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

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News for Splashworld - Wave IslandIt first opened in 2015 under the name Splashworld Provence. But now, after a number of teething troubles and economic difficulties, the 30 million €uro park has been refinanced and rebranded as Wave Island, starting in 2018.

It offers 17 attractions. Among them are a giant water toboggan that can reach speeds of up to 80 km / 50 miles an hour, water slides, a slackline, a giant trampoline, a climbing wall, a teleski and an exotic artificial river which it takes nearly half an hour to navigate.

New in 2018: an extra swimming pool, which it's planned to cover over and to keep open in winter (the main park closes in early September).

Another innovation is a Wave Village of 19 Polynesian-style lodges where familes can spend a night or even an entire week.

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

The star 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 Wave Island is more than purely a family destination: Da Wave seems firmly aimed at teens and young adults.

In the evening, the café overlooking Da Wave morphs into Wave Corner, a cocktail bar and (on some evenings) late-night disco club, which is open via a separate entrance from the park.

Obviously Wave Island 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 as Splashworld, the park came under heavy fire for its high entrance fees. These have been progressively reduced, but a day here still won't come cheap.

However Wave Island has introduced a system to reserve ahead and you can make substantial savings by booking online, or by timing your visit for the late afternoon with a cut-price "sunset ticket".

Family tickets are available and children under the age of three get free admission too.

Be aware that, on top of the entrance charge, there are hidden extras such as car-parking and the use of a sun-bed or locker. If you want to avoid the queues you need to buy a pass 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.

In the past there have also been complaints at the ban on bringing your own picnic, forcing families to spend more money at the park's seven cafés and restaurants. To be fair, this was to keep down litter. For similar reasons of hygiene, dogs aren't admitted.

But you can always exit to buy a meal or eat your own picnic (tables are set up at two picnic areas just outside the park), then go back in.

The management has even provided fridge-lockers (at a small charge) for families to keep their food cool during the day.

Wave Island 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.

spirouParc Spirou, another large, land-based amusement park with roller coasters and so on, has been constructed right next to Wave Island. A spa and four-star hotel are also planned.

Spirou, pictured, a feisty little hotel bellboy, is a Belgian comic strip character. So it remains to be seen whether international visitors will buy into him as the centrepiece of a theme park. Here too, the entrance price is hefty.

But, if it's successful (Parc Spirou opened in June 2018), Beaulieu will be a major family destination in this part of Provence. Website for Parc Spirou

Where: Wave Island, 800 Allée de Beaulieu, 84170 Monteux. Website for Wave Island

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 1000 cars.

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By rail, take the train towards Carpentras from Avignon Centre or Avignon TGV stations (four stops), 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 Wave Island.

There is also a fairly frequent direct bus service from Avignon and Carpentras, the L5 route run by Voyages Arnaud. Click here for more details.


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