splashworld kids18 km / 11 miles north-east of Avignon, the ambitious, expensive and keenly awaited Splashworld Provence is the largest water park in Europe.

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Splashworld finally opened its doors to the public in late summer 2015 after very many delays and postponements caused by heavy rains and a collapsing crane on the building site.

The water park is currently closed for the winter, although its Wave Club bar and disco (see below) keep going on weekend evenings in autumn and spring.

Built at a cost of 30 million €uro, the park offers 15 rides, including a giant water toboggan that can reach speeds of up to 80 km / 50 miles an hour, water slides and an exotic artificial river which it takes nearly half an hour to navigate.

They're all set in five hectares / twelve acres of landscaped subtropical gardens featuring hundreds of palm trees, exotic shrubs and bamboos

The star attraction is something called Da Wave, pictured. It's billed as the largest artificial surf simulator in the world and creates waves over three metres / ten feet high.

splashworld da waveIt's supervised by three resident professional surfers from Australia and the US who give lessons for beginners and also stage regular demonstrations of their own skills.

It should be noted here that Splashworld is more than purely a family attraction. Da Wave seems aimed at teens and young adults.

In the early evening, the Wave Club (where Da Wave is located) morphs into a cocktail bar and, after that, into a late-night disco club, which is open until 1am via a separate entrance from the Splashworld park.

Obviously Splashworld also has gentle rides and shallow pools where smaller children can play safely. Some rides are accessible to disabled visitors and the entire park claims to be wheelchair-friendly.

When it first opened, Splashworld came under fire for its high entrance fees. However these have been reduced slightly for 2016.

Admission is now 28 €uros for adults and 19.50 €uros for children under twelve. Kids under three get in free and there is a slightly cheaper ticket for families with three children. Even so, a day here still won't come cheap.

On top of the entrance charge there are the very numerous hidden extras. You'll pay a supplement for car-parking and the use of a sun-bed or locker. There's an additional fee for Da Wave surfing. If you want to avoid the queues you need to buy a "Splashpass" that gives you priority access to the rides.

A VIP pass to private beach and cabanas pushes up the bill yet further. A system of electronic bracelets enables you to buy things during the day without carrying cash or credit cards.

And there has been more irritation at the ban on bringing your own picnic, thus forcing families to spend more money at Splashworld's cafés and restaurants.

To be fair, litter is an issue for parks of this kind and many others operate similar bans. And you can always exit Splashworld to buy a meal outside or picnic in the car-park, then go back in. For similar reasons of hygiene, dogs aren't admitted.

Splashworld is situated in Beaulieu, an "eco-quarter" near the town of Monteux that's worth visiting in its own right. This area has a lakeside beach and offers riding, fishing, pedalos and various other outdoor activities.

Parc Spirou, another, land-based amusement park with roller coasters and so on, is currently being constructed right next to Splashworld. A spa and four-star hotel are also planned.

When completed (these latest works are currently scheduled to open in 2017), Beaulieu will be the major family destination in this part of Provence.

Where: Splashworld, 800 Allée de Beaulieu, 84170 Monteux. Website for Splashworld Provence.

How to get there: By car, take the A7 motorway from Avignon, leaving at exit 23. Then follow road signs towards Carpentras and Monteux. There is a pay-for car-park for a thousand cars near Splashworld.

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By rail, take the train towards Carpentras from Avignon Centre or Avignon TGV stations, getting out at Monteux. The current timetable can be downloaded from the SNCF TER (French regional railways) website (in French only).

Select timetable no.9 bis (Avignon-Carpentras) from the drop-down menu. A bus shuttle service runs between Monteux station and Splashworld.

Photo credits: all images © Splashworld.


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