Butlins Bognor Regis had never been on my radar in the past. It was like one of those mythical things I had heard of but never experienced, like unicorns or the abominable snowman…but now I know it is real, and better than I could have imagined!
I randomly came across a review of the place on a newspaper’s website, and checked out the Butlins website. It looked great and the price seemed incredibly good value too! I was a little trepidatious (is that a word??) but I spontaneously booked it almost straightaway, for a 3 night long weekend during half term, for us and our three children (age 4, 6 and 10). In the end we were lucky enough to get my parents and siblings along too, including my lovely 2 year old nephew.
Now here is the spoiler…we had an amazing time!
In case you don’t have time for reading the full review right now, here are the highlights:
Where we stayed: Ocean hotel, in a 2 bedroom room
Where we ate: Kaleidoscope restaurant (breakfasts), Pub and Kitchen restaurant, The Deck buffet restaurant, Papa Johns, The Diner, and The Scoop ice cream parlour.
Activities we did: The fairground rides, the swimming pool and water slides, the go karts, football
Shows we saw: Sleeping beauty pantomime, Teletubbies show, Mr Men show, Abba show
Star rating for overall stay: 8/10
Would we go back: A resounding yes!
Ok, now for more detail!
Arrival, check-in and Accommodation
We parked literally right outside the Ocean hotel, and we were warmly welcomed by a friendly older man in a top hat and pink waistcoat. The friendliness of all the staff at Butlins was one of the biggest positives of the place. It genuinely felt like the staff were happy to work there, and this gentleman even told us so…he doesn’t actually need to work, just enjoys it. How great is that!
We had arrived early, about 1.30pm. There was a queue for about 10 minutes at the Ocean Hotel reception, but while we waited there seemed to be complimentary tea and coffee and squash which helped keep the family’s mood up! Our room was ready, which was unexpected as we were told it would be available at 3pm, so this was a happy surprise. We were given full details of everything we needed to know about the resort at reception, and the adults get wristbands to wear all weekend to identify you as guests. I got a pamphlet listing all the shows and activities. There is also apparently an app for this, though I didn’t manage to download it (my phone is too full of photos!)
The accommodation itself was great. The room was of a high standard, and clean. There was a small box room for the children, which had 2 single beds. Beneath each bed was a large plastic box in which the children enjoyed keeping their clothes and belongings. There were multiple light switches allowing them to adjust the lighting in their room, including coloured lights, which was fun. Their room also had its own tv. The only down side was that their room had no door, just a doorway, so if they were making noise in there we could hear it in our room.
In our part of the room was a decent double bed, and a sofa bed, as well as two large cupboards, a desk and a mini-fridge. There is also a safe to keep valuables. There was a good size balcony and I was delighted to see a little bit of a sea view! It was a gorgeous sunny day, so we opened the patio doors to the balcony and let the fresh air in straightaway.
A cute touch was on the bed there was a towel sculpture of a crab, along with instructions on how to make this yourself! My 6 year old enjoyed trying that out later on in the weekend.
There is air conditioning in the room, so it was quite easy to keep the temperature right. The bathroom was small, but the rain shower was amazing!
The hotel has a spa too, which I didn’t get to try this time but I hope to one day! It looked good from the outside, and the spa menu had a variety of treatments at reasonable prices. There is a restaurant called Kaleidoscope, where we had breakfast every day. There are many accommodation options at Butlins, including self-catering apartments where others of our group stayed. I liked our hotel, as it was located closest to the pool and all the action, and had some high spec features, but it would be great to try an apartment another time, for a bit more space, and the ability to keep the lights on and have a conversation perhaps over a drink, after the kids are settled in bed. Though perhaps this is a pipe dream, as I am usually ready for bed myself by the time the kids are asleep!!
There are so many activities at Butlins! It was hard to know where to start, but our kids love swimming so there was no real contest…it was straight to the pool!
The pool area is nice, and as it is brand new this year (having opened in April, I believe) everything seemed very clean and fresh. It was, however, extremely busy! The changing rooms and lockers were plentiful though, and we easily found a spacious one. They seem to have provided many large ones, probably to cater for all the families with small children, like us! Happy days. The other really nice touch, was that they play gentle relaxing music in the changing rooms. As any parent knows, changing rooms can be the setting for many a meltdown (either child or parent!) So my husband and I actually welcomed this. They were playing “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, which is a great tune and we were singing along!
You need a £1 coin for the locker, which is returned to you after use. Bizarrely the two lockers we chose both had a pound coin in there already! Lucky us. The holiday was going great already. We decided to leave the coins in there for the next users…share the love!
The pool itself has plenty of slides for young and old. There are lots of toddler areas, which is great. There is a big fountain in the middle, a wave pool (which plays 1950’s music eg. Grease Lightning, instead of a loud alarm coming on to alert you to the waves starting), a helter skelter water slide, rapids which are outdoors, and several other slides including one that you ride in a big rubber ring. As you enter the pool building there is a wall where you can measure your children, to determine which slides they are allowed to go on. I don’t have any pool pics as you’re not allowed cameras at all in the pool, which is possibly a good thing.
The only down side to the pool area is that we found it quite cold. I think the water at Center Parcs, to give a comparison, is a little warmer. So perhaps it would be an idea to wear wet suits if you think you’ll spend a long time at the pool, and you get cold easily! I can recommend this wet suit which my 6 year old son now has, and loves. I’ll be getting these for all the kids before our next Butlins trip!
One last note, on a Saturday the Ocean Hotel guests are allowed in early, from 8-9am. This was a great opportunity for us to have some quieter pool time. Our 10 year old daughter made it onto several slides immediately, which normally had queues.
This was really great, and actually one of the features which cinched the deal when I was booking Butlins. All of the fairground attractions, except for a few, are free to guests! My youngest loved this so much. He is still talking about wanting to go back to Butlins! He enjoyed the carousel, the trampolines, an aeroplane ride, the teacups ride (though he got a little dizzy!), and a car ride. There is also a large indoor soft play area. There are dodgems and a hall of crazy mirrors. There is a huge arcade area where you can play games and win tickets to redeem for prizes, which was a big hit, especially with the older children. They enjoyed the virtual reality games too.
There are many other activities for the kids, at Butlins. Some of these are paid, and some are free. It is a really good idea to book the ones that you want to do, soon after you arrive, so as not to miss out. However, even if you do not book anything you will still have plenty to do.
The go-karts are very popular (these are super fast and exciting, even my 4 year old was able to go on, with his dad), and the cost is £6 for a ride. 1 or 2 people per go kart.
Our 6 year old son played football. This was a free, organised activity with a coach who organised 30 boys into little teams to play mini matches.
On the last day, there was an area set up with loads of Little Tikes cars and other vehicles for the little ones to ride on, round a track, with some play houses to enjoy too. This was great and a really relaxing place to let the kids roam free outside. I suspect on the just for tots weekends this area would be set up like this, for the whole weekend.
There is an animal encounters area (also free of charge) in the big tent, where you can see small animals and creatures like a tarantula, snakes, mice.
Next time I would love to check out the 3D movie, which we sadly missed. It is free of charge but you have to book! Also there is a dance academy and a pottery painting shop. There is a high ropes course (£12) which looked good for maybe 5-8 year olds, depending on bravery levels and a climbing wall (£8).
I was very impressed with the shows! We saw the Sleeping Beauty panto, which was on the Centre Stage. It was very popular and therefore packed, but we managed to find seats. It does not require booking in advance though you might like to get there at least 10-15 minutes before it starts to get yourself settled.
We also saw the Teletubbies show, a Mr Men show, and a puppet show in the “Puppet Castle” with marionettes. There are meet and greets with the characters, with photo opportunities, at various times.
I managed to get out in the evening to watch the Abba show which was fun! The performers were fantastic, full of enthusiasm and belting out the songs with gusto!
There was a Paddington show which I would have quite liked to check out but we didn’t quite make it to that. There were other shows I would have liked to check out too! The pamphlet that you get on check-in tells you all the show times, so it is definitely worth taking a look to decide what you want to attend. There’s a handy colour code too, to help you work out which shows are best for which age groups. Very well thought-out.
There are plenty of restaurants at Butlins! The food is GOOD. I would say, we enjoyed the food at Butlins perhaps more than the food we have had at Center Parcs (much as we love you, Center Parcs). We had the Dinearound plan, which enables you to choose a different restaurant for lunch or dinner each day. This is great for the flexibility! In the mornings, a buffet breakfast is included which we ate at the Kaleidoscope restaurant in the Ocean Hotel. Perhaps we did not really need to eat as much food as we did, but it was great…we certainly did not go hungry. And I must give a special mention to the super friendly Northern Irish man on the custom-made omelettes counter. I’ve never encountered such a cheerful, friendly eggs man! There was a good selection of sausages, bacon, fruit, yogurt, and tea/coffee/juice is all included. The atmosphere in the restaurant is decent and there are some large booths which we enjoyed sitting in. There are other dining plans to choose from, and of course you could just eat at the restaurants ad hoc.
If you choose to add on the breakfast buffet, separately from a dining plan, I found out the prices from a staff member. It is roughly £11 for an adult, £6 for a child over 5, and £3 for the little ones.
Our favourite meal was dinner at The Deck restaurant which is a buffet. We had all sorts of tasty food there. I particularly enjoyed the curry. And they had a great selection of desserts, which of course the children loved (me too, admittedly.) There is soft serve ice cream on tap which the children can add sprinkles and chocolate/strawberry sauce to.
The price for the buffet is £23 per adult (includes drinks eg. juice, squash, tea/coffee/hot chocolate) and about £10.50 for a child over 5. If you are on the dinearound plan you can additionally have a house wine, beer or cider (from a specific selection).
Some of the restaurants can be booked in advance, but several can’t. However if you show up at 5pm for dinner as we did, at the Deck, we had no problem getting a table (and we were a group of 10 people for that meal!)
We really liked that Butlins has a buffet restaurant (in fact it has several) as this feels great for family dining, and although I was hesitant, expecting low quality food as it is a buffet, I am pleased to say I was proved wrong! I am not 100% sure, but as I recall Centre parcs does not have any buffet restaurants, except for a children’s buffet eg. at Huck’s in Longleat.
Here is a photo of the children’s menu from the Pub and Kitchen restaurant. I thought this might be useful, though you can also find menus on the Butlins website.
Butlins feels really inclusive and is well set up for people with disabilities, wheelchair/mobility scooters and more importantly the whole place is so welcoming towards everybody and anybody. There is no pretentiousness here.
The shows at Centre Stage were quite loud but nothing more than usual. Most children seemed to have no trouble with it, but if your little ones are sensitive to noise it might be something to consider.
There is a shop where you can buy all sorts of food supplies, and the prices are not bad. We bought milk there and a bucket and spade set too!
Last but not least, the beach is easy to access from Butlins, just a short stroll away. As the weather was great we spent most of an afternoon at the beach, which was lovely and chilled. It is mostly pebbles, but there are sandy areas to play in when the tide is low, which the kids enjoyed. Just a short stroll west of Butlins, along the seafront, is a great little children’s playground, opposite a hotel which has a pub attached. We ate a good lunch here on the last day, before heading back to London.
Two minor points: The only feedback I have, is that it would be good to be able to book activities and meals online, and potentially in advance of the trip. As doing this on site was a rather slow and painful experience for me, as there was always somewhere else I was meant to be other than in a queue that didn’t seem to be moving! My 4 year old did not have the patience for any of that, either, and made his sentiments known! Perhaps there was a way to book activities in advance/online, but I did not see a facility to do this.
The other thing is that the lifts are very slow and busy, so we took the stairs most of the time as we didn’t like to wait too long. This was fine as we were on the first floor, and did not need our buggy most of the time, but if you are on a higher floor of the hotel and have buggies/mobility issues this may be less than convenient.
The size of the resort means it is really easy to get around though, which we really liked. Perfect for little legs!! It is an all-round ideal little holiday for a young family.
I hope I have convinced you to give Butlins Bognor Regis a go!
Here is a link to the Butlins website:
If you enjoyed this post please do check out my post on Centre parcs Longleat! In my post I include a comparison with Centre parcs Woburn, which we have also visited.