[This post contains advertorial content. We were invited to spend a weekend at Haven Seashore in Great Yarmouth in order to review their recently-developed facilities and compensated for our time and promotion. Nonetheless, I have tried to provide an honest and unbiased account of our experience.]
We were so excited to be invited to review Haven Seashore in Great Yarmouth. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll know that we are no strangers to caravan holidays; they are so convenient with small children. We love that caravans are virtually indestructible and having some living space and a kitchen is provides much more convenience and freedom than staying in a hotel. We were especially pleased to review the Haven Seashore caravan park because it has recently undergone a huge renovation to upgrade its facilities, including the creation of new outdoor playgrounds and an indoor soft play and a new-and-improved indoor water park. Our trip was booked for a three-night Friday-to-Monday stay, although they also offer a slightly longer midweek Monday-Friday booking.
We arrived at Great Yarmouth station at about 1pm, following a 2 hours 11 minute train from London Liverpool Street (including a change at Norwich). All of our children love a train journey and the hours had passed pleasantly whilst they read their magazines and played with some little toys, we shared a picnic and I even managed to get some work done for my ‘real job’ whilst Kirsty rocked a sleeping baby. There is step-free access the whole way and plenty of taxis parked outside, however, as we hadn’t brought car seats with us we elected to walk the 2.2 miles from Great Yarmouth Station to Haven Seashore. The girls rode in the pram for about half of the journey and the boys walked; it’s a lovely, flat walk and they were perfectly happy to stretch their legs for most of the way with the occasional bribe of a Percy Pig or Colin Caterpillar when they reported that their energy was starting to feel a bit low! It took about an hour before we saw caravans in the distance and arrived just in time to check in to our caravan.
We had been allocated a Prestige Caravan with Decking, and I locked the toddlers out on the decked bit to do a little photo tour for you before they could come in and mess it up!
Living room, as photographed from the kitchen. Note the televison and DVD player – invaluable for the inevitable early-morning wake-ups!
Kitchen. Behind me was a fridge-freezer which was easily large enough to store our shopping delivery.
Bathroom (there were two, this one which was next to the children’s rooms and an en-suite to our bedroom)
Two adjacent twin bedrooms. Each set of twins had a room to themselves and the parent ‘doing’ bedtime sat just outside, which worked really well for us.
Another shot of the living space, as photographed from just outside the children’s bedrooms. The door directly opposite, in the kitchen, lead to our room.
Naturally they lost no time at all in organising a game of hide & seek!
Because it was one of the more premium models there were a few decorative vases and ornaments that we had to place up high to keep safe. There weren’t many of them at all and they would probably been fine with toddlers who aren’t ‘fiddly’, but mine were enamored with the flowers and with the porcelain dogs and we decided that it was easier for all of us if they didn’t have to spend the weekend trying to resist temptation!
Once the game of hide & seek had concluded, we popped on a DVD for them whilst we waited for our supermarket delivery. They definitely needed a little rest after their long walk as they were starting to seem quite hyperactive, and forty-five minutes of Topsy & Tim definitely reset them in time to enjoy the rest of the day.
“Surprise!” Increasingly these days, Olympia elects to join Balthazar and Lysander and little Embla plays with Vita. They have such a gentle relationship, and we call Em ‘Nanny Biggles’ because she fusses over the baby like she’s a grandmother and is generally super indulgent of the baby being a bit of a basher.
As soon as the shopping was unpacked and a punnet of raspberries devoured, we were keen to head out and explore Seashore. The children had spotted an enormous playground on their way in and had unanimously decided that we would begin our exploration there.
Haven has recently invested £100 million across multiple sites in England, Scotland and Wales. In addition to Seashore, Hafan y Mor, Hopton, Haggerston Castle and Craig Tara have all received considerable development to ensure that whatever the weather, the Haven site is the perfect base from which to holiday. The children absolutely loved the playground above, especially the more adventurous two (Balthazar and Olympia), who lost no time at all in scaling those ropes to get to the slide. For smaller children, there was a wooden pirate ship with a slide of its own, and we were delighted to stumble upon several sandpits with an additional climbing frame, slide and multi-child swing about a minute’s walk from this playground, tucked away behind the sports court.
When they had finally reached their quotient of swinging and sliding and climbing we bribed them onward with the promise of dinner. And encountered another playground on the way! It was really lovely, definitely aimed at slightly younger children than the big playground and, although it was quite a bit smaller, my four spent quite a bit of time chasing each other up the climbing frame and down the slide, rocking on the dolphins and spinning each other on a tiny single-use roundabout.
Seashore is set up in such a way as the Coast House Bar and Grill and the Cakery are collocated, with an outdoor playground and an indoor soft play. There are indoor and outdoor seating areas, so the children could pick where they wanted to play and the adults could enjoy a cappuccino (or meal) whilst keeping an eye. This worked so well and the children spent many enjoyable hours in the soft play especially, where an older girl took little Embla under her wing and encouraged her to join in with the game, and the other three hared around like wild things!
But on that first afternoon, all thoughts of dinner went out of the window because they discovered the Cakery.
Aptly named, the Cakery reminded me of one of those American restaurants where the portions are absolutely extravagant. The selection looked mouth-wateringly delicious but as Kirsty and I have been trying to eat a plant-based diet exclusively, we didn’t sample them. We did let the children have a slice, as it seemed really mean to deny them once they had seen the cakes! We ordered two slices of the Cookies & Cream cake on the bottom left at £4.99 each and the lady behind the till kindly supplied two additional plates and forks; even split between two children the portion was generous, and actually one slice would probably serve three children easily!
I would love to see some vegan cupcakes added to the selection as plant-based diets are becoming quite mainstream nowadays.
The children were so full of cake that they didn’t have much appetite for dinner. Instead, we popped some socks on them and let them explore the soft play, and then both playgrounds again, and an hour after their usual bedtime we brought them back to the caravan for a couple of slices of almond-butter toast and a banana, a quick shower (they must have been rolling in the woodchips and the sandpits because they were absolutely filthy!) and then we pulled the curtains and tucked them all up in bed and sang Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star on repeat until all that we could hear was rhythmic snoring. Thoroughly shattered, we put ourselves and the baby to bed!
After a surprisingly restful night in which everyone slept through, we were awakened at 5am by many, many preschoolers demanding an excursion to the water park! It was at this point that we realised that we had forgotten to add coffee to our shopping delivery. I’ll admit that we took advantage of the television and the DVD player, and the children watched the entirety of Moana and then some Scooby Doo whilst we pottered about making breakfast and preparing for the day.
As the Shore Water Park doesn’t open until 09.30, we decided to venture out for a coffee at the Coast House Bar and Grill first. Alas – we hadn’t checked the opening times and discovered that it, too, was not scheduled to open until the same time. We bumped into a similarly caffeine-deprived mother staring forlornly through the doors and agreed that it would be lovely if there was somewhere to purchase a coffee a little earlier, although as they do have a little supermarket on site we picked up a jar of instant coffee later that day and the next morning enjoyed our morning coffee sitting on our deck, watching the children play. It was a clear and bright morning and we had our pick of playgrounds to choose from, so the children didn’t mind the wait for the water park at all.
Haven really has developed a spectacular water park for children. My more adventurous two (Balthazar and Olympia) were delighted to hurl themselves down all of the flumes and slides, whereas Lysander and Embla enjoyed the tipping buckets and spray jets in the Aqua Play area and the fountain in the Confidence Pool. The water is really quite warm and inviting, and even Baby Vita enjoyed a splash about in the Confidence Pool.
We visited the Water Park twice during our stay and the second visit was actually better than the first; Lysander and Embla both found their courage mid-way through the second visit and all of the children rode each of the slides – though Em would only ride if she could hold my hand! She was adamant though that she wanted to do it though and kept seeking me out – “lu come wif me?” – and even though her eyes were like saucers the whole way, she talked about those slides for the rest of the day. As for my little Lysander, he is by far the most cautious, or even anxious, of our children, and when he made up his mind to try the smallest of the slides and then decided all of his own accord that they were quite fun after all, I must admit that Kirsty and I, both not normally criers, found ourselves welling up in pride. I had left my camera in my locker for the second visit as I wanted to actively play with the children, so we didn’t document it, but I’ll remember forever the pride and joy of hurling myself down a slide with four preschoolers around me, the smallest of whom was holding my hand.
After about an hour and a half the baby was ready for a proper feed and a sleep and so we coaxed the children out of the pool with the promise of a second breakfast at the Coast House Bar and Grill. The water park is next door to the restaurant and Cakery (and playgrounds and soft play), so we were out of the pool, dressed and at the restaurant within about ten minutes. Three out of four children darted into the soft play whilst I ordered breakfast: we had cappuccinos made with soya milk and the children had fresh orange juice. The breakfast menu had a vegetarian option but not a vegan one, but our server kindly spoke to the chef who offered to veganise breakfast for us. Our time in the water park had worked up quite an appetite in all of us and we were thrilled with our tomato, mushrooms and breakfast potatoes with toast; this meal could have been enhanced if the sausages on the vegetarian menu were also vegan-friendly but the children were delighted to scoff their breakfast just as it was. Lysander ate all of the other children’s mushrooms! The minute that they had finished eating they scurried back to soft play, and Kirsty and I sat with a sleeping Vita and little Embla, whom is very shy about other children, and drunk our coffee in peace! It was lovely.
We have the sort of children that behave beautifully when they are kept busy but are turned into Tasmanian devils if they spend more than an hour in the house, so after a little rest at the caravan so the baby could have her lunch and we could catch and apply suncream to them all, we decided to explore Great Yarmouth. The Seashore site is opposite the beach, but Great Yarmouth itself is a little way down the road and the sweetest train connects the two – it costs £2 for an adult or £1.50 for a child and runs every thirty minutes. My four preschoolers find this sort of thing delightful, and they were ecstatic to hand over their money and take a ticket to board the train.
On the return journey, midway down the road we managed to lose one of Olympia’s shoes out of the side of the train – she had taken them off and tucked them in the bag and then the bag had fallen over and whilst Kirsty attempted to right it, she instead knocked the shoe flying. It wasn’t funny except that it was and we both laughed like loons whilst feigning innocence so Polly wouldn’t notice.
We didn’t have a plan for Great Yarmouth, we had decided to just go and see what was there. Much to the children’s sheer unadulterated joy there was an amusement park designed for their age group, where we blew through £60 of ride tokens in an hour. They had a ride on some very soporific-looking donkeys (£3/turn) and enjoyed thirty minutes on some bouncy castles before declaring themselves to be ravenous and suggesting that we might like to venture into one of the many fish & chip shops. It suddenly seemed a long time since our second breakfast and we didn’t take much persuading; soon we were all tucking into salted and vinegary chips in contented silence.
We made our way home on the train and the children played out in the sand pit whilst we sat and one of the benches and chatted, until it was absolutely definitely well past bedtime – and we showered them off again and put them to bed.
Sunday started slowly. The children hadn’t slept well as Olympia fell out of the bed and Lysander had a nightmare, so they woke up later than usual. The weather was quite cool and we had neglected to bring a warmer layer to save weight in the suitcase so we put off venturing outside until about 09.30, thanks, in no small part, to the television and DVD player.
There are plenty of activities that children can book onto at the Haven sites, however, what mine really wanted to do was go back to the excellent soft play. So we did precisely that!
Three out of four, predictably, entertained themselves for an easy hour whilst we enjoyed a coffee in the relative quiet of the company of the two smallest children. We are trying to find a balance with Embla at the moment between acknowledging that she is indeed very small and the world is very big and can be a bit scary and making allowances for those feelings, and gently boring her into finding a bit of independence. On this occasion, as soft play was empty except for my children, I pulled on a pair of socks and took her in with me.
Once I’d had my fill of whizzing down the slide in the soft play, I bribed them out with the promise of a slice of carrot cake and then back to the caravan for lunch. One of our favourite things about caravans is the independence that having a kitchen affords you; we saved so much money by cooking and preparing most of our meals rather than eating out, and it was much more relaxing to know that if the children really weren’t capable of behaving sensibly for whatever reason, we could just eat at home instead.
After lunch, we went back to the Water Park. I’ve written about that visit above, but the children really found their confidence in the water and had a tremendous time – in fact, we stayed in the water until it was time for dinner! They could easily have enjoyed another day at Haven because they definitely hadn’t had their fill of water play by the time that we were due to check out and return home (and neither had I!).
We decided to eat dinner at the Coast House Bar and Grill. Kirsty and I ordered the quinoa and beetroot burger with fries, which was predictably delicious. We ordered tomato pasta for the children as they were ravenous after so many hours of swimming and sliding, and we know that they all love a pasta dish. Seashore is so child-friendly, and the server found us some sweet activity packs with some colouring activities and crayons that kept the children entertained whilst they waited for their meal. She chatted with them for ages about their experience of staying at Haven, and checked back several times during the meal to see how we were getting on and whether we needed anything.
Monday brought with it a 10am check-out time, where the television came in handy once again whilst we frantically tidied up and packed our things away. After we had officially checked out – at 09.58! – we decided to remain on site for a bit, and much to the children’s delight they had one last ‘go’ in the soft play and at each of the playgrounds before it was time for the long walk back to the train station.
We really did have such a lovely stay at Haven Seashore and I feel confident that if you book a minibreak there based on my review, you will also enjoy it. We would absolutely book another Haven minibreak and the children are keen to check out the other newly-developed sites of Hafan y Mor, Hopton, Haggerston Castle and Craig Tara.
If you are looking for a child-friendly base from which to explore the local area, Haven Seashore in Great Yarmouth absolutely provides that – as well as offering enough entertainment on-site that you could feasibly do a three-night break without needing to leave it at all.