Southport – something for all the family!

Southport – something for all the family!

3f3d45f10df89d3332c98c4cf1ad636b.pngGrowing up we were often treated to trips to the seaside by our parents and loved the simple pleasures from building a sandcastle on the beach to eating fish and chips (always from the paper) followed by an ice cream, before we headed back home.

It’s fair to say 2021 is the year of the staycation and being based in Greater Manchester we have some excellent destinations on our doorstep. We headed to Southport to see what it’s like for families and understand what you can expect from a visit.  Given it’s been over 10 years since we last visited, we were keen to see what had changed. 

We opted to drive over to Southport.  It’s not that far away from Bury - just short of 40 miles - so perfect if you have little ones who are not keen on travelling. (If you do have little ones on board who need entertaining check out our Car iSpy  game to break up the journey here).  The journey in the car took us about an hour and a half, but there are also direct train routes from Manchester Victoria through to Southport so that’s worth considering too.  My children always loved the adventure of a train ride when they were little!

There were two things that struck me once we arrived in Southport.  The first is that it’s large enough to have plenty of options for all the family, but compact enough that you can easily 57ce552d034c4ad0a6821053ebf47440.pngmove about by walking between attractions etc.  We parked the car up when we arrived and then didn’t need it again until we were ready to leave the following evening. Little legs would need a buggy ride as you do cover a fair distance over the course of the day, but bigger legs will be fine.

The second thing that I loved, was that there was plenty of well-signposted car parking at a reasonable rate.  The cheapest we found was near Southport Eco Centre (PR8 2BZ) which was £2 for the day (closed at 7pm) but there were plenty of large car parks dotted about everywhere, at good prices for a day rate, so you really wouldn’t struggle to park somewhere that was central.  

Visiting in July, in the school holidays, I expected it to be extremely busy everywhere and was concerned about how they’d tackle that safely given the Covid-19 situation.  I needn’t have worried, whilst it wasn’t quiet it didn’t feel crowded, it had a lovely feel and we felt very safe wherever we went.

When we arrived, we headed straight for the promenade and took a walk down the Pier. It’s Grade II listed and the oldest iron pier in Britain.  It’s also the second longest pier at 1,000m.  But don’t let that put you off, it’s a lovely stroll that doesn’t take too long.  
We enjoyed the sights and sounds of this lovely Victorian seaside destination as we headed ccdd9cee67a6ac914b42c25ddfffe12c.pngdown the pier. It was a clear day so we had lovely views across to Blackpool and could also see North Wales!  There are concessions for snacks and drinks as you make your way down the pier, and an arcade at the bottom.

If you don’t fancy the walk (or you only want to do one way) there is a lovely little train that goes up and down the pier all day.  You can hop on – fares start at £1.50 for a child one way (£2.00 return) or £3.00 adult (£4.00 return). 

Along the front you will find Southport Model Railway Village, a lovely hidden gem of a place.  As you follow the path through the immaculate garden areas you can watch the trains meander around the replica village for as long as you like – they are mesmerising, we were there for ages! To keep little ones entertained there was an activity sheet to fill in as you went round to encourage them to look out for certain things. It was a really hot day when we visited, but as we were in an enclosed garden area there was lots of shade and so it made for the perfect place to spend an hour or two.  You can pick up a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) for £18.

Situated on Lord Street is The Atkinson.  A grand building and home to the theatre, museum, art gallery, shop, and café.  It’s a1c6ecfe773505a2692654e0d322168d.pnga real one-stop-shop with something for all the family, all year round.

We arrived and asked for advice as to what was on and what would be recommended based on our group (2 adults and 2 teenagers). We opted to go to the art gallery and visit the Red Rum exhibition (on until 30th October) as it had sparked interest with us as we’d seen lots of references to Red Rum when we were out and about.

We weren’t disappointed; the galleries were excellent, and we very much enjoyed our time there. The building is large and airy and very accessible for all.  The staff were knowledgeable and there were plenty of ideas to keep children of all ages entertained. Check out some more information here from their website where you can see exactly what would be a fit for your family. Entry is free. 

We didn’t get a chance to visit the café whilst we were at The Atkinson, but from what I can gather (from a lovely couple we chatted to whilst we were there) it’s well worth a visit.  Stories of homemade cake and food prepared using ingredients from their own garden sounded delicious! That’s on our list for our next visit for sure!

One thing that struck me as we left The Atkinson was the cosmopolitan atmosphere on the streets of Southport! The pavements were lined with diners eating and drinking in the sunshine, and there was a lovely buzz about the place, it ff5a50afc76fe348ac2933b74e1f061e.pngwas a pleasure to be walking along soaking this up!

As we were keen to see as much of the area as we could, we went to Southport Eco Centre and hired bikes for the afternoon.  Now, whilst I’m reasonably fit, I’m no cyclist but the staff there put us at ease as they were very knowledgeable and helped sort us out with bikes that were checked and adjusted for us, along with safety helmets and bike locks.  

There are so many routes to choose from (assuming you don’t want to freestyle!) and leaflets with maps are available for you to take away which detail the level of difficulty, terrain, and distance in miles/time.  We opted for the Squirrel Route which took us mainly along a cycling path and up towards Ainsdale beach.  

This was a brilliant way to explore, we saw lots of great wildlife along the way and really enjoyed ourselves.  I’d highly recommend speaking to the staff at the Eco Centre before you go to find out a route that’s perfect for you and, they can advise on what you’ll need (they have bikes for all the family including tag-a-longs, trailers, children's bikes and child seats). They can then reserve these for you ahead of your visit.  Prices start from £6 for a half day bike hire (4 hours) but there are family discounts available for advance bookings.

Along the promenade, are the beautiful Kings Gardens.  A massive area covering a1d1c2aeac423e9f976a8a66458734c9.pngsome 17 acres with their gorgeous flower borders, Victorian shelters (for you to take a pit stop in!) and the fabulous bridge that spans over Marine Lake, which has a range of pedalos (some were swans and flamingos) and other boats to hire.

There really is something for everyone here, and you can wander around and find your perfect spot to have a picnic, or I’d highly recommend a visit to the tearoom there for delicious meals and snacks.   

There was also crazy golf and a fabulous quirky-style adventure playground for children so you could while away a few hours easily here.  My teenagers were keen to visit Pleasureland Southport so we didn’t opt for a game of golf this time.

I worried that Pleasureland may be a bit too busy given the time of year (and it was a gloriously sunny day) but I didn’t need to worry.  At the entrance the staff had everything under control, and we were quickly inside and ready to enjoy our afternoon.
I always think places like this with a high turnover of customers tend to be a little “tired” looking and quite often untidy with overflowing bins and long queues.  Our experience at Pleasureland couldn’t have been more different.

I was impressed at how clean and tidy the park was, and even more impressed at how the park wasn’t overly crowded and queues were short.  The variety of rides was perfect for little ones through to more 64d85a48cb0bc4db33ae9993bff6270c.pngadventurous older children.  There really was something for everyone.  

We spent the afternoon there and got on all rides that we wanted to.  The Dodgems remains a firm family favourite, alongside the Log Flume (I got soaked – good job it was a sunny day!) and the kids loved the Frog Hopper (which I avoided as I’d just eaten, and it was a bit too bouncy for me!).

Little ones were enjoying playing in the paddling pool there, which was a lovely area for them and there were also trampolines and inflatable water wheels too.

All in all, we had an absolutely amazing time on our trip to Southport.  It’d had been too long since we’d been, and I had forgotten what a lovely spot for families it is. We didn’t cover a fraction of what’s going on there, but we will be back before the summer is out to visit the things on our outstanding list!

My best advice? Plan ahead.  Don’t just arrive and drift around as you won’t make the most of your time there.  Remember everything is quite close by, so you just need a central parking spot, and you can get yourself around easily.

If you go on Visit Southport website, you can have a look at everything the area has to offer and you can build your own itinerary making it easy to keep track of all the fabulous things you want to do!

Where did we stay?  We 5c568c0eb26fb0854f4933adfbd22182.pnghad a lovely room at the Bold Hotel which is part of Mikhail Hotel group.  It’s well placed for a break to Southport as it’s centrally located on Lord Street and has a lovely bar and restaurant attached. We found it to be the perfect base for our stay.

As it’s a boutique hotel, the rooms are well appointed with everything you need for a stay away from home and offer a touch of luxury with their gorgeous furnishings. As there are only 23 rooms, I’d suggest you book in advance to avoid being disappointed.  

The staff at the hotel were attentive and friendly, nothing was too much trouble for them.  We had breakfast included with our room which was delicious and got our day off to a great start.

Word of warning, the rooms are over a couple of floors and there is no lift so if stairs aren’t your thing (there aren’t too many of them) then they have a sister hotel the Lord Street Hotel which does have lifts should that be important to you.

Where did we eat? Down on Ocean Plaza is where you will find shopping, entertainment, and dining options.  We ate at Roberto’s Italian restaurant, and have to say it was totally delicious.

With the option to dine al-fresco or in the lovely restaurant, we opted for inside and had a table towards the middle. There was plenty of space so you 080dd65d4e2434be7d3f2f75217e08a1.pngdidn’t feel hemmed as it was a fairly large space.
The staff were knowledgeable and helped us to choose from their extensive menu.  Reassuringly there were the usual classics on there as well as some chef specials making the choice tricky.  But choose we did and all dishes were fabulous.

Given my husband is Coeliac we needed his dinner to be gluten-free, the staff were extremely knowledgeable and made good recommendations as to how they would adapt dishes to suit. 
I wish I could report back on the desserts, but I have to say we were all far too full to be able to manage one (or a coffee) but what I did see looked delicious. We will definitely be dining here again soon.

All information correct at time of writing, but be sure to check directly with the relevant businesses for the latest details.


Jayne Deakin

Jayne Deakin

Editor of Raring2go! in Bury and Bolton areas, Jayne is keen to make sure you hear it here first by sharing local news and ideas for great things happening on your doorstep.

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