Things to do in Lake Maggiore With Kids of all Ages from Tots to Teens
AD – press trip. We were invited by Bookings For You to explore the region of Lake Maggiore and see what the region offers for families. Our accommodation was provided by Golfo Gabella Lake Resort, one of the hotels on their portfolio.
Italy with kids is always a good idea! Whatever the age of your child, there are plenty of things to do in the Italian lakes with kids. From the lakes providing swimming, kayaking, and boat trips, to beaches and lidos, chocolate museums and miniature houses, there are numerous places to cool off and relax as well as explore the stunning Italian countryside.
Below you’ll find detailed information of where to go and what to do whenever you visit Lago Maggiore with kids, including rainy day suggestions. If you have booked your accommodation through Bookings For you, they can provide local expertise and knowledge to make your trip even more personal and enjoyable as recommendations can be tailored to your exact needs.
Getting to Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy (after Lake Como) but it is also part of Switzerland. Visitors often visit make the most of the opportunity to hop over the border for a day and explore. As it is one of the best lakes in Italy, I was thrilled to be invited on a press trip to explore all the things to do in Lake Maggiore with kids (and without kids!)
The closest airport to Lake Maggiore is Milan Malpensa (MXP) is about an hours drive away and it is where I flew into with FlyBe. (I paid for my own flight and set up a price alert on Sky Scanner to try and get the best deal.)
Direct flights to Milan are available from Birmingham, Edinburgh, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Luton, London Stansted and Manchester and take approximately 2 hours. The convenient flight time and transit time, make it ideal if you are visiting Lake Maggiore with kids. Bergamo airport is another option and not much further away.
When is the best time to visit the Italian Lakes?
We visited in the beginning of May where temperatures can hit a maximum of 20 degrees. According to a regular visitor and our host Jo, from Bookings For You, spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October) are ideal times to visit the Italian Lakes with comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds. We experienced sunshine, wind and rain in the few days we visited with a top temperature of about 17 degrees.
However, if you are visiting Lake Maggiore with kids in the height of summer or school holidays, then you know there is always going to be a spot nearby where you can jump in and cool off! Be aware if you are flying from the UK, Italians have the month of August off too, so it can be super busy!
Top Tip: Always have your swimming stuff and a towel with you!
Best Towns Around Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is surrounded by beautiful towns and villages not only in Italy but in Switzerland too. Sadly, we couldn’t explore them all, but I highly recommend visiting picturesque Cannobio, Luino and Laverno. Kids will enjoy arriving by ferry, or train to some of these places, and of course enjoy a welcome gelato or hot chocolate!
Head across the lake to Cannobio and Cannero
Both towns are easy to access using the boat and ferry network and both are beautiful spots. We walked about 15 minutes from our hotel Golfo Gabella in Maccagno, past a perfectly placed restaurant and play area overlooking the wonderful mountains and lake as we ambled along a pebbly beach towards the ferry pier.
Cannobio is the last town before you enter the Swiss border which is only 10 minutes further.
Things to do with children in Cannobio
Cannobio has a lot to offer children, so it is well worth planning to stay the day. Head to the picturesque beaches, pand indulge in some water sports, pedalo boats, playgrounds and more. Older teens may enjoy the Parco Cartere, which is equipped with a basketball court, bowling greens and a roller skating rink. And if you kids get tired of walking like mine, there is even a little tourist train. This runs seasonally and departs and arrives at Pier Square, every 30 minutes. The tourist trains are also available in Stresa, Lugano and Locarno.
Laverno is known for the bucket lifts – more on that below, but what a thrilling and terrifying experience. Would I do it again? Oh Yes! I am not sure how my kids would feel going on it – so be prepared for any wobbles or uncertainties. However, the views more than make up for any fear! At the top is a restaurant and playground where you can relax before you begin the 15 minutes descent back into town.
Luino has a popular market on Thursdays full of fresh fruit, cheese, clothes and more. You can taste many of the items – so handy if you have a hungry toddler as you walk around or pick up supplies for your accommodation.
It’s not somewhere I would search out for entertaining kids as not many children enjoy shopping, (including my own) but if you happen to passing through and need to make a few purchases, its one of the best! Stops at the cake stalls may help! Like most markets, it can get incredibly busy.
Don’t forget to make a stop at Caccio Baccho for a hot chocolate. Unlike British hot chocolate, this is incredibly thick, gooey and almost a dessert. Even if you just have a cup of coffee or tea, the aroma of the chocolate in this cafe is incredible! Thanks Bookings For You for the tip!
If you need to cool off, there is a small lido with indoor pools in Luino lido.
Best Water Parks near Lake Maggiore
The closest water park to Maccagno, in Lake Maggiore is Waves which is about an hour away – and it is open from June until September each year.
Splash and Spa Tamaro is also about an hour away, but in Switzerland. Again, it’s a great family waterpark with indoor and outdoor pools, wave pool and interactive water games for little ones. There are also a number of waterslides. Many have a minimum age of 8 so it is more suitable for older children although there are some rides that cater for little ones.
Lidos around Lake Maggiore
The closest Lido to Golfo Gabella, is bordered by a grassy park, a bar/restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating which overlooks a children’s play area. in Maccagno Inferiore, it is possible to rent pedalos, motorboats, canoes and more.
The lido in Ascona has a sandy beach, a large grassy area, play areas, volleyball and waterslides. Entry is free but there is an additional charge to hire a sunbed.
The lido at Locarno (on the Swiss side) has indoor pools which are perfect for a rainy day and it is open all year round. it is one of the larger lidos with water chutes, an olympic sized pool, plus a family and children’s pool. Children 3 and under can go for free. Or, you could try your hand at falconry in Locarno. Open daily from Tuesday to Sunday.
The lido at Lugano, which is 50 mins away form Golfo Gabella, has 3 pools, including an olympic sized pool, a children’s pool with slides, and a family pool.
There are also a smaller lido with indoor pools in Luino lido.
Things to do in Lake Maggiore with Kids
- Visit Swiss Miniatur – a model village full of Swiss houses, castles, cathedrals and more. Train fans will also love the mini trains, cable cars and boats in motion too. It’s open between March and November between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. I used to visit the Beaconsfield model village with my grandparents and absolutely loved it- so I think this is a fun day trip to do with kids.
- Minitalia in Bergamo. Not be outdone, Italy has its own mini model village of famous historical Italian buildings. Minitalia also has many rides for younger children to enjoy as well as an aquarium. It takes about one hour and 40 minutes to reach from Maccagno.
- Alprose Swiss chocolate factory. What person doesn’t like chocolate?? The museum demonstrates the various steps of chocolate making and allows tasting! The museum is open from 9.00 – 17.30 on weekdays and from 9.00 – 16.30 on weekends. It is free for 0-6 year olds and is about 25 minutes drive from Maccagno. Definitely one activity to consider if it’s a rainy day too!
- Go Karting near Locarno for children 8 and over.
- Visit Stresa for the Parco della Villa Pallavicino. A beautiful park with a botanical garden with various birds including peacocks and animals such as deer, zebra and wallabies wandering around. There is also a small children’s play area in the middle.
- Falconry in Locarno. Open daily from Tuesday to Sunday.
- Visit an adventure park. There are several around the region; including Gordola which is open from April until October each year. Baveno also offers a host of activities from a climbing wall to beach football and more.
- Hire a Boat – You can rent a small boat at Lago Maggiore without the need for a license. Just take a driving license or passport when booking and you can take it out there and then. Boat hire is available in both Luino and Maccagno as well as across the lake in Cannobio.
- Bucket lifts at Laveno – These are literally what they sound like, as I found out on our last day! Not for the faint hearted these buckets take you up the mountain in about 15 minutes! and offer breathtaking panoramic views over the lake. You can fit 2 adults inside or 1 one adult and 2 children in each. There is also the option for an open air bucket or a covered one. Read Mini Travellers full review with useful information on the Bucket Lifts at Laveno here.
- Visit Valle Maggia to paddle in the bottom of the river. Enjoy the sandy beaches and make some sandcastles (1 hour from Maccagno)
- Monte Tamaro – Open daily between March and November, you will find plenty to to over on this Swiss mountain. With a bob sleigh, a zipline (flying fox) and a fantastic adventure park. During the ski season, there are plenty of winter sports as expected, plus trekking, hang-gliding or mountain biking.
- Boat trip to the Borromean Islands. Isola Bella is famous for its white peacocks and beautiful gardens. You can either get a fast boat down the lake or you can drive down and then just catch one of the many boats leaving from Stresa. You can also island hop to the smaller islands. We sadly didn’t get to visit due to the very wet and rainy weather but next time! If you are wondering, can I swim in Lake Maggiore-then yes you can. There are several beaches on the islands and around the lake, all perfectly suitable for swimming.
- Pombia Safari Park – under fives go free at this zoo which also includes petting animals.
- Day at the water sports centre La Darsena is a water sports centre on the lakeside in Pino close to the Swiss / Italian border. Jo from Booking For You, mentions, “It’s rather chaotic at times (in a typically Italian way!!) but is a great place to learn water sports or hire equipment. My children have learned windsurfing and waterskiing here. It’s great for both kids and adults to either learn a new sport or simply to hire the equipment you need to enjoy a water sport you’re already familiar with. They also have paddle boarding, canoes etc. There is a cafe here on site as well as a more formal restaurant and a small beach area so if not everyone wanted to do something active, there’s still the opportunity to sunbathe and relax quite happily.”
- Pizza making – Speak to the staff at your hotel and see if they run pizza making session for your family. We had a go with this with our young children at another hotel and they absolutely loved it! Bookings For You can organise these extras for you and other activities such as having a personal chef come and cook for you as a treat! We had the delightful Marco Perocco come to an apartment!
- For more outdoor activities for kids around Lake Maggiore, Travelynn Family covers even more options!
Where we stayed on Lake Maggiore
We stayed at Golfo Gabella Lake Resort, which as the name suggests, is situated right on the lake in the small town of Maccagno. its a perfect base for exploring the Italian and Swiss side, with Cannobio a short ferry ride away.
The complex is ideal for families looking for that bit of extra space and separate bedrooms. It is a mixture of privately owned vacation apartments with the hotel owning 42 for holidays.
There is the option of 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom apartments within 5 buildings, surrounding a large central heated pool, a separate toddler splash pool and a jacuzzi. Views from the pool are spectacular, as they overlook the mountains with Cannobio and Switzerland in the distance.
Within the apartments, it is well set up for self catering although half board can be arranged. parents will be please dot hear there is a dishwasher, fridge freezer, microwave, plates, kettle, coffee maker, cups, pots and pans and more. You do need to buy the special biodegradable bags for waste (available from the local supermarket which is 5 minutes away) and there is currently no welcome pack. If you are like me, and love your cup of tea when you first arrive after travelling, pack a few teabags in your suitcase and stop to buy some milk before you arrive!
Outside, is a stunning pool over Lake Maggiore. However, if you want to be little more active, you can rent kayaks and bikes for free. For a detailed review of Golfo Gabella, including a room tour, see Claire at Tin Box Traveller here.
More accommodation ideas
For more ideas of family friendly places to stay in Lake Maggiore, see here.
I hope these ideas for Lake Maggiore – things to do inspire and help you! Do let me know below!