Planning a family holiday to Lake Garda – the largest of the Italian Lakes? It’s a wonderful destination and somewhere we could visit again and again. Here’s our guide to things to do in Lake Garda with kids including theme parks, beaches, markets and boat trips that will make it somewhere you want to explore more than once.
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About Lake Garda
One of our favourite holidays in Italy was our week in Lake Garda a few summers ago. We had one week there and it’s not hard to understand why it is such an attractive destination for Italians and international visitors alike.
The shores of Lake Garda meet three Italian provinces: Brescia, Verona and Trento, with mountainous ranges and lowlands. This makes for a romanic, smoky blue skyline with pretty lake side towns in the south and rock faces that seem to plunge into the water in the north.
Take a look at more of our tips for family holidays in the Italian Lakes.
Lake Garda weather during the summer
You’d be unlucky to visit Lake Garda in the summer months and find the weather to be poor.
Temperatures in July and August range between 22°C and 29°C. There’s an average 12 hours of sunshine a day and few showers.
We packed sun hats and plenty of sun cream for our holiday. However, we did manage to hit two storms during our stay. Thankfully, the worst passed through during the night and by day break it was warm and dry again.
Things to do in Lake Garda with kids
Here’s a round up of the things we managed to fit in during our camping holiday in Lake Garda plus plenty of reasons to return:
1. Take a ferry trip around Lake Garda
Lake Garda is huge, measuring 50km in length and 15km wide in places.
It’s not the type of lake you can gently sail around in a day. Indeed many of the ferry services are hydrofoils geared to getting people from one lake side town to another at speed.
We used the slower ferry service a couple of times to take us from Portese to the resort town of Salò close to our campsite and across Lake Garda to explore the Venetian streets of Garda – the small town after which the lake was named.
The trip to Garda from Portese took just over an hour (an hour and 20 mins on the way back).
You can get tickets for exploring part or all of the lake or point to point tickets like us.
For more information about ferry services and latest prices check the Navigation Lago Di Garda website.
Here are some more tours you can do on the lake:
2. Visit Salò
Salò is a Medieval town with history stretching back nearly 1,500 years. It boasts Lake Garda’s longest promenade along which you can find hotels, restaurants and the marina.
If you step back a street you’ll wander past shops selling designer and high quality clothing as well as the obligatory gelato. A stroll around the old town with its pretty streets and Medieval walls is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
You can get a ferry from Portese to Salò’s Piazza Dal Vittoria in the old town. This costs €6 per person (aged over four-years-old) for a return trip. Salò is also an easy 10 minute drive along the lake front.
There is limited on street parking in town and larger car parks we saw were a bit of a walk away from the promenade. My advice would be to make an adventure of it and take the ferry.
3. Visit Garda
Garda is a bustling resort town with plenty of tourist, glass and clothing shops down pretty streets. Along the lake side there’s an abundance of restaurants and cafes where to can buy a coffee and people watch, enjoy a traditional Italian four course lunch or dive into a chilled bowl of gelato.
On either side of the marina there are public beaches. We visited the one at the southern end with a stone sunbathing deck from where you climb down rocky walls into the cool waters of the lake. At the other end of the town we saw a stoney beach just along from Garda Beach Cafe.
The boat journey to Garda took just over and hour and slightly longer on the way back. We spent four hours there before returning later in the afternoon.
4. Ride Lake Garda’s cable car
Hopping on the ferry to Garda is also one of the best routes from the Salò side of the lake to reach the Monte Baldo cable car into the lake side mountains at Malcesine.
The rotating gondola rises 1,800m above the lake for panoramic views of the mountainous northern end to the relatively smoother southern end.
Find out more about the cable car.
5. Gardaland theme park – things to do in Lake Garda when it rains
If you are unlucky enough to visit Lake Garda when it rains then Gardaland is a good option for entertaining the kids.
This incredible looking family theme park is one of Italy’s top attractions and sits on the East side of Lake Garda. There are roller coasters, water rides, a 4D Cinema experience and, new for 2018, Italy’s Peppa Pig Land.
It also has a SEA LIFE aquarium with more than 100 different species of marine life and 40 tanks.
Gardaland is part of the Merlin Group, which also runs Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures, so you know the kind of full on family day out you can expect here.
6. CanevaWorld Resort – two therm parks in one
CanevaWorld Resort is two theme parks in one: the first is a movie-themed attraction with action shows, rides and experiences based on popular films; then there’s the Caneva Aquapark with 12 slides, a lazy river and plenty of pools to relax beside.
You can buy tickets for each park separately or a combined ticket to visit them both on the same day.
Buy your tickets online for the best rate.
7. Relax on a beach
Lakeside beach days are a new activity to me. We’re much more used to making sand castles and dipping our toes in the sea. But our days spent relaxing on Lake Garda’s beaches were divine.
Tot in particular fell in love with floating around on a huge rubber ring, taking in the views and watching the lake traffic pass by. Our campsite had its own private beach but there are plenty of public beaches around the lake too.
Here are the top ones recommended on TripAdvisor.
8. Catch a tourist train
If you visit San Felice del Benanco or Garda you’ll find a Dotto tourist train. These take you on route around these resorts and cost a few Euros per adult. Under sevens ride for free.
The train at San Felice del Benanco takes you on an hour long circular route and visits the market in Salò on Saturdays.
9. Browse a Lake Garda market
Sample some of the Lombardy region’s fresh produce including the cheeses for which it is famous: Marscarpone, gorgonzola, Taleggio and Grana Padano – yum!
As well as cheese you’ll find clothes, toys and flowers on sale.
The Tuesday market at Desenzano del Garda is one of the best known. It takes place on the main street by the lake every Tuesday morning.
Lake Garda markets take place from Monday to Saturday.
10. Immerse yourself in history at the Tower of San Martino
This tower was built to commemorate a battle between the Italians and Austrians in 1859 during which tens of thousands of people died in one day. There is also a military museum telling the story of the battle.
At night the colours of the Italian tricolor are beamed from the top of the tower. It sounds like a sobering memorial but perfect for history buffs.
Find out more about the tower.
11. A day trip from Lake Garda to Venice
If you are up for a road or rail trip it is possible to visit Venice from Lake Garda in a day.
We drove our hire car there setting off first thing in the morning and arriving back at our campsite on the South West shore of Lake Garda mid-evening.
You can read more about how we did it and what you can see in a day in my post about day tripping from Lake Garda to Venice.
12. Day trip to Verona from Lake Garda
This UNESCO World Heritage Site city where Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was set is not far from Lake Garda.
It’s first century Roman amphitheatre used to be the setting for gladiator contests but is now a music and theatre venue hosting operatic classics like Carman this summer. You can also tour the venue during the day.
Verona Arena is located in the old town and is open seven days a week during July, August and September.
There are also family itineraries that take you on a tour of the city’s streets to spot fun features kids will love.
More things to do in Lake Garda
If you’d like more inspiration, I’ve written about the things we did during our holiday in Portese, Lake Garda, which is on the South West shore.
Here’s our destination video:
Flights to Lake Garda
We flew from Southampton to Verona but the route has since closed. Other UK airports offering direct flights include Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and London.
Car hire at Verona Airport
You really need a car to get to Lake Garda as it’s 61km away and the closest train station is 20km away.
Places to stay in Lake Garda
If you are looking for Lake Garda accommodation we can recommend Camping Eden which has mobile homes and touring pitches on a terraced site overlooking the lake. It’s just outside the small port town of Portese on the West shore of Lake Garda and a short drive from Salo.
Take a look at our review of Camping Eden Lake Garda for more information.
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If you are planning a holiday to Italy why not pin this post about things to do in Lake Garda for later?