(We were offered a complimentary stay and visits at the hotel and attractions mentioned here in exchange for our honest opinions and reviews.)
We love Cornwall and often explore different parts when visiting family here. A few people I spoke to about visiting Newquay gave it a bad rap – how it can get very busy in the summer with a younger crowd. But out of season, we found it to be lovely with amazing beaches, walks and some great local family-friendly attractions.
We stayed at the 3* Esplanade Hotel in Newquay overlooking the amazing Fistral Beach. If you’re into surfing or keen to learn, then this is an ideal place to stay. Fistral is a lovely beach to wander along and explore or just sit and watch from the cliff top. The hotel itself has an on-site surf school and is very family-friendly with free activities for kids including a complimentary Build-My-Bear activity. Kids also get their own personalised bucket and space on arrival along with a colouring book.
While there, my husband and I discussed the pros and cons of staying at a 3* or 4* hotel having been to the 4* Watergate Bay for lunch on the Saturday. People who have read my blogs before know that we probably prefer ‘quieter’ places – even with kids – but we also appreciate kid-friendly facilities. It’s a hard balance for hotels and attractions to achieve as they have to please both kids and parents! But it’s also a target that many places are setting themselves as families are very much a market they want to attract.
At the Esplanade we found that it very much caters for kids. Our room was great – a really good size for a family with a comfy king-sized bed and a bunk-bed for the kids. We also had a separate lounge section with a sofa bed and a small balcony outside. In the hotel, there is a good-sized swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi and of course being family friendly – it can get quite loud with kids in there but again, you’re not going to mind that if you have kids yourself.
There is a lovely new refurbished lounge area in the foyer with amazing sea views. We thought this could have been extended into the dining room as the seats were always busy. We felt that there were a few things that could be improved at the Esplanade Hotel, such as the dining facilities: the lighting is quite bright in the dining room in the evening and the food, although lots of choice, we found our dishes a bit over-cooked. However, there is a kids’ room with activities going on nearby so easy for parents to sit and chat while their little ones are entertained.
Overall, the hotel is very good value for money and caters very well for families while being near to amazing beaches such as Fistral and Crantock Beach. It is also near to some great family-friendly attractions which we’ll get onto next:
Lappa Valley Steam Railway and Leisure Park
Being very much into trains, we went along to Lappa Valley near Newquay which boasts three model railways! The attraction was created in the 70s by train enthusiast, Eric Booth so there’s a lovely history behind it all.
We loved it! You board a little steam train which takes you into the attraction and once there, you’ll find a multitude of things to keep everyone entertained for the whole day. The track runs on a section of the track-bed originally built in 1849 for a minerals railway to serve the mine at East Wheal Rose. Lappa Valley is set in a historic mining valley so you’ll find the old engine house in the middle of all the modern attractions, including a canoeing lake and pedalo swans, crazy golf, adventure play area and fort and a little modern train railway and more!
The attraction has lovely friendly and helpful staff and a great café with healthy and wholesome food and drink. There are also plans to extend the site with extra facilities. We would highly recommend Lappa Valley for families with under-10s on a non-rainy day in Cornwall!
Pirate’s Quest Newquay
This was great! Again, probably best for under 10s (although I would have enjoyed it without kids!) Pirate’s Quest, Newquay delivers on its promise as an ‘immersive walk-through experience which combines talented theatrical actors in an authentic, atmospheric adventure.’
With Ed dressed up as a pirate, we started our live pirate guided tour on a ship-wrecked boat and went on an hour-long voyage finding out about the fascinating the history of piracy. There is quite a lot of history as the pirate actors transport you back to the 1700’s with their stories about the real Caribbean Pirate heroes. This could perhaps go over the heads of little ones, but we were really impressed with our pirate guides, Captain Redbeard, Captain Davis and Calico Jack who brought it all alive and engaged both adults and kids. We found out why pirates really wear eye patches and that there were women pirates.
We thought perhaps a few more ‘interactive’ happenings could have been staged to engage the kids along the way but perhaps that would have been overload?
We were led through the mystical caves and murky streets of 18th century Cornwall to the crew’s recruitment base; Blackbeard’s Tavern. Eventually you arrive at the Captain Calico Jack’s ship, ready to set sail to the Caribbean. It is all very atmospheric and there is a letter and parrot hunt along the way to engage the kids with the added incentive of gaining a prize at the end!
We all went through the optional ‘Scare Experience’ of Davy Jones’ Locker which was great fun! Ed kept his eyes closed through most of it but afterwards said it was his favourite part! We thought that there could have been a bit more sound/music along the way to make it even more atmospheric but overall this was a fantastic experience and something that we all really enjoyed. We would highly recommend it!