Visiting Puerto Natales With Kids – New For 2024

Nestled along the Señoret Channel deep in southern Chile’s Patagonia, Puerto Natales serves for many as the primary gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. Though somewhat ramshackle, with its main offerings being dining and shopping, its true appeal for families lies in its proximity to Torres Del Paine and the Milodon Cave Natural Monument. If you visit Puerto Natales with kids, it is an excellent base for exploring the breathtaking natural wonders nearby.

In addition to its role as a launchpad for outdoor excursions, Puerto Natales offers a glimpse into the Patagonian way of life. The town’s waterfront, with its sweeping views of the mountains and fjords, is perfect for leisurely strolls, while the local craft shops and eateries provide a taste of regional culture and cuisine. For families, the town’s relaxed pace and friendly atmosphere make it a comfortable place to unwind and prepare for incredible experience in this corner of Patagonia.

Our Map For Visiting Puerto Natales With Kids

Getting to Puerto Natales With Kids

Navigating to Puerto Natales and its surroundings can be a bit more complicated than you would expect for such a popular destination due to the region’s unique geography, intricate politics, and unconventional national borders.

By Air

From northern Chile, flying to Puerto Natales is the easiest way to reach the town, with regular flights available in the summer from Santiago and Puerto Montt. Alternatively, you can fly to the larger city of Punta Arenas, about 150 miles south, and make your way north.

Punta Arenas has only a few attractions for kids, but it is a pleasant place to stay overnight if you want to break up the journey. You can read our full guide here.

Due to what we can only assume are political reasons, it is surprisingly slow and costly to fly from the Argentine side of Patagonia to the Chilean. At the moment, to fly the short distance from El Calafate to Puerto Natales, you have to go via Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Puerto Montt! The entire trip by air will take 20 hours; suddenly, a 5-hour coach journey seems okay.

By Land

From Punta Arenas

If you fly into Punta Arenas, the road to Puerto Natales is easy by Patagonian standards. It is wide and tarmacked all the way.

If you are looking to hire a car in Punta Arenas, several rental companies are in town and at the airport. Renting a car is highly recommended if you plan to visit Torres Del Paine as a family; it gives much more flexibility for exploring the park and surrounding areas.

If you prefer to take a bus, several companies, including BusSur with their notably cool buses, operate regular services between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. The journey costs CLP $10,000 and takes just over three hours. There is no discount for children, however, and depending on the size of your family, it may be cheaper to hire a car.

Other than from Punta Arenas, no direct road to Puerto Natales stays within Chile, so if you are arriving by land, you will have to contend with a border crossing.

There are incredible views and wildlife on Puerto Natales shorefront.

From El Calafate

If you are driving from El Calafate, then the road south on Route 40 is easy to drive all the way. However, there is a point where Google Maps suggests you take a “shortcut” by turning onto the rough gravel of Route 7. We strongly recommend you don’t do this as the surface is some of the worst we have seen in the thousands of kilometres we have covered on our road trip, and it took us far longer than sticking to the easy-driving Route 40.

You can cross the border at Casas Viejas or Cerro Castillo. We crossed at Casas Viejas purely to get one last tank of the incredibly cheap Argentine fuel in Rio Turbio!

Remember, if you hire a car in El Calafate to bring to Chile, you will need the extra paperwork to cross the border. This needs to be prepared in advance, so be sure to request it when you book. 

Several bus companies cover the trip between El Calafate, with BusSur being the most common we saw.  They currently run three services a week for CLP $28,000 one way (no discounts for children) and takes about 5 hours plus a border crossing.

From Ushuaia

If you are heading north to Puerto Natales from Ushuaia, then Route 3 and Route 257 are tarmacked all the way and are a straightforward drive, apart from the occasional suicidal guanaco that you have to keep an eye out for. 

Guanacos graze freely in the area and have the bad habit of occasionally running in front of cars.

The challenges of the drive north are the car ferry at the Primera Angostura Crossing and the border crossing near San Sabastian.

The Primera Angostura Crossing is unusual because you can’t book in advance, and the timetable is somewhat meaningless; you rock up and wait your turn. When we crossed over, three ferries were constantly shuttling back and forth over this narrow stretch of the Magellan Straight, and we waited about 40 minutes to get on board. The cost for a car was CLP$ 19,000; passengers were free. You purchase your ticket on board when you have boarded the boat.

We visited in late December, and it was still quite breezy!

By Sea

This is an honourable mention as it is not a child-friendly option, but we think it sounds fantastic and is on our “when they are teenagers” list!

There is a three-day passenger ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, which takes you far into the fjords and lets you see bits of “deep” Patagonia that otherwise are inaccessible. NavMag runs the service, and the wisdomous Steph at Worldly Adventurer has done a fantastic write-up of it.

Where to Stay in Puerto Natales With Kids

Puerto Natales is a sprawling town that climbs onto the hills surrounding it. If you are staying with children, ideally, you want to be reasonably close to the main square of Plaza de Armas Arturo Prat, as this is where the shops and restaurants are.

Puerto Natales is awash with hotels, hostels and Airbnbs, so you will surely find something that suits you. We stayed in this Airbnb, which was perfect for the four of us, and the host, Dussan, invited us to share in his family’s asados. It was the best lamb we have ever tasted!

The highlight of Adrian’s day! The lamb is cooked over a mixture of local wood and charcoal, giving it an incredible flavour.

Where To Eat in Puerto Natales With Kids

Puerto Natales has grown to accommodate the crowds of visitors that come here every year, and you will find options for even the pickiest eaters in your family! 

El Brisket is an excellent option if you are looking for a traditional Chilean BBQ. Also, JAU Natales Restaurant was recommended to us, but we didn’t get the chance to try it. It turns out there is a limit to how much meat Adrian can consume in four days! 

For a takeaway pizza, check out La Tarantella. The pizzas were huge and tasty; two were plenty for the four of us, with some leftovers for lunch the next day!

This is one for the parents! A must-visit is the Last Hope Distillery, the most southern distillery in the world. We spent the start of New Year’s Eve there and had some fantastic cocktails based on their Calafate gin. Kids are welcome here until 9 pm and have some simple food offerings. Get there early as they soon fill up. 

They have also filled some whiskey barrels which is a great excuse for us to go back in 5 years when they are ready.

If you want to prepare some meals yourself, there is a sizeable Unimark supermarket near the town centre. We were shocked at how expensive the supermarkets are in Chile, with simple items like mushrooms being more costly than in the UK. 

Also, don’t just “pop in for some milk” at 8 pm on a Friday. I was nearly 40 minutes in the queue.

Equipment Hire In Puerto Natales

Many places in Puerto Natales offer equipment hire but only for adults. Adrian hired boots and walking poles for the Base of Torres del Paine Day Hike from Lili Patagonico’s Hostel for CLP$ 5,000 a day. Also, Yagan House, just around the corner, has equipment available.

Don’t buy any equipment in Puerto Natales unless you have to, as everything here is much more expensive than in the UK.

Things To Do In Puerto Natales With Kids

Honestly? Not much.

Beyond eating and shopping for overpriced tat, there is little for kids in the town.

There are a few lovely play parks to occupy the kids for a while. Also, a walk along the seafront can be refreshing with fascinating wildlife and several monuments and art installations. However, the path is very poorly maintained in places.

Fortunately, one of the worlds most beautiful national parks is just a short drive outside the town!

Georgia and Eva loved this.

Torres del Paine National Park

The reason we are all here! When discussing visiting Torres del Paine National Park with kids, it is hard not to fall back on cliches; it is one of Patagonia’s most stunning destinations. Also, somewhat uniquely, large parts are accessible for families. Spots like the waterfall at Salto Grande and Lago Grey, with its beautiful views of Grey Glacier, are easily reached by car or tour.

Be ready to share the paths.

For more information, we have written detailed blog posts of what you need to know to visit the park and our suggestion for a road trip through it’s beautiful landscape.

If you want to visit the Torres del Paine National Park while in the area, take a look at our complete guide, including how to book tickets and what to pack, to Exploring Torres Del Paine With Kids.

For our full-day road trip that takes you to some of its most famous views of the area, we have a complete guide: Ultimate Torres Del Paine Road Trip With Kids.

If you would like more information on visiting the park, including how to book tickets and what to pack, take a look at Exploring Torres Del Paine With Kids.

For our full-day road trip that takes you to some of its most famous views, we have a complete guide: Ultimate Torres Del Paine Road Trip With Kids.

Mylodon Cave Natural Monument

If you’re seeking an enjoyable and educational family day out near Puerto Natales, your search ends here. Just a half-hour drive from the town, you’ll see the historic Mylodon Cave, which is also the starting point to a delightful 9km trail that has incredible views from the Sofia Lake Viewpoint.

You can read our full post on this incredible place and walk here:

The walk is one of our favourites in Patagonia!

Have We Missed Anything To Do In Puerto Natales With Kids?

I appreciate we have not been entirely complimentary about Puerto Natales, but we did enjoy our stay here. If you think we need to include anything or if any information here needs to be updated, please let us know in the comments below.

The Spencer Family

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About the authors

Our lives have been intertwined with a passion for exploration and a shared love for travel. Our adventures began long before we met, as we individually embarked on daring expeditions across the globe. Our paths finally converged, and we soon realized that our adventures were much more meaningful when shared!

After a brief hiatus to start a family, we eagerly embarked on a new chapter of our travel saga. Determined to instil in Georgia and Eva the values of discovery and open-mindedness, our goal is to embark on exciting escapades and explore breathtaking landscapes, bustling cities, and remote corners of the world. From hiking through mist-laden forests to snorkelling in turquoise seas, every adventure is an opportunity to create lasting memories as a family.

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