weymouthwetsuits

Family glamping tried and tested: a luxury safari lodge in Weymouth

HELLO writer Sophie Hamilton chose a seaside staycation for her summer family break

Sophie Hamilton

What a fantastic staycation! Instead of trekking to a faraway spot this summer, the Hamilton clan – that's me, my husband Andrew and our two children, Brandon, seven, and Zara, five – decided on a much easier summer holiday option of glamping in Weymouth. I'd always wanted to visit the quintessential seaside town with its vast white sandy beach and charming harbour. Situated on England's south coast in the county of Dorset, Weymouth is known for its fun holiday vibe – think donkey rides, Punch and Judy shows and helter skelter rides on the beach. It's hard not to be a big kid there.

Our luxury safari lodge at Waterside Holiday Park & Spa

We were newbies to the whole glamping scene but our accommodation was beyond divine at the Waterside Holiday Park & Spa beside Bowleaze Cove. The park has over 500 static caravans, seven safari tents and five safari lodges. The lodges and tents are situated on a private drive in the holiday park, giving maximum privacy and stunning views over rolling hills. Our lodge came with its own veranda, private garden and even a hot tub. It was so fantastic winding down after an energetic day at the beach in our own personal tub!

Inside the lodge, the interior design was seriously cool, with animal print carpet and cushions giving a real safari feel. The layout catered for all our needs – open plan kitchen-diner-lounge, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The kids were ecstatic to have their own flat screen TV in their room, which gave us a few rare lie-ins. Thanks Waterside!

Brandon and Zara playing a fun game of Jenga

The resort owners have literally thought of everything to keep your little cherubs occupied. There's a fantastic indoor swimming pool with waterslides and toddler zone, plus a heated outdoor pool. There's also a soft play within the Sports Bar and amusement arcade for older kids. Outdoors, the kids had a ball in both playgrounds; one is joined to the resort's newly opened beach bar 'The Shack', so you can enjoy a sundowner while the kids play.

After we'd explored our gorgeous lodge on day one, Brandon and Zara were desperate to hit the beach, so we jumped in the car and headed into Weymouth. We visited in August - prime tourist season - so, not surprisingly, parking in the town centre was tricky. On subsequent jaunts into Weymouth we hopped on the local bus which stopped right by the safari lodges at Waterside – so convenient.

MORE: Rochelle Humes' holiday photos will make you want to book the next flight to Ibiza

We all loved relaxing on Weymouth's beautiful three-mile long beach. There was so much going on there, from fair rides to pedalos and families crabbing together. After a fun afternoon's play, we headed back for dinner at Waterside's restaurant. The kids wolfed down their chicken and chips followed by some scrumptious puddings, while us grown-ups enjoyed our steak suppers. Afterwards, we watched the kids bop along to the children's disco in the adjoining entertainment venue, which offers a nightly programme of singers, comedians, bands and tribute acts.

The beautiful Bowleaze Cove

Saturday morning was jam-packed with exploring. After a quick dip in the hot tub – why not?! – the kids wasted no time getting acquainted with the indoor pool and slides. Then we took a scenic walk along the beach and cliff top at Bowleaze Cove. We couldn't believe it when we stumbled up the park's 3G football pitch on the hilltop – what an amazing spot for a game of soccer.

Weymouth boasts a wonderful Sealife Centre and we just had to pay it a visit. It didn't disappoint. Hours of fun were had spotting otters, penguins and sea turtles within the park's thirteen different zones, which is home to over 1000 creatures. The kids just loved getting hands on and stroking the starfish. The splash zone and Caribbean Cove play areas are brilliant for keeping the littles ones occupied after learning about the marine life.

Brandon meets a starfish at the Weymouth Sealife Centre

Also part of the Sealife Centre is the Jurassic Skyline – a revolving viewing platform giving 360 degree panoramic views over Weymouth, Portland and Lulworth. The kids were so excited on the way up to the top, and wow, what a spectacular view! A definite for the to-do list.

MORE: Backpacking for beginners – the ultimate guide

After all this action, it was time for a little mummy me-time, so off I went to the holiday park's spa and left daddy on duty. The on-site spa is open from 9am-6pm every day and has a hydrotherapy pool, rainforest showers, aroma steam room and sauna. It does everything from massages to nails, facials, waxing and tinting. I booked in for a much-needed manicure, which was wonderful. In fact, I wanted to move into the spa full time.

The kids showing off their new spades at Weymouth Harbour

We were spoilt for choice with meal options on our staycation – one evening we grabbed some delicious fish and chips from the Waterside Take-Away to eat in our lodge, and another night we ate at a restaurant in Weymouth Harbour. I really recommend wandering around the pretty streets beside the harbour which gives you such a feel of the local area.

We couldn't leave without trying out some of the water sports on offer at Bowleaze Cove, so we signed up for a family kayaking session. Andrew paired up with Zara and I paddled alongside Brandon, who for a first-timer was surprisingly adept at it. Even five-year-old Zara got the hang of it. We had a blast, riding upon the sea's little waves – which became a lot choppier after a jet ski zoomed past, but, phew, we stayed upright!

Our first family kayaking trip!

There is so much to do at Waterside, there's no danger of 'I'm bored' yells from the kids. Weymouth really is a classic English seaside town harking back to the heyday of great British beach holidays. It's definitely worth a visit. And if you're after that extra bit of luxury on your family staycation, a Waterside safari lodge is the way to go. 

For more information about Waterside Holiday Park & Spa visit watersideholidaygroup.co.uk/waterside

The Park is open to holiday guests from 16 March to 2 November. As of 28 August 2018, an off-peak short break costs from £317 and an off-peak week break from £452.

Water sports are run by Jurassic Coast Activities and bookable online at jurassiccoastactivities.co.uk

Like this story? Sign up to our newsletter to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

More on: