We spent last weekend at Lake Walensee on the border of the cantons of St. Gallen and Glarus to try out the largest theme playground in Switzerland. I was looking forward to all the more because we have not yet explored this region in eastern Switzerland.
DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Heidiland Tourism for sponsoring this trip. All opinions expressed here are my own.
The “Spielerlebnis Walensee” concept presents six themed playgrounds on the shores of Lake Walensee, which are connected not only by the local ferry line but also by an adventure game: a story whose secrets you must reveal together with the main characters.
The main character of the story is the girl Mara, who comes on holiday to Walensee with her mother Hanna (like yeah, such a nice coincidence 😉) and her younger sister Mia. Here she meets Jonas and his dad, Stefano. After a summer storm, they pull a bottle with a message from the past and a map from the water of the lake. And their adventure to solve the mystery of a sunken ghost ship begins. Will you help them?
How to get to the Walensee
Surrounded by mountain peaks, Walensee Lake is located southeast of Zurich and is easily accessible by car or public transportation. The train takes you directly to Unterterzen (from Zurich it takes about an hour, with a change in Ziegelbrücke), the ferry dock is directly opposite the train station (less than 5 minutes on foot). If you are driving by car, take the A3 motorway and take exit 47-Murg and continue to Unterterzen.
Day 1: Unterterzen – Weesen – Quinten – Murg
We went to Walensee in not very favorable weather. The forecast promised a very rainy day. Finally, St. Peter stood over us and it rained, either when we were in a restaurant or on a ferry. The clumps of clouds were still rolling on the hillside above the lake, but at least it had given the purpose of our stay, unraveling the mystery of Walensee and the sunken ship the right atmosphere.
On the ferry from Unterterzen
At 9:50 we set off from Unterterzen in the direction of Weesen. Already on the ferry, we found the first clue and the boys immediately rushed to fill the empty fields according to the text they found on the ferry. But before that, according to the instructions from the enclosed sheet of paper, we had to fold a boat. The kind of paper boat you folded a thousand times in your childhood. (Here’s a tip: keep your paper boat handy, best in your jacket pocket.)
After an hour of sailing on the lake, we arrived in Weesen, where the first playground awaited us. Here we had to pull out a paper boat, fold it into the desired shape, place it on the tray under a metal bottle and place the arrow on the desired symbol. If you now look through the bottle opening, you will see the place where you can find the hint.
Honestly, I was a little afraid of what we were going to do in this little town three hours before we left for the next playground in Quinten. Especially when it rains. But the playground itself was a nice surprise, and overall we spent perhaps an hour on the lake promenade. Then we went for a walk through the town (I recommend climbing up to the church) and spent the rest of the time in a pleasant restaurant until we left.
Quinten is a car-free village (or rather a settlement) on the shore of Walensee. So everything is brought here by ferry, including cows that are then grazing on hills in the summer. In addition, Quinten is known for its mild climate, so that not only grapevine is grown here, but you will also find fig, kiwi and banana trees.
We went along the “Costa del Sol” to the Au village, where we were supposed to take another ferry.
On the way, besides another playground, we encountered a meadow with a barbecue area. This official Schweizer Familie grill pit is located just before you enter the forest. Surprisingly there is no wood- you have to walk about 300 meters to the nearest farmhouse.
We took another ferry from Quinten to the Murg-West. From here it was about half a kilometer to the next playground, this time dedicated to the theme of the former spinning mill. The playground is located near the camp and the beach and I think in summer it must be absolutely great here.
In Murg, we could choose to go back to Unterterzen by train or walk. When we can choose to hang around for an hour and wait for the train to depart, or to hike three kilometers along the lakeshore, we usually go for the second option 😉
In Unterterzen, the last playground on the first day of our adventure awaited us. From here it was a short walk to our hotel.
Hotel Marina Walensee
Back in Unterterzen, we stayed overnight at the stylish Hotel Marina Walensee, where we had a comfy family suite overlooking the lake. The location of the hotel is very convenient because it’s so close to many mountain resorts (we have not been yet), including Flumserberg (which will definitely be on my bucket list for the next year, especially after reading this post by my colleague Tanya from Swiss Family Fun), whose cable car is almost vis a vis from the hotel, only about a 10 minute walk.
Day 2: Unterterzen – Walenstadt – Mols
The next morning we had a little more friendly weather. The sunglasses in my hair are proof that I even expected to see the sun. A few sunbeams popped out, but for about two seconds before it began to drip slightly.
Since we became fans of the Donnstig-Jass TV show (for those who do not know Jass – this is a Swiss national card game) and one broadcast was from Walenstadt, I was looking forward to seeing here. But first, we had to find a playground with another part of the puzzle.
From the lake, you can get to the town center along the Seestrasse street (logically, right) and it is a 15-minutes walk.
At the end of our Walensee adventure, we had the last playground in Mols. From the dock, you have to head left and it is about 5 minutes walk. Here you will find a place to roast and in nice weather, you can swim in the lake.
If you solve a secret word, you can send it to the email address on the map and with luck you can win a prize.
What is important to know?
In order to unravel the mystery of Lake Walensee with your kids, you buy the “Entdecker-Set” (Explorer Set). With the Explorer Set, you have everything you need to unravel the mystery of the Walensee. In the cool Gymbag, you will find the booklet with the story and a treasure map with detailed instructions. As one day is not enough to visit all the playgrounds, there are also two children’s day passes for the Walensee ferry in the Small Explorer Set (for 19,90CHF). The Big Explorer Set (for 39,50CHF)* also includes a day pass for an adult.
*SGKB (St. Galler Kantonalbank) clients receive a 20% discount on the Explorer sets on site.
A daily pass for an adult normally costs 29 CHF, so it is definitely worth buying in a big set.
Here comes a little snag. Since one day is not enough for the adventure game (although maybe it is, it would be a terrible rush), you will need one more day pass for the adult for the next day.
Where can you buy the Explorer Set?
You can order the Explorer sets via firstname.lastname@example.org for shipping costs CHF 7.00 (Economy). You can buy it directly on the ferry or at Heidiland Tourismus branches (branches and opening hours here) or in kiosk/restaurants by the playgrounds.
Routenvorschlag – route suggestions according to ferry schedules
The suggested routes can be downloaded from the Spielerlebnis Walensee website. These differ depending on whether you set out for the adventure from Monday to Saturday, or on Sundays and other holidays.
The beginning of the story
Before you go on your adventure, you can hear the beginning of the story on the website. But I note that the recording is in the Swiss dialect. However, a transcript of the story (in standard German) can also be found in the booklet that is part of the Explorer Set.
What else is good to know:
- Spielerlebnis Walensee can basically be played all year round. In the winter months, however, the ships operate only from Murg to Quinten. Therefore, for a full experience, a visit between April and October is recommended.
- If you are 2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 6 and 16 (each wants to have a backpack) and spend 2 days at Walensee, it will cost you: 2 x 39,50CHF for backpacks + 2 x 29 CHF for the day passes for the next day, 137 CHF.
- The shipping company in Walensee does not accept SBB Halb-tax cards or day-passes.
- Every first Saturday of the month, children between 6-16 years accompanied by a paying adult are a day pass free of charge.
The total for the Explorer Sets and day passes may seem very high on the one hand, but on the other hand, it is less than 80 francs per day for the whole family. So much (and if not more) a day trip for the whole family by cable car to the mountains would cost. In the summer months, in addition to unlimited lake cruises, you can also enjoy great swimming on the free beaches and spend two days at Walensee filled with great experiences.
I also liked the concept of “Routenvorschlag”, the route suggests. You do not have to spend time searching in timetables and calculating whether everything will work out in time. With you have a well-prepared schedule, in which you have enough time not only to play but also to get to know the places and for lunch either in the restaurant or at grill pits.