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Park Resorts - More family orientated
Sandy Bay Holiday Park Resort (Northumberland)
Member Name: mum2boys82
Sandy Bay Holiday Park Resort (Northumberland)
Advantages: You spend time together as a family, lots to do locally
Disadvantages: Not a huge amount to do on site
I have just recently returned from a family holiday at Park Resorts, Sandy Bay which is near Newcastle. This holiday was booked through the Sun newspaper's £9.50 per person holiday. Last year we did a similar holiday at a Haven site so I will compare the 2 so you have an idea of what Park Resorts is like.
It was clearly stated on the paperwork that we received that you were not able to get into your accommodation until 4pm, however if you arrived early you could use the on site facilities. We arrived at 1pm and let them know that we were on site, I was asked for my mobile number and they informed me that if our caravan became available before 4pm they would give us a call so we could collect the keys early, I thought this was a really good service and I felt that the staff really cared about each family there (with Haven everyone has to sit in one of the bars and wait for their number to be called to go and queue up for their keys etc).
We got a call at 2.45pm telling us we could go and collect our keys. At the reception area I was given one set of keys, my passes to allow access to the onsite facilities (I will go into these later) and the normal paperwork included maps and time tables of events. They also pointed out that they had many leaflets about the surrounding activities which you were able to help yourself to at any time.
Our last holiday in a caravan we were given a free upgrade, this time we were not lucky enough for that treatment so we had a slightly smaller caravan, but to be honest we didn't spend much time in it so it didn't really matter.
The caravan was clean, there were plenty of pots and pans, we were after all self catering, and there was even 1 toilet roll included with the bedding pack so if you hadn't thought to take any with you (a rookie mistake you only make once!) it didn't mean a mad dash to the onsite shop to buy some. There was a gas fire in the living area but no heating in any of the other rooms.
The bathroom was really clean with a toilet, wash hand basin and shower, the shower cubicle was plastic and had some cracks to it in the corners but not so that you were in danger of getting fingers trapped.
We had a 2 bedroom caravan, with one double bed and 2 single beds, I think that the sofas in the living area converted into a double bed as well but we didn't try this out as it was just me, hubby and the 2 kids.
The on site shop - Was very small but had everything that you could want for your holiday, we got our food for the first evening there and things like milk and bread for the rest of the week. There was a large selection of sweets so be warned if you take the kids in there. There were also some beach toys and souvenirs. This shop is the hottest place I have ever been, not sure why, but it must be like some kind of torture to the staff who work there. One of my small disappointments of the holiday was that although the shop opened plenty early enough at 8am, it was only open until 6pm, and with the sweet vending machine in the bar being broken for most of our stay it meant that the kids couldn't have any sweets after the shop had closed. I can imagine this being a real problem for some people, we survived just about!
Fish and Chip shop - This was open 12 til 2pm and 6pm til late (something like 2am!) every night and was very reasonably priced, the food was good and the staff really friendly.
Swimming pool - Roughly sized about 15 meters by 5 meters was very clean. You had to walk through the arcade and bar/restaurant to get there but that was not really a problem. Both times we used the pool not long after it opened at just gone 10am and we were the only ones in the pool, there were 2 life guards on duty at all times and they even offered floats to the kids. There were changing cubicles at the far end of the pool with a large family sized changing cubicle at the very back. There were also toilets and communal showers in the same area. The only down side was that there were no lockers so you had to leave all your things at the side of the pool, so I would advise not to take any valuables with you. There were some special activites during the week at the pool such as aqua aerobics and baby swimming which we didn't take part in but did look like good fun.
Arcade - You could tell from the size of the arcade that this site was more about family time than making a huge amount of money. There were 6 penny fall machines with sweets and cheap looking key rings for prizes, some fruit machines, some car racing games and a couple of shooting games. This was tiny compared to the arcade at the Haven site we stayed at last year, to start off with I felt like it was a bad thing that there was not much there, but at the end of the week when I thought about how little time and money we had spent just playing on machines compared to our last holiday I changed my opinion.
Bar/Restaurant - The bar/restaurant area was big with typical tables and chairs, but also some comfy sofas and lower tables so you could just chill out for a while. The prices for drinks were quite high but not too unreasonable. For example I had a bottle of White Zinfandel one evening which if bought from Tesco would cost around £5 but in the bar cost £9.95, yes it was almost double but I have been to places charging much more. The food was reasonably priced with a lunch time meal costing around £7 and an evening meal about £9. There was a good selection of food and a special menu for the kids with the usual burgers, chicken nuggets etc. but they could chose to have salad or peas to make the meal a bit healthier. The service was a little slow at times as they only seemed to have one person serving at the bar. The bar/restaurant did not seem to accept cards but they were more than happy for you to use their cash point that charged £1.65 per transaction which was just to the side of the main bar.
Playground - There is an adventure play ground opposite the reception which had a climbing frame with a slide and some other bits of wooden equipment for climbing on, it was a shame there were no swings. The floor was covered in the soft bark type stuff to stop kids from hurting themselves if they fall.
Beach - The site is situated right next to the beach so you could head down at any time, however when the tide comes in it basically comes all the way in so you need to be careful about letting the kids go down there on their own. Also due to the beach disappearing at high tide there was no easy way to get down, you either had to climb down and around lots of rocks after the concrete path ended, or head down at the other end of the beach navigating a steep grassed hill and then slightly smaller rocks. Once on the beach it was lovely and clean with lots of rock pools to discover (my 3 year old discovered 1 head first and was not very keen, especially as he had to walk back to the caravan soaked through!).
Entertainment - The entertainment in the evenings was held in the bar/restaurant area, they had a little stage in the corner looking into the pool through a big window. As it was very quite when we were there, there was not as much entertainment for the older kids available, but as mine are 3 and 1 I was more than happy with what was laid on for them! Between 10 and 11am every morning there was messy time also held in the bar/restaurant with 1 or 2 members of the team helping out with the parents. Straight after this was a group for 5 - 11 year olds and after that one for 12 - 16 year olds. In the evenings they had an activity for the family to take part in starting at 8pm. And around 8.45pm one of the mascots (Sparky, Sparkle or Narky) would come and meet the kids, pose for photographs and sign autographs. The last evening we were there it was shown on the entertainment programme as a karaoke competition which I was not looking forward to, however, as there were no older kids who wanted to sing they decided to do some drawing with the kids, then Sparky came out and told a story and because the 5 kids there sat so quietly listening they were all given t shirts and lanyards! After that they brought out loads of circus things to get everyone trying to juggle, spin plates and use the Diablo! We had great fun and I even learnt how to spin plates! The staff looking after the kids clubs really got involved in what the kids were doing and by the end of the week knew all the kids names and even some of the parents, at Haven last year the staff didn't talk to the kids or the parents which made the activities boring for us all, and my then 2 year old would rather play in the arcade then do drawing with adults that ignore him! After the kids stuff had finished they would bring on a top visiting cabaret and then finish off with a disco.
Laundrette - What site would be complete without one of these? Washing machines and tumble dryers although no machine to dispense soap powder etc so you would have to take your own or buy from the on site shop.
Although there was less to do on site here than there had been on our holiday with Haven, all of it was free to use unlike the bouncy castles and trampolines at Haven where you had to pay each time your kids wanted to play on them. With not having any of that sort of thing on site it meant that you saved money.
This was simple, by 10am on the day you were leaving you needed to have emptied your caravan, leave your bedding in the caravan, lock up and hand the keys in at reception. They asked you to fill in a survey about your stay with the chance to win a weeks holiday in a free prize draw.
About the only thing I could really complain about was that the day before we arrived they had experienced torrential rain and the grassed areas were absolutely muddy. We were asked not to drive our car next to the caravan so that we didn't churn up the mud anymore, which meant that our shoes were covered in mud for about the first 3 days and made the caravan floor filthy. At the same time their way of collecting rubbish and linen from the caravans seemed to be by tractor so this made the mud worse than any car would have. I did suggest to them some walk ways to the caravans to stop this in future but whether this is a viable option I am not sure.
The staff were really friendly and approachable and whenever you saw any of them no matter what they were doing they always asked if you were having a nice holiday.
In summary I would love to go back to this site again as I feel it really had a good family atmosphere and would be more than happy to let the kids explore on their own when they are a bit older. It looked as if the site was expanding a bit with more caravans so I hope that they will add a few more facilities too.
Summary: I would go back here at full price, but not to Haven at full price.
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