By Elaine Whelan
Along the coast of Ireland’s Ancient East, County Waterford showcases miles of stunning coastline, Ireland’s oldest city, a UNESCO Global Geopark and monastic marvels by the ocean. Quaint and bustling seaside towns are plentiful in the sunny south east county. Crowds flock here every summer to revel in the stunning scenes of the sea or to immerse themselves in its history, even the Vikings couldn’t resist a visit. Waterford has plenty to offer families for a spectacular summer staycation. Here are only some of what County Waterford offers:
The Waterford Greenway
One of the most popular things to for all ages in Waterford is to cycle the Greenway. The Greenway is a spectacular 46km off-road cycling and walking trail along an old railway line. The adventure begins from the quays of Waterford, a city founded by the Vikings, all the way to the vibrant seaside market town of Dungarvan. At every turn you can savour the breath-taking views if the lush green countryside, the Comeragh Mountains and the sandy beaches and coves of the Copper Coast. The journey brings you across eleven bridges, three viaducts and through a 400m long tunnel. Most of the trail is on flat land and is easily managed by all members of the family. However, the Greenway is separated into six sections with a car park in each for little legs who can only manage the cycle in chunks. Bike hires are plentiful along the route and even offer a shuttle bus to pick you up and bring you back so you can cycle knowing that you don’t have to do it all over again on the way back.
An iconic Waterford attraction that has been entertaining families for decades is the Tramore Amusements and Arcades. Set on the boardwalk of Tramore Beach, the bumper cars, roller-coasters and mini golf of the amusement park resembles a smaller version of Blackpool in the UK. Dotted around the amusements are a series of arcades and casinos also. A trip to Tramore can entertain a family for hours. Your kids can chill out in the skate park, relax in the paddleboats on the pond, get a thrill on one of rides before sitting down on the beach to share a salty bag of chips in the salty sea air.
Just minutes away from the beach and rides of Tramore is the South East’s biggest and best indoor waterpark. Splashworld has been providing safe family fun to families since 1993. Enjoy the year round warm balmy temperatures in this indoor aqua playground. The waterpark has all of the features needed to provide endless fun including a wild and wonderful wave machine, indoor and outdoor water slide, bubble pool, baby pool, water cannon, roaring rapids, splash slide and geysers.
Dunmore East Adventure Centre
If you prefer your splashing about to be outdoors however, the Dunmore Adventure Centre is perfect for your family day out. Dunmore Adventure Centre is proud to own Ireland’s biggest and best inflatable outdoor water park. Both kids and adults can swing, jump, slide and run around on this total wipe-out course. For a more chilled out water activity, you can also kayak or paddleboard around the bay or even head indoors to the climbing walls to dry off. This fun filled adventure centre will have your whole family screaming with laughter and will also have the kids tuckered out for an easy bedtime.
Activate in Ardkeen is another family favourite Waterford activity centre. With the centre covering over 25,000 square feet, Activate offers loads of activities for everyone to enjoy. Start off with a game of bowling where the interactive touch screen consoles allow you the control the fun. Smaller kids can explore the three storey jungle gym and even smaller kids can play to their hearts content in the toddler area. Older kids or thrill seekers can scale the climbing walls. There is different climbing walls for varying levels so if you’re a climbing newbie or a regular Spiderman, you can find something to suit your needs. Move onto ducking, diving and dodging at the laser wars as you compete in laser combat to become the families’ ultimate hero. Chill out after the high intensity laser war with a round of mini golf. Your little Tiger Woods can try for a hole on one in the nine black lit holes. Or if you have a little Ronaldo instead, kick about in the inflatable soccer arena. Voted 2020 winner of “Best Indoor Activity Centre” and “Best for Indoor Leisure” in the 2019 Family Friendly Ireland Awards, Activate is sure to prove itself as one of the best family days out in Waterford. At the time of this article it was still closed over Covid but due to open in July 2020.
Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city so there is an abundance of history to learn about at the Waterford Treasures- three museums in the Viking triangle. These three very different museums, all within a few paces of each other tell the 1100 year old story of the city. Waterford was founded by the Vikings sea pirates in 914 and each museum tells its tale from its founding to present day. Reginald’s Tower allows you to step inside Viking Waterford. The Medieval Museum offers a view into Waterford during medieval times and contains two medieval chambers, a 13th century hall and a 15th century wine vault. The final museum explored the Georgian era of Waterford and even contains the oldest surviving piece of Waterford glass in the world. Take your family back in time here to explore the city from its very beginning.
Waterford and Suir Valley Railway
The Waterford and Suir Valley Railway has transformed an abandoned railway line into a fun filled family adventure. The Kilmeaden to Bilburry line closed its doors to passengers in 1967 and has now been reborn. Now, a diesel locomotive, once used for transporting peat, hauls up to 80 passengers along the scenic Waterford Greenway, bringing the magic of rails golden age to life. Travelling at 15km an hour, experience the beauty of the Suir Valley from a partially opened carriage as you take in the panoramic views of the river and rolling farmland of Waterford and across the river to County Kilkenny. The track runs mostly along the picturesque banks of the River Suir offering a platform stop at the world-famous Mount Congreve Gardens, giving access to the Gardens. An activity like no other full of old fashioned fun, all ages will love to reminisce on times and trains gone by.