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

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When it’s time to splash some cash...

 

Okay, Great Yarmouth High Street is not exactly Oxford Street - and Market Gates ain’t quite Stratford Westfields. But if you can overlook the endless boarded up shop fronts, the 43 million charity shops and the 53 million pound stores, then you might as well spend a few hours browsing round the local shopping area. You’re here, after all, so go fill your boots.

 

Pride of place in the market square, a position it has graced since 1837, goes to Palmers Department Store. Family-owned and run, until a recent takeover, this charming store still has a touch of the ‘Are You Being Served’s about it - and though very much geared towards the older lady and gentlemen, Palmers has recently added some interest for the fashion-conscious youngsters with the introduction of concessions like Quiz. Upstairs it has a popular cafe that gets rammed with wrinklies every day. Most of the food is denture-friendly - and so what better place to have a quick bite to eat before perusing the clothes, handbags, shoes, bedding, furniture, kitchen wear and gift ideas available throughout the store?

Much of the rest of the market area is pretty bog-standard UK High Street. Boots? Tick! WH Smiths! Tick! Debenhams? Tick! River Island? Tick! All the stores you know and love, but nothing that you won’t already have at home. And as for the market itself, it consists mostly of chip stalls other than on Wednesdays and Saturdays when a whole host of local traders set up stalls and add a splash of noise and colour to the place.

One area in which Great Yarmouth does set itself apart on the shopping front is in the plus-size clothing department. The abundant chip stalls and their generous portion sizes have turned XXXL and XXXXL and SUPERXXXXL into standard-sizes - and so Bad Rhino has just rocked up in town to cater for the well-dressed gentlemen porker, while Yours and Evans keep the larger ladies looking absolutely ravishing in what can only be described as floral-patterned tents. Meanwhile, rumour has it that a new store is about to open for the plus-sized seagull.

But for a truly unique ‘Yarmouth only’ shopping experience, then head away from the High Street and wander down Regent Road. This extraordinary thoroughfare that leads down to the seafront is blessed with a multitude of independent shops and restaurants - and it is here where you will find your holiday souvenirs, your stick of Great Yarmouth Rock and your Kiss-Me-Quick hats, plus a bucket and spade for the kids to take on the beach and whatever the latest craze is, too. Fidget spinners last year! This year squidgies!

 

Sadly, a major fire in 2016 has left a gaping hole at the heart of this lively, cheap and cheerful road. The blaze took away what was Great Britain’s oldest bowling alley, as well as a dated but distinctive indoor market and a row of interesting shop fronts.

 

Another big loss is the recently closed Waxworks, which gained nationwide fame for the utter crapness of its exhibits. Basically, if you were a celebrity and you looked like your dummy, then you probably needed a doctor fast. It was a horror house of half-melted corpses, but none the less enjoyable for that.

 

Some things still remain the same, though - seemingly unchanged since my childhood. There is the famous local rock maker, Docwra’s, where you can not only stock up on chocolates and sweets, but if you time it right, you can also see the rock makers in action. And that means you get to see the secret of getting the words ‘Great Yarmouth’ to run down the centre of the rock. And these people have been doing it for years and years and so they make it look so easy, but it’s still a truly showstopping moment when they do the reveal.

 

 

 

 

Just across from the rock shop is Martyn’s Walk Round Store, another favourite from my childhood. Back in the day when I couldn’t go home without buying something - anything - then the Martyn’s mix of classic seaside tot - think jokes and magic tricks, fancy dress items, ornaments, mugs and costume jewellery - was often the place that got the benefit of my 50p pocket money. Or further along towards the beach, there’s the souvenir-filled shelves of Vogue and Barker’s, their lay-outs seemingly unchanged since the 1970s. And much of the stock seems from that era, too! Especially the postcards!

 

New shops have sprung up in recent years, though, and Regent Road is now the perfect place to buy a mobile phone cover, flip flops, beach wear and, another Yarmouth essential, your holiday tattoo. But it’s the older stores that give the road its true character, along with the always busy cafes and restaurants - and you really can’t come to Yarmouth without buying some holiday tat from Regent Road. If only so you can then take it home and think: ‘What on earth did I buy a Great Yarmouth tea towel for?’ Oh, just give it as a gift to someone you hate...

 

THE LEGENDARY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE THAT IS REGENT ROAD, GREAT YARMOUTH

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