At the urging of several friends, we finally (FINALLY!) visited the beautiful island of Mainau. It’s an amazing place full of flowers, gardens, butterflies, and more. But, be warned: you won’t want to leave!
Mainau is located close to Konstanz on the Bodensee in southern Germany. For some reason, my GPS couldn’t find Mainau. I just set it to Konstanz and followed the well-posted signs once we got close. Of course, I found the coordinates after I returned home here – ha! The island is accessible either by parking in the lot on the mainland and walking over a bridge or by ferry from a port closer to Konstanz.
Though the island does have a few hills here and there, it’s relatively flat and pram-friendly. Bikes are prohibited, but children can bring balance bikes or scooters. In the summer, wagons (handcars) are available free of charge from the main entrance.
For the little ones, the best part of Mainau is the gigantic water playground. I knew this in advance, so we saved it for last. I never would have been able to convince boys to look at the lilies when they knew barges and bathing suits were waiting for them!
Instead, we hit up the Butterfly House first. The building is shaped like a – wait for it – butterfly, and visitors enter through a gigantic caterpillar. The inside is jungle-like with high humidity, tropical fruits, and densely packed greenery. If you’re gentle and patient, you might even be able to get a butterfly to rest on your hand!
We then trudged on past some ginormous trees to the castle on the far end of the island. A cafe and small chapel are accessible to the public, but the rest of the palace is still the private residence of the Bernadotte family.
A lovely rose garden sprawls out next to the castle. I asked the boys if they wanted to explore the roses or not – I was surprised to hear an enthusiastic, “yes!”
After a satisfactory amount of sniffing, we moved on to the Italian and Mediterranean gardens. I was lost in dreamy anticipation of our upcoming Italy trip, wondering if the landscape looked at all similar to Tuscany. Their interest waning, the boys just wanted to watch people jumping off their boats for a swim in the Bodensee.
As I was reassuring them that lunch would come “soon,” we happened upon the petting zoo and pony rides. T-Rex and Screech went in with Doc Sci to pet the goats, shrieking with delight when they found a baby one.
Side note: I noticed lots of children playing inside the goat pen without shoes. Um, seriously!? I get that Europeans want to be all earthy in the summer, but poop pellets between your toes? G-ROSS!!
Unfortunately, both boys chickened out when it came time to ride the ponies. I knew they would like it, but neither would.. pony up.Just as a major hunger meltdown threatened to bring down the house, we made it to the playground. This area of the island is THE point of Mainau’s existence according to little boys, the entire reason they will put up with flowers, butterflies and other girly things.
Though the playground is quite extensive and features many fun playthings for children of all ages, the main draw is the water area, complete with wooden rafts that children can pilot around the murky green water (let’s not think about where those children’s feet have been…).
I highly recommend bringing a bathing suit, towels, a sack lunch, and a large picnic blanket. Spread out, and relax! If not for the two hour drive home, we would’ve lounged ’til sundown.
Speaking of sunset, admission is half off starting at 5pm. Prices are not cheap for adults, but children 12 and under are free! Along with the privilege of enjoying the beautiful gardens, I was pleased to see that ticket sales went toward maintaining plentiful, clean bathrooms throughout island. I saw several baby changing rooms stocked with complimentary diapers and wipes. Though we didn’t use them, clothes dryers are provided free of charge for those families who forgot to bring swimsuits.After I got over the initial sticker shock, I thought the price was fair, considering the amount of upkeep that is required for the extensive grounds. Of course, it’s best to stay the entire day to get your money’s worth!
If forced to find something negative about our experience at Mainau, I’d have to admit that since the island is so beautiful it’s naturally very crowded. Expect to share your day with hordes of other eager visitors.