I haven’t stayed in a caravan for years and certainly not with a child, so I was really interested to take up the offer to test one out for Park Resorts at their St Margarets Bay site in Kent, last month.
We decided that it would be really nice to be away for Daddy P’s birthday so we arranged a 3 night stay from the Friday afternoon through to the Monday morning towards the end of October. We looked at all the sites countrywide and picked St Margarets Bay as we wanted to explore an area of Kent that we had no experience of.
Now the weather didn’t feel like behaving on Daddy P’s birthday, it rained all the way down the motorway and wasn’t going to stop even when we finally arrived in Kent. But we weren’t going to let that dampen our spirits.
We found the Park Resorts site quite easily from Dover and parked up outside the Reception Centre. We would be staying in a Gold Plus caravan, which among other things allowed us to check in early at 1.30pm. Check in was smooth and we were given a site map and a little welcome pack along with our key. Our caravan was situated close enough to the entertainment complex that it was a 2 minute stroll, but we were far enough away not to hear any of the activity.
We parked up and worked out which caravan would be our home for the next few days. Monkey can you find number 9?
As there are only three of us we had selected the 2 bedroom Gold Plus caravan option (this could sleep up to 6 people), a 3 bed option could sleep up to 8.
The caravan has central heating throughout which was much appreciated on a dreary, wet Friday in October. First impressions – it looked brand new and was pretty much spotless. The only downside when we arrived was walking back and forth to the car across the muddy grass. It was impossible not to traipse mud into the caravan. The plus side to being a row back from the parking was we weren’t disturbed by anyone getting in and out of their cars, so swings and roundabouts.
Monkey was so excited, he’d never seen a static caravan before, and it wasn’t long before he’d found his bedroom, Which bed shall I have and which one do you want Teddy?
I’d been worried about how Monkey would feel staying in a caravan, but as soon as I walked in his room to find Teddy had been tucked up for a nap, I knew everything would be fine! I was a bit anxious about the width of the beds and whether Monkey would fall out – but no mishaps and he slept just as well as he does at home.
We found the Living Area to be spacious and we had more than enough room. Our only slight quibble with this area was the lack of DVD player as mentioned on the website description for a Gold Plus caravan. I’d spotted this and brought some new DVD’s with us to watch in the evenings. But it wasn’t a major thing and I didn’t bring it up with the Reception staff as we were happy enough watching the channels on Freeview once Monkey had gone to bed. There was a fire in this area, but we found the double glazing and central heating more than sufficient during our stay.
We had breakfast and an evening meal around the table with space to breathe, as well as playing games there. I think 6 people would find that a squeeze even with the stools.
The kitchen area worked well for the 3 of us, the fridge has a small freezer box, big enough for a small tub of ice cream maybe. I used it for our ice blocks as we were taking picnics out and about with us, and had brought milk, butter etc with us from home in cool boxes. We had plenty of utensils, a garlic press would have been a nice addition. The frying pan was small, you would struggle to make a cooked breakfast for 6 people with it. I had to use a saucepan to make our Bolognese in the end. I didn’t make use of the microwave or the oven so can’t comment on them. The hob was great, I do love gas. The only observation I can make is that the lighting in the kitchen area is poor when you are cooking at night. It was quite hard to see what I was doing and how well the food was cooking. A light above the hob would have been great.
There was a drier in the bathroom which was great – it meant we could hang up and dry towels and swimming costumes, which was much appreciated. The shower was fine and with my water issues it was great not to have a fixed shower head, and child friendly too.
Monkey’s twin bedroom had a wardrobe so would could hang his clothes up and store his Trunki case to give him a bit more room. Our room was spacious, the bed withstood Daddy P’s 17 and half stone weight. There was plenty of hanging space in the wardrobes as well as room for our cabin cases. The only thing we would have liked to have seen was a ledge on both sides of the bed, so we both had somewhere for our phones, books etc at the end of the day.
The en-suite toilet was an unexpected surprise and was very handy in the mornings. By the front door there were hooks for coats and an area to store our shoes. We found a dustpan and brush so we could keep on top of the mud. It was great that the flooring was laminate, making it much easier to keep clean during our stay.
By the time we’d unpacked and had a cuppa and a snack we thought we’d try out the indoor swimming pool. The weather didn’t look like brightening up any time soon, so having fun indoors sounded like a good way to start our holiday.
We had free passes for the facilities and entertainment so off we went with our towels and cossies. The changing rooms are single sex, and you need £1 for a locker. The changing rooms are fairly basic with a shower curtain divide if you want to change in private with a chair. But we were only there for a few minutes, it was the pool we were interested in.
The indoor heated swimming pool was lovely, there were gentle steps down with rails for easy access for all the family. The pool went from 0.6m to 1.35m so was great for all of us. As soon as we got in the pool the lifeguard asked if Monkey would like a woggle and a float. A really nice touch which made Monkey’s day. We spent a lovely hour in the pool having family fun. For those of you who have been following my ‘learning to swim’ story, it really was a magic moment to be able to swim next to my son as he paddled away using the woggle. A wonderful memory for us both.
There was a side room with what looked like a Jacuzzi and a smaller pool but we didn’t venture there with Monkey. Apparently there was also a sauna, on a Monkey free break I’d have loved to try that out! You could also book for activity sessions if you so wished.
We ate breakfast in our caravan every morning although you could eat within the complex if you wished from 7.30am. We decided to have our evening meal in the Boathouse Restaurant on the Saturday night after a busy day exploring Dover Castle and the White Cliffs. It’s great with kids that you can eat early if you choose. We’d had a really busy day, Monkey normally goes to bed at 7pm so it was great to eat somewhere that still allowed us to keep his routine in place.
The meal prices were comparable to pub prices I thought. It would have been nice if the Children’s meal deal came with a pudding included, and Monkey would have liked a Garlic Bread option instead of chips and other potato options. But he loved his pizza.
Daddy P opted for a jacket potato with cheese and beans and I went for Scampi and chips. The service was prompt and we were offered additional sauces. Our meals were all very tasty. The restaurant is next to the Boathouse Bar making it easy to order additional drinks if needed.
As we were leaving the evening’s entertainment of Bingo had just begun. If we were staying for a week in the summer and had had a quiet day we’d have probably got more involved with this side of the site. But for us, on a short break, a precious few days away together, it was all about getting out and about during the day and chilling in the caravan at night whilst Monkey slept peacefully in his bed.
There was a small childrens play area near the Entertainment Complex, again we were out during the day so Monkey didn’t get a chance to make use of it. But young children would love it I’m sure.
We also spotted a Convenience Store and Laundrette near to the entrance to the site itself. Again, we didn’t have need of either, but useful to have there if we had.
We were really rather impressed with our Caravan, we liked the site and I can certainly see it as an option for a family holiday. It would have been useful if the welcome pack included a You are Here – this is the nearest beach, and how to get there etc. We did receive a discount booklets for attractions in Kent and East Sussex which we would certainly have made use of if we’d been staying longer. The location of the site worked well for us, being October, we weren’t expecting the weather to be good, so being within walking distance of a beach wasn’t so important. It was the area we were more interested in. The site is only a 5-10 minute drive from Dover and 15-20 minutes from Deal. We’d definitely return again. You can read about the places we did visit over the coming weeks.
disclaimer: we were provided with free accommodation at the site by Parks Resorts in exchange for an honest review.