Corfu’s magical combination of sunshine and sandy beaches is usually a hit with younger visitors: the shore is essentially one giant playground, while the breaking waves provide hours of entertainment. But on this idyllic Ionian island, there is plenty more than just beaches to keep the children entertained. The destination’s natural beauty, both inland and out at sea, is one of its main draws, and kids will usually be up for a scenic tour as long as a novel means of transport is involved, whether it be a bike, the back of a horse or a high-powered speed boat.
Corfu’s history, meanwhile, is brought to life for children at captivating museums and on guided walking tours that weave through the winding alleys of the old town. And, in addition to the island’s trademark beaches, coves and historic sites, there are plenty of modern-day family attractions in the shape of waterparks and aquariums.
1. Experience one of Europe’s best waterparks at Aqualand
Why go: With designers who worked on attractions for Disney behind dozens of its rides, Aqualand is among the most impressive waterparks in Europe. You’ll find the huge site, which is set in 75 square kilometres of shady forest, right at the heart of Corfu. It’s the perfect place to cool off when the temperatures skyrocket, with a total of 36 waterslides and 15 adventure pools. There is a lazy river, wave pool and black hole, plus family rafting, kayaking and multi-lane racers. Little ones have a pair of very shallow pools packed with waterfalls, fountains and miniature rides, while older thrill seekers can test their nerve in the ‘extreme zone’, where you’ll find high-speed rides with sharp twists, spins and near-vertical freefalls – one of which is a stomach-jolting 24 metres high.
2. Take a scenic horse trek with Trailriders
Why go: Corfu’s olive grove and vineyard-scattered landscape deserves at least a day of exploring and there are few better ways to see it than from the back of a horse. With the historical village of Ano Korakiana and the foothills of Mount Pantokrator on their doorstep, the Trailriders riding stables are perfectly placed to offer guided horse treks. Run by a Brit who became an expert in caring for horses during a decade managing a cattle ranch in the US, the centre houses a dozen good-natured steeds. Anyone from six to 70-plus is welcome to take one of the scenic treks over farm tracks and through shady natural woodland. You’ll also clip-clop through a picturesque local village, olive groves, vineyards and pastures occupied by grazing sheep.
3. Get up close with marine life at Corfu Aquarium
Why go? The compact Corfu Aquarium is a highly rated family attraction and the ideal spot for getting out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day. You can explore the aquarium at your own pace, discovering the variety of creatures that call Corfu’s waters home. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour and go home a real expert in the island’s marine life. The colourful tanks are filled with fish, lobsters and eels from local waters. Plus, there are a handful of reptile enclosures housing lizards, snakes and iguanas. If checking out sea life is your kid’s thing, then pair your aquarium tickets with a glass-bottom boat ride – there is sometimes a special package offer available if you buy both at once.
4. Cruise on a glass-bottomed boat with Nautilus Underwater Experience
Why go: While Corfu’s aquarium allows you to see the island’s underwater world up close, a glass-bottomed boat tour will showcase the same creatures in their home environment. From the comfort of the modern and luxurious Nautilus boat, you’ll bob out into the Ionian Sea to discover what life looks like beneath the waves. A three-metre glass bottom reveals the seabed in all its colourful glory. And if some of the fish are being shy, the crew will don their scuba gear and dive beneath the boat with food to coax them out of hiding. It’s not just the underwater vistas that make this tour worth taking; the team also talk you through the historical sites you pass above the water. Plus, they drop anchor in a pretty, secluded bay for you to have a swim followed by a glass of wine before heading home. For an extra special day out, your group can have the boat and crew to yourselves on a private tour.
5. Discover Corfu’s historical secrets with Corfu Walking Tours
Why go: Children usually fall for Corfu’s sunshine and beaches right away, but it’s a shame not to show them how much more the island has to offer. There are layers of history and tradition to be found around every corner of the old town and Corfu Walking Tours bring them to life with expert local insight. Following in the footsteps of the French, British and Venetians – all of whom left their mark on the island – you’ll stroll down atmospheric alleyways studded with centuries-old squares, hidden fountains and grand monuments, with your guide revealing the stories and significance behind them all as you go.
6. Learn the art of olive oil production at Mavroudis
Why go: The small but perfectly formed Mavroudis museum is dedicated to the history of olive oil production in Corfu. The Mavroudis family has been making this liquid gold for generations and today own swathes of olive groves in Corfu. The museum is the result of years spent hunting down old olive oil making machinery and exhibits include lots of gems dating back as far as the mid-19th century. Drop in to learn how the island’s humble olives are transformed into world-class oil, then enjoy an oil tasting session followed by a visit to the on-site shop where you can purchase your favourites. Tours are led with passion and enthusiasm and are frequently conducted by the owners themselves.
7. Take an interactive history lesson at Casa Parlante
Why go: If your kids aren’t that taken with history, change their minds at Casa Parlante in Corfu’s old town. This heritage site goes one step further than your average historical museum by slotting the objects on display into ‘real life’ scenes from history, complete with sounds, smells and robotics. Thanks to a flourishing economy and arts scene, the period reflected in the museum is an important chapter in the island’s history: Corfu was, at the time, the cultural centre of Greece. You’ll get a real taste of what life was like for Corfu’s 19th-century nobility as you explore the rooms, which are packed with heirlooms, artworks, expertly reproduced furniture and décor, music, scents, movement and animated figures.