Oh we do like to be beside the seaside!
Roger St Pierre takes a traditional family holiday in Great Yarmouth
Given the current state of play, there’s a lot of economic incentive to spend family holidays on home turf within these islands of ours.
After years of decline, traditional seaside resorts have, at long last, been getting their act together, especially along England’s South and East coasts. Brighton has become trendier than ever; Eastbourne is no longer Zimmerframe City; Hastings has reinvented itself and even Southend now sports palm trees right along its seafront.
For our own family break we chose to head up a fortuitously uncrowded A12 to the Norfolk resort of Great Yarmouth.
Now it certainly does not have the gloss of the Riviera, nor the near-guaranteed blue skies and sunshine of Florida or the Spanish Costas, but what Yarmouth and the adjacent Norfolk Broads do have to offer is a wealth of things to keep children happy,
Going the whole mile, we chose to stay at a traditional holiday park. A far cry from the “Wakey, wakey” Butlin’s Holiday Camp rigours of yesteryear, the immaculately tended Vauxhall Holiday Park (01493 857 231, Vauxhall-holiday-park.com) has coveted Visit England five-star status.
The self-catering static caravan accommodations here are spacious, comfortable and well-built – making them superior to many a hotel room –while on-site amenities include a giant pool, splash pools for the smaller ones, gym, mini-market, bars, evening entertainments, an adventure climbing park and various catering options.
Most important though is the effortless social interaction. Within minutes of our checking in, my four and five year old grandchildren had already made friends with the kids next door. It was no surprise to find that many families return year after year.
While there’s more than enough to keep the whole family happy on-site, the wider attractions of Great Yarmouth, the Broads and Norfolk beyond are hard to resist.
I didn’t spot any ‘Kiss me quick’ hats and saucy postcards were hard to come by but as we took a horse-drawn carriage ride along the resort’s broad promenade and the smell of fish and chips wafted on the air, memories of my own childhood jaunts to the seaside came flooding back.
Of course, with children in tow you’ll need deep pockets: “Can I have ?” quickly becomes the catchphrase of the day.
Visits to the Sealife Centre (0871 423 2110, sealife.co.uk), the array of rides at Pleasure Beach (01493 844585, pleasure-beach.co.uk), the delightful and meticulously assembled Merrivale Model Village (01493 842097) merrivalemodelvilllage.co.uk), the town’s two seaside piers and selection of shows filled many happy hours.
A little further afield, we visited the child fun filled Pettitts Animal Adventure Park (01493 700094, pettittsadventurepark.co.uk) and Pleasurewood Hills Theme Park (01502 586000, pleasurewoodhills.com) with their rides, shows and, at Pleasurewood, the tallest white-knuckle rollercoaster in the East of England.
In more relaxed mode, we took the short drive to Wroxham – the ‘Capital of the Broads’ – where Broads Tours (01603 782207, broadstours.co.uk) provided the option of a riverboat cruise with entertaining live commentary or renting a self-drive day-boat.
Jumping aboard at Wroxham, we joined the steam-hauled Bure Valley Railway (01263 733858, bvrw.co.uk) for an enchanting narrow-gauge ride to the charming little town of Aylsham.
Most of all, holidaying children and animals make a magical mix – and there’s fur, feathers and fins aplenty in these parts.
Lamas, alpacas, donkeys, goats, rabbits and peacocks are all to be found at Oasis Camel Centre (07836 734 748, oasiscamelcentre.co.uk.
Then there’s Hillside Shire Horse Sanctuary (01603 736 200, hillside.org.uk), Redwings Horse Sanctuary (0870 040 0033, redwings.co.uk), Thrigby Wildlife Gardens (01493 369 477, thrigbyhalll.co.uk), Banham Zoo (01953 887 771, banhamzoo.co.uk), Africa Alive! (01502 740291, Africa-alive.co.uk) and Amazona Zoo (01263 510 741, AmazonaZOO.co.uk).
Becoming ‘bug detectives’ on the Wildlife Tracker Trail at the wonderful Pensthorpe conservation reserve (01328 851 464, pensthorpe.com), located at the heart of the pretty Wensum Valley, enchanted the kids as they marvelled amid the rich assortment of wild fowl and water meadows, ticking off the ‘have seens’ on their activity sheets.
In the afternoon, Bewilderwood (01603 783 900, bewikderwood.co.uk) quickly burned off any excess energies as fearless pre-teens negotiated tree-top rope bridges, slides and all manner of running, clambering, crawling and swinging in what The Guardian recently acclaimed as “The UK’s first environmentally friendly adventure Park.
And when the kids have had their fill, there’s lots to appeal to adults, from Yarmouth’s dog and stock car racing, a host of museums and acclaimed golf courses to such stately homes as Holkham (01328 710 227, Holkham.co.uk), Houghton Hall (01485 528 569, houghtonhall.com), Somerleyton Halll (o871 222 4244, somerleyton.co.uk) – and the Queen’s beloved country retreat at Sandringham House (01485 545 408, sandringhamestate.co.uk).
Maybe it will be a South African safari or Thailand beach break next year but, whatever, Great Yarmouth has left us with a rich store of happy holiday memories,
Why should I go to Great Yarmouth
Here’s the irresistible essence of a traditional British seaside holiday
Save lots by purchasing all-day, unlimited rides tickets at the attractions.
Unlike the competing South Coast with its endless pebbles, many of Norfolk’s resorts boast swathes of golden sands.