks. Definitely, one to think about if you want to treat someone (or yourself!) to something special.
Finally, for the chance to have some swashbuckling fun, children will love the chance to ride a pirate ship (and dress up!) as costumes are provided for those who want to get into the spirit of things. Dream Wave offer up the option of a 6 hour barbeque cruise or a 3 hour coastal cruise where you can see the coastline, have a swim and on the former, eat lunch on a secluded beach. Children and adults alike will enjoy the chance to sit back and soak up the atmosphere - and if you’re lucky you may even spot a dolphin…
Garden Route, South Africa
Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape comes recommended by our local expert who believes the relaxed vibe and friendly atmosphere are ideal for those travelling with children. The great beaches – three of which have been awarded blue flag status – are ideal for hanging out and you can opt between long and sandy or rugged and dotted with rock pools. You can also look out for the watersports if you have older children. Alternatively, stay at the Willows Holiday Resort and as well as the gorgeous sandy beaches and range of accommodation options you can also get involved in their water sports or, during the summer months, let the children join in with the organised activities (tennis, paintballing, putt putt) while you chill out and relax for a bit.
Animals are a hit with all ages and in South Africa you’ve got some amazing wildlife on your doorstep begging to be spotted. Kragga Kamma Game Park has a fantastic array of African game and birds for you to see, with the option to drive through the park in your own car, join a guided tour in a 4X4 or stay the night in one of the chalets, log cabins or thatched cottages. With the chance to share your breakfast spot with the neighbouring giraffes, this is truly an experience not to be missed – whether you’re young, or just young at heart… Addo Elephant National Park is another treat, where you’ll be able to spot, amongst others, the African elephant. Home to over 450 elephants, a safari here will definitely warrant taking your camera…
Finally, if you fancy venturing away from Port Elizabeth but still want to soak up some wildlife and adventure, the Garden Route Port Elizabeth to Crags Tour is perfect. After breakfast you’ll go to Monkeyland then onto the Birds of Eden Tour before heading over to the elephant sanctuary. You’ll then end the tour in Plettenburg Bay. With so much included you and your family will get a good overview of the area as well as some of the amazing creatures that call this part of the world home…
Last, but certainly not least, if you are holidaying in the Mediterranean and are looking for a family-friendly island paradise, Malta is a good option. As well as being ideal for couples, it’s also great for those with children as many accommodation options and good restaurants like The Avenue cater well for younger visitors. Again, beaches are a top choice for anyone on holiday, and anyone holidaying with those possessing a curious mind – and with so many rugged inlets and coves to explore little explorers will be in their element. Again, you will have to keep your eyes out as long, sandy beaches aren’t aplenty in Malta, however, rocky outcrops offer so much more for young adventurers that you’ll soon be brandishing that fishing net and bucket…
Aside from the many gardens to play in there are also activities like the Popeye Village Fun Park to offer up interest and excitement. As the original set of the 1980 musical ‘Popeye’ this area has now been turned into a family fun park where you can enjoy the rides, take in the animation, get stuck into the water trampolines and beach lido in the summer or soak up the festive atmosphere come Christmas. Malta’s Playmobile Factory is another treat for the little ones while Jokers Family Fun and LWS Animal Park should leave you with enough options to ensure you have a holiday to remember.
Kirsty Brown, MyDestination