A local’s guide to the thrills and spills of East Anglia’s most popular seaside resort

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The people of Yarmouth are a self-deprecating bunch, but the truth is we have plenty to boast about here. I mean,  if you’ve ever been to Luton,  Slough, or god forbid, to Clacton-on-sea, then you will realise Great Yarmouth is nothing less than a treasure trove of entertainment, with hundreds of things to see and do. And that’s especially true on the seafront where you can play a round of crazy golf, splash your cash on the slot machines in the amusement arcades, take a ride on a donkey or a horse and cart, or just stroll along the endless stretch of golden sandy beaches and maybe even dip your toes in the freezing cold North Sea. So, believe me, you really won’t be short of things to write about in your postcard home!

The Great Yarmouth seafront is a great place just to sit and relax by day, while at night, with the neon lights of the amusement arcades glowing in the darkness, the promenade becomes like a mini Las Vegas. The Mint, the Flamingo, Leisureland, Caesar’s Palace and the arcades on Britannia and Wellington Pier offer the chance to play on till late into the night, whether you’re dropping two pence coins into the pushing machines or playing for serious money on the ‘adults only’ high-roller machines. Or maybe just trying to win the kids a stuffed Peter Rabbit or Kermit the Frogs on one of the hugely frustrating grabbing machines. “It’s got it! It’s got it! It’s lifting it... Oh, it’s dropped it!”

 

But whether night or day, there are certain things that should be on anyone’s Yarmouth ‘Must-Do’ list.

PIRATE’S COVE

 

No expense has been spared on this 18-hole pirate-themed adventure golf course. In fact, with life-sized models of pirates hanging out of crows’ nests, waterfalls, treasure chests and hulls of old ships decorating the place, it’s not always easy to concentrate on your putting technique and trying to achieve a hole-in-one. Expect long queues in the summer months, as this seafront attraction does get very busy,  but it’s well worth the wait.

 

And if you like Pirate’s Cove, you might also like the smaller safari-themed course in Pleasure Beach Gardens and the unusual indoor Adventure Golf course at the Old Windmill Theatre. All of these are to be found on the main promenade, or for a serious (rather than crazy) round of golf, head to the 18-hole Pitch & Putt Bure Park course on Caister Road.

THE PLEASURE BEACH

 

Home to the longest single-pull roller-coaster in the country - and a fixture at the place since 1932 - the wooden Roller-Coaster is undoubtedly the star attraction at Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, but it’s just one of a whole host of family-friendly rides at this major seafront attraction. You can give yourself the willies in the Haunted Hotel, take a fairy tale journey on a magical snail, go giddy on the Waltzers, bump bumpers on the Dodgems or get soaking wet on the Log Flume. And that’s just for starters...

 

 

TIME AND TIDE MUSEUM

 

They can be dreary places, museums, and even this one might bore the socks of some, but the Time and Tide Museum offers an insight into the history of Yarmouth’s fishing industry and occupies the premises of the Tower Fish Curing Works, which was originally built around 1850 and was still in use in 1988. Then following a major redevelopment, the museum was born in 2004, telling the story of Great Yarmouth and its herring industry - and with the aroma of the smokehouse still lingering to this day.

 

Situated on Blackfriars Road, by the remains of the ancient Yarmouth wall, Time and Time Museum features a recreation of an old Yarmouth Row and a chance to see inside a traditional fisherman’s cottage. It also hosts changing art exhibitions, offering an all-too rare splash of culture in the artistic wasteland that is Great Yarmouth.

MERRIVALE MODEL VILLAGE

 

If you’ve ever fantasised about being a giant - and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you? - then here’s some good news. Because a wander round the picturesque model village of Merrivale will allow you to feel over 20 foot tall, as you gaze down at the miniature shops fronts and tiny, little people who inhabit this quaintly charming recreation of a traditional British town or village. Set in beautifully landscaped gardens, Merrivale has everything most towns have, such as a police station, rows of shops, a sports stadium, cricket pitch and even a working model railway. What’s more, there’s a touch of ‘Carry On...’ humour here and there, in the punning names of the shops, for instance, or the streaker on the sports field - and I think I once spotted a flasher somewhere.

 

GREAT YARMOUTH STADIUM

 

For all you gamblers and petrol heads coming to Norfolk, Great Yarmouth Stadium hosts stock car and greyhound racing events throughout the year. Sadly, they’re always on different nights, so one never gets to see a stock car in pursuit of a greyhound, or vice-versa! (My money would be on the greyhound.) The stadium is situated on Caister Road, which is a main road leading out of town. Well worth the trek, though.

THE SEALIFE CENTRE

 

It’s rare to see a fish in this town that isn’t covered in batter and plonked on some chips, but the Sealife Centre - slap-bang on the seafront - is a strictly batter and chips free zone. There you can see sharks, crabs, turtles, jellyfish, rays and seahorses in glorious close up, as you stroll through the underwater walk-through tunnels - and you even get close to crocodiles, and less scarily, Great Yarmouth’s friendly gang of penguins.

VENETIAN WATERWAYS

 

Fed up with the hustle and bustle of the seafront? Need to get away from all those other ghastly  holidaymakers? Then take a wander down to Waterways, a relaxing Venetian-inspired gardens, complete with ornamental pergolas, canals and boating lake, where you can sit on a bench watching the ducks swimming by, or where you might even spot the resident heron.

 

How to get there: Waterways is just a short walk along North Drive, heading away from Britannia Pier.

With so many rides to pick from, including a classic carousel and a pirate ship, the best value deal is the ‘ride as much as you like’ wristband - available for both individuals and families. And if you want more fun fair thrills, be certain to check out Joyland, too, which is located next to Britannia Pier and is especially suited to younger children.

In fact, Merrivale is very much a seaside postcard humour type of place - and is packed with little things that you’ll only get to spot if you wander round with your eyes wide-open. There’s a lot to take in, but it’s the details that make it such a success - and as one of very few remaining model villages in the UK, it’s a must-do thing while you’re here in Great Yarmouth.

 

TOP TIP: Once you’ve had your fill of the little people, head out through the old-fashioned Penny Arcade and buy a bag of old pennies to play vintage fruit machines and one-armed bandits. Or maybe even see What the Butler Saw!  

HIPPODROME CIRCUS

 

I must confess that I haven’t been to the Hippodrome Circus since I was kid. It’s just never really been my cup of tea and wild horses would be needed to drag me there now, but if you do like clowns and high-wire acts, then you must go and see a circus show while here in town. Built in 1903, the Hippodrome is Britain’s only surviving purpose-built circus venue; and its unique water spectacles means you get to see circus tricks performed on water, as well as the usual stuff like trapeze acts, juggling, acrobatics and some fun and laughs with the Hippodrome’s resident clowns.

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