I have a soft spot for slightly run down British seaside towns, probably because I grew up in one. And if you’re looking for a fun, no-frills, shabby seaside resort then Great Yarmouth definitely fits the bill!
Today we took the boys to Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach. In a pre-Covid world you could buy either wrist bands or tokens to take advantage of the rides, but now you book pre-scheduled sessions which last either 3 or 4 hours, depending on the time and date you choose. Our session ran from between 11am-2pm, and cost £12.50 per person. (Making a total of £50 for a family of four). This is a slight saving of the £13.50 you would pay on the gate, but the main advantage of booking in advance is that, because of the limited capacity rules, the slots can book up quickly and pre-booking saves any disappointment: kids that can see the rides but can’t go on them isn’t a fun day out for anyone!
I actually like the new system better than the old token one. With most rides costing either 2 or 3 tokens (and if my memory serves me correctly, each token costing around £1) prices quickly added up, whereas this way the kids could go on what they wanted, as many times as they wanted, without any need to watch the pennies.
We were impressed with the huge number of rides that were available, and by how many of them we could go on as a family. Boy5 is now just over a metre tall, and this made a huge difference: I think for children under 1 metre the Pleasure Beach wouldn’t be quite so good value, and that Joyland (which is further along the beach, and specifically aimed at toddlers) would be a better location. Having said that, as children under 3 go free, it could make for a very cheap day out for young families!
We went on 17 different rides (some of them twice!) which makes the £12.50 entrance fee incredible value, frankly. There are 24 rides in total in the park, but the ones we skipped were more suitable for bigger kids and thrill seekers: the boys love a ride, but they’re a little too young to want to be turned upside down! The three hours we were allocated was plenty of time to fit everything in, particularly because the limited park capacity meant that the queues were minimal, and we even squeezed in time to take a break to eat chips and donuts too.
On the subject of food, the hot, greasy cinnamon covered donuts (my favourite fairground snack) were £2 for a bag of four, whilst the kids meals were £4.20. These comprised of either a hotdog, chicken nuggets or pizza slice with chips and a cold drink (a bottle of water or a fruit shoot). We’re talking about fairground food here, not haute cuisine, but it was hot and tasty so it ticked all the right boxes! For the grown ups prices were equally reasonable, with a quarter pound cheese burger costing £4.60. There’s also a fish and chip shop, hot dog stand, and several ice cream/candy floss stalls too.
The boys favourite ride by far was the caterpillar coaster. 30 years ago this was the first roller coaster I ever want on (albeit in Skegness) so it was very special to watch Boy5 ride it for the very first time today: he was very excited to finally be tall enough, as he wasn’t on our last trip 12 months ago.
Boy8 also really loved the waltzer and the funhouse, whilst Boy5 enjoyed the newly revamped Snails and Fairytales ride so much that we went on it four times. This ride was renovated during the lockdown period and it ‘borrows’ heavily from Disneyland, showcasing the stories of Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, Aladdin and more.
From my point of view, the best ride in the park is the traditional wooden rollercoaster. This piece is a marvel of engineering and was built in France in 1928. What really wowed me was that a seated operator controls the brakes at the rear of the first carriage on each train. When the ride is over, the operators have to manually push the train back to the starting point to load it up with new passengers. There are no other brakes on the ride at all, which added an extra thrill to the whole experience. Although there are no loops, this ride is fast and has some pretty steep drops; the roller coaster geek in me just loves it! Boy8 joined me on this one for the first time today, but it was a bit too fast for him, although he enjoyed seeing it operated and looking at the wooden tracks.
Overall, Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach gets a big thumbs up from us: it’s affordable and incredibly good value, it offers a great selection of rides suitable for pretty much all ages (though there are only a handful for the tiniest of tots) and it’s clearly had a lot of financial investment to revamp it too. Is it tired in places? Yes. But to me, that just adds to its old-world seaside charm.