Ezra and Jed, who are camping converts after our festival trips, suddenly lost all interest in basic tent life when they saw the mod cons that would be available in our Gold Plus Caravan: ‘There’s a TV and DVD! A shower! We’ll get our own bedroom!’
STAYING IN A GOLD PLUS CARAVAN
And I have to say when we finally found our caravan on the site (could you provide more maps around the site, pretty please?), we were all impressed. It was ultra clean and fully kitted out with fridge, gas stove and cooker, microwave, mock fireplace and central heating that worked a treat when the temperature dropped at night.
The boys were squealing at having their own beds, while Abiye and I enjoyed an en-suite toilet. There was also a main toilet and shower room and I was pleasantly surprised to discover the shower was deliciously hot with a powerful jet spray. The beds were already made up when we arrived and Park Resorts had provided toilet roll (it’s on their holiday checklist they send out before you come, but of course I forgot), although luckily I had remembered to bring towels.
EXPLORING KESSINGLAND BEACH
After settling in, we headed out to explore the area. Kessingland Beach resort is literally right by the beach (about 5-10 minutes on little legs). It always feels so refreshing to escape the city and, just a few hours from London, suddenly to be standing at the edge of the sea.
We were blessed with great weather throughout the weekend — on Saturday it rained on and off, but the coastline looked so moody and stunning I could forgive a few clouds. On Friday when we arrived and on the Sunday before we left, it was sunny enough to strip off layers and at times, you could almost imagine you were on the Riviera.
We’d arrived in Suffolk by train from Liverpool Street, changing at Cambridge onto the tiniest train we’d ever seen. Our taxi driver from the station, a sprightly 70-something, was full of local knowledge and recommended we check out a nearby birding sanctuary or visit Animal Alive wildlife centre, not far from the resort.
Since we didn’t have a car, our options were more limited. And even though some local attractions are easily accessible by bus, we decided to set our sights lower. Some of the best moments of our stay were spent exploring by foot, on a moonlit walk along the beach, or checking out the neighbourhood, taking in its quirky signs and notices and chatting with friendly, occasionally eccentric locals.
ENTERTAINMENT AND FACILITIES
You can’t do a Park Resorts holiday without sampling some of the in-house entertainment. By day, there was an outdoor and an indoor pool, with a variety of water games and slides to keep aqua babies happy. We didn’t use the pool although it didn’t seem too busy (probably packed in summer), and one gripe I’ve read about Kessingland Beach resort is that there’s no private pool changing area which I know would bother the babes.
There was a whole host of other activities we didn’t get to try, from street dance or breakfast with Park Resorts cuddly character Sparky, to crazy golf and an adventure playground.
The babes had most fun in the amusements arcade with its boxy soft play area, riding around on the go-karts, or playing tennis on the multi-sports court.
By night it was all about the Beachside Showbar and the Teamstars, the super corny but hard-working entertainment crew who perform dance/comedy acts, and run quizzes, bingo, family discos, karaoke and more. It’s the kind of Hi-De-Hi style ‘fun times’ that can set your teeth on edge, and on the first night Babe Papa ran screaming for the hills. But on our last evening we dived right into the cheese factor and enjoyed ourselves a lot, especially thanks to the brilliant Abba tribute act, ReAbba!
I must admit I had slight trepidation about our Park Resorts holiday after reading more than a few dodgy reviews while doing my research. For a budget UK break with 41 sites across the country, it’s not surprising the standard varies so much — I think a lot depends not only on the park you choose, but the time of year and the type of caravan you book.
For what it’s worth, we had a very enjoyable weekend break, the boys loved staying in a caravan and I would happily revisit Park Resorts at Kessingland Beach or perhaps go further afield, to one of the Isle of Wight sites.
SOME HELPFUL HINTS FOR YOUR PARK RESORTS HOLIDAY
Research, research, research!
We had planned to go to Southview Leisure Park but that was closed due to a fire. I asked the Park Resorts team for their recommendation and read tons of reviews on Trip Advisor, Mumsnet and a couple of other sites, before we settled on Kessingland Beach.
Pick your Location wisely
If you’re stuck on a resort you’re not that keen on, at least you can get out and about if the surrounding area has enough attractions and activities on offer. Kessingland Beach is close to Great Yarmouth and Southwold by car, but the local beach alone was a wonderful spot to hang.
Upgrade if you Can
We’d been offered a Gold Plus caravan to review and it was in near mint condition. But from all the reviews I’ve read, there can be a stark difference between the Gold Plus and the Silver or Bronze caravans. If you can afford it, an upgrade to Gold or even Platinum seems like money worth spending.
Do your Food Packing Carefully
We only brought enough for lunch on the train and the next day, but I was grateful for the cold meats we had for sandwiches. The on-site Nisa store turned out to be very minimally stocked (I called it the ‘inconvenience store’). We could pick up some basics, but most of the food we cooked was from the Beach Hut shop down beyond the resort. We ate from the Fish & Chips shop and also a local pub (the on-site restaurant was practically right by the arcades and didn’t appeal), but if we’d stayed longer than three days, food might have been more of an issue.
Go Off Peak
Even when more holidaymakers arrived on Saturday morning, the site never got too loud or packed. I expect Kessingland Beach, being one of the smaller resorts, doesn’t attract crazy crowds — but it was undoubtedly a more peaceful experience holidaying at the start of October than at peak times.
And don’t forget to keep an eye on that weather forecast!
**We enjoyed our mini break as guests of Park Resorts in order to review their holiday offer. All opinions are strictly my own.