At the end of August, just before the kids went back to school, I had a horrible realisation.
The entire summer holidays had pretty much gone. We hadn’t been on a day trip as a family even once. Not only that, but we hadn’t been to the beach as a family in almost two years!
Considering there are perfectly good sandy beaches less than an hour’s drive from our house, this is unacceptable.
At the start of the summer, the in-laws took Gray to Dimchurch, the pictures they took showed us it was a beautiful place and Gray loved the little train and the light house. ‘We’ll have to go!’ We exclaimed.
We never did.
Husbands shifts fell in such a pattern at the end of the holidays that he had a three-day weekend for the first time in a long time. It was whilst discussing how to fill it that we realised, we really hadn’t done anything at all this summer!
While we didn’t feel up to Dimchurch, a friend of mine had recently been on a short break to Margate and had been singing its praises. Her girls had had a wonderful time, the youngest being Grays age, so we decided to give it a go.
Margate is only an hour’s drive from us pretty much straight down the motorway, so we packed our beach gear and off we went.
I wanted to pack a picnic, but husband hadn’t had good seaside fish n chips for a long time, so we decided to indulge.
We had the most amazing, relaxed, family day. It made my heart ache to think about how little family time like this we’d had for so long. For no reason!
We took it in turns sitting with Rhyd on the spread we had laid out, or heading to the water’s edge (which grew steadily closer) with Gray.
We ate chips (while being stared down by seagulls), built sandcastles, dug holes, paddled, searched for shells to take home, ate ice-cream and just generally lounged about and relaxed.
Why hadn’t we done this sooner? I have no idea. Life had swept us up and there were always excuses to hold us back. The truth is no excuse was enough to justify missing out on quality time like this.
Being so close, you can bet we will be going back. Whether it’s a planned trip or a spontaneous one, I can’t bear to leave it so long again.
For anyone interested in heading to the beach and considering Margate, here’s what we thought of our day there:
-We arrived about 10am and decided to park in the Mill St multi-story car park just off the High St. Turns out parking there is free on Saturdays, score!
-The beach was still fairly empty when we arrived and the sand was scored, it had obviously been trawled and smoothed thoroughly just before we arrived. The sand and beach in general was beautifully clean.
-There were several lifeguards on duty constantly throughout the day, with large flags they moved as the tide came in to reflect the safest swimming areas.
We also heard them make announcements over loud speakers for swimmers benefits, such as warning against inflatables when the wind picked up.
-Food was cheap, fast and good old fashioned seaside fare. There is a small café on the beach itself which you can sit inside and eat a proper meal, or you can order a smaller selection of take away food. We ordered fish and chips and burger and chips, between the three of us (Rhyd is still on purees) it was plenty of food. We took our own drinks. We also each had a ‘99’ with a flake. Total cost of food for all three of us for the day: £14.95.
-The multi-story carpark we parked in was grungy and smelled of pee, (but that’s pretty standard I guess), the ‘high street’ we walked through to get to the beach front was nothing but charity shops and discount stores, which don’t exactly scream ‘tourist town’. (My friend assures me the ‘old town’ area is very quaint and has some really nice shops, it is probably the place to head to if visiting shops is on your list)
-There were amusements and gift shops along the front, but not nearly as many as I’d expected, If you’re going for the amusements you might find yourself running out of entertainment after a day (Of course this is probably my own bias as I expected a bigger place than it actually is!)
-There was a huge grubby high-rise that loomed over everything. I know seaside towns get battered by the elements, but I have been to plenty and never seen any that looked quite so grey.
-Admittedly we didn’t enter ‘DreamLand’ (the theme park just off the seafront, which I am assured is nice on the inside), but I was not expecting it to be hidden behind a large concrete wall!
It was boxed in by the surrounding buildings and hidden almost completely from view. (Don’t you just love those little seafront theme parks? I love the sight of an old wooden roller coaster on a pier, I was sad we were denied this!)
We are certainly planning to go back, despite the cons.
As I said, we wanted a cheap day at the beach and we got exactly what we wanted.
Next time we will try to give Dreamland and some of the other attractions, such as the ‘Shell Grotto’ a visit! I’m holding my judgement until I actually get to see what it’s like from the inside.
I think the problem for me was that I grew up visiting Blackpool every year and living close to Aberystwyth. Both are beautiful seaside towns, with heavily ‘tourism focused’ town budgets.
The main thing I’d take away from this list if you’re planning a day trip to the beach, is that the beach is fantastic. It is beautiful, it is clean. It has public toilets and a café right at its entrance. There were even some bouncy castles and small fair rides set up further down!
We had an amazing, relaxing family day. Margate may not be winning any beauty contests, but it had everything we wanted and everything we needed.
I look forward to returning and hopefully I’ll be able to update this with more pros when we do.
Have you had enough family time this summer? What do you consider your perfect family day out? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!