During October Half Term we were really excited to be invited by Bournemouth Tourist Board to go and find out what an Autumn weekend in Bournemouth and the surrounding areas had to offer a family.
Out accommodation was a fabulous Beach Lodge right on the beach at Boscombe and we were all really excited to see what Bournemouth had to offer.
We arrived late at night (having travelled down from Shropshire after school!) and were greeted by Storm Brian – not a great start! We followed the carefully written instructions, battled our way down the ‘zig zag’ path (which was well lit) and were welcomed by a fabulously cosy and snug lodge where the lights and heating had been left on for us in anticipation of our late arrival.
We had phoned ahead and ordered pizza from The Wood Oven who were just down the promenade from the lodges. We were running late and the fabulous staff had agreed to drop off our order on their way home. We thought they might have turned back (it really was dreadful weather) but a friendly and smiling lady happily handed over our freshly made pizzas and we settled in for the night.
Bournemouth Beach Lodges offer an enchanting overnight stay overlooking beautiful beaches in a tranquil location. There are 15 beach lodges located a 5-minute walk from the car park above. You can also park a little further away and arrive by complementary land train to add to the adventure! The lodges offer accommodation for up to 4 adults and 2 children and there are options to bring along a furry friend too! There is also a carefully positioned wheelchair access lodge. Breaks can be booked for 3, 4 or 7 nights and although the lodges are relatively new, they have quickly become a popular holiday retreat – one lady we met was on her second visit and was trying to find a time when the lodges were free to book her third visit!
The lodges are carefully equipped with a small bathroom/ shower room, kitchen area with large fridge, microwave and hob and lots of carefully planned storage. The main sleeping area is on the mezzanine floor above which is accessed by a steep stair case. I have to admit I was nervous about this part (with an adventurous 2-year-old in tow!) but the lodges have stair gates both at the top and bottom which is an excellent feature to ensure that everyone relaxes. The lodges are small but perfectly formed and really have been carefully thought out to maximise space without compromising on comfort; you can take a tour of the lodges online and this helps capture the space brilliantly.
After a good night’s sleep, we battled our way through Storm Brian and settled in at Urban Reef for breakfast. Urban Reef is situated a few minutes’ walk from the Beach Lodges in the direction of Boscombe Pier. A two floor establishment that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, we settled into the top floor with a great view of the continuing storm and were served by the lovely Jess who was absolutely fabulous with the children and gave us 5 minutes to drink our much needed coffee! Breakfast was fab with a great choice and all needs catered for. The children tucked into their meals and had little colouring packs to entertain them whilst we finished off ours. We were reluctant to leave the cosy haven of Urban Reef (especially with the storm still raging!) but battled our way back to the Lodges and onto the car to head into Bournemouth…in better weather you can hop on the land train but that would probably have been blown away on this occasion!
We parked easily next to the pier and headed down towards the main building on the pier to Rock Reef. We were distracted by the large number of surfers who were surfing precariously close to the pier and taking full advantage of the huge waves whipped up by the storm!
Rock Reef is a fabulous example of re-purposing a building…located in the old ball room on the pier, the centre is a mass of adventure with options to climb, explore the high ropes, cave and tackle a massive drop slide! We had been booked in to experience the climbing walls and the high ropes and after a safety briefing and harness check, were free to explore the different walls on offer. It was a really strange experience climbing up to look out of a window at the raging sea below! With Daddy and T safely settled in the overlooking café, we repeatedly tacked the high ropes which turned out to be Eira’s favourite challenge! We did the first few rounds together but then I had to watch from there on in as I was shattered! The session lasted an hour and a half which was plenty of time to explore the walls…you can add on the high ropes, slide and caves as extras for the more adventurous!
Hungry by now, we stopped off in the Prom Café to refuel before deciding on a plan for the afternoon. We had been booked in to explore the gardens and mini golf along with the amazing looking Pier Zip which takes you from the end of the pier to the beach, but again Storm Brian had put a stop to that! We settled on the Oceanarium for an indoor option!
The Oceanarium offers a range of sea themed animals and experiences on Bournemouth sea front. On arrival you are met with an Amazon themed glass fronted pool at toddler height and we struggled to persuade the children to move away from this as they were so captivated!
You wind your way through a number of different themed zones and experience a number of different encounters and exhibits. The children loved the Otter Oasis where a family of Otters were very energetically playing. They demonstrated their agility and entertained us further when it was feeding time as their keepers entered the enclosure to feed them. Too quick to photograph, it was a real shame I couldn’t capture their playfulness!
Another great hit were the penguins who were housed outside and seemed quite at home in the blustery weather. Again, glass fronted it meant we could all easily see the penguins without having to keep picking the little one up!
We continued on our journey through the ocean and spent quite a long time watching the turtles. These are easily viewable from Turtle Beach before you go downstairs for a closer look in the tunnel. This was our favourite part and the turtles seemed very curious and camera friendly!
Our visit to the Oceanarium over (although the children would have gladly gone round a few times had we enough time!) we walked up through the gardens for dinner at Las Iguanas just on the edge of Bournemouth Gardens and were ready in plenty of time for the Arts by the Sea parade.
The Arts by the Sea Festival provides an annual two week programme of events which include a multitude of both local and international artists. We had planned to see the Sense of Unity Parade by Dundu and Worldbeaters. We gathered under the shelter of a building and waited with the gathering crowd, listening for the approaching parade. We heard them long before we saw them and the weather certainly hadn’t dampened spirits!
The beautifully lit drummers and talented puppeteers approached a curiously covered mound and we witnessed the small puppet grow into a giant puppet! It was wonderfully magical to watch and listen to and we followed the group down into the gardens before the little one declared we were too close for comfort and requested we bid the giant puppet farewell! It was a short drive back to the Lodge for a welcome glass of wine and beautiful view out to sea before bed…
The next day, we had a trip to Brownsea Island planned. Thankfully, Storm Brian had gone on his merry way at this point and we were free to go ahead with our plans (the island had been closed on the previous day due the weather!).
Our final night in the Lodge was much calmer and we sat with the window open listening to the sea whilst the children slept soundly…
The Bournemouth Beach Lodges prices vary depending on when you visit. I have to say, I would be very tempted to return to pay the more premium prices during the summer as the location is amazing. Although the lodges are small, as a family of 4 we felt like we had adequate space for all our things…in the summer, being able to open up the patio door and make full use of the personal balcony would extend the living space further. There is also access to electric barbeques and a communal space in the front of the lodges (exclusive for lodge users) so if you visited in a group, there would certainly be enough space to spread out a little more…
The lodges overlook the endless sandy beaches which means you can easily view older children on the beach from the lodge. With the additional benefit of the land train included in the stay, there is also an option to not have to use the car, always a huge benefit for me when travelling with the children.
So the weather didn’t stop our holiday (despite the best efforts of Storm Brian and the area being featured on the national news as being the worst hit during the storm!) and the lodges provide a cosy autumn retreat for both couples and families alike.
It was a lovely location and we will certainly be looking to see what the lodges can offer us on a return trip during the summer months.