Last updated on November 25, 2023
Looking for a great activity for the whole family? Congratulations, you’ve found it: Houseboat holidays in Ireland are not only an unforgettable experience for parents, but also for children and teenagers!
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Why this is so, how you can organise a boating holiday with children and what you should look out for, I’ll tell you in this article – just read on…
Children like boats and so do young people. That doesn’t always have to be true, but very often it is!
I speak from my own experience: As a child and teenager, I took several sailing courses and licences, also the motorboat licence (inland and coastal), and was allowed to go on several boating holidays with my family. Later, I also went on several houseboat trips.
We come from Germany and have lived in Ireland for several years. In summer we run our motorbike rental business south of Dublin (www.easycruiser.tours) and also offer nice guest rooms (www.the-view-accommodation.ie).
We have travelled the Irish island intensively in all directions and know it very well. But now back to children and boats in Ireland:
Pro: What speaks for a boating holiday with children?
I have met many children and teenagers who think camping is cool. A camping holiday with a camper van can be super nice, but it can also lose its appeal at some point – everyone knows cars – nothing special any more…
Boats, on the other hand, are not known by everyone, they offer many new attractions! Looking at the landscape from the water, the movements of the boat, water birds and fish, other boats and water sports enthusiasts, that gives a completely new perspective.
Unlike a car, on a boat it is not only the driver who is busy – but practically everyone! When mooring, casting off and locking, it’s all hands on deck, because the skipper needs help! There are all kinds of things to learn: knots, fenders, lines, anchoring – the new activities that arise on a boat are fun to learn and a welcome change.
And if the kids just want to read, play, listen to music or watch films on their mobile phones, there’s plenty of time for that on the way.
Speaking of mobile phones, they can even leave them lying around in the evening if the parents bring along lots of games, books and colouring materials!
And then there are lots of activities that you can combine with boating – I’ll come to the offers later in this article.
All in all, there are many great things about boating, not only for the parents, but also for the children or young people.
Contra: What are the arguments against a boat holiday with children?
A boat can be cramped, especially if the weather doesn’t cooperate and you don’t want to be on deck. Then it can get “dynamic” below deck, because not everyone likes it “cosy”, some also need a bit of space around them.
But the problem can be solved if the boat is a bit bigger. For a family of four it can be a boat with 6-8 berths, then there is usually enough space for everyone – even below deck.
No one likes to get seasick. Fortunately, houseboats travel very slowly and are very stable in the water. On the lakes and rivers there are usually not many waves and if there is a lot of wind, the boat has to stay in the marina. These are the usual requirements of the landlords for the safety of the guests.
If the “domestic situation” is not right, the boat can have a healing effect, or a strengthening effect. Healing, because the beautiful, new surroundings help to break out of the daily rut, which is good for everyone. Strengthening, if the problems are so big that the narrowness of the boat leads to stress.
What can be done? A balance of boating and shore excursions, sightseeing, shopping, sports and other activities can help to make everyone happy – then it will also work on the boat!
Why is the Shannon in Ireland ideal for a family boating holiday?
The Irish are incredible family people! The individualisation that we increasingly know from Germany, for example, has not yet taken hold in Ireland.
The population is one of the youngest in Europe – because there are the most children! Three or four children are not uncommon in Irish families.
This means that parents are very busy at weekends and during school holidays keeping the many children happy and occupied. And luckily, Ireland has many many attractions and activities for children and teenagers that are designed to do just that!
The Shannon is another region where Irish families like to holiday themselves – and there are plenty of activities for children and young people there – from water fun parks, to all kinds of water sports and adventure activities. There are also creative activities and horse riding, for example.
If you want to have a great holiday with the family, then you are in good company in Ireland and on the Shannon.
Tips for boating holidays with younger children
Here I have a few tips for boating holidays with younger children:
Bring lots of games, colouring materials and books. Toys are also allowed, who says you can’t play with Playmobil on a boat (for example).
A small pair of binoculars can be super interesting, so you can look at the surroundings even better.
Boats that can be pulled behind the houseboat on a long string are also great fun – a roll of cord and one or more small plastic boats still fit in the suitcase. A small remote-controlled boat is also great to drive around the marina in the evening after docking.
The kids are interested in knights? Visit a castle! Ireland is full of them and there are several on the Shannon.
Inflatable swim toys and swimwear of course are also a hit – you can often get them locally.
There are also water fun parks that also have swimming areas, slides, trampolines and other attractions for younger kids. For example: www.baysports.ie on Lough Ree near Athlone, www.aquasplash.ie on Lough Derg near Nenagh and www.westcoastaquapark.ie on Lough Derg near Killaloe.
Tips for boating holidays with older children and teenagers
Older children and teenagers also have a wide range of interests. Luckily, there is plenty to do on the Shannon!
There are a whole range of activity and adventure centres along Ireland’s longest river, as well as water sports of all kinds, nature experiences and other activities.
UL Sport Adventure Centre offers stand up paddling, canoeing/kayaking, hill walking, archery and a high ropes course. There are also half-day family events with a combination of activities on request. For info, see: https://ulsport.ie/ulac/.
My Next Adventure mainly offers kayak tours or canoe tours, but with different themes and focuses. For info see: https://www.mynextadventure.ie/tours/all-tours.
The Derg isle Adventure Centre offers canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, a climbing wall, archery and an obstacle course, and if you’re not tired after that, there’s no helping you. Info here: https://dergisle.com.
Mid Ireland Adventures offers paddling, hiking and mountain biking. See: https://midirelandadventure.ie/activities-and-events/.
Tipis Forest Adventures has a very nice high ropes course, see: https://zipit.ie.
Shannon River Adventure has waterslides, paddling and a climbing wall, see: https://www.shannonriveradventure.com/families-friends.
With the dog on the houseboat?
The dog can come too! Not on every boat, but on many.
Many boat rental companies have boats in their programme on which dogs are allowed. So if you ask several boat rental companies, just ask and they will help you.
This is a good tip in Ireland: not everything can be found on the internet, so the Irish themselves are happy to call and talk about their wishes. And the Irish landlords are usually very helpful, just like the Irish are a very friendly and helpful people.
The problem is more the journey: We are dog owners ourselves and, according to our research, there are no airlines where you can buy a ticket to Ireland for the dog. This is not stated anywhere on the airline websites, but unfortunately it is the case.
We ourselves travel back and forth between Germany and Ireland with our dog in the car, and you won’t have any other choice if you want your dog to come with you.
If you are looking for a country where there is a lot on offer especially for children and children are always welcome, then Ireland is the right place for you.
Especially the Shannon and its lakes offer many activities for children and young people, which you will hardly find elsewhere in the selection and quantity.
And if you’re looking for an activity that most kids will enjoy, then the houseboat is a great choice for a great family holiday.
If you spend a little time planning, you can combine a boating holiday with activities for every member of the family.
And best of all, the dog can come too!
So let’s go to Ireland – with the whole family!