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  1. There are many fantastic Hotels in Bournemouth and with award winning long sandy beaches, high street shops and boutiques, attractions, coffee shops and eateries, a buzzing nightlife and all year round events, you can see why people would want to stay.

    BeFunky Bournemouth Day Out 1

    Although I already know Bournemouth fairly well I went exploring with a friend on a hot and sunny day to see what hidden gems we could find.  If you are eating out in Bournemouth then you really are spoilt for choice on where to go.  You’ll find good old traditional pubs and cafes, family friendly chains, bistros, international cuisine and fine dining.  If you are vegan or require gluten free options then you’ll be well catered for with a variety of options in the Mad Cucumber and MiXed Salad Bar.     

    Neither of us had dined in a Caribbean restaurant before so we went to Turtle Bay to enjoy alcohol free cocktails and an appetizing Just Jerk Platter.  The platter was awesome with jerk wings, glazed pork ribs, a spicy beef patty, jerk chicken flatbread, sweetcorn fritters and all served with a supergreen salad which had pomegranate seeds, chick peas and red cabbage.  With the doors open, bright colourful décor and the sunshine pouring in we honestly didn’t want to leave.

    BeFunky Bournemouth Day Out 2

    My favourite restaurant to go to for a special occasion is Lolas Tapas Bar and having tried several dishes now I can confirm that the food and service are both excellent.  Other great places to eat include Harry Ramsden’s for fish and chips, Funki Griller for steak, El Murrino for wood fired pizzas and Five Guys for stacked burgers and tasty skin on fries.  

    If Afternoon Tea is your thing then you could head to one of the many hotels which offer stunning sea views or spend a couple of hours in a tradition tea room with homemade sweet treats.  Being a self-confessed cake addict I know that you will receive a delicious Afternoon Tea at the Key West Restaurant which is located at the end of Bournemouth Pier, The Cumberland Hotel, Steam Vintage Tea Rooms and The Green House Hotel.  The most outstanding I’ve had to date was in the Level 8 SkyBar which is located at the top of the Hilton Hotel.  Every bite was simply divine and it was most definitely not your average dining experience.

    After lunch we nipped into St Peters Church to see the impressive Dorset Moon which is popping up in various locations across Dorset and then we went into the BH2 complex which houses a state of the art Odeon Cinema, eateries and Mr Mulligans which we’d visit soon.  Inside the complex there’s a Llaollao frozen yoghurt shop and having never been before I was a little blown away with our choice of toppings which included fresh fruit, nuts, granola and chocolate.  As it was such a scorcher outside we had to have one and so I chose fruit and nuts to go with my frozen yoghurt and then I had the fruits of the forest sauce on top.  I’ve never been a huge fan of ice creams but this was much more refreshing and just what we needed.  I’ll most definitely be back for more and I might even take the kids if they’re good!

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    Next was a visit to Bournemouth’s newest crazy golf course, Mr Mulligans.  They have 3 super cool and imaginative courses and we did The Apocalypse and Comic Course.  The Krypton Course looked pretty cool too but we’ve saved that one for another day.  Each hole was unique and we had good fun trying to work out where the ball had to go.  I really enjoyed shooting the ball in the oven in The Apocolyse but the last hole on the Comic Course was the best and involved the ball moving down a huge table football.  Although we didn’t eat while we were there the menu looked very inviting and the bar offered cocktails, mocktails and even alcoholic slushies. 

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    We saved the most exhilarating till last and grabbed a quick drink on the Pier before checking in for our dual PierZip ride.  The PierZip is the world’s first pier to short zip wire which launches 25m above the sea and it’s not for the faint hearted.  I’d been both nervous and excited about this all day but once my harness was on and I climbed the stairs I felt my legs turn to jelly.  The views are incredible and I knew not to look down but you can’t help it and I screamed my heart out when I stepped off the edge.  It’s a truly unforgettable experience and one I can recommend to any thrill seeker.

    There’s so much more to do on the seafront with a splash area by the Tourist Information Centre, the Oceanarium, RockReef with climbing walls and a high line, and the Big Wheel with panoramic views of the coast.  Nearby you’ll also find the Russell Cotes Museum, Oasis Soft Play Centre, Laser Quest, The MacGuffin Project and The Lockey Escape Rooms, All Fired Up pottery painting and Creams which is an ice cream parlour with soft play for the kids.  If you love purring pussy cats then check out the unique Pause Cat Café.  Not only can you sit and relax with playful cats but the Café serves great food too. 

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    The Lower, Central and Upper Gardens are very pretty and run all the way from Bournemouth Pier to the boundry of Poole which is about 3km.  There’s normally a lot of activity going on in the Lower Gardens with the bandstand, kiosks, mini golf and art exhibition.  The Central and Upper Gardens are much quieter however you’ll find delightful little red bridges, wildlife, ornamental rockeries and even a play park. 

    If you are looking to explore other areas then the Bournemouth Aviation Museum is worth a visit for families, as is the Adventure Wonderland theme park, Snowtrax ski slopes and alpine play park and Mighty Claws Adventure Golf.  If you’re in town during the school holidays then many of the attractions run additional activities and the Bournemouth Natural Science Society often has open days which are great fun and educational.

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    A recent addition to Bournemouth is the Beryl Bikes which are located at many key attractions and transport hubs.  Just download the app, unlock the bike and enjoy exploring the surrounding areas.  If that sounds a little too energetic then you can hop on the Land Train which runs down the promenade and returns via the gardens on East Overcliff.   

    For those who love a good show then check out the upcoming listings at the Bournemouth Pavilion and BH Live.  There’s also a lovely little venue called the Shelley Theatre which is a Victorian Grade II listed building and shows films and theatre performances.

    Bournemouth plays host to many major events including the popular Air Festival which attracts thousands, the Arts by the Sea Festival and the spectacular Christmas Tree Wonderland.  During peak season you’ll also find lots of family friendly events in the town and firework nights too.

    If I could offer one piece of advice to anyone staying it would be to wander down side streets to see what you can find or ask a local shop keeper for places to visit nearby.  Everyone is very friendly and always happy to help.

    Bournemouth Day PierZip 2

    Dorsetmums Disclaimer - The spending money to explore Bournemouth was gifted by, but all views are my own.

  2. As a family we’d spent a few months discussing our future holidays and although part is me is desperate to jump a plane and go somewhere hot with a pool I know the costs will be sky high in the school holidays and I really don’t fancy the fuss with 2 small children.  With this in mind we decided to embrace the camping lifestyle and having fully researched air tents we went to Campers and Leisure near Ringwood and bought the Outdoor Revolution Airedale 6s which had 3 bedrooms, a huge living space and porch.

    I firmly believe that we are very lucky to live in Dorset as we have loads of great campsites on our doorstep but we also have Devon just next door and within a couple of hours we can be on hols for the week exploring exciting new areas.  I’d looked at a few places to stay but Woodlands Grove near Dartmouth caught my eye for many reasons so we booked for the May Half Term week and can't recommend it enough.

    The campsite in itself is brilliant but the absolute cherry on the cake was the theme park which you enter for free if you are staying.  The kids spent many hours in the numerous play parks and then there was also the rides which were suitable for all ages, farm and death slides which literally made me feel sick every time I watched kids screaming down them!
    BeFunky Woodlands 1
    Having never spent a week in a tent I of course over packed.  We already had the basic camping bits from when we’d done the odd night but I still bought super thick PJ’s and packed pretty much everything but the kitchen sink haha.

    The Sat Nav said our home for the week was 2.5 hours away but of course we had to stop a fair few times for wee breaks, drinks, more wee breaks and lunch.  It was at least mid afternoon by the time we arrived and as we went in the kids were literally bouncing in their car seats as they could see Deer in the field and rides in the theme park.

    We were warmly welcomed at reception and given all the information we’d need for our stay and with only a short wait we were escorted by a nice warden to our spacious pitch.  I love that the camping areas are small rather than one large field as the children could happily play without wandering off.  In our area we were surrounded by big trees and hedges with rubbish bins and a water point in the corner so you didn’t have to go far to fill up the kettle.

    Our tent was collected literally the day before we left so we only had the guidance given when we bought it but the idea of air tents is that they are really simple to erect and with the help from the kids we actually had it up and pegged down in about 20 minutes!  I knew the children were starting to get hungry so we emptied the car and blew up the beds before going off in search of the campsite pizza parlour.  I’m so pleased we decided not to cook on the first night as our pizzas were made fresh to order and tasted amazing. (We even had them later in the week too).  We found some tables to sit on and with a park in view we promised the kids they could have a play if they ate all their dinner up.    
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    I’ve learnt a few things about camping with children.  The first is that I can kiss their 8pm bedtime goodbye!  I didn’t let it worry me though.  There’s happy children playing everywhere and although I tried to settle them down after 9pm I found that they were just too wired and with it still being light outside they were unable to calm down.  With them being quite young I didn’t like them being in their own rooms so we removed the partitions and made it one big room.  Myself and Daddy would hilarious take turns to sit in there with them during the week but I’d get so comfy that when they’d drop off I wouldn’t get up and then when Daddy did it he’d fall asleep before the kids!  I did think that with our new large living space that we’d spend our evenings drinking wine and chatting but the truth was that we were just as shattered as the kids haha.

    On the first morning I took the kids off to have a good look around the amenities and found very clean showers, toilets, disabled facilities, a family room with baby change facilities and even a bath!  There was also a games room for the kids, plenty of sinks for washing up, a laundry room with irons and ironing boards and freezers for ice blocks.  Everywhere seemed to be very well kept with the garden areas looking lovely and zero litter. 

    When we were all washed and ready we went into the General Store to have a look around and bought some milk to make a cuppa at the tent.  The store is well stocked with BBQ food, fresh and canned goods, toys, camping equipment and gas refills.  My husband couldn’t find our 4 way adapter at home and was pleased to see one in the store and then hired an electrical hook up from the reception. (deposit required).   
    Woodlands Grove Holiday 2019 9

    We had no plans to leave the site on the first day and the kids were definitely keen to explore the theme park.  I had no idea it was so big and was surprised that in the many hours we were they we’d only managed to do one side of it.  We went through the Mirror Maze and on the Bumper Boats, then the Swing Ship before watching the boys go on the high Vertigo ride.  Nearby was the Zoo Farm where we had the chance to grab a coffee while the children played on the ride ons before heading into the animal barn to see the goats, horses, pigs, reptiles and even a funny parrot that likes to shout ‘Hello’!  There was also a Farmyard Ride and Jumping Pillow which the kids loved.  We knew our little girl was getting tired and my attempts of putting her in the pushchair for a sleep was of course ridiculous so we went back to the tent for a rest before and then returned to the play parks later in the afternoon. 
    BeFunky Woodlands 10
    The kids loved the theme park so much that we ended up going in there every other day of our stay.  Near the end of the week the boys got brave and did most of the death slides, Cyclone Canyon (which I was annoyed about because I wanted to do it and Daddy won the toss of the coin) and the water slides.  While they were having their extreme fun I took our daughter in the sandpit and then went for a walk through the Fantasi Forest Zone which had The Witches Cottage, Trolls Lair and Wunderkids Maze.  When we met up again we went back to the play areas before taking 2 very tired children (and us) back to the tent.
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    I still haven’t even mentioned the indoor play areas and when we had a wet day mid week we started in the Circus Drome Indoor Zone which had a Big Top Soft Play, Bouncy Castle, Circus Train Ride and Master Blaster.  From here we dashed to the huge ball pit nearby and then over to the large blue building which housed one of the biggest indoor play areas I’ve ever seen.  There was still parts of the theme park we didn’t do which included the paddling pool and some rides but most of the time they just preferred the play areas and my theory is that if they’re happy then I’m happy.
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    If you do go then make sure you visit the Falconry Zone too.  When the kids were in the soft play I took a walk over to see what I could find and the impressive building housed many types of birds including an Indian Tawny Eagle, Book Boo Owl and a European Kestrel. There’s information boards all around plus flying displays and hands on activities at certain times.  Did you know that Vultures can spot a small carcass from 2km away? 

    The one thing that we thought we’d miss was a clubhouse for the evening but actually we didn’t care one bit.  The kids made friends with others nearby and we found ourselves so busy during the day that we just enjoyed sitting by the tent talking to neighbours.

    The area in which Woodlands Grove is situated is beautiful and there’s lots of lovely towns to visit and family attractions nearby.  We took trips into Dartmouth, Paignton and Torquay but there was still lots of other towns we really wanted to visit and never had the chance.
    BeFunky Woodlands 6

    We spent a brilliant day enjoying the Dartmouth Steam Railway and Cruise which for us started in Paignton where we boarded our train to Dartmouth for a wander round town and lunch.  We then caught a boat which took us on a relaxing hours cruise up and down the river ending with a fantastic view of the Dartmouth Castle.  Back on land we had another look in the shops, ice cream and a play in the park before boarding our steam train back to Paignton.  The journey really is quite wonderful as it hugs the coastline and gives the most beautiful views of the English Riviera and beyond.
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    On the last day of our holiday we visited Kents Cavern in Torquay.  We arrived just in time for lunch which was delicious and the kids devoured their lunch boxes.  Tours of the caves ran every half an hour so we booked ourselves in and joined a group on a thoroughly enjoyable journey through time.  Back on the outside there was a woodland trail which the kids enjoyed and then participated in some half term activities which included painting cardboard woolly mammoths. 
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    We seemed to blink and the week went by.  Funnily enough, it took us 10 times longer to get the stuff in the car than it did to get it out.  It turns out there’s an art to getting a huge tent in a small bag but we got there in the end and were genuinely sad to go home.

    Good things to know…………

    There’s lots of things camping items you can hire from reception if like us you forget something.
    If you want to go food and drink shopping then there’s a Sainsbury’s and Lidl’s less than 10 minutes away.  Inside Sainsbury’s you’ll find an Argos too which we visited a few times with our £15 heater for night times being the best money spent.

    BBQ's are allowed however they must be charcoal or gas only, no wood or heat logs.  You can use the bricks provided on the site to keep BBQ's off the grass.  Open fires, fire pits or chimeneas are not allowed.

    Some kiosks and eateries in the theme park are cash only.  There is a cash point in the reception but you’ll need to pay a small fee to use it.

    There are pitches available for touring caravans as well as tents.

    Please please please, if you are a smoker, be careful where you put your cigarettes out.  We were walking into the toilet one day when I could hear lots of chirping and when I went back out I noticed a silver box on the wall with a sign on it saying not to extinguish cigarettes as there was baby birds inside.  We all had a little peek and sure enough there looking back at us was 6 hungry little beaks.  From that point on we had to look every time we walked past and the kids kept asking if we could take them home.

    If you don’t fancy driving one day then there is a bus stop at the site entrance and the X64 goes to Dartmouth and Totnes.

    Pets are allowed, there’s even a special dog walk area for them.  Please note that dogs are not allowed in the theme park though.

    Even if you are not staying on the campsite the theme park is a great place to visit for the day.  At the time of writing, you pay for one day and receive 6 following days free!

    While we were there it was Dino Week which of course the kids loved, especially the Dinosaur woodland walk.  It seems that during the school holidays there will be additional activities for the children to enjoy, as if the theme park wasn’t enough!
    So, if you are looking for somewhere to stay with a tent or caravan then please do check out Woodlands Grove Caravan and Camping.  We loved it there so much that we’re planning to visit again next year!
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    Dorsetmums was given a reduced rate for the purpose of a review however all words are my own.