Kirsty McCabe trials a weekend break to Newquay with her family and discovers there's a lot more to it than it's 'party town' reputation
You don’t need to leave the UK to have a fantastic family holiday. Cornwall has long been a favoured destination thanks to its mild and sunny climate, miles and miles of golden sandy beaches, rocky inlets and hidden coastal gems.
Our destination was the Cornish town of Newquay, perched high on the Atlantic cliffs. In recent years, Newquay had acquired something of a party town reputation, but a partnership between the local authority, police, businesses and residents has worked hard to restore the good name of this world-renowned seaside resort.
We were staying at the Esplanade Hotel, overlooking the famous Fistral Beach. From the very outset we were made to feel welcome, and so were the children. There were welcome drinks at reception, and my two soon found the train track and doll’s house in the lounge area. This became a favoured spot where they could play while we sank into comfy chairs and watched the stunning sunsets.
Family accommodation at The Esplanade Hotel, Cornwall
A range of family rooms are available, some of which can sleep up to six people. Different set-ups include bunk beds, single beds and sofa beds and many have balconies that overlook the outdoor children’s pirate ship play area and recreation ground. We were lucky enough to have a sea view as well, but my two were more excited by the goodie bags waiting for them on their beds.
It’s the little touches that make somewhere special and the boys were thrilled to spot their towels had been cleverly arranged into the shape of an elephant. Another great idea was posting a bedtime story underneath our door each evening. Off to the beach? Handily placed near the entrance is a large storage container filled with buckets and spades and other beach paraphernalia to borrow. There are also bright orange plastic bracelets with the hotel’s name on it that children can wear to the beach, should they get lost.
You've got to have fish and chips when in Cornwall...
After a fairly uneventful trip from London (we have discovered a way to avoid the M25) we headed to the hotel’s Ocean View restaurant for dinner. With two hyper boys we were a bit anxious about sitting through a meal but there’s a lovely family vibe and children are welcome to eat at any time.
Our table was at the window so we could distract the children by challenging them to spot different things. “Who can see a red car?”, Who can see a surfer?”, “Who can see a kite?” etc. This became our table for all our meals, which was great for my kids as they like to claim their territory and would not have been up for sitting elsewhere.
There’s an extensive a la carte menu plus daily specials and a fun kids menu, all made with local produce from land and sea. The kitchen staff were very accommodating when I went off menu to meet the fussy requests of my eldest. Plain pasta with cheese and beans separately on the side. Which he then proceeded to mix up all together and tucked into with gusto…
When the kids started playing up and watching YouTube videos (eggs being opened, toys unboxed) on our mobiles courtesy of the free WiFi wasn’t cutting it, we opted to wait for our ice cream bucket desserts in the lounge. By this point it was past their bedtime so we had a quick look around the hotel, taking particular note of the indoor soft play (perfect for rainy days) and the swimming pool.
After a restful night’s sleep we headed for breakfast in the Ocean View restaurant. There’s a selection of continental and cooked options, including the traditional Full English and veggie options. The children were spoilt for choice, with my youngest keen to take all the fruit on offer while the eldest eyed up the pastries.
Fuelled for the day we grabbed our buckets and spades and headed to the beach while my husband went for his first ever surf lesson. I was pretty impressed the instructors at the on-site Quiksilver Surf School found a wetsuit to fit his 6ft4 rugby build. The school overlooks the south end of Fistral Beach, where the waves are less crowded so plenty of space to get the hang of surfing.
Hotel guests are offered discounted lesson rates but there’s a minimum age restriction and children need to be competent swimmers. So we stuck to building sandcastles and laughing as Daddy ran up and down the beach during the warm up. He had an absolute blast in the water and I have a funny feeling that’s not the last time he’ll be on a surfboard. Maybe next time the kids will be old enough to join in too. In the meantime it was time to refuel.
Nestled into the cliffs and conveniently on our way back up to the hotel sits Bodhi’s Cafe. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the stunning views over Fistral Beach. The staff were lovely, the food great and if it had been later in the day I would have gladly sampled the drinks menu too. Instead the kids opted for babyccinos.
Lunch done we were ready to get back in the water, this time in the luxurious indoor heated pool at the hotel. There’s a splash area for little ones, plus a Jacuzzi and sauna too. There are no family swim time restrictions but the pool isn’t monitored by lifeguards so children must be accompanied. By this point, my youngest Logan could barely keep his eyes open and went for a nap with his Dad (tired from his surfing) while Ethan and I took part in some of the activities.
The Esplanade prides itself on being family friendly but rather than offering a traditional ‘kids club’, the hotel offers a wide range of free activities that the whole family can do together. During the holidays there’s a huge range on offer, including swimming pool parties, circus skills, cocktail making, face painting, family bingo, treasure hunts and movie time to name but a few.
Ethan was very keen to take part in Build-My-Bear, at the hotel, and got stuffing with glee. He named his teddy 'Tom' and his brother’s monkey 'Cuddles', and decorated their T-shirts with their names carefully drawing a telescope for Tom (because it also begins with a T) and a dinosaur for Cuddles (as Logan loves his dinos).
Each bear is issued with its own passport and you can collect stamps to complete it, for everything from eating an ice cream to having a surfing lesson. Once complete, you bring the passport to the reception desk and collect a special prize. Ethan couldn’t wait to show Tom and Cuddles to his brother but first we had mocktails and a game of table football in the Pebbles Bar. You can eat here too from a range of sandwiches, snacks and light bites and there’s a large sun terrace. This is also the place to go in the evenings for family entertainment.
Away from the hotel and beach, there’s plenty for families to do in Newquay itself, and we opted for a trip to Newquay Zoo. Set in 13 acres of lush tropical gardens, you can get close to some of the wonders of the animal world, including lions, lizards and lemurs. We watched the different feeding talks and John the zookeeper was kind enough to show us some baby meerkats that they were taking extra care of as their mum had a habit of letting them get cold and wet.
Inspired by the animals? Your little ones can monkey around too with the Tarzan Trail mini assault course and other play areas around the grounds. If one day wasn’t enough, you can pick up a free 7 day photo return pass before you leave the Zoo.
All too soon our Cornish adventure was over and we had to check out of the hotel. This did not go down well with the children who had decided they preferred us all sharing a room and breakfast being served buffet style. Not to mention the pool, beach and fun activities on offer. The final word goes to Ethan who declared “I want to stay here for a hundred years”. Me too.
For more information and to book, visit The Esplanade Hotel
7 night peak season, dinner, bed & breakfast costs £1,700 (2 kids, 2 adults)
7 night peak season, bed & breakfast (2 kids, 2 adults) costs £1,280
Kirsty McCabe writes her weekly column here on www.juniormagazine.co.uk. Follow us on Twitter: @juniormagazine to keep up with the latest news
"And, if you are in need of a little friendly, advice, have a read of some of my other columns..." Kirsty McCabe