Reviewed: Watergate Bay Hotel

As I write this, I’m sat on a lushiously plump sofa in front of a window bigger than the footprint of my bathroom, watching the surf roll into Watergate Bay. You could say this is my happy place and in fact this is the kind of post that I hesitate to write because I just don’t want to share it with anyone. But the secret is well out, not least because I always share copious photos on Instagram when we are here. So here you have it, my review of Watergate Bay Hotel.

To give you a little bit of context, this is our 4th visit in 18ish months. We first came when Bea was 18 months old, in February, then again that October (when I was pregnant with Cora,) this year in June and now in November. So we have seen all seasons. We have also stayed in 2 different room types, tried all the food options and given the Spa and Swim club a good work out, so I’d like to consider this an informed review. Importantly too, I’m not getting compensated for this post, we just really really love it here. I honestly don’t have anything bad to say.

First things first, getting there. We have driven and flown – FlyBe goes from Manchester to Cornwall and as we live close to the airport and it’s an internal flight, it makes it a less than 3 hour hop door to door, compared with 6 if we drive. Since having kids we prefer to fly, but we did this current trip by car and it was better than expected. There are advantages to driving as you can take in the local area, but to be honest we often find we don’t leave the hotel vicinity as we have enough to do here, so a car is definitely not essential. If you do fly, the airport is a mere 5 minute taxi ride away, though do book your ride in advance so you can get straight onto your holiday relaxation.

The hotel is perched on the cliffs overlooking Watergate Bay so there are quite simply EPIC views. Once you are checked in you can head straight into the Living Space, the hotel’s bar and casual dining spot which has a massive terrace for soaking up the view, and tons of lounging space alongside tables for eating. It’s one of those places where you walk in and look up, and the view takes your breath away. For me personally the feeling of relaxation and wellbeing that I get when I walk in there is second to none and plays no small part in why we keep returning.

The rooms (and the hotel decor) are coastal inspired but not in a cliched way. Think natural materials, driftwood panelling, and simple wood furnishings with waffle throws, sisal rugs and linen cushions. Add in wall mounted task lighting and it feels quietly comfortable. We usually stay in a House Family Suite, (room 51 is our favourite,) which has a bathroom, bedroom, small sitting area, and (best bit!) a bunk room within the bedroom which Bea goes in. This means we aren’t sat in the dark once she has gone to sleep, and neither of us disturb each others sleep overnight. Cue restful family holiday all round!

The second thing we LOVE about this place is the baby monitoring facility. Not just a baby listening service, upon check in you are given an android tablet and camera to place in your room. There is a rock solid separate wifi network throughout the hotel (it actually extends across the carpark to Jamie’s and The Beach Hut if you want to venture that far but we prefer to get a babysitter via the Kids club if we leave the hotel,) so you can have the total peace of mind that comes from being able to actually see your kids whilst you’re out of the room. You can even have two monitors if you have a child in each room. For us this absolutely makes the holiday as we get to go out every night alone for dinner after the kids are in bed, or for drinks if we have eaten earlier with them, and have some time to ourselves. It also means that nap time is golden hour. We have coffee, read, swim, go in the hot tub, use the spa… all whilst watching them sleep peacefully.

There are several eating options to enjoy – The Living Space that I mentioned above, and Zachry’s – which is where you have breakfast but also a more refined (whilst still far from formal,) evening restaurant. The food here is fresh local and we find it quite filling, so whilst the DB&B deals are great value, we prefer to have only one or two nights in the main restaurant. The Living Space menu is quite small but the daily specials are always interesting and enjoyable. Across the car park is Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall and under that The Beach Hut – also owned by the hotel, which we love. The crab linguine there is not to be missed! The hotel also does a children’s dinner sitting from 5-6pm which is either a buffet (when there are enough kids in the hotel to justify it,) or a kids menu. This is included in the DB&B rates. Under 2′s eat free. This is great we find for feeding the kids without having to worry about other child-free diners and also early enough to get them into bed ready for you to go and enjoy the evening.

The other fantastic thing at WGB Hotel is the Kids Zone. This is the first visit which we have used the closed sessions from 10-12am Monday-Friday as previously Bea didn’t want to stay without us. She has had a whale of a time playing outside in the play area, painting, playing with the toys and all fully supervised by qualified staff. Sessions are for 6m-2yo’s and 3-7yo’s then there is also an evening 3-7yo session from 6.30 which is handy if you don’t want to leave your little one in the room while you eat later, or if they wouldn’t tolerate going down somewhere new. And when there isn’t a closed session running, the whole kids club area and facilities are open for you to use with your kids – great for entertaining them when they just need some playtime.

Although I’m writing this review from the perspective of someone who has children, one of the nice things about the hotel is (outside of the peak school holidays) it has never felt over run with children. There are just as many couples and groups of friends as there are families which gives a really good dynamic and I have never felt like the other child-free adults there really wished there weren’t children around. The hotel is dog friendly too and there is usually a fantastic vibe of friendly people around, dogs to stroke, other parents and kid to make passing conversation with and fun, helpful staff.

Lastly, I always try to fit a treatment in at the swim club. Every one I have had so far has been totally blissful. The Ocean Room is a quiet space for well behaved kids only and adults only after 7pm and the outdoor hot tub overlooking the beach is very relaxing. We go swimming at least once a day every day with the girls in the stunning sea view pool and I love that the changing facilities feel like a bathroom you would want in your home, not a public pool. Think countertop sinks, amazing showers, interesting tiles and slate floors in individual changing rooms. There is also an accessible/family changing room and a small gym.

So how do we spend our time here I hear you say? Well, we certainly kick down a gear and go at a slower pace. Breakfast starts at 8 and we are usually there soon after, for Waffles, bircher muesli, croissants and the usual cereals, cooked breakfast and fruit etc. (The breakfast is an absolute highlight!) Previously we would head straight to the pool after, but this time Bea has gone to kids club and while Cora naps we have enjoyed another coffee and relaxed. Then we might have a quick beach walk or swim before lunch (in the Living Space or The Beach Hut) and napping both the kids together before either swimming or walking on the beach again. WGB is massive so at low tide you can get a great walk up and down the beach plus you can take the Coastal path in either direction for some variation. We usually feed the girls at the kids dinner session whilst having a drink ourselves then head back to bath and bed them, but sometimes we might eat out with them earlier then put them to bed and go back downstairs for drinks and to read or talk in the bar. Then we do it all again the next day! We often think of going out, and we do go for the day to Padstow but we are more likely to get out of the hotel by walking some of the Coastal path or the beach, digging with Bea or building sandcastles. There’s a Surf school in the bay, Yoga and other classes. But mostly we like just pottering, eating and making the most of sleeping children!

I think I’ve covered everything… I could go into so much more detail and wax lyrical for hours but I think you get the gist! Please do ask any questions, I’d love to answer them. WGB really has become an incredibly special place for us and we hope to be coming back here for many more years as a family. If you have been thinking about it, don’t hesitate. It’s amazing!

Rebecca x

Psssst! While we are still here I’ve been posting loads of peeks inside our holiday and the hotel itself over on Instagram Stories. Head over to my Instagram profile and tap on my profile photo to see more!

Viva las Vegas: The Wynn and Encore hotel

After my recent trip around California ending in Las Vegas, I have literally so much to share with you, but thought I’d start at the end, with a review of the hotel we stayed in. It was really between Encore and one of the CityCenter complex hotels, which I think I would try next time, so I’ll be interested to hear if you can compare them.

The Room
When we were browsing hotels for our Vegas trip, there seemed to be 2 options; classic Vegas-style themed hotels that make up The Strip and much of Vegas’ characteristic attractions, or the new breed of uber luxury. Given that we wanted to treat ourselves and prices are relatively cheap considering the standard of hotels, we opted for the latter and chose Encore, the all-suite sister hotel of the Wynn. Built in 2005 the rooms looked stunning and the vibe seemed very young, cool and geared towards eating and drinking, plus essential poolside people watching.

Impressive is not the word for this hotel. On first arriving I was really over-awed. I’ve stayed in similar hotels before (Dubai seems the best comparison for opulence and sheer excess,) but having come from the solitude and isolation of Death Valley and other National parks before that, it was overwhelming in its contrasts.

Our room was incredible, with a wide hallway, wardrobe and large marble bathroom off that and then the bedroom followed by a separated lounge area with desk and floor to ceiling mountain views. (Strip views would have been amazing but were significantly more expensive and we were later told they could be noisy with traffic and party noise filtering up.) We also upgraded for about £40 to the top 10 floors and actually ended up on the 62nd, just under the top floor.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the all pervasive gaming and casino atmosphere. That might have seemed a little naive but we watched the hotel video and it was made such little note of. I expected the newer hotels to be a little less casino orientated and how wrong I was. Although much of it was close to windows and therefore different to some of the basement holes that passed for casinos in other hotels, of course, the whole hotel revolved around gaming. Bars have gaming screens built into the bar top, and many of the restaurants overlook the casino. There was even poolside gaming!

Most annoying for me was the smoke. Smoking is allowed in the casinos in Las Vegas and as a result basically filters throughout the whole hotel. We came face to face with cigars in the lifts, hotel corridors, cigarettes by the pool, in fact everywhere except the restaurants. It was a major turn off to Vegas for me, particularly when a short walk to your room or restaurant could leave you smelling of cigarettes like a blast from 2006 in the UK.

The Restaurants
We ate in the hotel restaurants each evening, first at Mizumi, a Japanese fine dining experience for our anniversary, the second at Society Cafe, (the fanciest cafe I’ve ever sat in that’s for sure,) and on the final night in Stratta after an epic walk down the strip. Although obviously expensive, the food was great in all of them, stunning in Mizumi and the decor in each was out of this world.

On our last day we also visited the brunch buffet which was incredible, although I was beyond disappointed that there were no breakfast items amongst the sushi, grill, barbecue, italian, seafood, asian and dessert offerings. I do like my pancakes!

The Pool
One of my favourite things about Encore was the pool scene. There are 5 pools at the Wynn – both Wynn and Encore have 2, a ‘resort’ pool and a ‘European’ pool, which was described as a place ‘you can go topless if you want to‘. We were a little bemused by that and I can only imagine they were trying to covey an atmosphere of beautiful people and decadence. In reality the guests weren’t topless (all but!) but there was brilliant music (on loud) and a great atmosphere, with people basically there to see and be seen.

I loved it and we spent a couple of hours each day at the Encore European pool. The fifth pool I mentioned above is the Encore Beach club – a pool party with DJ’s like Tiesto and Deadmau5. We thought about checking it out but it turned out tickets were $150, perhaps worth paying if you’re a fan of the DJ or club scene, but as we basically wanted to be a bit nosey, we opted out!

What I loved:

  • The range and quality of restaurants
  • The luxe rooms
  • The pool scene
  • Being able expected to dress up for everything from going to pool to dinner.
  • The incredible decor – not my personal taste but incredible all the same with amazing attention to detail and luxurious touches everywhere, from the curtain trims to table tops inlaid with mother of pearl.

What I hated:

  • The smoke
  • The cool kids (and not-so-youthful people flashing the cash)
  • The service, or lack of.
  • Did I mention the smoke?

To just qualify my statements about the service and the people, it really felt like the hotel was a conveyor belt designed to take our money. I’m not foolish enough to think that any hotel this size or in Vegas might be different, but from the lack of a bell boy, to the exclusive attitude of club managers (the lines were patrolled for pretty girls who were then ushered in for free, while men paid in excess of $100,) and the jaded looks of the casino staff, it really wasn’t for me. I like my luxury understated. We queued for check in like at the supermarket and it was a very faceless, impersonal experience. Little things like complimentary wifi, actually weren’t complimentary when we arrived. It was implied that as a hotel guest, you would get preferential access to things like the clubs but in reality it was very much about the way you looked and the image they were trying to create.

My conclusion, Vegas is like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it and I swung between the two throughout our stay. In the past, I thought it would be a great place to go back to in winter for guaranteed sun and some adult fun, but now, I think I’d choose another location. That said, I am glad we went. It’s not somewhere I see there being a lot of things you can do with kids (although we did see them at the pool with families,) but it’s certainly somewhere you have to see once. ;)

I’d love to hear if you have a hotel recommendation or any thoughts on Vegas hotels. I’m going to do a post on things to do another time, so save those suggestions for me!

Love,
Rebecca
xo