It goes without saying that the South West is always worth a visit (think pristine beaches, a gorgeous coastline and fresh seafood), but there's a new place in Avon county where the surf is always guaranteed and any concerns you may have about sand in your wetsuit will be banished.
The Wave, located just outside of Bristol, opened in 2019 and is the first inland surfing destination of its kind in the world. Powered by Wavegarden Cove technology, it produces perfect waves for all abilities, from the beginners out there, to a child stepping on a board for the first time, and pro surfers training for that next surf competition.
The entrance to The Wave. Photo: Matt Austin
Where to stay
After a three-hour drive from London, my family and I were looking forward to some R&R and we were duly obliged. Greeted with a smile by our first wavemaker Asia, we were kindly directed to the onsite accommodation The Camp at The Wave, a selection of extremely well-appointed glamping tents which can sleep six to eight people comfortably.
We walked a short walk from the dedicated car park to the campsite (no cars allowed on site) with our bags in tow. An electric buggy usually takes your bags down for you, but the buggy had other ideas when we arrived so we were supplied with a cart for our luggage or the option to use our car. We decided to walk as this also allowed the kids to scooter their way down to the site, speeding up in anticipation as they started to hear the roar of the waves.
The glamping tents can sleep six to eight people. Photo: Tom G Photo
If you're up for that little bit of luxury in your camping experience, The Camp at The Wave has it all, from a wood burner, comfortable beds, a fridge, cooker, and crockery - all the home comforts you'd want, plus your own toilet. Public showers are on site too, but they are very clean and well maintained, and definitely a cut above the typical camping facilities.
It had everything we were looking for and the kids were extremely excited to be in their own bunk beds, whilst mum and dad hunkered down in our double bed. The bedding is clean, the beds overall very spacious, comfortable and hearing the waves from the artificial bay will gently lull you to sleep at night.
Although outdoor cooking is forbidden for fire safety reasons, you can, of course, cook inside the tent or choose from the vast food and drink options onsite. Sipping a tasty gin and tonic whilst eating from one of the street vendors was one of our highlights, but the clubhouse also has an excellent selection and has long opening hours, perfect for the surf dawn patrol.
The Wave offers all the luxuries you need. Photo: Matt Austin
For breakfast and after a gruelling surf session, I opted for the tasty bacon sandwich and a coffee which hit all the right notes - all served with a smile from the brilliant wavemakers, who are always on hand to make your experience better.
The surf sessions
You can't help but be pleasantly overwhelmed when you enter The Wave and we were told that the innovative technology provides up to 1,000 waves of varying sizes and shapes an hour. Heights start at 50cm and peak at almost 2m (solid for the experts out there) so there really is a wave for everyone.
There really is a wave for everyone
Every aspect of the surfing experience, from perfect waves and supportive coaching to tried and tested wetsuits and boards, has been designed to ensure that surfing really is fun and accessible for everyone.
You can even test your limits. Photo: Image Cabin
I opted for the Waikiki surf sessions, which are in between novice and intermediate and aimed at those who want a mellower surf. This was perfect for me as I'm still trying to craft my ability to stand up regularly as opposed to consistently falling off. My wife and six-year-old son took a beginner's surf session, and by the end of it my wife had stood up and my son was smitten. It's a bug you can't shake once you've tried it and all of their smiles stretched from one end of the bay to the other.
Play in the Bay
For the little ones, there is also Play in the Bay which lets the kids and their parents paddle and have a bit of fun. In our session, kids were also bodyboarding, my son included. My two-year-old daughter, not feeling ready to clamber on a board just yet, loved pottering in the water. It's also very well patrolled with lifeguards and you can tell safety is absolutely paramount.
There are plenty of activities to keep kids entertained
Once out of the water, sitting on the top terrace of the clubhouse with a well-deserved sun-downer and watching the experts at play was a great way to end the day.
What else to do at The Wave?
Be warned! You will want to keep surfing once you've had a go, but for the little ones amongst us or those who want to just relax, The Wave has other options…
Wilderness exploring sessions
If surfing is not your kids' thing or they are too young to try, then The Wave runs a host of children's activities. We took both of our kids on the wilderness explorer course and within seconds they had made friends and were completely obsessed with the bug hotel.
Children can explore the local wilderness
This was then followed by a burst of energy which saw them jump up and down like little maniacs as they spotted red deer and rabbits in the grounds. Hosted by the wavemakers, they make it incredibly fun for the kids and again, safety is paramount with all participating children required to wear high-vis jackets.
Arts, crafts and story time
If bugs are a bit too creepy for the young ones, or the idea of rummaging around in flowers and fauna doesn't suit, there's also the option to participate in an arts and crafts session letting your kids' imaginations run wild at the campsite, with all pens, paper and implements provided.
Suitably creatively exhausted, they can then cosy up and listen to a story whilst sitting underneath the campsite awning. There's also a very well-appointed playground next to the clubhouse which your little ones will obsess over once they discover it.
Bristol and Avon
If you want to set your sites further afield, then Bristol is a short cab ride/drive away. If you're a bit more environmentally conscious and arriving by train, you can hire Brompton bikes from Bristol Parkway station. An added bonus is you can weave your way through Avon villages as you make your way into town.
Bristol, known for its phenomenal arts scene, has plenty of bars and restaurants on offer and one of my favourites is the aptly named Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Once you've enjoyed a tipple or two, you can then wander through Clifton's back streets and walk across the wondrous Suspension Bridge - a must if you've never been to Bristol!
Leaving for home
Surfers can enjoy waves from 50cm to 2m. Photo: Matt Austin
We've been truly bitten by the surf bug and already planning our next trip. From the wavemakers to the facilities and, of course, the surfing, we've had a new experience as a family and one which has paved the way for a new passion in our children which you don't see very often. It's a very sustainable trip too, so you can camp and surf relatively guilt-free.
Book your stay here.
Like this story? Sign up to our HELLO! newsletters to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.
HELLO!'s selection is editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items our editors love and approve of. HELLO! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. To find out more visit our FAQ page.