You might not know this but my parents actually live in Austria. I’m not Austrian, they just retired out there about seven years ago when my youngest was just a few months old. They fell in love with the Kärnten area after we all went on a ski holiday one year to a town called Bad Kleinkirchheim. They have the best life out there ‘playing’ with all their retired friends where everyday appears to be just like the weekend.
They spent years searching for the right spot in Austria, they looked at old houses which needed ‘work’, they looked at new builds, but couldn’t find what they were looking for so they built a house on their dream plot overlooking Millstatt am See. As timing had it, it was the same time we found our land and decided to build a house in the UK too.
So by default we’ve spent the last seven years taking ourselves on holiday to their home and chilling out in the mountains. The first time we visited our little man was only 7-months old (he’s now seven) and since we’ve seen all the seasons in Austria. We love to ski but our favourite time to visit is definitely the summer. Who knew that the temperatures can get up to 40 degrees at the height of the season and the lakes are warm enough to swim in.
From what we’ve seen the Austrians love to spend the majority of their time outdoors, they’re incredibly active. This area of Austria is certainly set up to keep you busy in the summer whilst enjoying the best of what nature has to offer.
As I mentioned it can get warm here, but I guess like with any European holiday there can be the grey days, but there are a few indoor gems to keep you entertained whatever the weather throws at you.
Getting to Austria from the UK
We’ve tackled the journey from all angles now; we’ve flown to Salzburg and hired a car, we’ve flown and taken the train to Spittal an der Drau, we’ve flown to Munich and taken the train. We’ve also driven through France and then Germany whilst spending a few days in The Black Forest and the other way around going to France and then Italy before driving up into Austria. We’ve also camped in our Bell tent on the way there and back. There are some lovely campsites in Austria, Italy and France which we use, but that’s for another blog post.
11 Things to do in Spittal an der Drau, Millstatt am See and the general Kärnten Area
Our kids have spent seven years trying out all the local activities here and there are certainly the favourites which we go back to time and time again, they remain fun no matter which age they are. If you’re looking for things to do when you’re enjoying your summer holiday in Millstatt am See, Spittal an der Drau, Bad Kleinkirchheim and Kärnten area in general, here are some of our favourite hanging spots.
1. Chill out at a Lake Beach (or as they’re locally referred to the StrandBad)
The beaches are plenty around Millstätter See, our favourites spots include Dellach and Millstatt am See. They’re generally good value and no more than 10 Euros a person for the whole day. The two I just mentioned both have cafes for food, drinks and most importantly ice cream.
Tip: At the Millstatt am See spot you can enter for free before 8am or after 6pm, especially handy if you fancy a quick cool down at the end of the day.
2. Go up a Mountain
If you thought mountains were just for winter then you’re very much mistaken. They’re awesome in the summer, there are huts open for lunch (and schnapps). You can live all your ‘Sound of Music’ fantasies out as you run through the mountain meadows singing at the top of your voice with only the cows watching on. With options to either walk up or take the cable car up and then walk back down, or if you’re feeling energetic walk both ways.
Our favourites to head up are Bad Kleinkirchheim (we go up at the Kaiserburgbahn gondola) and Goldeck (in summer they normally only have one gondola open). The Goldeck has a fun tire slide and a new-this-year cafe at the top overlooking the lake.
At Bad Kleinkirchheim we get the cable car up to the top to take in the views, then take it back down to the middle station for lunch where there is a fun kids playground built into the hillside. Then after we’re refreshed we like to take the leisurely hour long walk back down to the bottom of the slopes (to follow the path you look for the Austrian flags painted on the trees). We walked down from the top station once, and it took us about 3-hours with the kids in tow which meant lots of moaning too, the clue in that statement was ‘once’.
Tip: You can even take your swimmers and make the most of the thermal baths at the bottom of the gondola.
Or if you’re driving also check out Millstätter Hutte where you can park and enjoy a 1-2 hour leisurely walk up to the hut.
3. Boat Ride Around the Lake
There are quite a lot of lakes in the local area, but if it’s slightly overcast or even sunny a 2.5 hour boat ride around the whole Millstätter See is a lovely few hours spent. You can also hop on and off along the way. They have light lunch, snacks and drinks on board.
4. Bike Rides
There are a few bike hire places around the lake, you can even hire an e-bike if you wanted an easier ride. But you can hop on a bike and ride all the way around Millstätter See, or you can jump on the boat for a cheats ride back. (it’s hard work with the kids in a trailer on the back but not impossible). Or head up into the hills for a tougher ride. There are plenty of crazy people, my Dad included, who like to ride up to the Millstätter Hutte.
5. Go Mining for Garnet Rocks
We only discovered Grantium in Radenthein this past summer. It was such hard work but the kids loved taking a hammer to the rock wall to mine for gems. You do get a bit of gold rush fever trying to look for the best gems. I lost count of the amount of times mum kept on saying… ‘just five more minutes’.
6. Visit Italy for Pizza and Ice Cream
Spittal is only an hour from the town of Tarvisio in Italy. So whenever we visit the kids beg to go to Italy for pizza and ice-cream because Italy does the best of both, right? You can’t really go wrong, so I won’t recommend just one restaurant in town, we’ve tried quite a few and all have been good. There is also big clothes market and some tourist shops.
We only discovered this year that there are actually two mains streets not just one. So make sure you take a walk around both.
Tip: The supermarkets here are great for picking up some local produce (cheaper than Austria we’ve found) thus we always stock up.
7. Eat Schnitzel and Keizersmarren
I’ve been a veggie since I was 13 but the husband and my kids inform me Austria does the best Schnitzel. It’s quite often as big as your head and comes with a bucket load of fries.
Then if you have any room left you should certainly follow it up with a dessert of Keizersmarren. It’s a like a smushed up pancake and the best ones have raisins in it and come with apple sauce in my opinion. You’ll have to try them all and let me know your favourite.
8. Go to a Traditional Buschenschenk Farm to Eat
In Austria there are farmers who rear and grow all their own produce and then serve it in their own restaurants even down to the cider. They’re normally really rustic and with a limited but good menu.
My parents drive almost an hour away from their home to Stockerhütte hut in Mallnitz for their ribs. Be forewarned that you need to order the day before you’re planning on going and ask for a seat downstairs. You can have the other food on the menu without preordering though. The owner is a really jolly man with some funny jokes and makes you feel really welcome. When we were there last, their kids were entertaining everyone with their accordion and singing at the bar, such a treat. Buschenschenke Höfler in Millstatt is a bit closer and has a lovely views over the lake.
9. Get Some me Time at the Spa
Quite a few years ago they opened a spa called The Badehaus on the Millstätter See. It has a well earned reputation now of being the best in the area. I’ve been lucky to visit a few times and I can recommend the facials and pedicures, with views over the lake you’re certainly spoilt. If you’re into that kind of thing, they also have a rudy nudy swim spot on the lake from the spa (it’s not my cup of tea so I don’t speak from experience). The pool and main swim area are now for those with a swimsuit firmly on their person.
Tip: they have a really nice restaurant at The Badehaus too, so stay for lunch or dinner.
10. Stop for a coffee and people watch
It all depends what kind of drink you’re after my parents really like Cafe Claus in Seeboden town square for a coffee and cake plus my kids are quite partial to the ice-cream there. If you’re there on a Thursday morning you can join in on their weekly English club for anyone wanting to speak English. It’s normally teaming with the local expats and Austrians practicing their English on the native speakers. They’re a friendly bunch so do say hi.
UPDATE: English club has moved to the wine bar next to Hotel Ertl just up the road.
If you’re after a drink-drink then check out the KAP 4613 it’s a floating pyramid bar on Millstätter See; in the summer they cover the outside deck with sand and in the winter wood chips and they light fires to keep you warm.
11. Swim Outside at the Outdoor Pools or Freibad
Germany and Austria are blessed to have so many outdoor pools, they’re generally 50m pools, have grassy areas to sit on, kids pool, play areas and cafes. So you can comfortably hang out for the whole day. We like the swimming pools in Kolbnitz and Drautal Perle in Spittal. We take our pop up tent to the one in Kolbnitz for a bit of extra shade, although there are plenty of trees to sit under.
Tip: If you’re going to be visiting lots of places it can be worthwhile to buy a Kärnten card as it gets you discounts and free entry into tourist spots.