We did something a little different for our Anniversary and Father’s Day this year. We spent the weekend – well technically Friday to Monday – in a static caravan at California Cliffs Holiday Park, close to the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, East Anglia.
Park Resorts – the UK family holiday park provider – had been in touch with me earlier in the year to see whether we fancied a short break at one of their 48 locations in exchange for a review of our experiences. With fond memories of staying in a caravan as a kid surging through my brain, it didn’t take me long to accept their kind offer.
We had a look at the different locations, read a few reviews and chose California Cliffs as it sounded both toddler and dog-friendly. We were hoping that the holiday park was going to be near Los Angeles, but instead found it to be close to Great Yarmouth – the so called Huntington Beach of the East of England (by me). I jest – I actually have really fond memories of Yarmouth – we used to go quite often on family holidays when I was a kid, so I was looking forward to introducing the caravan experience with Toddler L.
I hate to sound snobby, but to be completely honest, we did have a bit of trepidation about the break. Neither Hay or I have done caravan holidays in 15+ years and we’ve got used to staying in nice hotels when we’re away. You hear about some holiday parks being a little run down or inundated with lager louts, but from everything we’d researched, California Cliffs wasn’t like this. Still, we were a little unsure whether this would be ‘our kind of holiday’.
We really were made to eat our thoughts though – if that’s even a thing. We had a great break at California Cliffs, found the experience of staying in a static caravan to be better than envisaged, enjoyed the family-friendly facilities at the holiday park and had fun exploring the local area with a toddler and dog.
Below, you’ll find a pretty detailed account of what we did over the four days in East Anglia, including the facilities at California Cliffs, the nearby Scratby Beach, Burgh Castle and Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre.
Day 1 – Friday
California Cliffs is around 150 miles from where we live in Hertfordshire, so Google Maps told me it’d probably be just under three hours. We set off just after Toddler L woke up from her morning nap, however traffic was a bit annoying with it being a Friday, so the journey took just over four hours. Boo!
On arrival at 4.30pm ish, we parked up at reception and I popped inside to check in. We were given a load of useful information booklets, our caravan key and directions to where we were staying by a helpful woman on reception. We literally got back into the car for 10 seconds on the drive to the caravan as it was so close to reception – less walking, bonus!
Our accommodation was a Gold caravan which slept six people. There was one double bed, two single beds in a twin room and a ‘put-you-up’, although obviously we didn’t need the latter as we had no plans for a swingers weekend. Our caravan was also ‘accessible’ as it was designed for guests with mobility requirements – we didn’t request this, but it was the last dog-friendly caravan available, which was fine with us.
We were impressed with the caravan. It was clean, didn’t smell ‘doggy’, was well furnished, had central heating and looked to be a great choice for the next few days. It also felt really spacious for a static caravan, which I’m assuming was down to the fact it was ‘accessible’. I’d earmarked the twin room for Toddler L to occupy, so after folding up one of the beds, I was able to comfortably fit in her travelcot which we’d brought with us.
I had a look through the leaflets we were given and found that there were plenty of varied entertainment on at the holiday park during the day and evening. Some of this was free, such as The Big Talent Show, Football Sessions, Line Dancing, Aqua Baby and Character Meet & Greet, whereas others had a small charge, such as Character Breakfast, Pottery Painting, Aqua Rollers and Pirate Rafting.
At just under two, we thought that Toddler L was probably a little young for most of these things. However, we were impressed with the range of family activities available and made a note to go along to the evening entertainment one night.
After unpacking our stuff, we decided to have a wander down to the nearby Scratby Beach, which was just a five minute walk from California Cliffs. Here, we discovered a really quiet, sandy beach for Toddler L and Dax to explore – a real bonus being so close to the holiday park.
We probably spent an hour down at the beach playing. Skipping stones, running away from the waves, digging in the sand, pretending to throw each other in, tantruming because we didn’t want to go back etc – you know, just the standard stuff for a toddler down at the beach.
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After that, we headed back to the caravan and cooked some food we’d brought with us. The kitchen had everything we needed – hobs, oven, microwave, fridge, freezer, cutlery etc – although, as to be expected, there was a couple of things we needed to bring like washing up liquid, a sponge and oven gloves.
This is what really appeals about self-catering for us – often, it’s the price of food and drink which increases the cost of holidays, so being able to cook for ourselves significantly reduces the overall expenditure. Yes, it’s nice to eat out every now and then, but self-catering when away is more our thing.
After a bit of a play, we put the sprog to bed, settled down to watch a film – the caravan had a TV with Freeview and a DVD player – then headed to bed half way through it as the missus fell asleep. Typical! During the night, we did notice that the caravan was pretty cold – there was another duvet in the cupboard that we put onto the bed and we stuck the central heating on so that Toddler L didn’t get too cold.
Day 2 – Saturday
After waking and having breakfast, we headed for a quick morning swim prior to Toddler L’s nap. California Cliffs has both an indoor and outdoor pool – considering the sprog loves the water, we try to take the opportunity to go swimming whenever we can. The pool is accessed through the main reception area in the Entertainment Complex and includes everything you’d expect, like showers, changing cubicles, tables, chairs and sun loungers.
Toddler L and I got changed, then headed into the main pool as the missus watched on. We practised a number of things we do at Water Babies – underwater swims, holding on to the side, swimming on our backs etc – however her new favourite thing to do was climb up onto my chest and then jump off. We then went into the separate baby / toddler pool, where she continued to have fun by splashing and dipping her head under the water.
The outdoor pool – which has a big slide – was shut at this point, however it was a little chilly to go outside anyway. I was really impressed with the pool and the facilities – it was clean, a good temperature, not too busy and had lifeguards on watch. A definite bonus of staying at a holiday park like this.
After her nap and having a quick bite to eat, we headed out in the car to explore the nearby area. As we have a dog, it obviously limits some of the stuff we can do, however we stumbled upon Burgh Castle which was not only dog-friendly, but also free – win win!
About 10 miles away from California Cliffs, Burgh Castle is an old Roman fort which was once acted as part of a defence system along the coast. Despite being a bit rainy and windy, we had a nice walk around the three large stone walls and took in the views over Breydon Water.
We’d not really explored California Cliffs yet, so on returning to the campsite and after the sprog’s late afternoon nap, we went for a wander around the holiday park. What we discovered was a great range of facilities onsite. Outside, we found a launderette, fish and chip shop and convenience store all located next to each other near the entrance.
On walking around the reception building we came across a paid for crazy golf, a sports court (football, basketball and tennis [I think]) and an adventure playground. Being the explorer she is, it wasn’t long before Toddler L was on the playground. She went over to the toddler stuff first – this was a bit of equipment with stairs, a slide and movable blocks, then she moved on to the swings and a spring rocker.
She then spotted the ‘big kid equipment’. With absolutely no fear at all, she climbed up the seven foot cargo net and went down the slide. She then attacked it from the other side – going up the climbing wall, across the rope bridge and down the slide as I manically clambered after her. All of the equipment was in good condition and there was plenty to keep Toddler L entertained.
After getting our fill at the playground, we headed back to the caravan, cooked some food and put Toddler L to bed. Having been in the caravan for another day, we’d noticed a couple of things which brought it down slightly. For instance, one of the curtain rails kept falling off the wall whenever we moved the curtain and the caravan was pretty cool – in fact, we started keeping the heating on most of the time.
That evening, we attempted to watch another film, however like the previous night, it was unsuccessful as the missus fell asleep again!
Day 3 – Sunday
Despite being Father’s Day, it was my turn to get up with the sprog when she woke. As she obviously wanted to spend as much time with her dad as possible on my ‘special day’, she was up just before 7am – typical! We spent a couple of hours just hanging around the caravan before deciding to go swimming when the pool opened.
A photo posted by The DADventurer (Dave) (@the_dadventurer) on
After her morning nap and lunch, we drove the 15 minutes to Great Yarmouth where we planned to spend the afternoon. We managed to park up just off the seafront near the Sea Life Centre as we were going to go there later. As the weather was sunny, we spent a bit of time on the sandy beach – mainly to get a few photos of Toddler L and I in our new ‘twinning’ t-shirts which I got for Father’s Day. The life of a blogger, eh?!
Following this, we went to the Sea Life Centre for a look around as we’d been provided with free entry to the attraction in exchange for writing about our experiences in this post. Toddler L loves all things animals at the moment, so an aquarium is right up her street. With promises of more than 50 displays and over 1,500 creatures on show, I was expecting her tiny mind to explode.
Despite it being a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t as busy as I expected. There were still plenty of people around, but we weren’t stood around waiting as we tried to peer into the various tanks. As we walked around, we saw plenty of different aquatic animals, ranging from penguins, to sharks, to jellyfish, to rays, to crocodiles, to turtles to clownfish.
The particular highlights included the tropical ocean display, which is a huge tank filled with sharks, turtles and tropical fish, the outdoors penguin area and the rock pools where Toddler L got to touch a starfish – she also got a medal for her efforts. I particularly liked the recently opened turtle shelter which was near the end – in here was the Chinese soft shell turtle and Eastern snakeneck which I’ve never seen before. Proper freaky looking things!
After looking around all the displays and fighting her through the shop, we noticed a soft play area which Toddler L was keen to go in. They had an older kids area with a slide, as well as a baby / toddler area. Unsurprisingly, she had fun in both and then threw a hissy fit when we said it was time to leave!
The Sea Life Centre at Great Yarmouth is definitely one of the better aquariums we’ve visited. At around £15 per person, it can soon get pricey for a large family, however we were impressed with it and spent a good few hours there.
We had a wander around Great Yarmouth seafront, stopped off for a nice milkshake and then made our way back to the holiday park. After relaxing in the caravan for a bit, we walked back down to Scratby Beach where we spent time playing in the sand and water. It really was great to have a beach so close to California Cliffs.
With it being our last night, we decided to head over to the Showbar to check out the evening entertainment – this was in the Entertainment Complex by the swimming pool. They had something on called ‘Play Live!’ which the info booklet had told us was for younger children to play games, dress up and have a dance.
We got there half an hour after it had started and the place was dead – there were a few entertainers interacting with a couple of families, but we made our retreat pretty hastily – I didn’t want to be called up onto stage! It’s a shame that it wasn’t busier, but I guess it was always going to be quiet if you stay off-peak.
After a quick getaway, we had a wander around the arcade, went to the playground, then back to the caravan for the evening. I preempted the missus falling asleep again, so instead we didn’t even bother with a film and just had an early night.
Day 4 – Monday
We didn’t have anything planned for our last day. We had a few outdoorsy dog-friendly places in mind for the journey back, but it was pissing it down. This kind of scuppered any half-plans, so instead we just packed up, checked out by 10am and started our journey back home. A pretty uneventful end to the holiday, but such is life!
We really enjoyed our Park Resorts break at California Cliffs and will definitely consider a holiday park staycation in a static caravan again. We had a few reservations before the trip, but found everything to be much better than we expected.
The actual holiday park was good and had plenty of activities for the family – we particularly enjoyed the adventure park, indoor swimming pool and nearby Scratby Beach. As it was off-peak, the park – and subsequent activities – were quiet, so I’d imagine everything will be that bit busier during school holidays which could give it a different vibe. Being able to take the dog with us was a major plus as we’d prefer to bring him with us rather than pay for him to be with a dog sitter.
The static caravan did everything we’d expect of self-catering accommodation – there really was little difference between this and an apartment. It was comfortable, spacious, had all of the appliances we needed and was dog-friendly. We did find it to be pretty cold though – which was surprising in June – and some areas, e.g. the curtain rails, could do with being fixed.
In terms of the local area, we didn’t see as much as we’d have hoped. However, it feels like there’s plenty of stuff to do around California Cliffs. We enjoyed what we did – Burgh Castle, Great Yarmouth Sea Life Centre etc – but it was a shame we didn’t have the time to visit The Broads which we’d planned on doing on Monday.
All in all, we had a really nice time away for Father’s Day / our Anniversary and have some really nice memories of our family break. It’s just a shame Toddler L is too young to remember!
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N.B. This review was written by me (Dave) and represents my honest opinion. We were provided with a three night stay by Park Resorts and tickets to Sea Life Centre with the purpose of writing an honest review of our experiences in exchange for this trip.