Easter was all a bit bonkers. By the time the last weekend of the school holidays rolled round, we were all more than ready for an actual holiday…somewhere other than our own stuff-strewn home.
The Other Half and I wanted somewhere not more than a couple of hours drive away, close to a beach.
The kids wanted a swimming pool, an adventure playground, a soft play and fish and chips.
And so, Parkdean Cherry Tree in Norfolk was chosen as our holiday venue, following the great experience we had at Parkdean Mullion in Cornwall last year. Swimming pool yes (although not much detail about it on the website), playground yes, soft play yes, beach nearby yes…and although the website doesn’t specify yes for fish and chips, a quick google demonstrated several available close by.
Turning up at 2.30pm, we were still an hour and a half away from being able to check in. The reception staff took a look for us anyway to see if we could check in earlier, but our caravan was still being made ready so we had to wait. Not a problem, as we were invited to use any of the facilities in the meantime – and the kids were very happy to explore both the smaller toddler park, the much larger adventure playground and then finally, the soft play. The playgrounds are lovely, really well maintained and with a good variety of equipment for all ages. Little B enjoyed the toddler park and it was nice that she got to toddle around without lots of larger kids running around and mowing her down in the more boisterous adventure playground. The soft play is on the small side, and has a height restriction which means that it really only caters for under 5’s – although if there were only a couple of kids using it the staff were happy for slightly older siblings to go in with younger ones too, so Seb was happy. It’s split over two levels, with a slide on one side and a ball pit on the other, and designed the way it is it meant the kids could keep going round, and round, and round…chasing each other gleefully and making new friends as they went!
Whilst they were happily playing, I nipped down the road to the Co-op supermarket (a two minute drive away) and picked up some essentials, including a couple of DVD’s for the moments when we were chilling in the caravan after a days exploring. There is a shop on site next to the reception too, for all the basic self catering requirements and snacks.
At 4pm we were given our keys and a cheerful explanation of all the activities on site, before going to find our allocated caravan.
It was not the small, two bedroom model we had been expecting, but instead a much larger four bedroom model. We would have been happy with a two bed (we looked around one that was on sale in the ‘buy a caravan’ area – the kids love exploring all the different caravans on offer and I suspect one day we’ll be talked into buying one…) but the four bed was an awesome bonus. Especially as it had two toilets – always handy when you have a larger family or group. It was all lovely and clean and welcoming, and had very efficient heating which meant that we were cosy and warm the whole time we were there, even on the slightly chillier days. The beds were made up with comfortable fluffy duvets, the kitchen had everything we needed to whip up a meal or two, and there was plenty of seating in the living area.
The only minor problem we found was that the DVD player wouldn’t work – it just made a rather sad whirring noise and refused to display any video. I made a note to report it to reception, but in the meantime we weren’t worried anyway. It was time to go and check out the evening entertainment!
As usual, the same as just about every holiday park we have ever been to, there are arcade machines to navigate past before you get to the show bar. Of course the kids wanted to inspect them, and happily there were some cheap options available – lots of 2p machines, 10p games, and a couple of ‘prize every time’ grabby things too. With promises of ‘tomorrow!’ we led them on through to the tots disco.
The bopping and bum waggling commenced! The kids thought it was hilarious that they got to sing ‘Seagulls are the winners’ and wiggle their bottoms at ‘the Lizards’ every time their team won a challenge. Even Little B kind of got the idea of ‘1,2,3,4,5’ (the idea being that when a number is shouted out, that is how many limbs/body parts you should have touching the floor) and enthusiastically joined in. They were thrilled with the giant cup of slush too – and I didn’t mind paying £3.95 for it initially, as we could refill it each night for £2 and it had enough for all 3 of them to share.
The second day, after a comfortable night’s sleep, we investigated the swimming pool. It was raining, and so being an indoor activity, it was popular…and that meant that when we arrived we had to stand and queue. And queue. And queue. Luckily the queue was in the arcade/soft play area and so for a while, the kids were happy to wait. But it did get to the point where we were about to just walk away – we were told it was full to capacity and they were operating on a one in, one out system. But no-one was coming out!
When we did get in, the changing room was a bit chaotic – the cubicles for changing are a good size but there were so many people trying to get dry or get changed to go in that people were standing around dripping waiting for a space. The chaos all ended once we got to the pool area though. It is lovely and airy, with plenty of very comfortable seating and tables around the outside, and large viewing windows from the café and restaurant too. The pool was clean and warm, and the bubble pool is a really good size with a depth of 40cm meaning the kids could happily stand up in it and enjoy the bubbly sensation. Aside from the main pool, which has a shallower ‘beach’ area (minus the sand!) with a step down into the deeper part of the pool, there are two toddler pools with a slide between the two. The slide is not particularly slide-y, it is more of a bottom shuffly affair…but that works well for toddlers, and the kids enjoyed rolling their inflatable beach balls down it too. There is a big yellow rocky bit separating the two pools and I think that could have been designed better, as if you an adult sitting in one pool you can’t see across to the other – slightly annoying if you have more than one child, or a child that keeps shuffling between the two pools. But of course there is always the option of just playing with your toddler in the beachy area of the main pool anyway, so we were all happy nonetheless.
After swimming, back at the caravan, I realised I’d forgotten to report our broken DVD player. Just then there was a knock at the door, and the courtesy team asked us if everything was ok with our holiday so far. We mentioned the DVD player, they said they’d get it sorted…and then 5 minutes later another knock and we were handed a brand new one. Very impressed! We watched a bit of Horrid Henry, and then it was Circus time at the Norfolk Showground with friends – but that’s a whole other story in itself!
That evening was arcades time, and once again we were hugely satisfied with the service. The staff went out of their way to make sure the kids were having a good time, and made sure when Little B won some Peppa Pig hairslides on the 2p machine that her ‘helper’ D got some too, as well as rounding up Seb’s ticket wins so he could get the prize he was after. The kids only spend a couple of quid each but they came away very happy!
The next day was sunny and reasonably warm, so we headed to Great Yarmouth, which is about a ten minute drive away. If you like bouncy castles, you’ll love it. It is FULL of them.
And it has a beach of course.
The kids thoroughly enjoyed exploring the sand and the bouncing options.
We also went to Joyland, a small kids adventure park. The rides are looking a bit tired (the kids don’t care) and you have to pay for all riders, even if an adult is required to accompany a child, but with the height limits set quite low, even smaller children like D can go on without an adult if they’re happy to. That said, she did insist that I go with her on the ‘scary rollercoaster’. Which was luckily not that fast, or scary.
Then it was fish and chips time, and we found a nice restaurant slightly set back from the main promenade, called Fish and Herring. It was all cooked to order, with tasty fresh fish and chips exactly how I like them – fluffy inside and nice and golden. For £20 for all five of us it was very reasonably priced too.
Back at Cherry Tree, we decided it was dessert time – and OH MY WORD what a dessert it was. I’ve no idea what the actual name of it was but we called it super duper chocolatey ice cream massive yummy thing, because that’s what it was. Five spoons and five minutes later and it was all completely demolished.
I love that the restaurant sell fish and chips in a bucket too for the kids – for £5.95 they get an actual plastic bucket, complete with spade and filled with fish and chips. So they can eat their food and then go and play at the beach with the bucket afterwards, such a great idea. We will definitely be doing that next time!
Another evening of comfortable sleep and a slap up cooked breakfast later, and it was time to pack up and go. Which we did, and then went for one final swim before heading on our way. This time there was no queue and the pool was still warm and enjoyable. Perfect for tiring out the kids for a nap on the car journey home!
For just £9.50 each, plus service charge (about £5 a night) and entertainment passes (again about £5 each) we had a fantastic long weekend away. Once again the customer service was absolutely excellent. Parkdean are so good at making sure that their guests are happy! We are looking forward to finding another Parkdean to visit next time we want a caravan holiday – and we’d be very happy to head back to Cherry Tree again, too 🙂
Disclosure: We paid for this holiday ourselves and were not asked to write about it either.