“ Address: Haven / 1 Park Lane / Hemel Hempstead / Herts / HP2 4YL / United Kingdom / Tel: 0871 230 1930 „
Before I start, it's worth pointing out that Weymouth Bay is in definitely in Weymouth (Preston, to be more precise), Dorset and not Herts like the title says. If a mod is reading, can you change the title please.
Anyway, that sorted, let me begin. I'm a long distance dad, my 14 year old daughter (Katie) living in Tenby, Wales whilst I live in Kent a long 271 miles away. I visit a lot despite the miles between us and we often have holidays together which we both love. We had previously visited Quay West, another Haven park in Wales and really enjoyed it so were happy to book Weymouth Bay as I had good memories of the town from holidays back in the day. The holiday (a week in mid-August) cost a whopping £764 for a "Superior" (mid-range) caravan though the blow was softened by approx £46 quidco which tracked soon after.
Arriving in the rain at about 5.15pm after 11 hours on packed roads (had to go to Wales first) I was a bit frazzled to say the least but parking was easy enough. We queued for about 15 mins at the busy but friendly reception (which shuts at 6pm) to get our keys and paperwork. My mood was lifted by a 'van upgrade to a Prestige (second only to the Platinum) due to double booking and we were located less than 100 yards from the main complex in a quiet and spacious cul-de-sac. They did say however that the carpets needed cleaning which they did 3 days later.
After quickly unloading and being a bit tired and hungry, we soon made our way to the bar for some much needed nourishment, and lager. The main bar was bright and spacious enough though quite busy due to the footie on Sky. We perched on stools and ordered a (Pukka) pie and chips for me and egg, bacon and chips for the lay-dee. Bar service was very slow but the food arrived after about 10 mins and was hot and filling, just what the Doctor ordered (actually, he had the lasagne but you know what I mean). The menu looked quite good with curry nights etc. Satisfied, we headed back to our prestigious mobile abode for an early-ish night.
Really liked our 'van, mostly because I had a spacious and nicely fitted out room with en-suite (toilet and sink). Poor old Katie had the usual shoebox room with narrow beds and chose to sleep on the sofa after a couple of days but she was quite happy with that. The other bathroom was spacious enough and the fairly good shower gave plenty of hot water.
The kitchen was well spec'd too with integrated fridge, separate freezer, gas oven and microwave though due to the plethora of pots and pans there was little room for food. The lounge was nice and wide though the TV was the old-school portable type (with built in DVD). I would have been disappointed with that had I paid the big bucks for a Prestige 'van to be honest. Picture was fine though with a Freeview box and there was also an Aiwa stereo system. The dining table was very wonky but a quiet word at reception got it fixed the same day (great service) although it still wobbled a bit which was a tad annoying. The carpets were very dirty as we had been warned, as if the previous occupants had gone out of their way to walk mud into them. Some people really do have no respect. The man and his machine cleaned them on the Tuesday but they won't be the same again.
Parking was fine with our own block-paved drive but there was no outdoor table and chairs or decking, just an old codgers bench and a motley selection of plant pots. Again, had I actually paid for a Prestige caravan I would have been a bit disappointed with this. As it was behind the hills, no sea view sadly.
( For the caravan spotters amongst you, it was a Bluebird Caprice, 2 bed, 12 foot wide )
Very clean and well organised, though the less "prestigious" 'vans were quite close together. The bin areas were clean and tidy and the grass nicely cut everywhere. As seems to be the standard for Haven sites, there was an arcade, family bar/café, an entertainment bar and in this case two pools.
FAMILY BAR - As mentioned, light and spacious with a pool table and TVs that showed music or the footie but without dominating. Food was fine (though we only had one meal there) and the prices were ok (£2.90 Carlsberg, £3.25 San Miguel). We popped in there quite often and generally enjoyed it though the bar service could be pretty slow. Plenty of outdoor seating with views over the camp but only the smoking area was lit after dark.
ENTERTAINMENT BAR - We didn't venture into this often as it was pretty hot when busy and the rather lame entertainment was aimed at younger children. The Hokey Cokey at 10.15pm seemed a bit much if you asked me. Some of the adults in there seemed to have lost the will to live as their Coked-up (the drink) kids tore around, bedecked in neon flashing adornments.
OUTDOOR POOL - Pretty small and icy, subdivided into different depths but the lifeguards were on the ball, ensuring adults went in with the younger kids. A dozen or so sun beds along one side but not out of splashing range, unfortunately. It shut at 5pm and was then used for those water walking ball thingies (£5 a pop, asthma attack free of charge).
INDOOR POOL - A bit bigger and warmer but the water had a murky texture all of it's own and it was standing room only on all of our visits. Lifeguards a bit less observant and let kids get away with some serious bombing which was pretty dangerous in a busy pool IMO. Showers blew hot and cold, literally. Changing area was clean and tidy with decent sized cubicles. Lockers 20p, non refundable. Shut at 6pm for the Aqua Jets and other fun and games.
ARCADE - You couldn't miss this as you had to go through it to get to the other places including the pools, which isn't a great idea as the noise and lights can be a bit disorientating at first but you get used to it. We enjoyed the Air Hockey (£1), mini bowling (£2 pp) and Guitar Hero (£1). Plenty of the coin tumbling games and the ticket winning machines to relieve you of your hard-earned cash seemed popular too.
LOCAL BEACH - Advertised as a short walk away but it's a bit of a mission with some muddy paths and uphill work so take that with a pinch of salt. Called Bowleaze Cove, the beach is a bit scruffy but it has a café/bar area and small funfair. All a bit dated to be honest, however the fish and chips we enjoyed out of the paper overlooking the sea one evening was the best meal of the holiday. You can drive there also and park for free up the hill.
MISC - the security people who (mostly) checked our pases were polite and friendly. Crazy golf had definitely seen better days so we didn't go "clubbing" (groan!) on there. Decent sized kids playground but this was unlit after dark. This did not seemed to prevent it's use though. You can walk through to the sister site (Sea View) next door should you fancy it but we found they were pretty similar so it's not really worth the effort. If anything, Weymouth bay seemed to attract a better class of chav.
PLACES WE VISITED
Great holiday town with a beautiful sandy beach and scenic harbour. Obviously proud of it's regal heritage (George III used to visit to take the waters apparently), it has a somewhat faded charm but plenty to do. We were there for the carnival and enjoyed the Red Arrows and coffin-dodging crooner Alvin Stardust belting out a few oldies onstage before the parade itself. A few funfair rides on the front kept us amused when we weren't catching crabs in the harbour or partaking of a pint in the many hostelries. Good to see the sand sculptures are still going, done by a descendant of the man who did them when I was last there in the 70's.
The Tourist Information centre is very good and is located near the ferry port, a decent resource to get ideas and discounts for the attractions. Plenty of shops including most of your High St faves but the downside was the drive in which is only about 3 miles but took a long time due to the traffic and parking was expensive (a whopping £6 for 4 hours at the harbour). We took the bus in on carnival day which was a fair £2.50/£1.60 for return tickets.
Pubs we visited in town were THE MOBY DICK (popular family pub on the front with decent food and outdoor tables), THE NEW ROOMS INN (nice harbour location but a bit pricey) and THE DOROTHY (good seafront location though truly skanky, I liked it).
THE TIMEWALK - Set in the old Devenish brewery in Weymouth's Brewers Quay, it's an interesting and often entertaining set-up with life-size montages of the town's history from the Black Death throught the Spanish Armada to the present day. A bit of a poor man's Taussauds but I don't mean that in a derogatory way. Be warned though, lots of stairs to go up and down and it might be a bit scary for younger kids. We were the only two there on our visit which seemed a real pity especially as it is good value when bought with a combined ticket (£10.50 total for both of us) for the nearby DISCOVERY science centre. This has the usual hands on sciency stuff to amuse the bin-lids for another hour or so.
NOTHE FORT - Just above Weymouth harbour and well worth a visit to see how it was built and utilised over the last two centuries. Plenty of big guns for little kids. Good views over Weymouth and Portland so bring your camera though avoid it in bad weather as it's quite exposed up there as we found!
DORCHESTER - Dorset's County Town and Only 9 miles from Weymouth but it took a while due to the traffic. This should be helped by a new road they appear to be building en route at the moment. Nice place for a rainy day with a few attractions such as the Tutankhamen exhibition, Dinosaur exhibition and Teddy Bear museum. We went to the small but informative Tutankhamen exhibition and tickets for each attraction give you a discount for the others (can't say Pharaoh than that).
LULWORTH COVE - About 20 mins from Weymouth, a very pretty place to visit though as ever don't forget your pound coins for parking (I think we paid about £4 for 6 hours). We did a nice 5 mile walk from there using the Jarrold's Pathfinder book. Hillier than I thought (sorry Katie) but with excellent views over the fabulous Durdle Door as seen on Coast many times. The beach at Lulworth Cove is narrow and stony and beware of flying stones as fossil-hunting kids chips away at the rocks with their dad's best hammers. Plenty of café's and a pub will keep you filled up with ice-cream and Dorset Cream Teas (about (£4 -£4.50)
SEA LIFE CENTRE - Minutes from the town centre, just behind the seafront, this is a good half-day out but very pricey IMO (£17.50 adults, £14.50 kids, £12 crumblies) particularly as you have to pay to park there also. You can buy cheaper tickets in advance from the Tourist Information centre to soften the fiscal blow and we later (grrrrrr!) found the local Tesco Metro had BOGOF tickets as well. Quite a few aquariums with the obligatory shark tunnel in one and outdoor stuff included kiddie rides, seals, penguins and a paddling pool. Café was not much cop though. We went to the (stony) beach over the road afterwards or you can part with more of your dosh at the go-karts and Pirate Golf (Aaaaaaaaarrrr!) next door.
A great time was had by all (I mean both) and we would definitely return as there are places like Portland that I'd like to visit, though preferably not in mid-August. The site was fine and well run and Weymouth and Dorset have a lot to offer for everyone :o)
I have recently come back from a short break from this holiday site and thought it was time to give my views (Good and Bad) on my experience there.
It is quite some distance from our house in the North West to travel to Weymouth, in fact it took us about 6 hours. Fortunately on this occasion the 3 children behaved impeccably (not always the case) and our journey was made that bit more pleasant. Nevertheless I was still tired after all the driving and really didn't want any fuss when I arrived. This proved to be the case, so thumbs up to Haven.
I found the park very easily thanks to my much trusted Sat Nav, and with parents in the car behind me, I was happy to enter the park and head for reception. The reception looked immaculate (inside and out) and was situated next to the owners lounge/reception. There was a small queue, which was to be expected as we had arrived just after 4pm, which is the time we were allowed to book in. The lady was extremely 'chirpy' and polite, and gave us our keys to the caravan, along with a map, and our entertainment passes. It was then time to find the caravan.
I went back to the car and followed the map around. The caravan we had been given couldn't have been further way. It was at the end of the site, but as the entrance and exit were on the same road, it was like a u shape, on its side, if you get my drift. My first thoughts were 'what a long walk for the kids', but when I saw my caravan was situated in close proximity (about 30 yards or so) from a lovely 14th Century church, my views changed. I love old churches and architecture and it all seemed so scenic.
It wasn't long before we realised it was easier for us to walk out the exit, along the main road and into the entrance. It was certainly shorter. Doing this we noticed a couple of chip shops and a couple of pubs and mini markets. Perfect for us, over our week at the camp. However because of the main road I still made sure that when my children were alone, they always kept to the campsite. Only with Mum and Dad were they allowed to venture out.
My youngest (aged four) was really keen to see the characters, so that evening we went down to the club, to see the evening entertainment. I was actually really disappointed. In fact gob-smacked. The entertainment, half way through April, was a Christmas show. The characters were all in Christmas outfits. Okay I can understand December. Maybe even January, but April, come on. I soon realised that this show must still be part of their Winter/Spring calendar, and that they had yet to bring out the Summer shows. Still it was an embarrassing episode singing along to Christmas songs!!
The club itself however was extremely bright, and had obviously undergone refurbishment. Even all the tables/chairs/carpets etc appeared new. The drinks at the bar were slightly expensive, but only what you'd expect at a holiday site. I guess they have to make their money somewhere.
That night we went back to the caravan and were immediately aware that this quaint little church had bells. A 10'o clock they boomed out, same at 11'o clock - in fact they went on all night. At first I thought this would keep us awake, but surprisingly everybody (except me) slept through them. That isn't unusual, as my sleeping patterns are dire at the best of times. One big problem though was the cold. Although it was nice during the day, the temperature dropped very low of a night. This meant that we were all cold. There was only a fire in the living room. The quilts seemed paper thin also. I also found the bed complete lacking in comfort. In the end we all decided to drag the mattress in from the main bedroom and three of us sleep on the floor. This is how it stayed all week. The two youngest stayed in their smaller room,which appeared a lot warmer.
The next day the family went to the pool. The outside pool was still closed and actually had a duck paddling around in it. The inside pool was open and the room temperature was a nice 80 degrees. It looks very similar to the picture on here. There are tables and chairs around the pool for those who want to observe. If you aren't swimming you need to put plastic covers over your shoes. One disappointment aspect here was the fact that there were no slides etc for the children. The pool was also very small. I think if it was peak period, even allowing for the outside pool, it would be too packed. However it was clean, and the windows above open, for those glorious summer days. If you look closely at the picture you can just about see them.
Just before our holidays Haven sent us a letter saying that the childrens play area, would be out of bounds as it was being replaced. This was the case when we arrived. Some of it had been done, and it looked really nice, but the rest was a dump. They said that as way of an apology and inconvenience there would be a bouncy castle open at certain times (free) and that the crazy golf would be free too. All of us had a go on the crazy golf and it was great fun. However when we went back on the Friday to have another go, we were told that as 'some' of the play area was now open, it was no longer free. A 'warm' discussion pursued and we were given the game free of charge. I never did see the bouncy castle up.
A great favourite with the children was the arcade. It certainly guzzles the money, and must be a real money maker for Haven. The children loved saving up the tickets on the games, to collect prizes at the end of the week. On one occasion my daughter won a fiver, but it got stuck coming out of the machine. The arcade engineer happily got it for her without any arguments.
On one night I treated all the family to a meal in their restaurant. It had TV and pool tables, and also a bar. The meals we ordered were simple ones, off the menu. Basically beefburgers in buns, for all of us. It took 45 minutes to arrive. By this stage we were all pretty fed up, and it spoilt the meal. At the end of the meal, I had a word with the manager, who apologised, and gave us a coupon for free deserts, on another night. I took them up on this kind offer, and I can only say that the service that night was a massive improvement.
For those who don't want to venture off site. There i an on site Spa, which sells all what you would expect. Newspapers, Drinks, Food etc. This is situated near reception.
On the other nights we ventured down the club, the entertainment didn't improve. Except for one night when they had a guy on as a comedian. He was so bad, he was good - if you get what I mean. Other times it was more like a shouting contest. Including who can clap the loudest contests etc. Certainly not upto Haven's normal high standard of entertainment, which I have seen on many sites of theirs. Maybe it was because they were in between seasons, I don't know.
The site is very close to the beach. Over some fields. But to be honest we never ventured over them. I took the family by car, because we had so much to bring with us.
This brings me to the summary. Would I recommend? Well I know I may have given many negatives on here, but the truth is the park is very nice. It looks modern. It is clean. The bar area and club are really nice, and very modern. The play area is new. So in essence the structure is there. My main concern would be how it would cope when it was peak season. I'm sure the club house isn't big enough, neither is the pool. But other than that, assuming they step the entertainment up, I would say yes. There is a lot to see around there. I'm sure the 'bed' experience was only because it was in April, and in August, although the bed may be uncomfortable, it would be warmer in the caravan. We will be going again!!