We've developed a bit of thing for the Netherlands. Maybe it's their love of cycling, good design and their laid back vibe. So when we were invited to go to Etfeling - a fantasy themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel where the attractions are based on elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore, we jumped at the chance.
We decided that driving could be fun (and fairly straight forward) and that taking the ferry could be part of the experience for the kids. So on a very windy October morning we arrived at Dover and boarded our P&O ferry. The waves bashed against the ship and the ferry rocked from side to side - but no one was sick and the kids loved watching the white cliffs get further away and we think this gave them a sense of leaving the UK far more than getting on a plane would have.
After about three hours of driving from Calais we arrived at Loonsche Land Hotel. It has recently been built and on arrival you immediately understand you're going to be getting into the spirit of the place. You are greeting with giant antlers that come out out the roof of the main hotel, which is set in a simple yet magical grounds.
The kids immediately headed for the obstacle course play area set over the lake, which was next to a small petting farm and a very cool barn converted into a climbable haystack and slide.
Our room kept up the woodland feel with a tree house style mezzanine for the kids to sleep on. The hotel restaurant, bar area and food was great - really well set up for families, with a play area and kids menu. Efteling theme park is either a short walk through the woods or mini-train ride from the Loonsche Land Hotel.
On our first day we started in the Sprookjesbos (Fairy Forest) which is the oldest and original area of the Park - Efteling is one of the oldest theme parks in the world and first opened in 1952. We discovered talking trees, musical toadstools, Sleeping Beauty's castle, giant monstrous fish and sleeping snoring giants.
After emerging from the Fairy Forest we headed for the mini steam train that travels the circumference of the park. On the way we made one of our many trips to the Diorama (miniature world) which became a firm favourite of our eldest boy. The rest of the morning was filled with all sorts of rides and then lunch was at the Polles Keuken, for some traditional Dutch pancakes and to watch the crazy spinning oven.
The afternoon was spent on more rides, playing games before heading to the Het Witte van Raveleijn restaurant for a 'dining experience'. Which involved the kids going to the kitchen to collect their meal which was served on a wooden board and Ben being given a red neck-a-chief and told he was the boss of carving.
On our second day we went to watch the impressive Raveleijn horse show with stunts, fire breathing sets and well trained birds. Our son is still talking about Thomas the red knight, and insisted on us buying his sword and cape.
We had lunch at the Octopus restaurant which had the most amazing version of a soft play area in it i've ever seen - think iceberg slides and a climbing monkey jungle with sound effects!
We could have stayed for another day in the park, but we felt two days was about right. If you had slightly older kids and could take them on all the rollercoasters and three days would only just cover the place.
We absolutely loved Efteling - it has everything you want form a theme park in terms of variety of rides, for both dare devils and little kids, but then it is also beautifully done, plus it is full of heritage and authenticity. The detailing and design show an imagination and pride that we've not come across in our UK parks and we look forward to returning.
Efteling Tickets & Info can be found here.
P&O ferry crossing info here.
This post was created in partnership with Efteling.