splashworld kids18 km / 11 miles north-east of Avignon, the ambitious and expensive Splashworld Provence can claim to be the largest water theme park in Europe.

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Built at a cost of 30 million €uro, Splashworld Provence offers 15 rides. They include 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. It's supervised by professional surfers who give lessons for beginners and also stage regular demonstrations of their own skills.

splashworld da waveSo 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 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. These have been reduced slightly, but a day here still won't come cheap.

On top of the entrance charge there are very numerous hidden extras such as 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.

There has been more irritation at the ban on bringing your own picnic, forcing families to spend more money at Splashworld's cafés and restaurants. However, 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 large, 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 2018), Beaulieu will be the major family destination in this part of Provence.

Splashworld closes for the winter, although its Wave Club bar and disco keep going on weekend evenings in autumn and spring.

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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