This summer my husband got offered a new job, and I persuaded him to take some time off before he started so that we could spend some of the summer holidays as a family.
A few days into his two-and-a-half weeks off I thought it might be nice to go away, and so while he’d taken the kids out I sat at my computer and browsed UK holidays.
I booked us a dog-friendly Monday – Friday break at a John Fowler Holiday Park, South Bay Holiday Park in Brixham, South Devon.
I have never stayed in a John Fowler Holiday Park before, or in fact been inside of a static caravan, but with two small children and a dog, and booking only a week in advance in the middle of the summer holidays, our options were somewhat limited!
My buddy Lisa had recently written a post (here) about her holiday to Cornwall with child and dog staying in John Fowler’s Trelawne Manor Holiday Park, and I’d previously read a review by another friend Laura (here) praising the accommodation in the South Bay holiday park, and they persuaded me to give it a go.
I’ve not actually been to Devon before, so it seemed like a nice idea and just a bit closer than Cornwall.
We stayed in a two bedroom ‘silver’ caravan in the ‘Haytor’ area furthest away from the club house (a few minute walk) and closest to the coastal path down to the beach. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was clean and in good order; no broken windows or suspicious stains! It smelled vaguely caravan-y but then that’s hardly a surprise, and you get used to it after an hour or so.
Size-wise, the silver caravan was big enough for our needs, with two small bedrooms, a little kitchen and open plan lounge area with enough seating for the whole family. The aim is of course to spend as little time inside the caravan as possible so it doesn’t need to be luxurious. I wouldn’t want to spend two weeks in it, but for a week it was absolutely fine.
The caravan comes with Freeview TV, a kitchen with fridge, cooker, microwave, crockery and cooking utensils, a dining table, one bathroom with toilet, basin and shower and an en suite toilet/basin room. The caravan has electricity and gas and bed linen is included, although towels were not. To see a list of things I would definitely take if I was returning, check out this post.
We did remember to take large throws for the furniture, as dogs are not allowed on the sofas but my dog can’t read so doesn’t realise.
South Bay Holiday Park Facilities
On site there is a shop, a swimming pool, a park, crazy golf and the club with a bar, chef’s corner, a small arcade and entertainment.
The shop stocks a fair selection of food, drink and must-have holiday items.
We went to the pool once; for a small holiday park it was definitely big enough. There is an indoor and an outdoor pool, and one slide. We probably would have gone back had we stayed for more than four nights. Although it’s nothing fancy it’s a nice addition and a good way to spend a morning or afternoon.
The crazy golf is free, it’s a bit beaten up and short but once again the kids enjoyed it; we’ve taught them that when you get the ball in you say ‘GOLF!’ and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of that to be honest. The play park will appeal to kids of all ages, but we only visited when it was getting dark so I can’t really pass too much judgement on that!
The bar is standard; no cocktails unfortunately but they do have wine and beer and it’s not extortionate (at least, not to people travelling from Kent). The service was good early in the evening, although we didn’t visit it later.
The arcade isn’t anything to shout about; we didn’t spend much time in there at all. All in all though, I was fairly impressed at the amount there was on-site.
John Fowler Holiday Parks have the Foxy Club mascots and ‘Stripeys’ who are the entertainment crew.
They offer a range of entertainment through the day (kids’ club) and then go on into the evening. You get a programme when you arrive.
I’ve never been into entertainment on holiday, but we went to the club each night for the children’s disco which lasted an hour and the kids loved. I also enjoyed it because my children just love to make daddy join in on these things, in fact he received a certificate for learning the moves to Soco Bate Vira which I’m fairly sure is one of his lifetime achievements.
One night we stayed for the kid’s bingo, which is followed by the adult bingo and the later entertainment which we didn’t stay for but seemed really popular.
We ate from Chef’s Corner in the clubhouse a few times. There was a fairly good menu with a lot of pub staples, usually involving chips, but also jacket potatoes and curries. There were also several vegan option, not that it mattered to us but it’s good to know.
Of course there are self-catering facilities in the caravans and about fifteen minutes before you hit the holiday park you’ll pass a Sainsbury’s and an Aldi, and there’s a Lidl being built so it’s worth popping in to get what you need for the holiday on your way past.
Beach (St Mary’s Cove)
By far the biggest selling point for us of the South Bay Holiday Park in Brixham was the proximity to St Mary’s Cove, a small sand and shingle beach a short (but steep!) walk away.
From the holiday park, you walk down a path, through the woods and then down 110+ stairs. With two small children in tow it was about 20-30 minutes’ walk, with just the dog around 10 minutes.
The walk is worth it though; the bay is beautiful and perfect for dogs who can be let off to run and can’t really get anywhere. There is sand for building sandcastles and when the tide is low, you can go rockpooling. We found some fish, shrimp and a tiny little crab!
When we first visited there wasn’t another soul to be seen; we had it all to ourselves four hours. Even at its busiest there were only a few other families and dog walkers; crazy for a sunny day in the middle of the school holidays!
Take a picnic and you can spend hours there as long as you don’t mind an al fresco wee of course, as there are no facilities. The only thing to consider is that you have to get back up the steps so don’t let the kids get too tired or it could take a while!
Where it is situated is within easy reach of Paignton (and Paignton zoo) and Torquay, and there are several theme parks close by too.
Five minute away, Brixham is a lovely little Devon harbour town. On the day we visited it was ‘pirate day’ and there were stalls and people dressed up as well as a replica of the Golden Hind ship that visitors could pay to visit.
There are lots of places to go crabbing, and if you like fish and chips or ice cream you don’t have to go far. We got fish and chips and took them back to the caravan for tea.
In the sun it’s a lovely place to visit.
Babbacombe Model Village
We had three full days in Devon and although we had plans to get out and about, when we found out how nice the beach was we figured we’d save ourselves the drive and the money and stay local and I definitely don’t regret that decision.
However on the second full day, we thought we’d visit Babbacombe Model Village; the summer holiday staple that’s been there basically forever and, crucially for us, welcomes dogs too.
It’s not a cheap day out at over £40 for two adults and two children, but it is fun. There is parking behind the Model Village but this is council owned so you have to pay extra for parking.
The village and gardens are set out over 4 acres and there is just so much to see. There is something for everyone; adults will appreciate little jokes and the children will enjoy feeling like giants! In the evenings they light up; we didn’t stay for this but the illuminations come highly recommended.
We took a picnic and our visit lasted around two hours.
Highlights include the superhero/X-men scene, the Game of Thrones scene with fire-breathing dragon and Paignton Zoo (which is just down the road but not dog-friendly).
Here are some pictures from our visit!
Would we go back?
Absolutely! The proximity to the beach is a real selling point. We were lucky that the weather was nice so we could make the most of it. I almost wish we’d booked the full week, although the weather wasn’t particularly great when we left and a rainy holiday there would be a lot harder to fill.
We probably paid slightly over the odds for our holiday booking it so last minute, getting a Silver Pet static caravan from Monday-Friday for £579 including a fee for the dog. Obviously off-peak is a lot cheaper but you won’t have the lovely weather and I wouldn’t like to risk the steps down to the beach in winds or rain! We did a £40 Aldi shop on our way to the park and took picnics with us, eating out only a couple of times, so we didn’t spend a huge amount with the biggest cost being petrol to get there and back.
However we did have a lovely holiday and would definitely consider going back or trying a different John Fowler Holiday Park in future.