Travel review: Belle Aire Holiday Park in Norfolk brings a touch of luxury to the seaside experience
The British staycation is booming.
The number of domestic tourists expecting to spend more time on holiday in the UK this year has grown by a third, according to new research from Barclays.
Convenience, affordability and Brexit uncertainty were all cited as reasons for choosing a break close to home.
And when home is Cambridgeshire, then it’s very convenient to have Norfolk on your doorstep.
Blessed with some of the finest beaches you’ll find anywhere, full of special places to visit and renowned for its wildlife, it’s a natural choice.
And if you have children, then the opportunity to ‘be on holiday’ within two hours is pretty irresistible.
With that in mind, we headed off to Belle Aire Holiday Park, which sounds a little like it should be nestled in the foothills of Santa Monica, rather than hugging Norfolk’s east coast.
The park, in Hemsby, offers a traditional seaside holiday park experience, but with a twist. And that is, it’s actually comfortable…
For those put off holiday parks by prior experiences in cramped tin cans that were too hot in summer and too cold in winter, this could be the place to make you think again.
Some brand new caravans and a selection of refurbished chalets have brought some luxury to the seaside.
Well-finished, with neat touches, they represent a great base from which to explore this part of Norfolk. The chalets sleep four and inside they are modern, welcoming and well-furnished.
But it was in one of the new caravans that we stayed, finding plenty of neat touches.
There’s a covered terrace from which to watch the children play on the field or in the park.
There’s an en-suite to the master bedroom. There’s wifi for those who can’t leave their gadgets alone and a TV that you can connect to a wireless display (Netflix anyone?), a well-stocked kitchen, comfy beds and crisp sheets.
Sally Burrell, co-owner of Belle Aire, told us: “We felt it was time to drag the holiday park experience into the 21st century for customers who want a great British holiday but want a bit of luxury and comfort too. A kind of Hi-de-Hi with none of the low-de-lows you can get in some old fashioned resorts.”
There are two and three-bedroom caravans available, and some are suitable for wheelchairs.
The park has, of course, a showbar with nightly family entertainment and a simple range of food, a cafe that serves proper coffee, and there are nearby shops for those who want to cook.
The park lies on Beach Road, which is packed with amusement arcades, chip shops, diners and rides - the full, traditional experience. And the beach itself is just a few minutes walk away.
A short drive away, you’ll find attractions like Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden, and Thrigby Wildlife Park, which has raised walkways above some of its animal enclosures - including the tigers.
If you prefer your animals to be wild, head up the coast to Horsey Gap, one of the best places in the UK to see seals. In winter, they have their pups on the beach, but they are present all year round. Just remember they are wild animals - getting too close so you can take a selfie, or letting your dog run over to them, is not the way to behave.
You can walk to Horsey Gap from the famous Horsey Windpump, or stop there on your way back. A National Trust site, with a cosy little tea shop, it has just won Building Conservation Project of the Year 2019.
An icon of the Norfolk Broads, climbing up it gives you a view over this watery landscape.
The Broads, of course, are well worth exploration. If you’re feeling adventurous, hire a boat. Otherwise, hop on a tour with someone who actually knows what they are doing (note to self).
While the north Norfolk coast is justly famed for its attractions, this part of the county is well worth exploration too. And it makes all the difference coming back to warm and comfortable accommodation.
No more tin cans for us.
Win a seven-night stay
To celebrate the launch of the new accommodation, Belle Aire is hosting a competition to win a free seven-night stay. To enter, visit: https://goo.gl/m8aYjt. T&Cs apply.
Three nights for two adults and two infants in June costs from £270.
Visit hemsbybelleaire.co.uk to find out more.