A local’s guide to the thrills and spills of East Anglia’s most popular seaside resort
It’s said that people will flock from metres around to savour the excitement of the
Great Yarmouth nightlife. Few seaside holiday resorts can offer their guests such
a delicious selection of clubs, pubs and bars - and that applies whether you’re simply
in the mood for a quiet half of lager with a view of the sea, or a full on session
where you slam down tequila till you lose all consciousness, only to wake up the
next morning soaked in your own urine and smeared with your own vomit alongside some
lovely Yarmouth lass or lad who clearly took your fancy in your drunken state - but
who is now revealed in their full morning horror. 22-stone! Tats all over! Surrounded
by the six children from their previous relationships and one-night stands...
‘I made you some breakfast. I hope chips are okay. They’re only oven ones, though.
It’s all I had.’
I’ll be honest with you - it’s a minefield out there. But then that’s the excitement
of a big night out. You just never know where you might end up, but you can at least
know where to start off your evening...
BEST FOR GETTING THE PARTY STARTED... If there’s a moment of the day when the Marine
Pub, on Marine Parade, isn’t busy, then I’m yet to see it. If you walk past by day,
then you’ll see the garden full of holidaymakers sipping a morning sharpener of an
afternoon half, then in the evening, it gets literally rammed with people in search
of a damn good time! Why? Because the owner makes an effort and is always coming
up with new ideas to entertain his guests, whether it’s themed fancy dress nights,
karaoke, drag acts, tribute acts or just a good, old-fashioned disco. The dance floor
is small and the place does got crowded, but there’s always the garden if you want
to cool down and relax outside. It’s basically the most welcoming pub I’ve ever been
to - unpretentious, lively and with a real party atmosphere on a good night.
BEST FOR A QUIET DRINK
Not as busy or as fun as its lively next-door neighbour, the Marine, the Barking
Smack offers a quieter and less frenzied experience. Serving an interesting range
of local beers, it has a chilled front garden where you can sit and chat over a pint
of Lacons. It appeals to a slightly older crowd and has a Zimmer-frame friendly entrance,
as well as entertainment from local performers, like Lee Statham and Rockin Ronnie,
most weekends. Excellent seafront location; and great for people watching by day.
TOP TIP: Don’t turn up too late. The landlord closes when he wants to close, so don’t
be offended if the gates are locked and bolted.
INTO THE EARLY HOURS
I don’t know what’s wrong with the youngsters of today. My generation’s idea of a
good night out was drinking horrible lager in a miserable pub while listening to
awful music played by moronic Djs; not to mention chatting up women who one wouldn’t
have touched with a barge pole while sober - or if one was a woman, being chatted
up by men who one wouldn’t have touched with a barge pole while sober.
And then as the lager and Bacardi really took hold, the punch ups would start, the
vomit would emerge and gentlemen and ladies would pass out onto what was liable to
be a urine, sick and blood-soaked floor. And still the DJ kept on playing Boney M,
or worse, Rick Astley. Then one would be fleeced £40 for a taxi home.
Ah, great times! And yet the kids these days would rather sit at home with their
mobile phones than end up covered in their own and/or someone else’s vomit, or in
bed with a moose, or in A&E, or wrapped around a lamppost till the early hours. And
for that reason, most of the fabled Great Yarmouth nightclubs of yore have long-since
been demolished and turned into flats. You can still get a late night drink at Long
John’s Bar at the end of Britannia Pier, though, and maybe have a dance and get a
snog if you’re lucky. Or maybe just go home...
Night-life doesn’t have to be all about getting drunk. It can be all about rolling
heavy balls in the direction of skittles while dressed in peculiar footwear - and
for that you need to head to the Wellington Bowl at the end of Wellington Pier. Once
a theatre that was graced by comic legends of the calibre of Jim Davidson, Bob Monkhouse,
Roy Hudd and Les Dennis, the Wellington Bowl is open daily till 11 pm during the
summer months and 10.30 pm in the winter months. Food and drink are available, plus
there’s American pool and slot machines galore in this family-friendly venue.
CASINOS AND BINGO PARLOURS
If you’re gambling tastes are more for roulette and poker than one-armed bandits
and flipper machines, then the Grosvenor Casino, opposite Wellington Pier, is Great
Yarmouth’s main casino. Or if you fancy some serious Bingo, then head to the town
centre for a wild night out at the Palace Bingo. Expect pensioners galore and way
more than two fat ladies. Eyes down now for a Full House...
BORING FACT: Palace Bingo is a former Tesco. And if you’re looking for Tesco, it’s
now an out-of-town megastore!
If you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual, merely bi-curious or a man who likes to dress in
women’s clothes, then you’ll find Great Yarmouth a reasonably tolerant place - and
will find a warm welcome in seafront pubs such as the Marine and the Barking Smack.
But should you prefer something a little more specialist, then King’s Wine Bar on
King Street is the place to head. This stylishly and theatrically decorated bar has
been at the heart of the Great Yarmouth gay scene for donkey’s years - and with its
intimate lounge, small but lively dance floor and extremely well-stocked bar, it
has a relaxed and welcoming vibe where you are sure to feel at home, whatever your
sexuality or however fluid or neutral your gender.
The newer kid on the Great Yarmouth gay scene is Quay Pride, which as the name suggests,
is down by the river. It’s a little bit out of the way, but with its rainbow-coloured
frontage, you really can’t miss it should you happen to drive past. And it has drag
acts aplenty, if that’s your thing.