Family: An awfully big summer adventure

Explore the world with your kids in tow, doing everything from mountain biking on a NASA training ground to Red Sea diving.

By Carlton Reid
Published 4 May 2012, 11:27 BST, Updated 30 Jun 2021, 09:03 BST

Ski the Wild West extract
Words by Carlton Reid

Water is the new gold," says Michael O'Malley, as we sail over an aerial tramway tower on a chairlift headed for the top of Flagstaff Mountain in Utah's Deer Valley. This wooden A-frame tower isn't an antique ski lift, though, it's a reminder of the resort's mining past.

Michael is a mountain host volunteer at Deer Valley, which lies above Park City, another ski resort. Being a historian, too, means he can shed light on the area's history while guiding visitors to his favourite peaks. In the 19th century, Michael tells me, Park City was mined for metals — mainly lead but also silver and gold…

Alternatively… Smugglers' Notch is a family-friendly ski resort in Vermont, New England. As everything there is owned by one company, the childcare programmes conveniently synchronise with the adult ski programmes. 

Maori magic extract
Words by Richard Trillo 

Northland is the heart of traditional New Zealand — a ravishingly beautiful, sub-tropical peninsula stretching up from Auckland into the deep blue of the South Pacific. It's the most vibrantly Maori part of the country and the best possible place to immerse yourself in Maoritanga — the native culture that's managed to roll with the punches of modernity without losing its colour and soul.

Where to next?
Namibia has been beckoning for some years as we're big wildlife and wilderness fans. As a family who have travelled widely in the more populous and challenging parts of Africa, there's a lot of appeal in a country where beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife are matched by a good and reasonably priced infrastructure.

Another ambition is to see the polar bears of Canada's Hudson Bay from Tundra Buggy Lodge — a mobile bear-watching cabin on its shores in Churchill. We've previously joined our eldest son when he was working the ski season in Banff, Alberta, and got only as close to a grizzly as some recent paw prints.

Cycling to the moon extract
Words by Carlton Reid

I want to do a big blow-out bike trip to Iceland with my son. It's a legacy thing: something I hope he'll remember for the rest of his life. Family bike tours to the Netherlands no longer cut the mustard, and at 14, I think he's ready for a tough trip.

It's pretty easy to pedal Iceland's perimeter. Too easy, in fact. I want Josh to be challenged, so we'll be venturing into the interior, to a highland area called Landmannalaugar; cycling on a wind-blasted dirt road, making for the hot springs at the Landmannalaugar mountain hut. We'll pitch our all-weather tent next to the geothermal rock pools, and wonder that we ever made it at all…

Alternatively…British Columbia has some of the world's most diverse mountain biking terrain. Drop in to a secluded lakeside hideaway via a float plane. Tyax Air has its own lakeside log cabin, a short hop from Whistler. 

Into the Amazon extract
Words by Liz Harper

It took a taxi, two internal flights, a van, a boat and a minibus to get us from our hotel in Rio to our Amazonian lodge, in Brazil's Anavilhanas National Park. Fifteen hours' travel is an adventure in itself, and even more so with children, but it was worth every minute for the five days that followed…

Red Sea diving extract
Words by Andrew Purvis

As we leapt from Virginia, the 85ft motor yacht that had brought us to the very tip of the Sinai Peninsula, I knew the water would be deep. I wasn't wrong. At 2,600ft there are no visual reference points by which to judge depth or direction, so we sank giddily into 'the blue', drifting towards Shark Reef, one of the best-known dive sites in the Egyptian Red Sea. A coral wall loomed, so we hugged it at 60ft and finned against a current so strong I had to push my wife along. Out in the blue were tuna, trevally jack and a ball of shoaling fish — the latter indicating the presence of a large predator. In the calmer inlet between this and Yolanda Reef, we saw unicorn fish, moray eels and a rare crocodile fish hiding in the cargo of a wreck that had toppled into the abyss… .

Where to next?
Coral Lodge 15.41, Mozambique. The resort, renowned for its Mozambican cuisine, offers world-class wreck diving and a safe lagoon for young novices. 

Alongside diving, mountain bik

ADVENTURE for all ages…

Best for pre-schoolers

Making a splash in France
Siblu has 14 holiday parks across France. Most are sited on beaches and each offers accommodation in large mobile homes as well as water complexes with slides, splash zones and toddler pools. There are three free kids' clubs: Bubbles (ages one-four); Pirate Club (five-nine), where you can expect water fights; and Barracudas (10-14). Sports on offer include archery, scuba diving and cycling. 

Water babies in Greece
Sani Resort, on the pine-clad Kassandra Peninsula in Halkidiki, northern Greece, is a 1,000 acre, family-owned ecological reserve. Five miles of golden beaches are lapped by the shallows of the Aegean. Within the resort are four hotels, one of which — the Sani Beach Club — is aimed at families. Toddlers can be looked after in the Ofsted-registered creche; older children can attend the beach-based kids' clubs. Watersports are the main focus but the resort has also recently started bird-watching sessions for youngsters. 

Best for school-age kids

Mongolian-style glamping
Glamping is for those who want a bit more comfort but who still want to sleep beneath canvas. The six hand-painted yurts at Cut Thorn Farm, on the National Trust's Gibside estate near Newcastle upon Tyne, have been imported from Mongolia and set up in a wooded glade where kids can run wild.

Chasing Tintin in Egypt
On The Go Tours has a Tintin-themed family holiday in Egypt, where you follow in the footsteps of the bequiffed Belgian cartoon character. Sail on the Nile in a felucca and camp in the desert — both featured in Tintin romp Cigars of the Pharaoh.

Kayak Croatia
Croatia's Dalmation Coast is ideal for kayaking, with turquoise shallows and emerald isles. The five-star, traffic-free Radisson Blu Resort & Spa is eight miles from historic Dubrovnik and has two pools, a rock-climbing wall, kids' club, and a games lounge for teenagers. Bikes and kayaks are also available to hire.

Best for teens

Cairngorms for young explorers
Wilderness Scotland's Ultimate Scottish Highlands Family Adventure is a week of wild activities in the heart of the Highlands, with everything from canoeing and biking, to hiking and river-tubing. Also includes a wilderness night beneath canvas.

Cycle Sardinia
US cycle tour company Ciclismo Classico runs tours of Italy, and while many are too arduous for youngsters, some are family-friendly. Take its Fun in the Sardinian Sun trip — an island tour with just as much wild swimming and snorkelling as cycling. There's also the chance to canoe in the Nora lagoon. Accommodation is in seaside hotels and enchanting country inns.

Washington DC on wheels: Rental firm Bike and Roll runs daily, guided bike-the-sites tours. All riding is done on pavements (legal in DC), with kids' bikes and trailer tag-alongs also available. All-day trips include a nine-mile ride to George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, returning via a boat cruise.

Best for multi-generational

Bush & beach
Robin Pope Safaris has a number of family-friendly safari lodges dotted around Zambia and Malawi, including one in the wildlife-rich South Luangwa National Park and another in Pumulani, by Lake Malawi. Safari activities, such as nature walks to identify animal spoor, are individually tailored to each family. Cool down after a safari from the Pumulani beach lodge by snorkelling among the tropical fish in Lake Malawi. Most lodges cater to children aged seven or over, although some will only host over-12s. 

Horse riding safari in Africa
The evocatively-named Ant's Nest in South Africa is one of the horse-riding hotspots included on safari trekking trips run by Aardvark Safaris. Saddle up and ride through the bush among giraffe and zebra on one of its tours, from a gentle hack to a week-long riding safari. As well as South Africa, the company runs riding safaris in Kenya's Masai Mara and Botswana's Okavango Delta, although these are tougher trips, suitable for families who are experienced riders. 

An Irish Institution
Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa in Rosslare, County Wexford, Ireland, straddles a five-mile beach and has been caring for guests since 1895. Children aged four and upwards can be supervised at the Pirates Club; teen activities include quad biking and a watersports camp. There's early tea for children, followed by entertainment — a good time to pop off to the onsite SeaSpa. 

Read the full article in the Summer 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family (UK)

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