We love visiting the Stubai Valley in summer. It’s close to our home, and many of the attractions are free. Having a picnic at Klaus Äuele Kids Park tops our list mainly because we can all do what we like. Mattheus plays his heart out. I read or get a suntan. Coenraad (used to) nurse his braai fire and Radler (beer shandy). On the days when we feel more energetic and adventurous, the Alpine coaster in Mieders is great fun. It’s even possible to do all of the below in one day.
1. Picnic at Klaus Äuele Kids Park
Imagine green pastures. Imagine a cool mountain stream. Imagine mountains rising up around you. Then imagine lying on your back on a picnic blanket while the kids run wild. They can pull a raft across an Alpine pond, make mud waterways, climb, swing, slide and jump on adventure playground equipment, “zip” over a stream, and practice their balance on a slackline. Your blissful daydreaming will only be interrupted when they are hungry or thirsty.
Picnic is actually not the right word to describe what we do at Klaus Äuele in the Stubai in summer. Instead, we take our Weber and have a good old South African braai (a grill or a barbeque for the rest of you). This is allowed in a designated area next to the pond. Ducks and cows may come to inspect your braai site, but who cares as long as they don’t steal the lamb chops from the grill?
(Update, August 2017: Sadly, grilling/barbequing/braaing isn’t allowed at Klaus Äuele any longer. We found this out when a forest guard appeared and told us to put out our fire during a recent visit with family. Fortunately, our meet was cooked by then!)
Entrance to Klaus Äuele is free, although you must pay for parking, which is provided at two entrances. Buy a day ticket for €6 at the ticket machine and display it on your dashboard. Since 2015, there is also a restaurant and snack bar on site. This led to the removal of the old portable toilets, and the addition of proper toilets.
2. Walk to the Grawa Waterfall and Alm
Leave some time after your picnic at Klaus Äuele to drive a few kilometres further up the valley to the Grawa Alm and waterfall. This is definitely one of the best spots in the whole of Austria in summer to have a beer or an ice cream. But before you sit down at the Alm, walk the couple of hundred metres to the magnificent Grawa waterfall. The path, which is part of the Wildwasserweg hiking trail, was upgraded recently to make it more accessible.
A width of 85m makes the Grawa Waterfall the widest in the Eastern Alps. The water crashes down 180 metres, spraying everyone that comes too near with a fine mist which is said to have special health benefits. A wooden deck with loungers at the foot of the waterfall allows you to test this theory.
Read more: The most beautiful family hike in Austria
Honestly, I haven’t had the guts to try this. On the other hand, several of our visitors have done tandem flights and loved it. I find it just as thrilling and entertaining to watch the more adventurous glide through the air before they land in the valley near the Elfer Lift base station in Neustift. Buy a cold drink or beer and find a comfortable deck chair from where to watch the action.
Those of you who are interested in the doing rather than the watching, will be glad to know that the Stubai Valley has excellent thermal lift for paragliding. Coupled with the amazing scenery, it makes for a unforgettable Alpine experience. A number of tandem flight operators have little offices near the landing spot and the Elfer Lift. Prices begin at €85 for kids (that’s right, my cousin’s 7-year old could fly). Lift tickets to transport you to the take-off point cost an additional €8 per adult or €4 per child. There should be ample parking at the lift station.
4. Summer Tobogganing
The Mieders Alpine coaster or sommerrodelbahn (summer toboggan run) at the Serles Lift in Mieders is a big hit among children and adults seeking an adrenaline rush. After a few test runs, even I managed to speed around the corners without applying the brakes too much (a big irritation for those getting stuck behind me -:). The track is 2,8 km long and winds its way through the forest. Tickets start at €9,60 for one ride for an adult. It gets cheaper the more you go.
Make the most of your ticket by enjoying some of the other attractions on the mountain, instead of immediately making your way down the mountain on the toboggan. These include an adventure water play area for children, as well as some traditional mountain restaurants. You can also easily walk to Maria Waldrast, the highest monastery in Europe, from here.