High days and holidays
PUBLISHED: 05:26 27 April 2015
As thoughts turn to short breaks close to home, Rachel Buller reports on the award-winning Searles Leisure Resort at Hunstanton.
It scooped the Best Holiday Park/Village award, sponsored by Larking Gowen in the EDP/Visit Norfolk Tourism Awards 2014, and after further investment over the winter it promises to offer even more to visitors this year.
Things have changed dramatically since the park was first opened by Geoffrey and Margaret Searle in 1954, when it was a small donkey field offering basic caravan pitches. The business today is run by siblings Paul, Andrew and Joanna Searle and now offers entertainment for all ages and a wide range of accommodation, from basic camping pitches to fantastic lodges complete with hot tubs for those looking for a little luxury.
As a regular to Searles in our VW campervan during the past five years – 80pc of its customers last year were return visitors – we can vouch for what a great place it is to enjoy a weekend away at the coast, especially if you have children.
The site itself is large and well maintained, and despite the vast number of people staying and the lively evening entertainment, it is surprisingly peaceful at night and always feels very safe and friendly. Most importantly though, there is plenty to do on the park and in the town, whether it is a famous “Sunny Hunny” day or if the weather has taken a turn for the worst.
At the heart of the site is the large plaza with a bar and café, restaurant and ballroom. It has a fantastic indoor and outdoor swimming pool complex and an indoor play centre and at night there is plenty of entertainment to choose from. When the weather is warm and the various pools and surrounding sun terrace and lawns are buzzing with fun, it is a great way to spend a happy family day together.
There is also great access from the site to the beach, and you can stroll along the promenade and into the town. On a hot summer’s day, young ones can happily play on the beach all day and, of course, Hunstanton has an abundance of tourist attractions – from crazy golf to the fair and the newly-refurbished Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary.
Over winter work has been carried out to renovate the lounge bar, and there are new changing facilities in the leisure complex as well as new four-berth luxury Platinum lodges.
For those who prefer the quiet life, Searles also has its own golf course and country club which are open to guests on a pay and play basis. There is also a golf shop, bar and restaurant, and you can enjoy a variety of sporting activities including fishing, bowling, tennis and petanque – coupled with a stay in a luxury lodge, it illustrates Searles’ wide appeal.
My favourite thing about Searles? It’s the simple things - popping into the holiday park fish and chip shop in the evening before wandering over the beach to eat them as you watch the sun go down and the kids run around on the beach in the last light of the day.
Short breaks in holiday homes at Searles start from £99, lodges from £129, and touring and camping pitches from £10 per night.
Searles Leisure Resort, South Beach, Hunstanton, PE36 5BB; 01485 534211 www.searles.co.uk
Runners up in the EDP/Visit Norfolk Tourism Awards 2014 Best Holiday Park/Village category sponsored by Larking Gowen chartered accountants were Vauxhall Holiday Park in Great Yarmouth and Deer’s Glade Caravan and Camping Park in north Norfolk.
Set on the outskirts of Yarmouth, Vauxhall Holiday Park offers camping pitches, caravans, holiday lodges and pods. There is an indoor Tropical Water World, outdoor pools, play areas and kids clubs, as well as plenty of evening entertainment. It is a short walk into the town and its famous Golden Mile.
Deer’s Glade Caravan and Camping Park, between Aylsham and Cromer, is a delightful rural escape. Set among the trees, it is a quiet, dog-friendly, family-run business catering for touring caravans, motor homes and tents as well as having pods overlooking the fishing lake. The amenity blocks have underfloor heating, there is a small on-site shop and a natural play area for children. You can also enjoy fishing and pond dipping and plenty of lovely walks.
Deer’s Glade, Whitepost Road, Hanworth, NR11 7HN; 01263 768633; www.deersglade.co.uk.
Vauxhall Holiday Park, Acle New Road, Great Yarmouth, NR30 1TB; 01493 857231; www.vauxhallholidaypark.co.uk