The great British seaside holiday is supposed to be wet and miserable with egg sandwiches eaten in a rain spattered caravan and small children in cagouls being dragged along blustery cliffs.
Thanks to a mini heat wave however, our week's holiday at Haven Devon Cliffs resort, near Exmouth, turned out to be more like a week in the Greek Islands. The resort is based around a stunning bay with panoramic views of the sea and cliffs. If you love an old-fashioned bucket and spade holiday with paddling in the sea, it's perfect.
Not that it would have been a problem if the weather had been inclement. Haven holidays are designed with rubbish British summers in mind and the sheer variety of activities mean that children are never bored - and happy children mean happy grown ups...
My daughter, Lily, six, thought all her birthdays had come at once when she spied the (recently revamped) heated indoor and outdoor pools with their astonishing range of slides, waterfalls, shoots and fountains – child heaven. If that isn't enough, there are inflatable aqua gliders (similar to jet-skis) to ride on round the pool, or, for older children, aqua-jets, which are handheld mini torpedos to propel you underwater and round the pool at speed.
But if water isn't your child's favourite thing, there's so much more to do.
Why not try the climbing wall, adventure golf, bungee trampolining, or strange giant inflated balls you can climb into and roll across the water in. Lily loved the bungee trampolining (a harness helps you jump four metres into the air) and I had a few problems persuading her to get off afterwards.
If that isn't quite enough excitement, you can do the 'leap of faith', and bungee jump off the 100ft high climbing wall. We decided to give that a miss, but had huge fun watching everyone else do it.
Something for the adults
It's not all about the kids though. Adults can take advantage of the superb spa, with a good range of treatments including massages, facials, manicures and pedicures. With prices starting at around £20, you have full access to the spa facilities including the private spa pool, sauna and spa terrace. I had a relaxing facial which left my skin silky smooth and feeling great and a lovely swim in the relatively quiet pool. Lily did muscle in on the spa action as well. She chose a 'fish' manicure, and had her toes nibbled for £10, which she loved.
Once you've had your fill of the day's activities, you can flop back to your caravan - a little 'home from home'. Many have had a recent upgrade and the 'deluxe-plus' caravans are only two years old with extra space and facilities.
You can choose from a top-of-the-range platinum caravan, which is the size of a small bungalow, has all mod cons and an amazing sea front view, all the way down to a standard model, which is basic with no view, but still quite roomy, well-equipped and very near to all the facilities and stunning beach bay.
We chose to go mid-range and stayed in a 'deluxe-plus'. The living area had plenty of room with a dining table and sofa, TV, fire for chilly evenings and a functional kitchen with a microwave and decent oven, but the sleeping areas (we had a three room caravan) were a bit on the small side, with little storage and narrow beds. Larger ladies and gents might struggle to turn round in the minute bathroom. But it's clean with plenty of hot water and manageable for a week.
The food available in the complex is mainly pizzas, burgers or fish and chips, and Papa Johns will deliver pizza to your door, but if you want to self-cater, there is a Tesco just outside the resort, or an on-site Spar.
The brand new South Beach Café has a fantastic menu of fresh fish, a really good children's menu and lovely wines if you fancy something a bit more upmarket, with main courses from £8.00. Or you can just admire the lovely view over the beach with your morning coffee.
Something for the evening
After a busy day at the pool, the evening stretches ahead and the onsite cabaret shows beckon. I'd much rather have settled down at the South Beach Café with a cocktail and admired the stunning view and sunset.
But this was not to be. Lily loved the junior disco, performances by the FunStars dancers and the games and live shows hosted in 'Bugsys' and 'Capones' nightclubs.
It was hot and loud, but Lily loved staying up late and made lots of friends, so it was worth the pain!
My only real bugbear was the amusement arcade. The resort is designed so that you have walk past fruit machines and noisy, money-eating attractions galore, to get to the pool and activities. It's a small price to pay, but not a great start to our sun-filled mornings.
But I can't let that detract from what was essentially a wonderful, fun-packed holiday, easy and relaxing and very memorable. We'll definitely be back.
- You'll need to bring bed linen and towels unless you pre-order these.
- Snacks and coffees are expensive so bulk buy crisps and snacks for the kids.
- Not everything is included in the price. You have to pay extra for some kids clubs and activities, but the pools and evening entertainment are free.
Devon Cliffs prices start at £649 for a weeks break.
All prices are based on a family of six
A Spa Experience at Devon Cliffs - including use of all the facilities, costs from £20
Info: visit www.haven.com or call 0871 230 1900.
Places to visit
World of Country Life is adjacent to the Devon Cliffs resort, has a petting zoo, playground, trampoline and restaurant.
Exmouth is good for shopping and National Trust property A la Ronde, a 16-sided 18th century mansion is fun to visit.
Paignton has a lovely beach, fantastic zoo and old steam railway.
Sidmouth is a sleepy coastal town with stunning beaches and gorgeous cliff-top walks.
Words by Emma Creamer
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