Mainau flower island
One of the best things about living in central Switzerland is the proximity to other countries. Drive two hours in any direction and you are in France, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein or Italy. So if you want to go to Germany for the day, you easily can. I first read about Mainau Blumeninsel (flower island) two years ago when I was researching the Lake Constance area for a long weekend. We finally were able to visit this past Saturday. Open every day from sunrise to sunset and only an hour and 45 minute drive from Lucerne, visiting Mainau island is an easy day trip.
Mainau island is located on the north-western end of Lake Constance (Bodensee), just over the border in Germany. The 45-hectare island is covered in flowers, with themed gardens such as a Rhododendron Slope, Italian Rose Garden, Dahlia Garden, Hydrangea Path and Herbaceous Garden. I knew I would enjoy it just for the beautiful landscapes, but I was pleasantly surprised at how family-friendly the island is - it’s perfect for children! Right near the entrance is a huge play area, which includes a “water world” (with hanging bridges, stilt houses, beaver’s lodge and floats) and a “dwarf village” (for younger kids, with cave huts and a wooden railway). Our toddler could have easily spent the entire morning here, but we prodded her along with promises of horses, which we found at the small petting zoo. In addition to horses, the farm area had donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens and alpacas. And I was just expecting flowers!
There are lots of different walks, either along the perimeter of the island (with great views of the lake), or across the gardens and trees. At one end is the baroque castle (apparently still lived in by the family who runs the island) and church (we saw a wedding!), built in the 1730s. Only a few rooms are open for visitors, but the attached tropical house and Italian-style garden were amazing. We also had lunch nearby, at a Swedish-style restaurant (very child-friendly). Another highlight was the butterfly garden, the second-largest butterfly house in Germany. Despite the 90% humidity, we enjoyed taking photos of all the butterflies and even some turtles.
I could have easily spent longer on the island, really exploring and sitting peacefully amidst the nature. But alas, an outing with a toddler is never relaxing and she needed to keep moving. If we lived closer, I feel like we’d be here once a month!