My husband often reminisces about his holiday past. As a child, he and his family went caravanning and, during the 1980s, they brought a static home in Rhyl in Wales, before it was washed away in a flood! But while holiday parks for families were the norm for him, for me… not so. In fact, I’d never stayed in a caravan or in a holiday park so rather unjustly, I had preconceived ideas…
Holiday parks for families
I’m not great when my personal space is invaded, and the thought of feeling hemmed in amongst hundreds of other uncharacteristic buildings lined up in a row, as well as the intensely small square meterage of a mobile home has led me to shy away from this type of family holiday.
Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong as our recent stay in Away Resorts Whitecliff Bay Holiday Parks for families on the Isle of Wight, demonstrated. Driving into the resort to check in at Guest Services, what struck me first and foremost was the size of the caravans. They were by no means tiny. And, even though all the accommodation was situated close together, it didn’t feel claustrophobic.
Meanwhile, a recent upgrade of several areas including The Village Green which has a spanking new playground, as well as refurbished chalets means that Whitecliff Bay is on a mission to put a modern twist on the British seaside holiday for families – and you can see the benefits from the investment.
Around 30 minutes from the Red Funnel ferry terminal in Cowes, Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park can be found in Bembridge – a small village at the easternmost point. The park’s most unique selling point is its private beach – our party, which consisted of two families and two boisterous boys, loved the stunning expanse of sand, which we pretty much had to ourselves. Meanwhile, the park is in an excellent spot to explore the rest of the island with Sandown and Shanklin Bay pretty much down the road – and other famous attractions such as The Needles, only 40 minutes away by car.
Because we were quite a large group, we opted for Whitecliff Bay’s Luxury Lodge which not only has three bedrooms but a master bedroom ensuite with flat screen TV. It was seriously impressive. There was me thinking we wouldn’t have space to swing a cat – but instead, we had a large living/dining room, kitchen with all the mod cons, as well as a large verandah in which we could enjoy the views.
Not only was the Lodge bright, comfortable and spacious, but there were also lovely touches such as a welcome pack consisting of teabags, milk, biscuits and wine. And the best thing, in my opinion? A little bottle of washing up liquid, a dishcloth and spare bin bags – because don’t you just hate having to buy brand new products just for a few days of use? Fresh clean towels and toiletries were also provided and, when you consider this accommodation starts from just £231 per week, this is a fantastic value for money.
There are plenty of other accommodation options in the park including caravans, chalets and bell tents in the Canvas Village. If you have your own camping equipment there are also pitches you can hire from only £3 per night.
From Guest Services, where friendly staff are on hand to deal with any problems or point you to nearby attractions, there is also a Village Shop which not only sells groceries and household goods but fresh meat, fruit and vegetables. Of course, the children wanted the ice-cream and souvenirs. There is also wi-fi in all the public areas, however, it was a bit hit-and-miss in the accommodation.
There are also two pools – one large outdoor one, which was just a bit too chilly to go in, and one indoor pool which consists of water slides and a jacuzzi. As you can imagine, the water slide was a huge hit with our little ones.
For The Kids
Whitecliff Bay is striving to encourage children and their families to try new activities together and it’s a wonderful concept. When you check in, guests are given a full itinerary of the week’s events – and there are a lot! If you didn’t want to go and explore the island, it would be quite possible to stay on site and be entertained. There are outdoor cinema screenings to shows in the evening, as well as quizzes and cabaret acts. Take your pick.
It’s the kids, though, that have the most fun – with a full programme of activities and events to keep their boredom at bay. There’s a stage school, archery, paintballing, abseiling and a range of ‘my first’ activities such as catching your first fish and riding your first bike. We took the boys to a pottery session and they thoroughly enjoyed it.
Meanwhile, there’s a soft play area, as well as crazy golf, playgrounds galore, resident bunny rabbits roaming freely and not forgetting the glorious private beach – where we spent some time skimming rocks and burying each other under the sand. The kids just loved riding their bikes around the park too, simple pleasures but such treasured memories for them.
If you don’t want to cook there are plenty of dining options at Whitecliff Bay. Or if you can’t be bothered to leave the confines of your accommodation you can even order in a pizza from one of the restaurants. You’re also given money off vouchers when you check in, a brilliant way to keep the costs down for those extra treats while you’re away.
There are three eateries in park: The Beach Café, The Culver Diner and The Nab Bar which has views over the Bay and the sea. We came to the Nab Bar on our first night and tucked into the usual fried fare of cheeseburgers, and fish and chips – the menu was extensive offering up salad dishes, to pasta to steaks. The service was prompt and the Bar had the feel of a social club, but it was relaxed and chilled and no one batted an eyelid at the rowdiness of the children. It also serves breakfast and lunch throughout the day.
Whatever your opinion on British holiday parks, I would urge you to give them a go. When you have young children, they just want to be able to play and Whitecliff Bay has everything in place to do just that. The kids had a blast, while us parents actually got some time to relax and take a pause. Being so close to other attractions also meant that we could spend a lot of the day exploring but still have the morning and late afternoon to enjoy the facilities in the park.
The recent refurbishment means that the newer parts do show up the more tired looking areas at Whitecliff – for instance, the indoor pool and changing rooms are dated and could do with a makeover but otherwise, the park represents fantastic value for money as well as comfortable accommodation options to suit every taste.
We only spent a short time here, but we all agreed we would be more than happy to return to Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park. When the sunshine is out, there’s nothing better than being beside the seaside, eating ice cream and riding bikes – the epitome of childhood fun. And Whitecliff Bay tries hard to make sure families have a superb time.
* We were invited by Away Resorts and Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park for our weekend stay, which included the Luxury Lodge and our Red Funnel Ferry crossing from Southhampton. As always my opinions are my own.