The outdoor pool at Sands.
The outdoor pool at Sands.

A Family Break at Sands Resort Hotel & Spa, Cornwall

We didn’t even make it into the hotel. The boys had spotted one of the colourful playgrounds and left we servants parents to unload the car and convey their luggage inside. When we came back, they had migrated further into the extensive grounds and were busy playing chase through the maze and whizzing down the zipwire.

'On one evening, my youngest went to a pyjama party in the Adventure Club, which he loved, and his older brothers attended a sundae-making and movie night.'

Consistently ranking in the top 10 UK and even European family-friendly hotels in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, Sands certainly knows its stuff when it comes to entertaining family holidays and breaks. Indeed, if I have any reservations about the place, it’s that there’s so much to do on-site, you might struggle to get the kids to leave so that you can explore the stunning surrounding coastline. On the other hand, it means you don’t have to panic if the weather lets you down.

Many people come here with very young kids – the childcare, evening baby-listening and very good spa mean it’s a place you can come to relax as parents as well as getting in some quality family time. It’s also, we noticed, very popular with those holidaying with grandparents – indeed, some families have been coming here for decades, as kids grow up and bring their own children (and parents) to a spot holding happy memories for them.

My kids are 12, 11 and 7, but there was plenty for them to do too. Over our two-night stay, they/we swam in the indoor and outdoor pools, played a round of golf on the nine-hole course (there’s also mini-golf and a pitch ’n’ putt), had a knock-around on the tennis courts, and chilled out in the well-stocked games room. On one evening, my youngest went to a pyjama party in the Adventure Club, which he loved, and his older brothers attended a sundae-making and movie night. There's also a football field, giant chess and other outdoor games, a surf shack with wetsuit and bodyboard loan, and off-site activities including surfing, kayaking and a beach-based kids' club with Elemental UK on Tolcarne Beach in Newquay. 

Just north of Newquay, Sands is within a couple of minutes’ walk of Porth beach, and about 15 minutes’ walk along the South West Coast Path from Watergate Bay, home to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. It’s also a five-minute drive from the lovely beach (and fish and chip shop) at Magwan Port. Other nearby attractions include DairyLand Farmworld, the Seal Sanctuary and Pirate’s Quest.

The sea-view rooms are the most coveted, but those at the back have lovely countryside vistas as a good second-best. They’re all designed for families of various shapes and sizes – ours was a huge double connecting with an equally spacious triple, both with bright contemporary decor. Food arrangements are similarly flexible – there’s the option of an early kids’ tea for parents who want a quiet drink and meal in the adult-only bar and dining zone, or there are family suppers. The ambitious menu caters for all tastes, with an under-eights' menu including the likes of fish and chips and roast chicken, and a daily-changing main menu including curries, steaks and plenty of local seafood.

Read more about Sands Resort Hotel & Spa, including current special offers, and see our guide to family holidays and breaks in Cornwall, including things to see and do with kids.

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