I was adamant this year that we wouldn’t leave booking our summer holiday until the last minute. It was even written in my New Year Goals at the start of 2018. But what happened? Of course we left it til the last minute AGAIN! We had planned on going on the Eurostar somewhere, but by the time we had got the kids’ passports done, it was July and the prices had whacked up ridiculously. So a UK holiday it was to be, and having done so many of the seasides already, we just couldn’t decide what to do. We knew we wanted a sandy beach this time, after the stoney ones of past years. I was umming and erring, then my sister went, “Just book Bournemouth!”
I didn’t even consider Sandbanks as I thought it would be way out of our price range. But randomly upon googling, a 7 day break came up for a 2-bed apartment that was by the beach, with a balcony looking over the sunset in the photos, for just £800, rather than the usual £2k! We booked it there and then! The only thing we realised afterwards was that there was NO WIFI! Can you imagine, no internet?! We thought we would manage, but 7 days – nah. We bought a portable wifi device from the Vodaphone shop – £50 for 15GB data, hehe.
The drive to Sandbanks was easy, it only took 2 hours, with a lunch break on the motorway services. We love stopping at the services, it makes it feel like a holiday. When we got to the apartment, first impressions were the shock of the building being covered in scaffolding. But thank goodness, it did not cover our balcony, so did not affect us. Still, the owner should have let us know, I do think that was out of order of her.
The building is Art Deco, as is most of the road along Sandbanks as this golden mile was only created in the 1920s. The thing is, Art Deco does need to be maintained, and in this instance, although you could imagine it was beautiful in its hey day, it was very tired. I presume that’s what the scaffolding was about, bringing it up-to-date perhaps. We’ll have to visit in the future and find out. The apartment itself was nice, good size, balcony overlooking the harbour. The kids loved it.
We were right on top of a Tesco Express, so no need to worry about getting food and essentials. It was a shame the heatwave decided to end as soon as we arrived, and it was grey and rainy. I was so annoyed, believe me. Still, we had two sunny days which we spent at the beach (which is beautiful, the sand actually sparkles like magic!!), and had days out on the grey days. This is what we did:
1) The Dolphin Shopping Centre in Poole
A very sixties looking shopping centre, as it was an infamous Arndale Centre when it opened back in the day, it’s in the process of having a multi-million pound makeover. I do love visiting shopping centres in areas I have not been to before, and of course finding the old Woolworths building. The High Street looked really familiar to me, and afterwards I realised I had only written about it just a few months earlier, that was why. Tyler was excited to see a level crossing and watch a train go by. Lily was having a meltdown because we had forgotten Poppy back in Slough, and we were trying to find a replacement. We could only find Guy Diamond and that made her even more cross. Lunch at Caffe Nero calmed her down though – I guess she is familiar with the interiors there. I splashed out and bought myself a luxury hairdryer from Boots as there wasn’t one in the apartment, and I wanted a new one for home anyway.
2) The Swanage Railway
On Monday we drove to Norden to go to the Swanage Railway. It was roughly £4 to park there all day. This was all about riding the heritage steam trains that we loved. It was extremely busy, and I would say the most ‘touristy’ of all the heritage lines we have been on. We had snacks on the platform and waited for the next train and we couldn’t even get a seat on the first train. The second carriage from the front has private compartments, so that’s my top tip if you don’t want to share with strangers – nab one of those. We planned to stop off at Corfe Castle model village, but actually ende up spending time at Swanage as the kids discovered the beach. We ate at Wimpy for nostalgic reasons, but this branch hadn’t been refurbished since the 1970s, so I wouldn’t recommend this Wimpy.
The kids drenched their jeans in the sea, so we had to buy some emergency shorts and leggings from the only clothes shop in Swanage. We had ice cream in the buffet carriage back at the railway, faffed around taking photos. We ended up catching the last train back, so we ran out of time for Corfe Castle.
In the evening, when the sun was setting, I took the kids to walk barefoot in the sea, as the tide had gone out on the harbour. It was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the feeling of pure bliss, and hearing the children’s laughter and excitement. This was what it was all about.
3) Sandbanks beach
Having an apartment by the beach was perfect as it meant we were closer to the non touristy side of the beach and had a corner all to ourselves. The sand was golden and sparkled. The children had so much fun building sandcastles. Tyler splashed in the sea with Dada, while Lily fell asleep on our picnic mat and I got to read my book in peace while the sun shone. Bliss. When she woke, Dada got us fish and chips, the last batch as the shop had had a busy run, so that was lucky.
4) Wimborne Model Town
(Photo taken by Tyler)
It was our 9 year anniversary on this day, and we decided to visit the place we had met at – Woolworths! Of course you all know this store does not exist any more, but at Wimborne Model Town, there is a model version of a 1950s store.
The drive to Wimborne took about half an hour, and it is the cutest, quaintest little town. And the model town is a replica of it, but set in the 1950s. We went to the cafe for lunch first, it’s a bit shabby in there, and they had run out of mac n cheese, so chips it was. As for the model town, it is cute.
Smaller than Bekonscot and there’s no model railway running through it. The detail is great though, and Tyler was so engrossed in filling in this quiz, where he had to find items throughout the town. There was a children’s play area, an indoor model railway room, a sunflower crazy golf area, a seated area for storytime and a mock-up 1950s classroom. And of course model Woolworths, where fans of the store can come and take a photo with it.
In the evening we had dinner in town at the Kings Head, and tried to spot shops that we had seen in the model town.
5) Open Top Bus to Poole and Train to Bournemouth
Tyler’s favourite day, he cries that he misses Sandbanks where in fact he misses the open top bus. It was such an exhilarating experience! Not cheap at £7 for a single ticket though. Tyler picked up a London and South Tube and Train map at Poole train station which he treasures to this day. He was very excited to ride the red South Western train.
At Bournemouth we had a 15 minute walk into town. We stopped at Caffe Nero for snacks, and then wandered around Primark where I may have bought a new duvet cover and a mustard coloured jumper for Tyler (it is so cool though!) We had dinner at Ask because they had furry throws on the sofas at the entrance. Their kids meals are genius, plain pasta with sauce on the side so children can choose. We got the last bus back and rode on the open top at 9.45pm in the dark, just catching the last of the Poole fireworks as we got home. They do fireworks at the Quay every Thursday in the summer.
6) Sandbanks beach day 2
There was some sort of international rowing competition happening on this day, with music playing, they even played the Trolls song. Good timing eh?!
7) Open Top Bus on the Ferry to Swanage
On our last night, Tyler came running into our room at 2am sobbing hysterically. He didn’t want to go home, he would miss Sandbanks and we didn’t ride the bus the other way. It broke my heart hearing him cry like that, as he’d never done that before. Usually on holidays, he can’t wait to go home. So I promised him we would catch that bus. We’d pack our stuff, check out and then park our car and get on the bus. It cost £8 to park for 4 hours at Sandbanks. And it was spitting rain. Still we sat upstairs on the open deck, Tyler at the front next to an old man who had left his wife at the back so he could sit at the front. Boys! The bus got on a ferry, which was really exciting, a first time experience for us all.
Then on the other side it rode through Studland Bay to Swanage. The ride was bumpy, freezing, so fast that the wind blew up your nose so that you couldn’t breathe. Lily loved it, the little thrill-seeker. Myself and Ganesh not so much. She fell asleep in the end while I sheltered her, and about an hour after we had left Sandbanks, we arrived at Swanage again. This time we ate at Harry Ramsden. We had the most amazing fish burgers EVER, seriously you have to try them. We ate and then went back to the bus stop as time was tight. We made it back to Sandbanks in time before the car parking ticket ran out. A 2 hour drive back and that was the end of our holiday.
Brilliant staycation and there’s still so much we have to see in Dorset – Brownsea Island, Lulworth Cove, Corfe Castle, Studland Bay. Yep, we have to come back. Tyler certainly wants to. Though for different reasons, involving open top buses.
I filmed our holiday, do have a watch. You’ll get a real flavour of what a Dorset holiday is like: