My son sits in the August sun on the wooden decking. He’s completely still and seems mesmerised by what we’re watching. We’re at the edge of a turquoise lake in a beautiful place called Area 47 in the Ötztal valley in the Austrian Tirol. We’re staying higher up the valley at the village of Obergurgl and have come to Area 47 for the day.
Area 47 is a kind of extreme sports outdoor playground which opened five years ago. It’s in a protected nature area of green, green forest surrounded by rugged mountains. It’s listed as one of the top water parks in the world by CNN. If you want to try out activities such as wakeboarding, white water rafting, canyoning, caving, motocross or the highest high ropes course in Europe (it’s a giddying 27m high) then this is the perfect place for you. But it’s not great for very young children: you need to be at least 12 years old to take part in most of the activities. My son is 11 when we visit Area 47 and so is limited to swimming in the lake (which is up to 8 metres deep) and whizzing down a couple of slides but he loves our day at the park.
We’re in our swimming gear drying off in the sun after spending an hour on the slides and in the lake in the Water Area. From where we’re sitting we can see all sorts of entertaining sights. People are falling into the water from a climbing wall above the lake. There’s a seat which shoots people into the lake with a huge water jet. There’s a diving board which is so high that using it is called cliff diving. Floating on the surface of the lake is a wobbly bridge from which many people seem to fall or be pushed. High above us is a 350-metre long zip wire along which helmeted people whizz every few minutes. In the distance are some tiny figures inching their way along the high ropes course which sways and wobbles as they move. But the most entertaining sight of all, my son and I agree, is blobbing.
I’ve never heard of blobbing before but my son informs me that he’s seen it on YouTube. He says: ‘Blobbing is a massive inflatable blob in the water which people jump on from a tower. When you sit at the front of the blob someone jumps on it behind you and you go up in the air and fall in the water.’ The people blobbing (blobbers, blobbees, who knows what they’re called?) wear helmets and life jackets and blobbing looks like huge fun. My son decides that he wants us to come back here when he’s older so that we can go blobbing too.
At lunchtime we eat at the Lakeside Restaurant which, as its name suggests, is right next to the lake and offers a grandstand view of the action. Its wooden terrace is packed with healthy-looking spectators who appear to be catching their breath before their next adrenaline rush. My son is delighted to find curry wurst on the menu – he’s been looking forward to eating this sausagey thing topped with curry sauce and curry powder ever since we were invited to visit Austria again (you can read about our last trip here). The restaurant has a wide range of food on offer including burgers, pasta, pizza, soup and salads. I opt for salmon and salad and we both enjoy our lunch.
If you want to spend more than a day at Area 47 there’s some basic accommodation available in some attractive wooden buildings near the lake. There are double rooms, individual chalets for up to six people and teepees with communal bathrooms for more of a camping experience. The accommodation was all booked up when we visited which meant that we couldn’t see inside the rooms. The park’s friendly Marketing Assistant Tanja Vogt told us that there are no TVs or kitchens inside and that everything is very simple. Tanja said that they already have a lot of bookings for next summer.
We both loved our day at Area 47 although it was a pity that my son was a few months too young for most of the activities. I’d definitely recommend the park to families with children of 12 years old and above and the Water Area is great for slightly younger children too as long as they’re good swimmers.
Family travel lowdown
Entrance to Area 47 is free but a one-day ticket to the Water Area costs 21 euros for adults, 13 euros for kids age six -16 years old and kids under six years old are free. Activities outside of the Water Area such as rafting and the high ropes course are charged individually and should be booked in advance.
Thomson Lakes and Mountains has 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Edelweiss & Gurgl in Obergurgl, with prices starting from £961 per adult (free child prices on selected dates) for half board, including return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and resort transfers. Regional flights are available from Bristol (+£69), Birmingham (+£49), Manchester (+£49), Leeds-Bradford (+£59) and Edinburgh (+£59).
Thank you to Area 47 for providing our day passes and to the Tirol Tourist Board and Thomson Lakes & Mountains for arranging our trip to Austria.