PortAventura: Top tips for the best adrenaline adventure in Spain's Ferrari Land
Spain's Ferrari Land throws up thrills for all ages in PortAventura.
Set the mood
Feeling more than a bit sick, I watch as the 12-person 'coaster accelerates from zero to 180kmph in less than five seconds. What on earth am I letting myself in for? The Red Force ride (pictured, right) at Ferrari Land in Spain's PortAventura may only last 16 seconds, but it manages to reach a height of 112 metres (almost 370 feet) within that time. It's both the highest and fastest rollercoaster of its kind in Europe - most definitely not for the faint-hearted. With long queues and the sun beating down, I was happy to stay where I was on terra firma - however, my teenage sons were chomping at the bit and urged me to rise to the challenge. So here I am, terrified. But on the plus side, the ride is over before I even realise what's happened...
PortAventura/Ferrari Land is located on the main train line from Barcelona down the Costa Dorada. The train stops at the theme park, so it's really accessible from both the city and any of the resort towns along the way, making a day or overnight trip a very enjoyable possibility.
Consider staying over at the parks. A selection of hotels on site should suit all pockets; we stayed at Hotel Callaghan in the Gold River area (which is only accessible to guests and is like being in the Wild West). A delicious buffet breakfast and dinner was included, as well as express passes for PortAventura rides - meaning you get to skip long queues (Express passes cost between €33 and €58).
How it works
As theme parks go, Ferrari Land - which opened as part of PortAventura in 2017 - is quite parent friendly. PortAventura's theme and water parks are divided into different zones cast as geographical regions, and Ferrari Land is pretty much given over to all things car-related, so the varying landscapes makes for a more diverse waiting experience (and believe me, you will do a lot of waiting). Either have a drink or simply find a bench in the shade to hang out. The food and drink is not exactly cheap (our benchmark is always a Magnum ice-cream, which costs €3.30), but there is a wide variety available and better still, loads of picnic spots and fountains everywhere with cool drinking water.
Much to my adrenaline-loving sons' amusement, I eschewed the Thrill Tower Free Fall and the Thrill Tower Bounce Back (I can't even begin to imagine it) for the bumper cars (throwback to my youth) and the 'Rapids'. These are similar to the dodgems, except the rubber bumpers see round boats bounce off 'cliff faces' as they rush haphazardly through 'raging rapids' and passengers get splashed or soaked, depending on where they are sitting. Bystanders get to shoot water at oncoming boats, too.
Get me there
PortAventura sits between Salou and Tarragona on Spain's Costa Dorada. Getting there couldn't be easier with daily flights from various Irish airports to Barcelona and Reus with Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.ie). A one-day combined pass for PortAventura and Ferrari Land costs €55/€47pp (adults/children). A Ferrari Land day pass costs €22/€18 (multi-day passes are comparatively cheaper). B&B at the Gold River Hotel costs from €73pp per night. For more info, visit portaventuraworld.com/en.
GLITCHES: Regular express passes do not cover Ferrari Land, where a similar wristband costs €20pp and can only be used once per ride. Without it, you can wait up to 2.5 hours for the Red Force ride during peak times.