Winning tip: Blue Lagoon, Narberth, Pembrokeshire
The Blue Lagoon waterpark is part of the Bluestone holiday resort, but day visitors are welcome. Shaped like an upturned coracle, it boasts wave machines, flumes and a pirate shipwreck play area among many other attractions. The lazy river which exits the building to an outdoor bubble pool is a favourite for young children. It is one of the first waterparks in the world to be heated by biomass; its green credentials are as impressive as its spotless and well-staffed facilities for participants and spectators.
• Family ticket (for four) £48, adult £12.95, after 7pm £7, booking advised, bluelagoonwales.com
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The UK’s most northerly lido, Stonehaven has an Olympic-sized pool with heated (29C) sea water. It has fun inflatables on the water every afternoon in summer, a great flume, sun terraces and live music on Saturdays. And visitors can take advantage of the longer days this far north with midnight swimming on Wednesdays in summer and late night discos. Really good value too.
• Family all-day £14.80, adult day £5.50, midnight swim adult £7.20, stonehavenopenairpool.co.uk
Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham
The white water rafting on Holme Pierrepont’s man-made course is safe and a load of fun, and white water tubing on the same course is also now available. There is also the more serene paddleboarding (although to me it looks way harder than sitting in a dinghy), lazy river tubing, kayaking and the ever popular “Wipeout”-style water-based assault course. There are also regattas throughout the season and when we went we saw an International Dragon Boat race which brought to mind the music from Hawaii 5-0. And five minutes away Mewar Haveli tops off the day with some stellar Indian food.
• White water tubing from £35, nwscnotts.com
Splashdown, Poole, Dorset
Splashdown waterpark boasts 12 thrilling slides for adults and teens and a children’s pool with flume and water cannons. There’s something to keep all ages entertained, including an outdoor area for cooling off on hot days. It’s £15.50 for an all-day ticket, but a cheaper ticket for two hours’ flume usage is also available for £12.20. There’s also a great cafe from where you can keep an eye on the kids if you don’t fancy getting wet.
• £15.50 in summer for a six-hour session, splashdownwaterparks.co.uk
New Forest Aquapark, Hampshire
The New Forest Aquapark, near Ringwood, has a mammoth Wipeout-style floating assault course, perfect for brilliant fun racing your friends and family. There’s also kayaking, SUP, cable wakeboarding and a campsite. On shore the place boasts trampolines, monkey bars, slides, swings and hurdles.
• Aquapark Wipeout £15 an hour, kayaks £15 an hour, camping £15 a night per adult, newforestwaterpark.co.uk
Alpamare, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
10 of the best lesser-known UK lidos
The alpine-themed Alpamare waterpark opened a couple of years ago and features an indoor splash area for younger children, a large pool with wave machine and four slides including “the black run”, a long slide in pitch darkness. There’s also the “snow storm”, which whirls a dinghy of four around in a vortex. Outdoors are two heated pools (one infinity, one with healing iodine water) both with uninterrupted, stunning views of the sea. A wellness centre and spa are due to open soon. The water park is open from 10am until 10pm and due to its close proximity to the Open Air Theatre it’s perfectly possible to spend an evening enjoying a cold beer in the outdoor pool listening to the live music drifting in on the breeze.
• Family ticket £64, adult £20, alpamare.co.uk
Wheelgate, Newark, Nottinghamshire
Robin Hood Wheelgate Park, between Mansfield and Newark, boasts one of the largest outdoor waterparks in the UK among its attractions (there’s also a farm and rides in various themed zones). It has five “fast and furious” slides for children above 95cm. It’s quiet in term-time, although the waterpark closes seasonally – a good thing too, it’s bracing on a cold day. It’s a full day out because once you’ve dried off there are so many other attractions to explore.
• From £8.12 (off-peak) and £12.48 (peak) wheelgatepark.com
Hove Lagoon, East Sussex
10 of the best lesser-known UK lidos, recommended by readers
Hove Lagoon boasts Big Beach cafe, owned by local Norman Cook (AKA Fat Boy Slim) and a water sports centre with kitesurfing practice lines and jumps. You can also rent standup paddleboards to practise on before heading out to the sea. For children there is a free paddling pool and park and some charming themed pedalos. From the lagoon there are plenty of other activities, the lawns stretch towards Brighton with tennis courts, boules, pitch and putt and loads of events year round.
• Kayak hire on Hove Lagoon £15 for an hour, SUP £20 hour (after taster session), lagoon.co.uk
Billing itself as the UK’s largest indoor waterpark, Sandcastle charms all ages. I went there as a child and now take my niece regularly. There’s plenty to do, from gentle slides for little ones, to a lazy river where you’re certain to get soaked, the wave pool (to which swimmers are alerted to the sound of Surfin’ USA), and more extreme rides offering bigger thrills for teens and adults. Beware, on a rainy day there’s likely to be a long queue.
• Family of four £53.50, sandcastle-waterpark.co.uk
Rutland Water, East Midlands
Rutland Watersports is a great place for all family members to enjoy some aquatic time in the rural East Midlands. Swimming, boating, SUP, kayaks, windsurfing are among the main activities and the lake offers fishing, walking and cycling too. Just drive up with a picnic and it’s easy and fun to spend a day here. There are plenty of friendly staff and volunteers on hand to help you out and ensure your safety on the water.
• Kayak from £8.50 an hour, SUP £10, anglianwaterparks.co.uk
This article was amended on 27 July 2018. The original photo of Splashdown in Poole featured the wrong waterpark.
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