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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Tralee, Ireland

Written by Shandley McMurray
Jan 13, 2020

It's hard to beat Tralee's location, set deep in the foothills of the sprawling Slieve Mish Mountains in Ireland's southwest. At its doorstep lie luxurious sandy beaches, while within its borders is a vibrant town steeped in history. The "old" part of town, parts of which date back to its Norman roots in 1216, are lined with elegant Georgian buildings that transport visitors back to the 18th century. The more modern "Square" lies in juxtaposition, featuring large open space and shops that lend a cosmopolitan feel.

Like Dingle, a smaller town also located in the spectacular Dingle Peninsula, Tralee is often used as a base for exploring the impeccable countryside beyond its borders - the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park, and Iveragh Peninsula are easy to reach from this central locale.

With a bevy of things to do in town, including visiting a world-class museum, lounging on a beach, or wandering through a wetlands center, Tralee is a must-see to add to every Irish itinerary. Plan your sightseeing with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Tralee.

1. Kerry County Museum

Kerry County Museum | Lester Gibson / photo modified

A relatively new museum (the first stage was opened in 1991), Kerry County Museum is the most popular tourist attraction in town for good reason. The 1,750-square-meter space is filled with interesting exhibits highlighting the history and culture of County Kerry.

It's here that you'll find life-sized dioramas intricately depicting the life of those who lived in Kerry from its beginnings right up to the 20th century. Archaeology Hall is a treat for our inner detective. This unique and fascinating area uses medieval artifacts (found during the excavation of Tralee's Dominican Priory) to show visitors how modern-day tools and technology are used to reveal secrets of the past.

The award-winning museum offers plenty of kid-friendly activities to get even the fussiest of little ones interested. Dress up as a famous explorer in the Antarctica Exhibit or wear a historic costume while strolling the reconstructed streets and houses in the Medieval Experience. The museum has made this exhibit so realistic, you'll even experience the sounds and smells of that era.

Address: Ashe Memorial Hall, Denny Street, Tralee

Official site: http://kerrymuseum.ie/

2. Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre

Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre | Julie (thanks for 9 million views) / photo modified

Tralee Bay Wetlands Centre isn't your typical wetlands center. It boats an impressive nature reserve with plenty of paths to wander (or cycle) while looking at the Irish wildlife and natural plant species you've come to see. These paths even have a few pieces of outdoor exercise equipment.

In addition to these, the center also boasts a café, a 20-meter-high viewing and observation tower with spectacular scenic views, and numerous hides to hole up in while bird spotting.

What puts this wetlands center above and beyond its competition are the added perks, like guided nature boat tours and the fun water activities (pedalo and rowing boats, water zorbing, and a climbing wall) available to guests on the weekends.

This refreshing attraction balances tranquility and activity perfectly, while teaching guests invaluable lessons about the environment and surrounding natural habitat. Those traveling with kids will have a tough time tearing them away.

Insider's tip: Enjoy a meal in the Ballyseedy Café, where you can enjoy tempting treats and a stunning view.

Address: Ballyard, Tralee

Official site: https://www.traleebaywetlands.org/

3. Tralee Town Park

The Rose of Tralee statue, Tralee Town Park | Ron Cogswell / photo modified

Located in the heart of Tralee, the town park is a welcome respite for locals and visitors alike. As you'd expect in a town called Tralee, its park boasts an impressive and vast rose garden, which is home to 35 varieties of the flower covering three acres of land. The rose garden also houses the Rose Wall, which consists of large glass plaques honoring each contestant in the Rose of Tralee International Festival since its beginnings in 1959.

With bike and walking paths, a sensory garden, a stone sculpture (of Mary O'Connor, the original Rose of Tralee), well-manicured lawns, and a kids' play area, there are plenty of things to do in this 35-acre gem. A picnic should be one of them!

Each year, the park hosts the Tralee Garden Festival, usually in mid-June. This three-day event includes everything from a Teddy Bear picnic for kids to gardening demonstrations, garden tours, and concerts.

Address: Town Park, Denny Street, Tralee

4. Aqua Dome

If you want your kids to love you forever, take them to Aqua Dome. Under its glass canopy lies everything you'll need for an unforgettably fun day out.

Looking for a wave pool? They've got one. Craving a surfing experience? You can do that, too. Want to relax in a lazy river? Yep, there's one of those as well. And that's not all. The amazing aqua dome also features indoor river rapids, a sky-high flume, a water fall to plunge down, a children's pool, and whirlpool spas.

Not a fan of getting wet? There's an 18-hole mini putt course to help while away the time. Or you can head to the gym to get fit while the kids splash about.

When you've had enough of hearing the happy screams of children, head to the Vitality Spa for the ultimate pampering experience. It's an adults-only venue, so rest assured that tranquility will be found here.

Insider's tip: Expect to be waterlogged, as the kids won't ever want to leave.

Address: Dan Spring Road, Tralee

Official site: https://aquadome.ie/

5. St. John's Church

St. John's Church, Tralee

Built on the site of a chapel dating back to 1780, the beautiful Gothic revival St. John's Church was renovated over 10 years and reopened in 1960. The recent revamp resulted in a more updated, modern take on stained-glass windows. The most famous window, though, is the Great Sanctuary Window, which dates back to the church's beginnings in 1861. It features Christ, St. John the Baptist and the Twelve Apostles.

Today, the church's tall, elegant spire reaches high above its bustling streets, a beacon guiding Tralee's residents to its well-groomed grounds in the center of town.

Two large marble angels welcome visitors to this iconic cathedral, and the community inside is both welcoming and kind.

Insider's tip: The church has released a new visitor's guide booklet filled with a detailed history of the building from the mid-19th century to today. It's worth a look.

Address: St. John's Church, Lower Castle Street, Tralee

Official site: http://stjohns.ie/

6. Blennerville Windmill

Blennerville Windmill

Charge your camera and have your phone at the ready-the Blennerville Windmill offers views you won't want to forget. Ireland's largest working windmill, this distinctive building is captivating and a mere five minutes southwest of Tralee. Its bright white cone and giant blades move slowly against a backdrop of lush rolling hills, lulling passersby into a sense of calm.

For the best photo, stand farther away, on the bank of Tralee Bay. This is where the town officially meets the Dingle peninsula, and it offers the most picturesque view of a grandiose stone bridge, the windmill, and its astounding natural background.

Although the windmill itself is a worthwhile attraction, there's more on display at this pretty site. The Kerry Model Railway, a miniature replica of the Tralee Dingle narrow-gauge, will delight the kid in all of us. Also, the visitor center houses an informative Emigration Display, outlining the migration of citizens from Blennerville (County Kerry's main port of emigration) during the Great Famine.

History buffs will enjoy the center's display of unique equipment (agricultural, trade, and transport-related) from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Insider's tip: Be sure to climb to the top when you visit. In addition to a fantastic vista, you'll be rewarded with a fascinating look into the complex machinery used to make the sails turn.

Address: Windmill Lane, Blennerville

Official site: www.blennerville-windmill.ie/

7. Ardfert Cathedral

The ruins of Ardfert Cathedral

Nine kilometers northwest of Tralee lie the ruins of Ardfert Cathedral. The cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century (with parts of its walls built up to a century earlier) was erected on a site where St. Brendan the Navigator constructed a 6th-century monastery. Today, the cathedral is home to three medieval churches, including battlements, which were added sometime around the 15th century.

Ardfert's most impressive features include the grandiose Romanesque doorway in its western wall and multiple lancet windows, all of which are in impeccable condition considering their age. Other items have been moved into the only part of the cathedral to be updated and maintained-the south transept, which is being used as the main entrance and houses the visitor center. On display here are intricately carved grave slabs, stone carvings, and a gargoyle.

Address: Ballyheigue Road, Ardfert

8. Banna Strand

Path through the dunes at Banna Strand

A visit to Banna Strand will heal what ails you. Well, it will at least combat the stress and strains of everyday life. This sandy beauty has been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education as a Blue Flag beach for its cleanliness, safety, and enhanced efforts in the fields of environmental awareness and sustainable development. Basically, that means you're ensured a top-rated beach experience at this luxurious spot.

Technically not in Tralee, which sits 11 kilometers away, Banna Strand is a popular place to surf, body board, and windsurf. Families also love its shallow waters and the sand dunes, which rise up to 40 feet from the soft shore.

During low tide, even more beach is exposed, allowing walkers to traverse even farther towards the sparkling azure waters.

Insider's tip: Grab a takeaway from one of Tralee's local restaurants and enjoy a picnic on the beach. There aren't many shops or amenities nearby.

9. Slieve Mish Mountains

Slieve Mish Mountains

A highlight of the Dingle Peninsula, the Slieve Mish Mountains are a captivating sight. One of the larger peaks, Barnanageehy rises nearly 561 meters above nearby Tralee. This area is a hiker's paradise, filled with moderate to challenging treks and supreme vistas from the summit of these spectacular mountains.

The range consists of mostly sandstone and runs 19 kilometres from east to west through County Kerry. On its northern side, hikers can see straight across Tralee Bay, while those who trek on the southern side will be captivated by the vibrant blue waters of Dingle Bay.

While some of the Slieve Mish mountains extend up to 600 meters high, these beasts tend to live closer to the east end of the range. The farther west you go, the smaller they become, looking more like hills and lowlands as you get closer to Dingle.

For those who don't care for heights or aren't fans of a vigorous hike, the dark, craggy indents of this stellar range can be well viewed from the road and various fields within the area.

10. Ballyseedy Wood

Blooming wild garlic in Ballyseedy Wood

Deep in the heart of the tiny village of Ballyseedy lies an impressively tranquil and magical spot. A mere three kilometers southeast of Tralee, Ballyseedy Woods is a place where imaginations bloom.

The ancient Ballyseedy Wood Walk trail was created for Sir Edward Denny in the 16th century. Today, it leads modern day walkers through a historic woodland peppered with 22 varieties of native trees.

Surrounded by magnificent trees featuring warped trunks, giant knots, and overarching branches, it's easy to get lost in a reverie in this wonderland. This is a place where you'd expect the trees to break into song or a Hobbit to pop into view. It's charming, beautiful, and a little bit eerie on a dark and blustery day.

Insider's tip: If you look closely, you'll see remnants of stone buildings from the 19th century.

11. Attend the Rose of Tralee International Festival

Each August, Tralee is packed with visitors clamoring to witness the infamous Rose of Tralee International Festival. It's become so large since its meager beginnings in 1959 that it's now second to St. Patrick's Day in terms of its flair, enthusiasm, and popularity. Named after a beloved 19th-century Irish ballad about Mary, a woman so beautiful she was referred to as the Rose of Tralee, the festival is essentially a beauty pageant.

Today, the entertainment extends far beyond the pageant itself. Contestants come from each county in Ireland, as well as those of Irish descent from all over the globe. The excitement lasts for five days, with plenty of festivities to experience within town including, a circus, fun fair, marching band, fireworks, dancing, fashion show, and plenty of Irish jigs. The parade, during which the contestants are presented while rolling through the streets upon floats, is not to be missed.

Official site: https://www.roseoftralee.ie/

12. Rattoo Round Tower

Rattoo Round Tower

About 22 kilometers north of Tralee, near the village of Ballyduff, sits the unmissable Rattoo Round Tower. The word "rattoo" translates to northern ring fort.

A tall stone tower topped by a dramatic, pointed cone roof, this iconic structure dates back to 1100. Although not much is known about its origins, the building is thought to have been built as a monastery and founded by Bishop Lughach (one of the first Christian evangelists in the area). Considering its age, the tower is remarkably preserved, with only the roof having been restored.

Surrounded by the impressive stone walls native to this region, the tower is neighbored by the ruins of a small church. It's thought to date back to the 15th century and was built in part using stones from an ancient church that lay in the same area.

While you're here, visit Rattoo Abbey. Originally founded as a hospital in 1200, this now ruined spot was later used as a monastery.

Insider's tip: Search for the intricate carving of the sheela-na-gig. This unattractive figure of a female can be found on the north window and faces the inner tower. These symbols were often used as a form of protection in places like churches and castles. This one remains the only example in an Irish round tower.

Where to Stay in Tralee for Sightseeing

Tralee is large enough to provide a bevy of hotel options to suit every budget. With only a handful of luxury options, you'll have a ton of places to choose from in the mid-range and budget categories. We recommend you consider a few of these delightful places, all of which are close to Tralee's best tourist attractions.

  • Luxury Hotels: The warm, elegant rooms of the Ballygarry House Hotel & Spa are designed to calm even the most stressed of visitors. Located in a pristine mountain setting, the luxurious hotel also boasts the impressive Nádúr Spa. Ever wanted to stay in a castle? Here's your chance. Ballyseede Castle hotel offers guests a chance to lap up that royal feeling while staying on their sprawling, 30-acre estate. From climbing a grand staircase to horseback riding through a sprawling garden, there's nothing like it.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: Close to St. John's church, The Rose Hotel is beautiful inside. It also boasts two restaurants and a spa, sauna, and fitness center. The Ashe Hotel adds contemporary charm to the historic downtown. Its restaurant is so popular, locals come to enjoy everything from coffee to a hearty dinner. Traveling with kids? You'll all love Manor West Hotel. In addition to gorgeous rooms, they offer a playroom, bunkbeds, and supervised movie nights.
  • Budget Hotels: Perfectly positioned in the center of Tralee, The Grand Hotel is a town staple. Clean yet basic, the historic rooms are both comfortable and modern. Seán Óg's bed and breakfast is small but welcoming. A family-run B&B with plenty of charm, Manor Lodge won't break the bank.

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