Right at the end of the summer I was invited to spend 2 nights and 3 days at Surf Snowdonia with my 3 girls (all under 6). We stayed in a new glamping pod at the side of the world’s first inland surf lagoon in North Wales – Random – yes I know! It was however a lot of fun!
I’d heard about the 300-metre surf lagoon which is the main reason people visit but what I hadn’t heard about was all the other stuff to try out too! If I had, I think we would have visited sooner. The ‘other stuff’ I refer to is a Crash & Splash lagoon (suitable for anyone who can swim) bodyboarding, a giant pillow to jump off, kids bungee trampoline and inflatable obstacle course, as well as kiddies’ indoor soft play. Phew!
Apart from all that, which in fairness would be reason to visit on its own, Surf Snowdonia sits in the heart of an area of adventure in Snowdonia, which also includes the largest zip zone in the world, with over 8km of zip lines set among the Llechwedd slate quarries at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Llechwedd Slate Caverns‘ with its underground tours, and Bounce Below, a series of huge trampolines one above the other, connected by slides and ladders and lit by psychedelic, multi-coloured lights – the kids version is Junior Bounce. The area is also famous for Wales largest mountain Snowdon, wonderful walks and the Ffestiniog Railway which departs Blaenau Ffestiniog before making its way to Porthmadog. We managed to do an awful lot of this in our jam packed 3 days!
We arrived at lunchtime on the Monday (we visited with my neighbour and her two children too) on a beautiful sunny bank holiday Monday. I was relieved that the sun was shining as it made the prospect of the family Crash & Splash and my surf lesson that little more inviting. We didn’t get chance to check into our pod before we hit the activities as we didn’t arrive with much time to spare (let’s blame bank holiday traffic rather than us leaving late!) so we got our vouchers for our wet suits and made our way to the spotlessly clean changing to rooms to change into our very damp wet suits (downside to a lesson mid afternoon I imagine). It was a challenge getting 5 kids into damp wet suits but we made it and made our way over to the site of the Crash & Splash. The website may still say you need to be 12 to do the Crash & Splash but they do now run family sessions so call them to speak to them about it.
After a safety briefing and helmets and life jackets being fitted we joined a short queue to attempt the obstacle course.
Whilst waiting to go on, my friend and I silently decided that none of our kids would be able to manage it, whilst confirming outwardly to them that they would be able to easily. As the first two started I was amazed they were going to be able to do it – yes they fell in but that’s the point, yes they were a little scared at points but they were only aged between 5 and 8, and yes they felt a huge sense of achievement when they got to the other end. We only actually managed to get round twice each, before moving onto the slightly harder part of the course as the session only lasts an hour. When it had finished we had to make our way back to the changing area to get changed again. What would have been perfect at that point was an area, away from the crash and splash, for the kids to play about in the water in their wet suits as it was quite an effort getting them all in the suits and then back out again an hour later. They loved the course though and would have happily done it again later that same day given half a chance.
Cost: from £15 off peak for 1hr including wet suit hire
We took the spare hour before my surfing lesson, as chance to check into our pods. The pods are practically brand new, immaculate, come with electric lights and plug sockets, a large double mattress at the back of the pod behind a dark curtain (where my three girls slept) two single beds at the front, with space underneath for stuff! The lockable patio doors at the front of the pods also have a blackout curtain. A top tip from a previous guest review was that there was a small window at the back of the pod that didn’t have any curtains or cover on it. I took tin foil with me and sellotape and the light was gone! Top Tip for any holiday travels that. Every pod also has a bench and a chair and there are picnic benches up and down the row of pods. There is also a hot tub at the end but we didn’t make it in there.
Cost: The pods are £100 per night and include breakfast.
After unpacking some items from the car (which you can helpfully leave behind your pod) we wandered back round the lagoon to the activities area and I went off to the changing area to get back into a wetsuit for my surf lesson.
Kids can learn from age 5, but they need to be more than just able to swim as they need to be confident of the wave and not scared in the water. I decided mine were just that little too nervous of the wave to try so I gave it a go without them.
I was a little apprehensive about the (1hr 30 minute) surf lesson, having never tried to do it before, but it was sunny and it seemed like a fun thing to do. What could go wrong! After changing into the wet suit I made my way to the surf area to have a chat with the rest of the class and the instructors and do some indoor practice. When it became apparent that I was struggling to get into the right position on dry land never mind on top of a wave, I re-adjusted any expectations I may have had about ‘surfing’ per se and decided body boarding (on a surf board) would suit me just fine! There was 6 of us in the group and we made our way straight into the lagoon with our instructor and waited apprehensively for the wave. Well I was apprehensive anyway! You wait lying on your board, your instructor shouts instructions at you, you wait for the loud claxon sound and then the wave comes behind you! I actually really enjoyed travelling into the ‘beach’ on the wave, although a lack of skill, a lost contact lens and some reluctance on my body meant I didn’t actually surf but I did do quite a lot of bodyboarding and I had loads of fun!
Cost: Adult surf lessons start from £40
Here’s a video of me:
Whilst I was surfing the kids had a fantastic time playing in the soft play and charging up and down the inflatable obstacle course and then bouncing around on the bungee trampolines!
After all that excitement it was time for dinner at the on-site restaurant. We’d booked a table for the evening which I’d recommend you do as it does get full, and sat down around 6pm. The food had started coming out around us and it looked really really good, not like you’d expect from an onsite restaurant at all.
There was a kids menu including the usual pizza, pasta options and the staff couldn’t have been more helpful putting the dairy free cheese (we had brought with us for my friends little girl) on her pizza, and trying to source a ice pop from the locked shop so she could have a dessert like the others.
Myself and my friend shared a hummus/bread sharing platter which was delicious and then I had the ribs which were divine, whilst my friend had the lamb shoulder ragu parpadelle! Some real thought had gone into the menu and the quality of the ingredients surprised both of us.
Once we had finished dinner it was a short walk back to the other side of the lagoon to our pods for bed! It took a while to get the girls to sleep as it always does in any outdoor style tent/pod etc but when they slept they slept soundly as did I.
They woke just after 7.30 – not bad for sleeping on a mattress in a pod – and we made our way for the breakfast back in the restaurant. As you’d expect with a restaurant designed for surfers there was a big English (sorry Welsh!) breakfast waiting for us to choose from, with cereals, juice and toast etc. Me and the kids had a bacon butty each with juice and I had good coffee too. The perfect start to our day exploring the rest of Snowdonia including Junior Bounce, the Ffestiniog Railway and Llechwedd slate quarries. More on those to follow!
We had a fabulous time at Surf Snowdonia and will definitely be back to visit again, particularly as my hubby is desperate to go now!
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Karen Beddow founded Mini Travellers in 2014 while doing what she loves most...going on holiday!
Mini Travellers is for parents looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews, days out and things to do with the kids. We also have family travel tips, activity ideas and all other things family holiday related. Take a look at some of our latest reviews for holidays and day trips in the UK.