We take a trip to the home of Ronaldo – the beautiful Portuguese island of Madeira
There’s a spontaneous and enthusiastic round of applause as our plane touches down in Madeira.
We are cheering both the gentle landing and the stunning approach to this airport said to be so challenging to land at that pilots need special training.
Stepping off the plane, I catch a first glimpse of the countless red-roofed homes scattered over the hills which will become an abiding memory from this trip.
That and the view from our hotel room, pina colada slipping down as easily as the waves roll over the rocks in the Atlantic Ocean below us.
I’ll be as bold as to say this might be one of the best hotel room views we’ve ever had.
But then we are in Madeira – an island where stunning scenery is around every corner.
Our particular corner of this Portuguese island is the village of Canico de Baixo.
And our hotel is the Riu Madeira. A large, all-inclusive resort with two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, as much fresh food as you can eat and as many cocktails as you can drink.
One of the outdoor pools
There’s also a tennis court, games room, an area to play bowls and evening entertainment from singers, bands, magicians and a ballroom dancing duo who call up our daughter to help demonstrate her Strictly Come Dancing skills.
The applause makes her day. And it’s the staff here, especially those in the busy restaurant area, who deserve a pat on the back.
It can’t be easy to keep guests from over 300 rooms fed and watered but they come round to top up your wine glass with an efficient smile before it’s even half emptied.
We’re almost as quick to clear our plates of tasty food. The main restaurant is buffet style catering to every possible preference. There’s also a more adult focussed Kulinarium restaurant with table service. And a poolside bar and grill.
The main bedroom in our junior suite
Our room is a junior suite with two large beds and a sofa bed for the four of us to choose from.
Having a separate lounge area allows us to spread out as does the large dressing room area – all kept spotless by our lovely maid.
Oh and that balcony I mentioned earlier overlooking the sea. It is literally a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean.
Sea view from the balcony of a junior suite room at the Riu Madeira hotel
And there are plenty of stones to throw on the rocky beach.
The area around the hotel is a fun place to explore with caves, a small seawater pool, exercise equipment and a busy promenade to enjoy.
The lure of the swimming pool at our hotel is just as popular with our children – indoors if the showers sweep in, or outdoors when the sun shines.
Fortunately the sun is out for most of our week in Madeira so we can explore the narrow, hilly roads around the island.
We head east to the stunning clifftop walk of Ponta de São Lourenço .
The view from our walk at Ponta de São Lourenço
Drive north west through mountains and tunnels to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.
Seawater pools in Porto Moniz
And go south to Câmara de Lobos – a fishing village made famous by Winston Churchill, who painted its pretty harbour when he came in 1950.
Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos
One must in Madeira is to head up high.
We take the cable car from the centre of capital Funchal to Monte. It’s a spectacular ride and at the top you can enjoy the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again on the cable car.
Monte Palace Garden
Another way down is by toboggan on a traditional wicker basket sleigh along steep streets, guided by two people with nothing for brakes but the grips on their shoes.
If you like heights it’s worth stopping by at the Madeira Skywalk. You can walk across a glass walkway on a balcony 580 metres above the sea attached to some of the highest cliffs in Europe.
After a busy week of highs, it’s nearly time to leave.
The cliffs beneath the Madeira Skywalk
For a last time, we awaken and pull back the curtains to enjoy the view and the sound of the Atlantic from our bed.
Then it’s back to the airport, named after the island’s most famous export.
Not its fortified wine but the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
He was born here and returns regularly and this is one happy family which may follow suit.
We review the Riu Madeira Hotel on the Portuguese island of Madeira and give you a video tour
We love a Riu hotel so when we found out the Riu Madeira had been refurbished, we were excited to try it out. Here’s our full review and guide to this four-star all-inclusive on the gorgeous Portuguese island of Madeira.
Where is it?
The hotel is in Praia dos Reis Magos in Caniço de Baixo on the south coast of the Portuguese island of Madeira, east of the capital Funchal.
It is nestled in the hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Outdoor restaurant seating
What is it?
It’s a four-star all-inclusive hotel with three restaurants and two pools and is one of the Riu Hotels & Resorts hotels.
As it’s all-inclusive, everyone wears a wristband and all food and drink is included. It also has a spa, hairdressers, lobby bar and a big room to watch shows and entertainment each evening.
Is it family friendly?
It’s great for everyone including families. Children will love the pools, location and food – there’s so much choice that there should be something for even the fussiest eaters including pizza and three pasta options every day.
There’s a tennis court and a place to play bowls. But there isn’t a RiuLand Children’s Club as we’ve seen at other Riu hotels and the two outside pools are deep although there’s a separate little paddling pool.
The reception area
There are 327 rooms, including single and twin rooms along with junior suites.
They all have air-conditioning, a balcony or terrace and free Wi-Fi, which was very fast and reliable.
The main bedroom in our junior suite
We had a fabulous junior suite with the most stunning view over the sea, wonderful to enjoy from the bed or balcony. It had two double beds pushed together and a separate area with a sofa bed. There were two televisions, a bathroom with two sinks and a shower, plus bathrobes which you could wear around the pool (not available in children’s sizes). The sound of the sea from the room was so relaxing.
The second room in our junior suite
Food and drink
There are three restaurants and all food and drink, including alcohol, is included.
The main buffet restaurant – we ate mostly in this restaurant which serves a huge selection of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are plenty of tables inside and out, overlooking the pools. It only felt really busy on one morning, which was a Sunday.
The main buffet restaurant
Kulinarium – this is an a la carte speciality restaurant. The food is delicious, made from local produce and the service is fantastic, staff are so attentive. The menu is small and there is no separate children’s menu but if there is nothing they fancy, you can always fetch something from the buffet restaurant. This restaurant gets booked up in advance so make sure you book a night on arrival.
Pepe’s Food – this is a poolside grill bar which has a selection of food and drink open during the day.
Sports and activities
There’s a hard-surface tennis court, a card games room and an area to play bowls plus a small gym.
The tennis court
We spotted lots of people running along the sea front and many stop to use the outdoor gym equipment dotted around on the path running behind the hotel.
We went in February half-term but from around July to mid-September there’s a daytime entertainment programme for six to 12-year-olds, six times a week.
Our hotel highlights
One of the outdoor pools
*The pools – the indoor pool, one of the outdoor pools and the paddling pool is heated during the winter months.
*Entertainment – after dinner in the show room there was a different music act each evening until around 9pm followed by a show from 9.15pm including a magic show, a circus-themed performance and an Elton John tribute. Our favourite was the ballroom dancing as our daughter got picked to have a go.
The bar area
*Views of the sea – the view from our bed and balcony and many of the sunbeds of the ocean, were stunning.
View from the sunbeds
*The staff – staff were so friendly and attentive throughout the hotel.
Pool towels are available from a hut next to the outdoor pools. You are allowed one each but can swap for a dry one or for a pool card whenever you want.
The towel hut
Breakfast got busier later in the morning so go earlier if you can for a more relaxing experience.
If you want to eat at the a la carte Kulinarium restaurant book as soon as you arrive because it fills up quickly.
Tell us more about Madeira
Madeira is one of the Madeira Archipelago (group of islands), as well as Porto Santo, Desertas and the Selvagens. The islands are south west of Portugal, off the coast of Africa and are actually closer to Morocco than Portugal.
Madeira used to be hard to explore as it is so mountainous with rugged coasts, but today there are raised roads and loads of tunnels – two of them over 1.9 miles long.
My abiding memory of Madeira will be of all the red-roofed homes scattered over the hills and the pretty lights sparkling on the hillsides at night, which you can even see from the airport as soon as you arrive.
The view from the Madeira Cable Car
If you leave the hotel by its rear exit, you cross a narrow path to get to the pebbly beach.
It’s pretty to look at but not easy to walk on and quite hard to swim from – you’ll need shoes and there are a lot of rocks plus the sea seems rough. There is a jetty with steps down into the sea and further around to the left is a part sectioned off by rocks which feels safer to swim in.
The beach is pebbly
Madeira is a wonderful island to explore. We had a hire car and marvelled at some of the steep mountain roads.
The capital Funchal is just a 15-minute drive from Riu Madeira. We were lucky enough to be there during its Carnival celebrations and enjoyed one of the colourful parades.
We took a cable car from Funchal, it’s a stunning ride up to the top where we visited the beautiful Monte Palace gardens before riding back down again.
Monte Palace Gardens
Another way back down but not for the faint-hearted is by the famous Madeira Toboggan Ride. Passengers on wicker basket sledges are helped down the hill by two runners wearing straw boaters, in a tradition dating back to the 19th century and experienced by my grandparents in the 1970s.
We also visited the traditional fishing village Camara de Lobos which was loved by Winston Churchill after he visited in 1950 and stood at the site where he painted a portrait of the bay.
Looking at Churchill’s view in Camara de Lobos
We headed east to the stunning clifftop walk of Porto do San Lourenco and drove north west to the natural seawater pools and aquarium in Porto Moniz.
A seawater pool at Porto Moniz
When to go to the Hotel Riu Madeira
We went in February when the average temperature is 20 degrees and the rain is 97mm. This was perfect for us as we don’t like it too hot. Here is a year-round look at the average weather in Madeira:
January 20 degrees, 80mm rainfall February 20 degrees, 97mm rainfall March 21 degrees, 53mm rainfall April 21 degrees, 55m rainfall May 22 degrees, 22mm rainfall June 24 degrees, 6mm rainfall July 26 degrees, 1mm rainfall August 27 degrees, 2mm rainfall September 27 degrees, 28mm rainfall October 25 degrees, 89mm rainfall November 23 degrees, 88mm rainfall December 21 degrees, 118mm rainfall
Riu Madeira more information
Accessibility: The hotel is on a hillside but is said to be generally suitable for those with reduced mobility. There are stairs up from the pool area to the restaurant and reception but also a small lift.
Facilities: Gym, hair salon, spa, tennis court, bowls, three restaurants, three pools, paddling pool, free Wifi.
Address: Praia dos Reis Magos, 9125-024 Caniço de Baixo, Portugal
The stony beach isn’t the most comfortable for children to play on but there is fun to be had skimming stones and walking along it – to the nearby village in one direction or – in the other – to the spectacular Cape Aspro hiking trail.
If you want to travel a little further, the popular Aphrodite’s Rock, reputed as the place where the Goddess emerged from the sea, is just a few miles away.
Or you could enjoy more Cypriot history at Kourion Amphitheatre and Kolossi Castle – both less than 30 minutes’ drive.
A similar journey gets you to the tourist hotspot of Paphos with the Tombs of the Kings archaeological site and the bustling harbour worth a visit.
More active families can enjoy the water park, Luna Park funfair or the zoo.
Our review and all you need to know about Columbia Beach Resort in Pissouri Bay, Cyprus
Columbia Beach Resort
Where is it?
Pissouri Bay on the south coast of Cyprus.
What is it?
It is a five-star resort with 169 suites, two outdoor pools, an indoor pool, spa, gourmet restaurants and beach front location.
The beach in front of the hotel
Is it family friendly?
Yes, there were lots of families when we went.
There’s a lovely kids’ club offering a range of activities each day.
The restaurants have a separate children’s menu including pizza, different pastas, fish and chips, burgers etc.
A pizza from the children’s menu at Apollo Tavern.
There are two tennis courts plus the hotel is on a pebbly beach with sunbeds.
The 169 suites are spread out over this sprawling complex in different areas.
We had a family suite in the main hotel building – it was one of the nicest rooms we had stayed in – big with a fabulous layout and two bathrooms.
The lounge in our family suite
The children’s room with large twin beds could be closed off with sliding doors, which they loved.
There were kitchen facilities too including a sink and fridge and a lounge area, plus desks/dressing tables.
The main bedroom
I’ve never seen so many lights and lamps – we spent a while searching for some of the switches, eventually asking at reception to discover the room had its own lighting control panel!
Lighting control panel
From the balcony we could see both the pool, the sea and the hills that surround the site.
The view from our balcony
Food and drink
The food was divine and beautifully cooked and presented. There are a choice of restaurants and we tried all three.
A crab salad starter
We were half-board and had breakfast in – and on the terrace of – the Bacchus restaurant. The restaurant is a nice size and never felt overly busy or with the cafeteria feel of some breakfast areas in larger hotels. It was buffet style but you can order freshly prepared pancakes, waffles and eggs etc.
We tried this restaurant for dinner one night too and it was the most elegant of all. We asked for a table outside where we could relax with the children while still enjoying the first-class food and service.
The other two restaurants we tried were the Apollo Taverna which offers a traditional Cypriot dining experience.
And the stunning Cape Aspro with a fabulous terrace overlooking the sea.
Cape Aspro restaurant
All of the adult menus were different with the children’s menu the same at Cape Aspro and Apollo Taverna. Prices were around 10 euros for children’s main courses, 20-30 euros for adults mains depending on what you ordered. The portions were very generous, sometimes our starters would have been enough.
For dessert there is a special menu with lots of ice cream sundaes and other children’s favourites.
Dinner with.a view
*The outdoor pool nearest to the main hotel is beautiful and a fabulous size.
Our favourite outdoor pool at Columbia Beach Resort
*The indoor pool is slightly warmer as it’s heated so we had a lot of fun in it.
The indoor pool
*The food – I had some fabulous meals including a delicious prawn risotto and a gorgeous crab salad plus some fantastic desserts.
*The layout of the resort is pleasing and the views on to the sea are gorgeous.
A sunbathing area next to the beach
*Its location on the beach.
*While we were there, children could only use the indoor pool until 2pm.
*I am rubbish at getting into cold water – so acclimatized in the indoor pool first before plunging into the outdoor pool and it’s really worth it.
The other outdoor pool
*There is live music in some restaurants some of the time which really adds to the atmosphere, so you can ask when booking to secure the evenings when this is on – or not on if you prefer. We enjoyed a saxophonist on one night and a guitar duo on another.
*If you walk one way from the hotel, you can do the Cape Aspro hiking trail, be careful of the steep drops though with children – the other way leads to the village with restaurants, bars and a small store.
We take a family holiday to Mallorca and stay at the five-star Zafiro Palace Alcudia
To land at night is to preserve the mystery of your surroundings until morning – and we were in for a pleasant surprise on our break to the Balearic island of Mallorca.
Early signs are good – we land at Palma and are out of the plane, the airport and into our hire car in a record-breaking 20 minutes.
Safely at the hotel a little later, we love our big, open-plan, ground floor room despite the partially see-through frosted toilet door!
Zafiro Palace Hotel
The huge comfortable bed and sofa which converts into two singles mean it’s easy to sleep.
And when we pull back the curtains the following morning, we are greeted with a sight befitting this five-star hotel, Zafiro Palace Alcudia.
A big terrace awaits us, furnished with a table and chairs and comfy sun loungers.
But there’s also a gate. A gate which leads on to a swim-up pool. Bliss.
In fact, most ground floor rooms here have this luxurious option while top floor suites benefit from a hot tub.
Water is a common theme, perfect for a Mediterranean island known for the aqua sea surrounding it – I count at least 12 swimming pools.
For children, there’s a pirate-themed pool with water slides and another with a ‘wet bubble’ in the middle to climb and bounce off which opens out into the biggest pool here, with a swim-up bar.
Water slides in a pirate-themed children’s pool
But as it’s October and the water is a little chilly, the warmest pool here is the busiest, with one lane sectioned off for serious swimming and double sun beds over the water on the other side for those who’d rather watch.
The warmest pool
All that swimming builds up appetites and the food here is fantastic. Thankfully the main buffet restaurant has enough pancakes, pizza and pasta to keep even our daughter happy.
Plus a good variety of Spanish favourites like Paella and fish and other international cuisine to satisfy all palates.
There are several a la carte restaurants too – an Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean and Bistro/Grill. All of them offer high quality food in a relaxed atmosphere which caters to children.
And the younger ones are also well-served by a playground, entertainment such as mini discos in the afternoons, a mini golf course and a basketball court/football pitch.
The hotel is in Puerto de Alcudia, in the north of this popular island.
It’s surrounded by mountainous scenery and is within walking distance of Playa de Alcudia, a long sandy beach with shallow waters and playground equipment.
Playa de Alcudia beach
We also spend time on other stunning beaches and explore Port de Pollensa, which inspired Agatha Christie’s story Problem at Pollensa Bay.
The beach at Pollensa
Alcudia Old Town is also worth a look as are the fabulous Caves of Drach with its stalagmites and stalactites and stunning musical experience.
One day we take the twisty mountain road up to a clifftop vantage point at Es Colomer, with fabulous sweeping views of this wonderful island.
Es Colomer – walking up to a view
We admire the keen cyclists cruising up the steep slopes – they didn’t appear to have overindulged in a hotel buffet like I had.
We may have arrived at night but we departed in the morning – just time for a final trip to the breakfast buffet.
Does the Zafiro Palace Alcudia live up to its five-star rating on a family holiday with our children to Mallorca
Zafiro Palace Alcudia
Where is it?
In Port d’Alcudia on the north coast of Mallorca, a Spanish Balearic island in the Mediterranean.
What is it?
A luxury five-star hotel with all-inclusive option, with lots of swimming pools, big rooms and delicious food, within walking distance of a beach.
Is it family friendly?
Yes. There are children’s pools, an outdoor play area, a mini disco, mini golf course and a football/basketball pitch/court too.
Water slides in a pirate-themed children’s pool
The hotel is also suitable for people travelling without youngsters as there are adult-only areas.
Adults only section is on raised area in the middle of the site
The rooms are laid out in a U-shape around the pools.
Many of the ground floor rooms have pool access while the top-level rooms benefit from a hot tub each.
There are two other levels, mostly with pool views.
Our room: We had a ground-floor room with an outside terrace furnished with two sunbeds, a table and two chairs and a round love seat.
A gate from the terrace leads on to one of the swim-up pools. This feels amazing although in reality, in October, the water in ours was sadly a little chilly to spend long enjoying.
The room itself was a lovely big square shape with a huge, comfortable bed big enough for the four of us. But the sofa converted into two single beds for the children.
It’s not for the shy as the room is open-plan to the bathroom, which has a bath and two sinks. There’s some privacy with a separate shower and separate toilet although the doors are frosted and slightly transparent!
Food and drink
There are various price options for food including all-inclusive. We were half-board with breakfast and an evening meal.
The main restaurant – The Market – is buffet-style with indoor and outdoor seating.
Breakfast is a lovely selection of hot and cold food and drinks with more than enough choice to keep us all happy.
Outdoor seating at the main buffet restaurant
One chef, Miguel, impressed us as he cooked up a constant supply of pancakes, fried eggs and scrambled eggs.
He was there again in the evening, cooking tasty meats and fish.
Also at night were plenty of pasta and pizza options to keep our daughter happy and enough paella and other Spanish specialities for an authentic experience.
Plus, lovely desserts and ice-cream.
There are a la carte restaurants too – Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean and a steak/grill with delicious food. But you must book first thing in the morning at the start of your holiday or you won’t get a reservation as spaces fill up quickly.
*The swimming pools – I counted 12, including:
Several long pools which swim-up ground floor rooms open on to.
Two children’s pools – a pirate-themed one with slides and splashes. And one with a big bouncy bubble in the middle to climb and slide/bounce/jump off which opens out into the biggest pool here, with a swim-up bar.
The warmest pool was the busiest when we visited in October as it is covered at night to retain heat. It had a strip sectioned off for lane swimming and on the other side are double beds over the water.
The warmest pool
There is also a pool in a raised section in the middle of the site in an adults-only section.
And there are two warmer indoor pools – a small heated one which we spent time in. And a longer, shallow pool for adults in the gym/spa section of the hotel.
Indoor family pool
*Pool towels are freely available, you aren’t rationed to one each a day so if you need dry ones later in the day or to take to the beach, you can help yourself.
*The food. We all loved the food, the children particularly enjoyed the choice a buffet affords. We visited post-Covid and guests had to wear masks when choosing food and walking around the restaurant. Plus there were numerous hand sanitisers around.
*Alcudia – the town is a couple of miles inland from the touristy port area. It’s a beautiful walled town with a largely pedestrianised city centre. Ideal for strolling around, the children can explore the city walls but they are high with just a wire guard on the one side so take care with younger ones.
Alcudia Old Town
*Mallorca is famous for its lovely beaches, the nearest to the hotel is Playa de Alcudia – a shallow bay, with calm waters and sandy beach. There are lots of facilities including toilets, sunbeds and lifeguards. You can walk from the hotel to the start of the beach in about five to 10 minutes.
Playa de Alcudia beach
*Playa de Muro – slightly further along the bay is another soft sand beach. It is slightly less touristy than Alcudia beach but not as spacious at busy times.
*There are loads of other beaches to explore if you have a hire car, we enjoyed Formentor in particular, a 30-minute drive away over mountains. This beautiful beach felt like we were in the Carribean.
The beach at Formentor
*Cycling is a hugely popular activity in this part of Mallorca and you can hire bikes at the hotel. There are good cycle paths and lots of groups and tours available. The more adventurous can tackle the surrounding mountains where we drove past dozens of riders climbing the steep hills.
*Caves of Drach (Cuevas del Drach) on the east coast in Porto Cristo – stunning caves with stalactites and stalagmites and an atmospheric music show on an underground lake.
*We also explore Puerto Pollensa, which inspired Agatha Christie to write a crime story – Problem at Pollensa Bay is about the disappearance of a holidaymaker while staying at a hotel, under suspicious circumstances.
Pine Walk at Pollensa
We walked along the Pine Walk then stopped on the main beach which has calm waters, plenty of facilities, along with rocks and coral to see just metres from the shore.
All you need to know when visiting the home of LEGO in Billund, Denmark
Billund in Denmark is the home of Lego.
It is where the very first Lego toy brick was made in 1932. And where the first Legoland Park opened on June 7, 1968, next to the original Lego factory.
Legoland Billund is smaller, flatter and easier to get around than Legoland Windsor. Plus it’s just a 90-minute flight from the UK so makes a great alternative for Lego fans.
If you are planning a visit to Legoland Billund, make sure you read our 14 top tips below first and then our review.
1. How to get to Legoland Billund in Denmark
Legoland Billund is across the road from Billund Airport. You can fly there from Manchester, Heathrow and Stansted Airports. Ryanair fly from Stansted and Sun-Air, a British Airways partner, goes from Heathrow and Manchester.
We flew direct from Manchester with Sun-Air (which works in partnership with BA) on a tiny plane. The flight took 90 minutes.
2. Where to stay
It is expensive but you can stay stay at the park – at Legoland Hotel or Legoland Castle Hotel, a stay which can include park tickets, parking and early park access.
There is also Legoland Holiday Village, 450 metres from the entrance to Legoland.
But we stayed over the road at Lalandia Billund – an amazing water park resort, so got the best of both worlds. We stayed in a fantastic two-bedroomed lodge.
3. Best time to go to Legoland Billund
The busiest days at Legoland Billund are Tuesdays and Wednesdays while Saturdays are the quietest.
If you want to go over the summer, go as late as you can as Danish children usually go back to school towards the end of August so it will be quieter.
We found queues manageable despite visiting during the Easter holidays – there are lots of rides and plenty of space.
4. How to avoid the queues
Most people enter the park and start going on rides as soon as they see them so head straight to the back to avoid the crowds.
The longest queues when we went were in the Ninjago area which did mean a wait for Lloyd’s Laser Maze and the Ninjago Ride.
The Ninjago Ride
If you have Ninjago fans you could head there as soon as the gates open. Alternatively, the most popular rides are often quieter in the last 30 minutes before the park closes, although you may miss out altogether if you leave it too late.
To really save time queuing, splash out on the Q-Bot Reserve and Ride system. Instead of waiting in a queue at each attraction, you spend the waiting time elsewhere in the park. An Express pass reduces your waiting time by 50 per cent and an Ultimate pass means almost no waits in queues on your chosen rides, which can be a game changer when you have young children.
The Miniland area is at its heart with recreations of everything from old Amsterdam to Star Wars, made out of Lego, which everyone will enjoy.
This park uses 65 million of the little bricks to build its displays.
There is a Duplo Land, Imagination Zone, Pirate Land, Knights’ Kingdom, Polar Land and Legoredo Town.
Lego Ninjago World and Adventure Land are really popular.
Our favourite ride was the competitive Falck Fire Engine in Adventure Land. You work with your family to use a pump to move a fire engine and then spray out ‘fires’ while racing against other visitors on their fire engines.
Falck Fire Engine ride
The farthest end of the park is the quietest and we found a nice picnic spot by the penguin enclosure where we could watch them swimming while we ate.
6. Age appropriate
Unlike some theme parks, there is lots for little ones including Duplo Land for toddlers and Imagination Zone.
There are also enough rollercoasters to keep teenagers happy – so this suits all ages from two to 16.
There’s plenty for older children
Don’t forget to be aware of height and age restrictions, so children aren’t left disappointed on the day.
7. Food and drink
There are food and drink outfits but the options can be pricey. Plus they get very busy after 12.30pm so take your own food and drinks where possible, to enjoy in one of the picnic areas.
This is obviously a Danish theme park but some of the 4D films are in English – check the times for these in advance.
It’s a nice flat theme park and not overly huge but if little one’s legs get tired, there are pushchairs to hire.
If the weather is bad or you want a break from the rides then there is a good aquarium in the Imagination Zone called Atlantis by Sea Life.
Atlantis by Sea Life
It takes you on an expedition under the sea with a few bricks to find along the way. It doesn’t take very long but is a good spot to dry off or warm up and includes a tunnel under the water.
11. Special needs
The park is flat and all roads and paths are paved so wheelchairs users can go everywhere.
Those with a hidden disability such as anxiety, autism or ADHD can collect a ’show consideration’ wristband.
Disabled and ’show consideration’ access to rides is via the exits or sometimes through the Q-bot entrance.
12. Buying tickets
Buy online to save money and to save time queuing for tickets and download the free, official app to plan your trip.
13. Don’t miss the new Lego House
If you are after another Lego experience – try the big Lego House, which has opened in Billund and is within walking distance of Legoland.
This 12,000-square-metre house is filled with 25 million Lego bricks.
Here, children learn through play with Lego. The house also includes three restaurants and a Lego store.
14. The history
You can go to other Legoland parks, but only one place is the home of Lego.
Almost every visitor stops for an iconic photo outside the main entrance sign. Save time getting in by doing this at the end of the day not the beginning, when the shot will be more clear of people.
This park is not huge but it is historic and has enough to keep you entertained for a full day or a couple of days.
Advance entry starts from around 300DKK – about £30 – per person. For tickets and information visit the Legoland Billund website.
We take our children in search of the actual Hunter Street house in the Netherlands
Hunter Street is a popular Nickelodeon/TeenNick children’s television series, set in Amsterdam.
The first series started in March, 2017 when a boy called Max joins the Hunter family.
When he and the four other children Anika, Sal, Tess, and Daniel, wake up the next morning, they discover that their foster parents Erik and Kate have disappeared.
They turn detectives to try to find out what happened to them while keeping up appearances that everything is fine.
It’s a family adventure following clues, boat racing through canals, exploring tunnels and finding lost treasure while fighting off bad guys.
Their grand home also houses a museum, which the family run.
In real life though, the Hunter House exterior is a real home.
Our two children love this comedy/drama so when we visited Amsterdam they were keen to find this actual Hunter House.
The address is Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.
We got there via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and it was then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal.
It’s a big, tall building on the canal. Our children were excited to see it and enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!
The house is private property so you won’t be able to go in and see inside.
Plus you won’t spot any of the stars as the actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands, in Aalsmeer.
Hunter Street stars Stony Blyden, Mae Mae Renfrow, Kyra Smith, Thomas Jansen, and Daan Creyghton. Wilson Radjou-Pujalte and Kate Bensdorp join the cast in the second season, and Eliyha Altena and Sarah Nauta join in the third season.
It is produced in the Netherlands by Blooming Media and was co-developed with the Nickelodeon Netherlands television series De Ludwigs.
We try out family-friendly activities around the lake and take a trip to Verona
We are holidaying in the beautiful Lakes – but for once it’s not our beloved English Lake District.
The waters are a clearer turquoise, there isn’t a walking boot in sight and ice creams are in greater supply.
We are in the fashionable Italian Lakes for a slightly chilly October half-term break and I am feeling cosy but a little out of place in my ‘school run coat’.
We are staying on the southern end of Italy’s largest lake, Lake Garda, loved by families and affluent travellers.
And home for the trip is also a family favourite with a great lakefront location.
Bella Italia – a five-star campsite – is a 15-minute lakeside walk from the town of Peschiera Del Garda.
It has four pools (sadly closed at this time of year), the same number of restaurants with well-priced tasty food, playgrounds, a children’s club, ice cream parlour, bouncy castles, fairground rides and more.
Our three-bedroom mobile home, a Girasole Suite, is smaller than similar holiday homes we have stayed in but is an ideal base to explore the area.
And we start out on the pebbly beach in front of the holiday park before getting on to the water itself – the quickest way to get around the lake’s beautiful towns and villages is by ferry.
You can hop on and off, visiting several spots in a day. Among our favourites were the enchanting village of Lazise with its castle and playground and tourist magnet Sirmione – the most picturesque yet busiest spot on the lake.
Another busy spot is Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland, just 15 minutes away.
There are plenty of rollercoasters for older children but younger children are well-catered for too – there’s even a small Peppa Pig Land.
And a Sea Life aquarium next door is a good rainy day option – you can buy one ticket covering a visit to both on the same or consecutive days.
Just a short drive away lies a more relaxing day out. Parco Natura Viva is a zoo and safari park with hippos, giraffes, rhinos and bears among a lovely site.
Parco Giardino Sigurta
Another attraction worth a visit is Parco Giardino Sigurta. This 600-acre garden has a maze, small animal farm and plenty of space to run around in beautiful gardens. We explore on foot then hire a golf cart for 18 euros to get around the whole site.
Further afield, but still only half an hour away, is Verona.
Our children love the huge Roman amphitheatre, the 2,000-year-old Arena.
Others head to this city of Romeo and Juliet to leave love notes at Juliet’s balcony, linked to the fictional star-crossed lovers.
But it isn’t the most child friendly spot with a cramped courtyard full of selfie hunters taking photos at Juliet’s statue and balcony.
You are better off exploring Verona’s pedestrianised centre, the square around the Arena and its riverside walks. It is a compact city and in a day you can see historic churches, castles, museums or stop by one of countless gelato outlets.
To keep younger ones really happy, the city’s new Children’s Museum is a fantastic hands-on place where they can learn about light, water, power and science through play. It is well worth a couple of hours of your time.
Children’s Museum, Verona
We throw ourselves into the Verona experience with an authentic Veronese feast prepared for us at Locanda Ristori – one of the city’s traditional eateries.
Our full guide on where to take children on a family holiday to Lake Garda in Italy
Tourists flock every year to stunning Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) in northern Italy.
It’s a fabulous destination for a family holiday as we discovered on a recent trip.
Here’s our full guide to the best activities for children in and around this, Italy’s biggest lake, with its beautiful turquoise waters.
1. Visit a lakeside town
Spend time exploring the lovely towns and villages around the lake and enjoying an ice cream or two, such as:
A pretty village on the eastern side of the lake dominated by a 14th century castle and walls.
The centre has a ferry stop, small harbour and plenty of ice cream shops and restaurants.
It is mostly pedestrianised with car parking around the outskirts which means it feels safer to walk around with children.
Near the centre next to the castle is a small playground.
The town which gave the lake its name has a nice lakefront walk along its harbour, cobbled streets to explore and a busy market every Friday.
Our children were interested in a fun bridge on the lake shore where couples from around the world have left padlocks proclaiming their enduring passion!
This is the area’s tourist trap. Sirmione gets busy quickly, its narrow streets full of tourists, ice cream shops and restaurants.
It’s a stunning spot, the castle entrance is spectacular and worth a walk around (children enter for free, adults 6 euros).
On the other side of the town’s streets are thermal baths and at the top of its peninsula the remains of a Roman villa, Grotte di Catulla. It is incredible but a long walk for children so only for the most dedicated walkers.
Everything in Sirmione is more expensive than elsewhere in the area. The ice creams here are massive but at least double the price of other places.
There are plenty of lovely spots to sit and play away from the main thoroughfare, a few stony beach areas and nice park towards the Roman remains.
This town is made by the stunning blue waters of the river Mincio as it meets the lake. Its centre isn’t as pretty as some as Peschiera is also a working town.
However there are plenty of restaurants around the streets near the ferry port.
We walked into the town a few times from our holiday park Campeggio Bella Italia (see our review of it here here), which was a pleasant 15-minute stroll along a tree lined lake shore promenade.
2. Get around by ferry
The most fun and often the fastest way to see Lake Garda’s towns and villages is by ferry.
Every major place has a ferry stop and in high season there will be a boat roughly every hour between 8 and 6pm.
You must buy tickets before you board which are priced based on the distance you are travelling, from around 10 euros for a short return journey to 35 euros for a whole lake pass for a day. Children’s tickets cost around half an adult’s price.
The ferries are large, accommodating 500 people, boarding is efficient, there are toilets on board and a food and drink service in high season.
It is a smooth journey but because the lake is 50 miles long it takes at least three hours to get from top to bottom.
You can pick up ferry timetables from every ticket office where the boat docks or follow this link.
3. Parco Naturo Viva
This large zoo and safari park was set up by a husband and wife in 1969 and has expanded over a huge site.
The ticket price includes both the zoo and safari drive and you must do both to see all the animals – giraffes and zebras for example are only on the safari.
The safari takes around half an hour and is safe to do in your hire car. There are no dangerous monkey enclosures to threaten your windscreen wipers!
The main zoo is a large parkland which is steep in places.
It is divided into continents with the Africa section near the start featuring lions, rhinos and hippos. The Asian area has tigers and snow leopards with the Americas section including bears and colourful macaws.
Their latest attraction is a giants of the world indoor enclosure which has a Komodo dragon, anaconda, piranhas and giant otters.
There is also a dinosaur area with full size scale models of a T-Rex, stegosaurus and triceratops.
Picnics are allowed and there are several reasonably priced restaurants across the site.
The site is beautiful and makes for a pleasant walk – it will take you at least four hours to get round.
Signs are in Italian, German and English except for the dinosaur section.
Parking costs 2 euros on top of the ticket price.
This is Italy’s biggest theme park. There are lots of rides (and lots of queues) and you can easily spend a whole day here.
For smaller children there are four main sections, including a Peppa Pig Land.
This is smaller than the UK equivalent with only four major rides – a balloon ride, small train, circular boat trip and Peppa Pig’s house, which is frankly just a room where you can find pretend strawberries and pancakes.
It won’t take more than 90 minutes to do this part of the park but will still be a thrill for Peppa fans. All the music and songs are in Italian but the signs are also in English.
Near the entrance is a large carousel and other rides for younger children. And it’s only a short walk to Fantasy Land which has a plane ride and farmyard tractor ride.
Our two children loved an area for under 7s at the far end of the park with two gentle rollercoasters, a relaxing monorail, teacups ride and a dizzying Peter Pan ride.
Tweens and teens are more than catered for in the rest of the park with rides including spectacular rollercoasters.
Daily shows take place in two on-site theatres and there are themed events through the year at times like Halloween and Christmas.
There are lots of food options from candy floss stalls through to a la carte restaurants and everything in between.
Car parking costs six euros on top of your ticket.
5. Sea Life Aquarium
At Gardaland – on the other side of the car park – is the Sea Life Aquarium. You can buy joint tickets to Gardaland and Sea Life and visit them on the same day or consecutive days.
It doesn’t take that long to go round but is interesting and a good option for a rainy day. Children can do a quiz on the way round, in English, with the answers to each question on the information boards.
There is also a cafe at the end of the route around the aquarium.
6. Movie World
This is a smaller theme park just up the road from Gardaland based on films and special effects.
It has live shows and themed restaurants. We didn’t have time to visit on our trip.
7. Parco Giardino Sigurta
For a relaxing day out, the huge gardens of Parco Sigurta are a 15 minute drive south of the lake, on the banks of the river Mincio.
This 600 acre park is vast with a small animal farm, beautiful gardens, a fun maze and other trails like a zig zag path through woodland.
The park would take hours to get around on foot but you can see it all in an hour if you hire a golf cart or take the train which circles it.
Our children enjoyed walking around first, despite wet weather and then taking a golf buggy (you need a driving licence to hire one) to explore the far flung parts. It has a screen with an interactive map and English commentary.
There are food kiosks and toilets around the park plus a restaurant on site.
8. On and in the water
The lake is clear and inviting – most towns have places where children can swim and some offer water activities like pedalo boats and windsurfing.
The beaches are pebbly so take beach shoes for paddling.
We stay in a mobile home at this campsite in Peschiera del Garda
Campeggio Bella Italia.
Where is it?
On the shores of Lake Garda, at the bottom right of the lake, in Peschiera del Garda. Lake Garda (Lago di Garda), the largest lake in Italy, is in the north of Italy between Venice and Milan.
What is it?
It is a large holiday park with mobile homes, apartments, bungalows and camping pitches.
Is it family friendly?
There are little playgrounds/play parks, swimming pools and slides (not open out of season), a children’s club for 4-12 year-olds, as well as evening entertainment like mini-discos.
The site is good for riding bikes, walking and backs on to the lake which you can swim in during warmer weather.
Sport-wise, you can play tennis, football, basketball, beach volleyball and table tennis. And during the summer, guests can do water activities on the lake.
There are four types of mobile home here – we stayed in a Girasole Suite.
It slept six, with three small bedrooms, a kitchen/diner and bathroom with good-sized shower.
The kitchen had a hob (no oven), microwave and fridge/freezer. Towels and bedding are provided in the Girasole Suite properties only.
There was a sofa bench on one side of the dining table and a TV (no English channels on ours). Outside the mobile home, there was a decked area with table and chairs plus parking space for a car.
It also had a heater/air conditioning unit and the warmth from it was very welcome when we stayed.
Food and drink
There are four restaurants on site and the prices are very reasonable. We ate twice at Le Terrazze, overlooking the lake.
There is also Corte Riga, which has an almost identical menu to Le Terrazze but offers a takeaway option, Trattoria Bella Italia and a diner and takeaway cafe offering fish and chips and burgers which has an ice cream parlour attached.
*The lake – the site is on the southern banks of Lake Garda. There are exits on to the shallow pebbly beach and a small pier where you can walk down steps into the lake for a swim.
*It’s a 15-minute walk along the lake to the town, Peschiera del Garda, where you can shop, eat or catch a ferry.
*Gardaland theme park is a 10-minute drive.
*Verona is less than half an hour a way and we had hired a car so visited this city which was the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. For our top tips on what to do with children in Verona, read our guide: What to do with children in Verona
*There are other lovely towns around the lake you can visit by car or ferry – we tried Sirmione, Lazise and Garda.
*Supermarkets – there is an Aldi and Lidl nearby, handy if you have a car and want to stock up.
*The park was lovely and quiet as we visited at October half-term in the last week before the site closed for the winter.
*The ice cream parlour – we sampled a LOT of ice cream in different towns on this trip and the ice cream from here was our favourite. Great to walk to for a leisurely dessert after a meal too.
*The park’s position next to the beautiful lake.
*The children’s areas which open in the evening – a little fair and another part with a bouncy castle and bouncy slide.
Combined with evening entertainment and mini-discos, there is a lot to do after dark.
There is also a games room/arcade.
*The choice of restaurants and good-priced range of food.
We ate at Le Terrazze where a child’s pizza was only 4 euros and a plate of adult pasta around 8 euros.
*The swimming pools and water slides here look amazing. We sadly didn’t get to experience them as we visited out of season and they were closed.
*There are sports facilities like tennis courts and beach volleyball courts plus you can hire bikes.
*The distance from Verona airport – about a 25-minute drive.
*You can do water activities at the park’s Waterski Centre between May and mid-September. For an extra fee you can try parasailing, paraflying, a banana boat and more.
*You pay extra for wi-fi.
*You pay extra for bedding and towels.
*If your children will be going in the lake, take beach shoes as it is pebbly.
Campeggio Bella Italia, Via Bell Italia 2, Peschiera del Garda 37019
For more information visit the Campeggio Bella Italia website.
Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary accommodation for the purposes of this review. All opinions are out honestly held views.
Our top tips for activities on a family holiday to Verona in Italy
How do you take in this beautiful, historic Italian city while keeping both adults and children happy? Read our guide for the best ideas of what to do and where to go.
This Roman amphitheatre is right in the centre of the city in Piazza Bra square and makes a good starting point for exploring.
It dates back to the first century and is second only to Rome’s Colosseum in terms of its size and history.
You can explore inside, climb to the top, walk inside the walls and across the stage area where Roman gladiators once fought and our children really enjoyed it.
The Arena is really well preserved and is still used today – it is a world-famous music venue and hosts big operatic shows.
Piazza Bra (also called the Bra)
Verona’s main square, next to the Arena in the centre of the city, is one of the largest in Europe.
There are plenty of places to sit and eat with restaurants and cafes along one side.
There are historic buildings around it and a small park in the middle with a fountain. It is mostly car free.
Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony
A ten-minute walk from the Arena, through a pedestrianised shopping area, is ‘Juliet’s House’, Casa de Giulietta.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet may have been fictional but this house is linked to the star-crossed lovers as it was once inhabited by the Cappello family, a surname similar to Juliet’s, Capulet.
Tourists enter the courtyard and queue up for photos with Juliet’s bronze statue (and rub her right breast for luck in love).
People also take pictures of the balcony where they like to imagine Juliet was wooed by Romeo (although the balcony was actually added at a much later date) so keep a hold of your children as it gets busy here.
Inside the house is a small museum.
There isn’t much for children once they have seen the balcony and statue but the walls outside scrawled with love letters and graffiti are interesting to see.
And it is near Piazza Erbe with plenty of ice cream parlours and a market.
Torre Dei Lamberti
Just around the corner from the famous balcony is the best viewpoint of Verona – from the top of an 84-metre-tall tower.
But there is a lift for an extra euro which takes you almost to the top of the first viewing platform.
And from there you get 360 degree views of Verona.
The view of Verona from Torre Dei Lamberti
A ticket for the tower also gives access to the an art gallery next to the tower, the Gallery of Modern Art.
Verona Children’s Museum
This bright museum opened in 2019 and offers lots of hands-on fun for children.
Situated on the edge of the city, it is essentially one big space of science and learning, disguised as fun.
Before you go in, everyone must remove shoes and leave coats and bags behind, so you automatically feel more carefree.
Tickets are for allocated 90-minute slots through the day to make sure it never gets too crowded. Then the staff tidy up again so that everything is neat and clean ready for the next group.
It is designed and created for children – you can build your own mini-houses, milk a pretend cow, learn about light and shadows and play in a ball pit and climbing area.
There’s a also a water section where you can use water to create music, put balls into a whirlpool and more.
The staff are really friendly and helpful. If you have children under 10 they will love it here as ours did.
It also makes a good rainy day activity as it is all indoors.
This large Veronese building on the banks of the Adige river is part museum part castle.
There is a lot of 16th century religious artwork here which didn’t hold much appeal for our children. But some of the exhibits had old swords and armour.
And the walk around the castle was good fun. You get a good view across the river to Ponte Scaligero which was rebuilt after being blown up by the Germans in World War Two. And you can walk along the castle walls and into raised courtyards.
Visitors have to leave backpacks in lockers at the entrance.
Have a traditional Veronese meal
The Veronese take food very seriously. There are restaurants at every turn and they welcome children.
Almost all will serve you a plate of tomato pasta or a pizza, if that is what you are after.
For a real authentic experience, we tried Locanda Ristori, a traditional Veronese restaurant just outside the touristy centre near Castelvecchio.
The restaurant was mostly full of locals when we visited on a Sunday lunchtime, which is always a good sign and staff are warm and attentive.
The lovely owner Lia, a former ballet dancer across Europe, is very friendly and passionate about the food, explaining it all to us.
The menu includes a mix of pasta and meat dishes.
The Veronese tradition is a big plate of up to eight mixed meats including tongue, which my husband tucked into. It was served with mashed potato, vegetables and a broth which takes four hours to cook.
Lia serves a Veronese speciality
My children just fancied a plain tomato pasta (pasta pomodoro), not on the menu, but Lia was more than happy to make them some and they loved it.
There is also a good selection of desserts, including ice cream and we grown-ups sampled some fabulous wine.
Get a Verona card
The quickest and cheapest way to get into the main sites is with a Verona card, which costs 20 euros for a day and 25 euros for 48 hours.
If you are going to visit the Arena and at least two other sites then you will save money with the card.
It includes free entry to all the attractions above (except the Children’s Museum), all the largest churches and city centre museums.
You can pick up the card at the tourist information office in a corner of Piazza Bra.
Our children were also given a couple of city centre trails to do while we wandered around.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a Verona Card and a complimentary meal for the purposes of this article. All views are our own.
*Have you taken children to Verona? Where did you go? Tell us below!
We stay at a holiday park in the middle of the Netherlands with our children
Sand stretches before us. A vast expanse of gold, nothing on the horizon save for a makeshift den of withered tree branches.
Where is this extraordinary landscape? The Sahara? Outer Mongolia?
Try central Holland, the Dunes of Loon.
This natural phenomenon was created by sand drifts 10,000 years ago and its 30km of desert are fun to explore.
Dunes of Loon
You experience it by walking just five minutes from our family campsite at Duinhoeve (read our full Duinhoeve Holiday Park review and tips here).
And we certainly feel like explorers as we unzip the door to our glamping lodge at the park.
Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve
From the outside it is a huge tent, but through the zipped entrance you find a fabulous, modern interior.
There are three bedrooms, a den/storage area for children, spacious shower and bathroom, TV, well-equipped kitchen and large dining table. See our video below.
The park is ideal for younger children with three playgrounds aimed at under-7s and two swimming pools – one large and heated by solar power, the other for toddlers complete with pirate ship.
There’s a restaurant/cafe selling hot and cold meals every evening.
There’s also bike and go-kart hire. Very useful as Duinhoeve is well located to explore what the natural world has to offer with cycle paths and walks through the dunes and woodland.
If you want to experience further afield then the small medieval city of Den Bosch is less than 30 minutes away.
If you are browsing its ancients streets, squares and markets don’t forget to try the local delicacy Bosch Bollen – a type of giant profiterole sold in every bakery.
Bosche Bollen, yum
The city was home to the medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch, famous for his fantastical imagination.
And if it is a wild imagination you want to witness, then just 10 minutes from Duinhoeve is the fairytale themed theme park of Efteling (full review and top tips for visiting Efteling here).
Efteling Theme Park
Think Disneyland minus the schmaltz, the sky high food prices and super-long queues.
Not that Efteling is quiet, it is still Holland’s largest theme park and draws visitors from around Europe.
The best place to get a feel for Efteling is the Fairytale Forest with recreations of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, Pinocchio’s workshop and the witch’s gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, which even smells authentic.
The park is broadly divided into two halves, to the left of the entrance is mostly aimed at younger children. Head right if you have roller-coaster loving tweens and teens who are seeking plenty of thrills. See our exclusive video below.
With our younger ones, some of the best rides are Symphonica – a theatrical indoor adventure and the Pirana River Rapids Ride.
If you need a break, there are plenty of places to sit and rest. You can hop on a steam train around the park, take a leisurely boat ride on a lake, or head up the pagoda viewing tower to see Efteling from above.
When you are hungry you can pick from plenty of food options with more than just the usual expensive fast-food.
A day at Efteling ends with a 15-minute fire and water show called Aquanura, set to classical music.
Efteling is a reminder that this area – capable of extraordinary landscapes is also pretty good at man-made mythical lands as well.
Aquanura water show
There’s more water and drama back at our glamping lodge that night.
After days of humidity, a terrific thunder storm breaks out. As we look out across the park, enjoying the sight and the sound of the rain hammering on the canvas roof, we are very glad to be in safe and secure in our very, very posh tent.
We take our children via mini-cruise to Amsterdam in Holland
Amsterdam may be a stag and hen do favourite – but there is much more to the city than its infamous seedier side.
We head to the beautiful Dutch capital with our children, in search of a family-friendly break.
It’s just a short, 45-minute plane journey from the UK. So we decide to travel by ship. Obviously.
Billed as a mini-cruise, our overnight ferry crossing is with DFDS from Newcastle.
The children love it and it doesn’t feel like part of the journey – more a highlight of the holiday.
It sets sail at 5.30pm, so enough time to explore the ship, eat and enjoy the entertainment.
Then most of the journey is spent asleep in our cabin, before waking up for breakfast and disembarkment. Read our review and tips for taking this ferry crossing here and watch our video below.
Our visit to the Netherlands is in two parts so it’s a bonus to have our car and lots of luggage.
Part 1 Amsterdam
There are bicycles EVERYWHERE we look. I’m expecting this but am still staggered at the sheer volume of cyclists, their confidence and the natural way they rule the road.
All ages are on two wheels, children too young to pedal themselves ride on a seat or in a trailer with an adult.
And NOBODY wears a helmet.
It’s a stressful city for car drivers to negotiate – it’s also difficult and expensive to park.
So we use a cheap park and ride car park on the outskirts (read our Amsterdam park and ride guide here) and take a couple of trams to our hotel.
NH Amsterdam Center is a good base to explore from plus it was great value when we booked. (See our full hotel review and pictures here).
Our hotel room
It’s a well-positioned hotel next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam, across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. Plus, our room is huge.
Then, armed with an I amsterdam city card, which gives free access to attractions, public transport including ferries and a free canal cruise, we start our exploring.
We tick off Nemo Science Museum, a great hands-on attraction, where our children even get to be scientists in a lab.
Nemo Science Museum
We take a pancake cruise – a 75-minute cruise – with all you can eat pancakes and toppings. None of us get near to the record of 15. Then, part of the boat’s floor opens up to reveal a ball bit below deck.
The Pancake Boat
We pop to see the outside of the real-life Hunter Street house from the Nickelodeon programme of the same name.
And we get close to nature at Artis Zoo – a beautiful attraction, with some species you don’t get to see in English zoos.
Less child-oriented but a must-see for art lovers, is the Van Gogh Museum which houses the biggest collection of the Dutch painter’s work in the world. Even his famous work Sunflowers is there when we visit.
We use our cruise tickets (free with the I amsterdam card), with the Blue Boat Company. The cruise really caters for children – they have their own Pirates commentary on headphones and goody bags.
The Blue Boat Company
Read our complete reviews and guides to Amsterdam’s children’s attractions here and watch our video below.
Walking is a great way to see the city and the canals but it’s a challenge to negotiate the roads and crossings with children, remembering to check the cycle lanes and look out for trams as well as other traffic.
Amsterdam is fascinating, brilliant and intensive and when it’s time for part two of our trip, all four of us are ready to head south.
We take our children to the fairytale-themed Efteling Theme Park Resort in Holland
Efteling Theme Park Resort.
What is it?
This is a huge fairytale-themed family attraction. It’s the biggest theme park in the Netherlands and is open every day of the year.
Where is it?
In the town of Kaatsheuvel in the Brabant region of south central Holland. Just over an hour’s drive from Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
What did we think?
This is a great theme park for all ages – it feels Disney-like and magical as you walk in with music playing around you, but it is much quicker to park and get into than Disney parks.
Navigation around it was made easier as the left-hand side is largely suited to younger children and the right has more for teenagers and older children with more rollercoasters and bigger rides.
*The fairytale forest – you wander through a wooded area, seeing recreations of fairy tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty and some we had not heard of before. The commentary is in Dutch but there are written descriptions in English.
Hansel and Gretel in Fairytale Forest
*There is lots for younger visitors, we saw three carousels alone. There are some lovely gentle rides, plus a little train.
*Comfort – there are lots of shaded areas and it’s big, it didn’t feel cramped at all.
*Carnaval Festival – a nice gentle ride, with music, through different countries.
*Symphonia ride – this had the longest queue, it is a theatrical, dark, indoor ride suitable for the whole family but scary in parts for some young children.
*The Aquanura water show is a great way to finish a day at the park. It is normally on at around 7.15pm and 8.15pm on a lake near the exit. It’s along the theme of the Princess and the Frog. Water shoots out of giant frogs’ mouths and from the middle of the lake while classical music plays.
There are lots of vantage points to get a good view.
Aquanura water show
*Check when the Dutch holidays are, we went at the end of the summer holidays when local children had already returned to school so it wasn’t too busy.
*The best place to start with younger children is the Fairytale Forest. Climb into Sleeping Beauty’s castle and see Rapunzel leaning out of her tower while the witch climbs up. It is a good gentle introduction for younger children to what the park is all about.
*If you’ve got a picnic and don’t want to stop to eat it, you could eat during the lake cruise – you sit on a boat being led around a track for 20 minutes. It’s a good spot for a rest as its also next to a pagoda, which takes you high above the park, giving you a good view of everything.
*A lot of the signs have an English version and staff speak good English. But a lot of the commentary and shows are in Dutch.
*Parking is well-organised. It costs 10/12 euros to park, you pay at the entrance/exit and use your ticket to open the barrier when you leave.
*Use the Efteling app, it is simple and straightforward. It shows you where you are on a map, gives up-to-date ride queue times and basic information about each ride to assess its suitability for your children.
*There are no fast track passes or similar (except for disabled visitors), other than the Python rollercoaster where you can book a ride time.
*Baby switch is available for two adults who have a baby and both want to go on a ride – one queues and the other waits at the exit with the baby and they can then swap with the new adult going in through the exit.
*You can rent wooden pushchairs/strollers for 4 euros.
*All toilets in the park have at least one baby changing cubicle.
*Restaurant staff can warm up water, milk or food for babies.
You can stay overnight in a hotel or holiday home with unlimited access to the park.
Good rides and areas for children aged under six
*Fairytale Forest – walk through recreations of famous fairy tales.
*Stoomcarrousel – a big undercover carousel (there are others in the park too).
*Avonturendoolhof – adventure maze – look out for the bridge where you will get wet!
*Stoomtrein – the train – it does a circuit of the park and there are two stops so you can use it to get from one area to another or stay on for the duration to rest your legs.
*Kleuterhof – the playground.
*De Oude Tufferbaan – classic car ride – children feel like they are driving the cars themselves and even have their own horn.
Older children, teenagers and thrillseekers
There are plenty of bigger, faster rides for those that want them including the Python roller coaster and the Baron 1898 Dive Coaster. There’s a pirate ship, water rides and more.
Efteling Theme Park Resort information
Food: The cost of food is good and there is a wide variety of choice including a Vietnamese food stand, a Dutch pancake house and restaurants.
There are lots of ice cream stands (good value at around €1.50 for an ice cream) including one where you pick a flavour of whipped ice cream and FIVE toppings which get mixed together, yum!
But it was also great to see fresh fruit and vegetable stalls at a fair price – a punnet of strawberries was 3.45 euros.
We ate an evening meal at Octopus restaurant, before watching the water show at the end of the day. Billed as an ‘underwater’ restaurant (it’s not but it is really quirky, dimly lit with moving animals and play areas), fresh pasta and a drink for children was around 6 euros.
There are also nice picnic spots.
Opening hours: Opens at 10am and closes at 6pm during the week and later at the weekends, depending on the season.
Cost: Tickets are 42 euros. Children aged three and under are free. You can buy a parking ticket in advance for 12.50 euros.
Best for: Aged four and above.
Time needed: At least one full day.
Access and restrictions: Accessibility is very good and most rides have wheelchair entrances to get on rides without a long queue. These are available to all with physical or learning disabilities. You must register at guest services where you are given a card to present to ride attendants showing them, then you wait at the disabled entrance.
There are plenty of toilets around the park and this being Holland, the park is mostly flat and easy to get around.
Address: Efteling Park, Europalaan 1 5171 KW Kaatsheuvel, Netherlands.
We take our children across the North Sea on an overnight ferry from England to Amsterdam
Newcastle to Amsterdam
This route runs every day linking England and Holland/The Netherlands, with overnight crossings both ways. The ports are North Shields near Newcastle and Ijmuiden ferry port in the Netherlands.
15 hours 30 minutes.
The ship leaves at 5pm from Newcastle and arrives in Holland at 9.45am local time. Returning, the ship leaves Holland at 5.30pm and returns to Newcastle at 9.15am.
There are two ships which operate this crossing – we sailed out with the ship Princess Seaways and back with King Seaways.
DFDS calls them cruise ferries because of the facilities and entertainment on board.
They each have 140 crew. The King takes 1,300 passengers and the Princess 1,250.
We thought that they were great ships and our children loved exploring them. There is plenty to occupy a family between boarding time and bedtime.
The ships each have two restaurants, a cinema, play areas, games rooms, a small casino, bars, a club and a shop.
There is good entertainment on board. Our children took part in children’s entertainment on King Seaways and enjoyed it. The play areas and games rooms were slightly bigger on the King.
A play area on the King Seaways ship
Food (same on both)
*Explorer’s Kitchen – a buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner which we tried on King Seaways. Perfect for families, not too formal with lots of choice.
For dinner, there is a variety of foods from different parts of the world including Chinese, Indian, German, Dutch, Italian and British. There’s an ice cream bar, where you can order your own soft scoop flavour with a selection of toppings.
*North Sea Bistro – we ate here on Princess Seaways. It is formal with table service – the food was more expensive but delicious.
North Sea Bistro
There is a three-course menu for adults featuring steak, sea bass and other upmarket options.
The children’s menu offers two courses for £11.95 from a starter, main and dessert. Main course options included spaghetti Bolognese and a burger. Pancakes for pudding went down well with our pair.
My delicious dessert at North Sea Bistro
*Coffee Crew – a café next to the play areas which serves snacks.
All the cabins are en suite, ours were five-berth – with two bunk beds – a double on one side and triple on the other! The bathroom has a shower. Towels and bedding are provided.
Our cabin on Princess Seaways
Cabins are well located away from all the communal areas.
Who can travel?
Cars, caravans, motorcycles, bicycles, motorhomes and lorries can all use the ferry or foot passengers without a vehicle.
How does it work?
You check-in at the port in North Shields near Newcastle, at least 45 minutes before departure – and if you are in a car or other vehicle, drive to a vehicle check-in booth, open the window and hand over your passports to be checked.
You are given boarding cards which are also your cabin keys. There are lots of crew around to direct you into a lane and then on to the ship. You are told exactly where to park, the crew guide you as far forward as possible in your lane in order to fit all the cars on board. Remember your deck number so you can find your car quickly again in the morning!
Foot passengers check in at the passenger terminal.
There are six disabled cabins on King Seaways and three on the Princess. There are lifts and disabled toilets.
It may take longer than flying but there are lots of benefits to the ferry:
*You have your own car, so you don’t need to rent or worry about children’s car seats in Holland.
*You can pack more luggage – there is unlimited baggage on board.
*You can take bikes and scooters.
*You can take pets. Pets can travel on board in their own area or there are even pet-friendly cabins. Make sure you are up-to-date on requirements for pet passports and vaccinations.
*The mini-cruise is a fun experience, part of the holiday rather than the journey.
*We headed for the ports both ends early to make sure we arrived in time and then stretched our legs on a beach – at Long Sands beach in Tynemouth near Newcastle and Zandvoort beach on the way to Ijmuiden port in Holland.
Long Sands Beach, Tynemouth
*Keep an eye on young children outside on the ships, it can get very windy. Also, the doors to outside are very heavy to open and may slam shut.
*The car deck is locked once the ship sets sail. You can’t return to your car then so make sure you have everything with you that you need. We packed a separate bag for the cruise so we didn’t have too much to carry.
*Don’t book a restaurant time until half an hour after sailing time if you want to enjoy the ship setting off.
*There are a lot of stairs but lifts are available if you have a buggy or a pram and there would be room for a pushchair in the five-berth cabins we had.
*The restaurants are fantastic but bring water/drinks and food from the car for your cabin to save money. You are not allowed to take your own alcohol.
*Breakfast can get very busy. There is an announcement at 8am to wake everyone up so lots of passengers eat after that. The quiet period, where you are more likely to get a window seat to enjoy the sea view, is 7am to 7.45am. Also 9am is quieter – but you are called to your car as soon as the ship docks, around 9.15am.
*Don’t feel you need to rush to your car as soon as they announce it as you will be sitting in it for some time, wait a few minutes, but not too long!
A great experience for the children and a fun way to travel to Amsterdam. This really makes the journey a fun part of the holiday rather than a chore.
What to do with children in Amsterdam – our reviews and top tips
Amsterdam isn’t just for hen and stag dos, it is a family-friendly city with lots for children to do. We had a great time with our two, here’s our video and lots of information below about what we recommend.
NEMO Science Museum
This is a fantastic hands-on museum. NEMO looks like a giant ship rising from the harbour where it is situated. Inside there are four floors of interactive activities.
Floor one demonstrates how science works with pulleys, the chance to create electricity and an hourly show which is great fun, showing how a chain reaction works. One young volunteer gets to set off a reaction which spreads around the stage.
Floor two explains everyday technology such as how water is purified – children can collect water in a bucket and tip it in and out of various systems. There is also a great perspective room with altered height ceilings and angles where you can make children look like giants and turn the adults tiny.
The third floor has a display about planets and a brilliant science lab. The whole family put lab coats and goggles on to create their own experiments showing how rockets can fire and how sun cream works. It is hands-on learning at its best.
The fourth floor was closed when we visited but will be all about the human body.
There is a fifth floor with a nice cafe – the food is good quality with a wide variety. And don’t miss the roof terrace, especially on a sunny day – take your food out there to eat. There are panoramic views of Amsterdam and children can play in various water features.
NEMO Science Museum roof terrace
*Entrance to the museum is free with an I amsterdam card or book tickets via their website.
Hunter Street house
The popular Nickelodeon children’s series Hunter Street is set in Amsterdam. The actual show is filmed elsewhere in the Netherlands but the exterior of the Hunter house is a real home.
The Hunter Street house
It is at Singel 140-142, a small canalside road just outside the heart of the city.
It is best reached via a tram to Nieuwezijds Kolk stop and is then about a five-minute walk, through some side streets and over a canal. Our children enjoyed having their picture taken outside but did complain the black door in the series had been painted dark green!
For our full story on the Hunter Street house click here.
This is a great way to mix a river cruise, meal and a soft play.
The Pancake Boat
De Pannenkoekenboot (Pancake Boat) is moored across the IJ river from Amsterdam Centraal Station (catch the free NDSM ferry 906 from the far left pontoon at the station).
It is a 75-minute cruise along the river past Amsterdam Central Station. Once on board you can eat as many proper Dutch pancakes as you want (the record is a huge 15, which considering how filling they are is barely believable). There are three types of pancake – plain, with apple and one with bacon – plus lots of toppings you can put on.
About 30 minutes into the cruise, they open a big ball pit with slide in the bowels of the boat, which kept our daughter entertained for most of the rest of the journey.
Tip: There are two levels – the top deck is cooler and has better views but the pancakes and ball pit are downstairs. But once you have eaten you can sit wherever you want.
Cruise times vary but there are at least four a day in high season, book via their site
This glorious zoo in the centre of Amsterdam is a tropical delight to walk through. It has some of the usual animals you see at English zoos such as elephants and giraffes but other species you don’t see very often.
I liked seeing the armadillos – having only ‘seen’ one before when Ross dressed up as the holiday armadillo on Friends!
Little Fennec foxes with huge ears and a black jaguar were other highlights.
We also felt we could get much closer to the animals than usual. There are a few areas under cover, great for hot or rainy days, including a big space to watch the sea lions underwater.
Entry to the zoo is free with an I amsterdam card or book via the zoo’s website.
Van Gogh Museum
This popular museum houses the largest collection of works by Van Gogh in the world – over 200 paintings, 500 drawings and 700 of his letters.
It is a wonderful collection including famous paintings like Almond Blossom, Sunflowers (which was on temporary exhibition) and my daughter’s favourite there, The Bedroom.
The Bedroom (credit: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)
But it is not ideal territory for a lot of children, you may have to work hard to sustain their interest.
The museum is fairly spacious and if they are old enough, we would recommend the audio guide (5 euros for adults, free for children aged 6 to 12) to keep them interested for longer.
Once they have seen enough of the artwork, the Van Gogh Museum does have a couple of good areas for little ones. They can pose in front of a giant sunflower picture in the entrance hall and also the shop has an easel where they can sketch their own portrait.
Children can enter for free so if they get fed up it isn’t the end of the world. It isn’t a huge museum, so you can get around it in an hour.
Book a time slot in advance – if you have an I amsterdam card, book through their link not on the museum website.
Pirate Canal cruise – Blue Boat Company Kids Cruise
You have to do a canal cruise in Amsterdam and this was the only company we found which specifically catered for children.
Despite being a 75-minute journey, our two were entertained throughout.
The Blue Boat Company
Every passenger gets a new set of headphones to plug in and listen to a commentary in a language of their choice. But there is also a great children’s Pirate commentary to select (in English).
And children are given an activity pack including binoculars and an activity book with answers to be heard within the commentary.
Plus, our captain was very accommodating and happy to chat and answer questions and also pointed out places of interest along the route.
Most tables are under cover, there is also space to sit at the back in the open, plus there’s a toilet on board.
The cruise is a great way to see life in Amsterdam.
This cruise is free with an I amsterdam card which offers one free standard canal cruise per ticket. Or book via the website.
There are lots of parks to enjoy in Amsterdam to stretch young legs, including the largest, Vondelpark.
Vondelpark (credit: Klapfilm.nl)
It is the most popular park in the Netherlands and has a great children’s play area. The main areas for children are in the centre of the park.
Many of Amsterdam’s parks have small petting zoos, one of the largest Amstelpark, to the south of the city centre also has a small train to ride.
I amsterdam cards
The simplest and most cost-effective way of getting to around Amsterdam’s attractions is with an I amsterdam cty card. You can buy then in 24 hour periods for as long as you need.
The card includes one free canal cruise, public transport around the city centre and access to more than 40 museums.
We used a 72-hour card for two adults but not for our children as a lot of museums are free to children and a public transport ticket is only four euros per day.
We found that three was the magic number to save money. If you are going to visit more than three attractions on the I amsterdam list (all major attractions are included except the Anne Frank House), then you will definitely save money.
Top tips for navigating Amsterdam with kids – car, tram, foot, bike, taxi, or ferry?
Amsterdam in Holland is a good size in many ways but for navigating with children it can be awkward.
The city isn’t huge like London or Paris where you have to get public transport to most areas. And it isn’t compact enough to just cover on foot with little ones.
We found the quickest and simplest way around was to catch the trams. You can buy an hourly or daily ticket. A child’s daily ticket costs 4 euros. If you have an I amsterdam card, travel is included but only on GVB transport (that is every bus or tram which is blue and white).
The trams are a fun option for children as you don’t see them that often in the UK. They were almost always on time and clean when we visited, however there isn’t much ventilation so they get a bit stuffy in hot weather.
If you do end up walking and you will do for some journeys, watch out for the cyclists.
I know it is an Amsterdam cliche but bikes are literally everywhere and the cycle lanes are between the road and the pavement.
It is easy to forget about the bikes when you cross the street, when already looking out for trams, cars and other vehicles. Plus they don’t seem to often stop for red lights.
Even the most confident of drivers avoids driving in Amsterdam. The roads are confusing and hectic and parking is scarce and really expensive (around 5 euros an hour). So it’s lucky that Amsterdam has such good public transport.
Dutch cyclists are very, very confident and quick and really know what they are doing and where they are going.
The pace is full-on, it is definitely NOT the place for youngsters to be practising their skills, so make sure children are really, really competent if this is how you plan to get around.
Or get them to sit on your bike. We saw children riding in seats in front of the adult cyclists, not behind like is common in the UK. There are also cute bike trailers or cargo bikes (where a large container is attached at the front of the bike for the children to sit/play in).
More cycling in Amsterdam tips:
*There are lots of places to hire bicycles in Amsterdam.
*Cross tram lines diagonally else you could get your wheel stuck.
*Remember to stay to the right and most cycle paths are one-way
*Helmets are not required by law (I didn’t see a single one), but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear one.
Taxis and Uber
You can’t just hail a taxi in Amsterdam, there are specific taxi ranks or you have to call to order them. We tried an Uber (the popular taxi app) for one journey and the vehicle arrived immediately. Just remember that they probably won’t have children’s car seats or booster seat and fares can be unpredictable. The main city centre has priority given to cyclists and pedestrians over cars so what on the map can look like short taxi journeys may take quite a long time (and therefore cost more).
You can get free ferries across the River IJ. They are blue and white and can mostly be caught behind Amsterdam Central Station. See here for routes and schedules.
We caught the free NDSM ferry from the far left hand side of the station which took us to a Pancake Boat cruise but the short 20-minute return journey would be fine for some free sightseeing from the river.
Beat the hefty parking fees and hectic streets of Amsterdam with our 10 steps to the park and ride system
We travelled to Amsterdam with our car, via ferry (full review here).
Handy? Well, yes, especially for the next part of our journey. But drivers are warned to avoid taking cars into Amsterdam city centre itself. It is difficult for tourists to navigate, has a high volume of trams and bicycles, scant parking spaces and hefty parking fees.
Thankfully, there are park and ride (P+R) options – seven good value car parks on the edge of the city.
Follow our 10-step guide to using them.
Find a park and ride site, they are marked from the motorways. The biggest and most popular is Olympic Stadium. The junction signs will tell you if the P+R is full (Vol means full in Dutch, Vrij mean free).
You can’t book in advance.
Enter the car park and take a normal ticket.
Park up and find one of the blue park and ride machines. Buy the number of transport tickets you need (one per person – each ticket costs around 2/3 euros).
Find public transport into the city centre straight away. You only have an hour after parking to reach the city centre.
IMPORTANT – You can only use the blue and white GVB trams or buses.
Tickets are not valid on other options like the metro or red buses.
When you enter the tram/bus you MUST tap your ticket (everybody’s tickets) on the small, black, circular machine next to the door.
Ride to your city centre stop and when you exit you MUST tap the card on the exit to register it.
Put that card away for the remainder of your Amsterdam visit. It is useless until your return journey to park and ride – but don’t lose it!
When leaving the city to get your car, repeat the process – tap in with your original blue card when boarding and then tap out when you arrive to collect your car.
Return to the special park and ride machine in the car park.
Put your car park ticket in first. A huge price comes up. Don’t panic.
Then scan your blue transport card and if you have followed the steps above your fee goes down to potentially as low as 1 euro per day.
This is the cheapest way to take a car to Amsterdam but it is fiddly and complicated so take care to follow these steps and you will save possibly hundreds of euros to spend on your holiday.
We review a stay at NH Amsterdam Centre in Holland/The Netherlands
Where is it?
NH Amsterdam Centre is a well-positioned hotel right next to Leidseplein square in Amsterdam. It is across the road from canal cruises, within five minutes’ walk of Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum.
What is it?
A six-floor hotel featuring cafe and restaurant, gym and sauna.
Is it family friendly?
Fairly – standard rooms don’t accommodate more than two people so you will have to book a suite or superior room.
Breakfast was of a high standard but is adult-orientated – eg cereal options were cornflakes or six different types of muesli. But our children were welcomed with activity book and crayons.
The televisions in the rooms have a good choice of English language channels including some children’s programmes.
Tasteful and modern decor with a light wooden floor, the rooms are welcoming. We thought the beds were very comfortable and a good size.
Bathrooms vary, we tried a superior room with a bath and overhead shower and then a suite (which was a great size), which just had a large shower.
There were good size flat screen televisions (two in the suite)! Plus tea and coffee facilities and a small fridge/mini-bar.
The suite had two televisions
Food and drink
Breakfast has a high-quality selection of food. As noted above, it isn’t geared particularly towards children but the food was excellent with eggs made to order, fruit, cooked options and pastries.
For lunch and dinner, the Copper Pot restaurant does not offer a separate children’s menu but they happily catered for our two.
The restaurant is at the front of the hotel, with modern decor looking out onto the road, park and canal opposite.
We all really enjoyed our dinner there and it was nice to finish the day close to bed for our children after a busy day exploring Amsterdam.
The location is great. Next to the busy Leidseplein, it is walking distance from three major attractions – Vondelpark, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
There is a tram stop across the road with a frequent service into the heart of Amsterdam (Centraal Station is about a 15-minute ride on the tram). In addition, you can take lovely canal strolls just outside the door and catch several canal cruises (we took the Blue Boat company family cruise from just down the road from the hotel, see our review here). There are also plenty of places to eat around Leidseplein.
Location – far enough into the city to be near major attractions but well away from the seedier side of Amsterdam. The hotel is in a great spot for exploring.
Breakfast – a high quality selection of food in a nice dining area. The scrambled eggs were particularly good. The pastries were fresh and there was lots of choice – plus the colouring packs kept the children entertained.
Beds – comfortable and clean in bright and modern rooms.
Value – when we booked it was a great price for peak season, for the standard of hotel.
Address: NH Amsterdam Centre, Stadhouderskade, 7, Amsterdam, 1054ES, Netherlands.
We go glamping in style with our children at Holidaypark Duinhoeve in the Netherlands
What is it?
Holidaypark Duinhoeve (Recreatiepark Duinhoeve) is a relaxing and peaceful holiday park with chalets, lodges, holiday homes, glamping lodges, tents and camping options.
It has playgrounds/play areas, swimming pools and a café. There is children’s entertainment at peak times.
Watch our video of Duinhoeve here and read our full review and tips below.
Where is it?
It is in the middle of Holland, an hour south of Amsterdam, in north Brabant near Udenhout, a short walk from Loonse en Drunese Dunes and a 10-minute drive to Efteling Theme Park Resort.
Is it family-friendly?
Yes, this is a good holiday park for families with younger children especially.
We stayed in a seven-person glamping lodge. It was fabulous – crafted with beautiful wooden frames and interior, all covered with canvas.
Our glamping lodge at Duinhoeve
A big 48 square metres, it has an open-plan kitchen-diner and lounge area with an L-shaped sofa and tv. The kitchen has a hob, microwave combi oven, fridge, freezer, kettle and coffee maker, along with plates, bowls, cutlery and utensils.
The first bedroom has a double bed, the second has bunk beds and a single bed. Then there is a bedstead – a separate space up a ladder, filled with a double mattress.
There is one bathroom with a big double shower (no bath).
The children were really happy with the lodge – there is even an extra little space which little ones can use as a small den or play room, with a little doorway – or it would make a fabulous storage area.
And there is a large undercover decking/veranda area outside at the front with a big picnic bench and separate garden furniture sofas.
We loved staying in this glamping lodge, it felt almost new and very clean.
Food and drink
We bought supplies from a local supermarket, plus a few bits from home and mainly ate at the accommodation or made picnics.
But there is a restaurant on site with outdoor and indoor seating area.
Plus there is a restaurant called Landgoed Bosch en Duin, with a play area, a five-minute walk away where we stopped off one day for Dutch specialities poffertjes (small round Dutch pancakes) and apple pie.
*It is a five-minute walk from the site through woodland to stunning sand dunes – our children felt like we were in a desert.
Dunes of Loon
In fact, the Dunes of Loon in Drunen National Park, which formed 10,000 years ago, is sometimes called the Dutch Desert or Brabant Sahara. It is the largest sand drift area in western Europe.
*It is a 10-minute drive to Efteling – Holland’s biggest theme park, read our review of it here and watch our video below.
*The medieval city of Den Bosch is 25 minutes away.
It has a cathedral, museums, lots of shops and cafes, we sampled the city’s speciality – Bossche Bollen – a Danish pastry reminiscent of a huge round chocolate éclair or profiterole but much nicer.
Bosche Bollen, yum
*Beekse Bergen Safari Park is half an hour away by car.
*This holiday park has three play areas including a nice playground near to our glamping lodge and one next to the swimming pools, with a giant bouncing pillow trampoline.
*The swimming pools
The main pool is solar heated and 1.4m deep throughout. It is on the small side but we all enjoyed it – it was a great temperature, not too cold and we were all glad of it as temperatures reached 33 degrees during our stay.
The small children’s pool is shallow and has a pirate ship with two slides – perfect for toddlers and little ones.
*The surrounding area
Being next to the Dunes of Doon desert was a great bonus plus there are some good walks and cycle routes.
The fabulous glamping lodge we stayed in felt roomy and fresh and the children loved it.
*Dogs are allowed if you are camping, they are not allowed in any of the rental accommodation options apart from rental tents upon request.
Both are on the eastern coast of this French island. But which is best for you and your family? We stayed at both with our two children over May half-term and compare them here to help you decide.
Our Eurocamp chalet at Marina d’Erba Rossa had three bedrooms but was small and basic.
Our Eurocamp mobile home at Marina d’Erba Rossa
The one at Sole di Sara was newer, more modern and a bit roomier, which made quite a difference. However this is a smaller site so book early to get your preferred type of mobile home. There were no three-bedroom versions available when we booked.
Our mobile home at Sole di Sari
Marina d’Erba Rossa is located on a lovely beach with access to the Med from next to the swimming pool. It also has an animal park within its spacious grounds. It is a bit tired looking in places.
The beach at Marina d’Erba Rossa holiday park in Corsica
Sole di Sari is more attractive and feels more salubrious, with its mountainous backdrop. Instead of the sea, this site has direct access to a river, which you can swim and paddle in.
Sole di Sari play area
The area surrounding Marina d’Erba Rossa, is the rather nondescript town of Ghisonaccia. There’s a nice drive into the mountains on the D344. Nearby beaches include Plage Pinia with a large pine forest beyond the sands.
The town of Solenzara is slightly nicer and has a marina. Sole di Sari is on the road to the mountain pass Col De Bavella. A winding (note for those who get travel sick) route with wonderful views. We met a rampaging wild bull on our way up! Nearby beaches include Scaffa Rossa, a five-minute drive away as well as Canella and Fautea just down the coast.
Marina d’Erba Rossa has a great selection of outdoor activities for children – a fabulous, big swimming pool, a nice playground/play park (climbing and slides, no swings), a raised enclosed netted play area with zip wire and trampolines, basketball court, tennis courts, crazy golf, outdoor gym, pool tables, table football, table tennis and a volleyball net on the beach. It also has an indoor gym and a children’s club.
Sole di Sari has a lovely playground, with a good variety of swings, fireman’s pole, seesaw etc. In the same area you can try French boules, basketball (bring your own ball) or table tennis (take your own bats and ball). There’s a river you can swim in, small swimming pool area and a seasonal children’s club.
We ate in the restaurants at both sites and really enjoyed the food. The menus were mainly pizza-based (Corsica is French but with Italian influence), but our children love pizzas, plus they were delicious. Prices were similar at both sites and each had indoor and outdoor areas to sit. The interior of Marina d’Erba Rossa was particularly nice. The exterior of Sole di Sari was peaceful with lovely views.
Both sites had a bar. The bar was open all day at Marina d’Erba Rossa.
Marina d’Erba Rossa’s swimming pool was much bigger and slightly warmer and well-suited for all ages.
The swimming pool at Marina d’Erba Rossa
The pool at Sole di Sari was small and there were also smaller pools and whirlpools around it.
Sole di Sari swimming pool
Shops and bakeries
There is a small shop at Marina d’Erba Rossa, selling essentials. There is also a Spar, 200 yards from the entrance of the camp and a larger supermarket three miles away.
There is no shop at Sole di Sari, the nearest bigger shop (a Spar) is the other end of the town, around two miles away.
Both holiday parks have a bakery service. Marina d’Erba Rossa’s was open 730am to 930am when we were there and sold just-cooked baguettes, croissants and pain au chocolat. Sole di Sari’s bakery was 8am to 9am and the food was not cooked on site.
There were two friendly Eurocamp representatives at each site. We received a text the day before each check-in from them, to welcome us and ask our arrival time. You can contact them during your stay via this number for help, extra pillows, queries etc, which is really handy.
There was a separate Eurocamp reception at both parks, they are not manned all the time and official check-in was not until 3pm so do let them know when you will be arriving.
We had a wonderful time at both holiday parks – they may only be half an hour apart but they are very different.
Marina d’Erba Rossa is very suited to active, older children. It benefits from the much larger pool and having the beach on its doorstep.
Sole di Sari feels much more peaceful and luxurious. The mobile home we stayed in was much nicer. It’s a hilly, attractive site with stunning mountain backdrops. The river is a lovely natural activity and the playground is great. But there is less for children, especially older children, to do and you have to drive to the beach.
So decide what your family’s priorities are or do what we did and visit both!
When to go
We visited at May and it was lovely and quiet. The weather was a good temperature, warm but not too hot although it rained twice.
Our Eurocamp Corsica tips
*Learn how to use the heating straight away. Though hot in the day, when we went the temperature really dropped at night and it was cold.
*You need to buy your own washing up liquid, washing up brush/sponge/cloth, toilet/kitchen rolls and all food and drink. Consider bringing small items you need in your suitcase.
*The mobile homes have kettles which can be boiled on the hob. Bring a travel kettle if you want a quicker morning cuppa.
*Bedding and towels need to be booked in advance if you want them and cost extra.
*You will need a hire car.
*Take your own balls, bats and rackets for basketball, table tennis and tennis.