Austria’s Salzkammergut is a picture-perfect region of lakes and mountains near Salzburg. Even if you only have one day to visit this region it’s still possible to experience some of its very best views. Read on for our guide to an easy and accessible family day out on Wolfgangsee, Austria.
St Gilgen, once home to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, is the town where the Wolfgangseeschifffarht, the ferry across the lake, departs from. The ferry timings are published online. It’s worth checking in advance to allow yourself time to wander around St Gilgen or to avoid hanging around too long. It’s easy to pick up your tickets from the kiosk at the ferry terminal. Once on board, the views from the ferry are stunning, with mountains reflected in the crystal-clear waters of the lake. The boat can get crowded in the height of summer, so it’s worth being at the front of the queue as you walk on board to get on to find the best seat for your family, whether that’s to enjoy a spot in the sun or shade. There is a bar on the boat and the journey time across to St Wolfgang is just long enough for a drink.
On disembarking the ferry in St Wolfgang walk a short way across the road to the Schafbergbahn terminal where you’ll jump on a small train that will take you up the mountain. Again, you can buy your tickets at the kiosk. If you check your times online it’s possible to plan your ferry to arrive in good time to catch a train and plan your journey back too. We didn’t have to wait too long for our train.
The mountain train is a charming experience. Bundle onto the wooden bench seats and enjoy the views back to the lake and across the flower-filled meadows as the train trundles up the mountain. Hikers on the mountain paths are stopped in their tracks as the train passes by.
At the top of the Schafberg you have the choice to stretch your legs a lot or a little. There is access to lovely hiking on the mountain on well-marked paths. In fact, you can buy a one-way train ticket and walk all the way down if you want to.
Our multi-generational family group of siblings, cousins and grandparents had lunch at the top. It’s a short, but steep walk up to the Hotel Scafbergspitze where we chose to pick up light snacks and drinks from the kiosk next to the main restaurant’s terrace. It’s possible to stay at this hotel which sits at an altitude of 1783m above the town of St Wolfgang.
Fog rolled in, along with a drop in temperature, while we ate our lunch of sausages and goulasch. The views weren’t quite what we’d hoped for though the lake turned a bright turquoise colour in the light. The kids enjoyed the change in atmosphere. It felt other-wordly to be in the clouds.
Salzburg and the Salzkammergut
We timed our train back down the mountain just right, with 20 minutes to spare before catching the ferry back across the lake to St Gilgen. This gave us time for an ice cream and a splash-about in a fountain while we waited. We finished our day off with a swim in the lake near our apartment, enjoying warmer temperatures than we’d experienced at the top of the mountain!
Visiting the Wolfgangsee by boat and train is the perfect way to experience the best of the Salzkammergut in one day. The only problem is that your one-day taster will leave you wanting to see more!
My grandparents lived in Salzburg when I was growing up so I’ve been lucky enough to have visited this area many times. On our most recent visit in July 2019 we were staying in an apartment near Mondsee, a town on the neighbouring lake of Mondsee, and had the use of cars. It’s possible to visit Wolfgangsee on a day trip from Salzburg. If you don’t have access to a car you can catch a public bus or join one of the many tourist tours of the area.
We visited Mondsee and Wolfgangsee as part of a European Interrail holiday. We travelled by train from London to Salzburg, then went on to stay in St Anton for four days before finishing our holiday in Paris. You can read more about taking a family Interrail trip here.
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