Water babies: Water holidays with kids

Water babies: Water holidays with kids

Got a water baby on your hands? Amanda Hyde rounds up top adventures guaranteed to make a big splash this summer

portventura travel

portventura travel


Spanish Pirate Adventure

Water parks are great for older kids, but sometimes little ones can feel left out. Not so at PortAventura, a gigantic Spanish theme park an hour’s drive from Barcelona, where the Caribbean-themed aquatic park has a section especially for small children. Amid palm-laced islands, toothpaste-blue slides and gently flowing lazy rivers, you’ll find a pirate ship full of Sesame Street characters, from where they can take a gentle waterslide into an outsized children’s pool populated by frog and crab characters. There’s the Splash Pad, too, where they can soak mum and dad with interactive water jets. If that whets their appetite for more watery adventures, the five other sections of the theme park (based around different countries) have plenty to offer: take a galleon trip from China to the Med along a tranquil green river; tackle Polynesia’s tropical jungle by canoe; and even check into a log cabin by the Gold River at the park’s Far West-themed hotel (one of five). portaventura.co.uk

Lanzarote cool

Fancy teaching your budding Ellie Simmonds to swim in style? At Natural Retreats Playa Blanca, in a surprisingly sophisticated corner of Lanzarote, ten chic, all-white villas come with private infinity pools where the water segues to stunning sea views. Inside, you get a hi-tech kitchen, cool lounge area with DVD player and iPod dock, and light, airy bedrooms with posh toiletries. But despite all the adult-friendly luxuries, these houses are great for kids, too. For reassurance and safety, the pool can be fenced off on request, and the villas can be stocked with sterilisers, baby cutlery and high chairs. And you may even find a stash of kids’ pool toys on the patio. Five minutes walk down the road, the nearest hotel (H10 Rubicon Palace) comes with a fantastic thalassotherapy spa for mum and dad – plusthree kids’ pools,including one with a pirate galleon waterslide. naturalretreats.co.uk 

Portuguese charm 

Mini explorers will adore the one-of-kind pool at boho B&B Muxima, hidden in bottle green countryside just inland from the Algarve coast. More of a man-made lake than a traditional swimming pool, it’s filtered by reeds and surrounded by tall grass – the perfect place to doggy paddle between the lily pad homes of croaking frogs. There’s plenty to do outside the water too. The three charmingly colourful family suites (complete with kid-friendly touches such as bunk beds and mini tables and chairs) are surrounded by protected natural parkland that throngs with butterflies and dragonflies, and there are dramatic sweeps of beach ten minutes’ drive away – great for bucket-and-spade adventures followed by leisurely lunchesin one of the clifftop restaurants. 

Norfolk's wild adventures

For city-dwelling tots, the wide beaches and wildlife of North Norfolk make for a magical treat. Fishing boats bob on twinkling water, birds hop along the mudflats, and huge swathes of sand beckon for long days of shell collecting and wave chasing. And for an unforgettable excursion they’ll be talking about until adulthood, take a Bishop’s Boat to Blakeney Point, which is home to a colony of 500 friendly seals. They’re guaranteed to garner squeals of delight from toddlers and adults alike, and you’ll be close enough to get great snaps of the cuddly creatures (£10 for adults, £5 for children; under-twos go free; bishopsboats.com). Pack the grandparents and rent The Old Victoria, a smartly renovated former pub in the cute village of Stiffkey and you can cockle hunt, or walk over muddy creeks to the sea, straight from the door. The Old Victoria, sleeps 8; ruralretreats.co.uk

Sardinian Splash

Nothing is too much at Sardinia’s Forte Village, a five-star seaside resort built with families in mind. Mum and dad can choose from eight posh hotels and countless gourmet restaurants, and kids get an entire city to themselves. At the Citta dei Bambini, the pool is a multi-level paddling extravaganza, supervised by kids’ club lifeguards, landscaped with tumbling rocks and dotted with islands housing an array of inflatables. It’s the ideal training ground for novice swimmers. For those a little more practised, there’s a swimming academy, where enthusiastic teachers will get water babies perfecting their strokes in no time, thanks to fun games using hoops and floats. With so much going on for kids, they may not be that interested in mummy and daddy any more. Luckily, the Citta dei Bambini even comes with its own restaurant, where tables and chairs are a just-right height – and adults are banned (unless they’re waiters or chefs). fortevillage.com 

Dubai's sealife

Make an animal lover’s year with an up-close-and-personal meeting with a dolphin at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai. There’s no lower age limit on this hotel’s ‘Dolphin Encounter’, and – thanks to the shallow water of its minty blue Dolphin Bay – your little one won’t even need to be able to swim. Just wade in for a smooch and a hug with a bottlenose before watching as he performs some spectacular tricks right in front of you, during a half-hour adventure in the lagoon. There’s plenty of other watery fun to be had at this sprawling resort: kids can watch 65,000 fish being fed by divers at the impressive aquarium with its lost city theme, and those under 1.2 metres tall have the run of a special area of the hotel water park: it’s full of jets, cannons and rope bridges. Pricey, but sounds good. atlantisthepalm.com 

Bathe in Cypress

Everything is swish at Cyprus’ smartest family-friendly hotel, the Almyra, right down to the children’s pool. Blissfully shallow, and shaded by awnings on sunny days, it’s perfect for little princes and princesses. It’s also home to an array of activities including the hotel’s flash new children’s club run by Scott Dunn, which caters to tots from four months. Surrounded by such high-end luxury, they’ll be changing their outfits more often than a supermodel! But luckily, there’ll be plenty of room in your luggage as the hotel’s Baby-Go-Lightly plan means you can pre-order a host of must-haves from nappies to sterilisers. Baby turn-down includes warm milk and cookies, and a selection of purées even features on the menus of the three hotel restaurants! When your little swimmer tires of the pool, the hotel also has a small private beach with shallow water for paddling. An indulgent holiday for A-list families babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk

Balmy Brittany

Combine a first foray into the water with a first time under canvas at Le Ty Nadan, a photogenic campsite set by a river in a lushly forested part of Brittany. It gets busy with teenagers keen to try kayaking and rock climbing in peak summer, but spring and autumn are perfect for little ones to take advantage of the fantastic pool complex, with its indoor and outdoor areas especially for them. With the water temperature set at a balmy 28 degrees year-round, there’s no need to worry about shivers setting in. Any initial timidity should soon go out of the window too, thanks to the indoor paddling pool’s waterfall and the outdoor one’s selection of mini slides. And if your tot develops a real taste for swimming, you can book lessons, too. camping-ty-nadan.fr 

Turkey trip

There are 18 kilometres of white sand on stunning Patara Beach, a spectacular sweep of mountain-backed sand in south western Turkey, near the family-focused resorts of Kalkan and Kas – and that should be enough to keep them in sandcastles for the duration of your holiday. You won’t be the only family on this stretch – from May to October, the beach closes at night to allow endangered loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs in peace. Protecting them also means banning watersports, which keeps the crowds – especially rowdy teens – away. And thanks to the beach’s location in national parkland, the shallows are pristine and make prime paddling territory. Backed by mountains and ancient Lycian ruins, this bit of paradise will look fantastic in your holiday snaps, too. Stay at the nearby Hotel Dionysia in Kalkan, which has a children’s pool and can provide travel cots. thomson.co.uk 


For a new-mum treat: Lanzarote


For boho families: Portuguese charm


For Grandparents too: Norfolk's wild adventures


For deluxe childcare: Sardinian splash


For indugling fantasies: Dubai's sealife


For a weekend blowout: bathe in Cyprus


For camping fun: Balmy Brittany


For spectacular sands: Turkey trip 




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