Want to do something sensational this summer? Our round-up of the 10 best seaside experiences covers the fastest, highest and happiest mini-adventures for all the family to enjoy. Words: Caroline Wheater
1. SCENIC RAILWAY ROLLERCOASTER
Dreamland, Margate, Kent
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Riding aboard the UK’s oldest rollercoaster, which dates back to 1920 and was awarded Grade II* status by English Heritage in 2011. Dreamland’s recently restored wooden Scenic Railway still operates with a brakeman to control the train’s speed and takes between five and eight minutes to complete its hair-raising journey. Other rides to get the adrenalin flowing include the replica 1920s Helter Skelter and the Born Slippy slide. Kids (and inner kids) will love it all. Admission free, rides priced, wristbands from £7. Call 01843 295887 or go to dreamland.co.uk for more info.
2. THE i360
Old West Pier, Brighton, Sussex
WHAT’S THE THRILL? At 173m high, Brighton’s i360 is the world’s tallest moving observation tower, which will be giving a 360-degree, 26-mile panoramic view of the Sussex coastline and South Downs. Designed by the architects of the London Eye to be a ‘vertical pier’, it is the world’s slimmest observation tower and the first-ever vertical cable car. Set to open this summer, the i360’s moving glass pod holds up to 200 people and glides upwards to a height of 137m. During the day, the ride takes 20 minutes, at night it’s half an hour. Book online and pay £13.50 per adult and £6.75 per child, or £27 per person for a special ‘VIP Champagne Experience’. Call 0333 772 0360 or book at britishairwaysi360.com.
3. THE BLACKPOOL TOWER EYE & SKYWALK
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Being 380ft above the ever-popular coastal resort of Blackpool with all its glitzy attractions. Lifts whizz you up to the top of The Blackpool Tower Eye in just over a minute where, on a clear day, you’ll lap up glorious views of the Fylde coast, the Isle of Man and the Lake District. If you’re feeling bold you can step out onto the SkyWalk, a 5cm-thick glass viewing platform which looks down onto the promenade below. Included in the ticket price is a 4D cinema show about the history of the tower, built in 1884. Book online from £10.50 per adult, £8 per child; the ‘Champagne Experience’ is £24.95 per person. Call 0871 222 9929 or go to theblackpooltower.com.
4. THE PIERZIP LINE
Bournemouth Pier, Bournemouth, Dorset
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Dangling 18m up in the air as you begin your very rapid descent from the zip wire launch tower on Bournemouth Pier to the Dorset shore. The ride is a short one – just 30 seconds in fact – but the buzz of exhilaration that you feel as you zip surf over the waves will last much longer. If you’re feeling competitive or simply friendly, you can also ‘race’ with a partner or a pal as two zip wires run side by side. And then you can recover your nerves afterwards over coffee and cake on the outside terrace of Key West Restaurant at the end of the pier. £18 for a single zip ride, £32 for a dual zip ride. Call 01202 983983 or go to rockreef.co.uk.
5. LLANDUDNO CABLE CAR
WHAT’S THE THRILL? At one mile long, Llandudno Cable Car is Britain’s longest passenger cable car system, going from Happy Valley park, close to the pier, up to the summit of the Great Orme, 679ft above sea level. Glide upwards in stately fashion for around nine minutes as the cable cars ascend. Views on the way up include the Bay of Llandudno, the Conwy Estuary and the Irish Sea, while at the summit of the Great Orme you can see over to Anglesey and Puffin Island, a haven for seabirds, and Snowdonia in the other direction. At the top explore some of the nature trails in the Great Orme country park before making the return journey. Return ticket adult, £9, child, £7. Call 01492 877205 or go to visitllandudno.org.uk. Photo: Crown copyright (2016) Visit Wales.
6. THE CLIFF RAILWAYS
Hastings, East Sussex
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Rising up in an almost perpendicular fashion on the UK’s steepest funicular railway, opened in 1902, with twin routes to choose from. The West Hill lift departs from George Street and still has its original Victorian wooden coaches. Unusually for a funicular, it passes through a tunnel on its way to the top of the hill from where you can enjoy panoramic views across the town and seafront. The East Hill lift rises up from Rock-a-Nore, overlooking the Old Town and The Stade where the fishing fleet is beached. An adult return ticket costs £2.50, a family ticket (two adults, three children) £6.80. Call 01424 451111 or go to visit1066country.com.
7. SPINNAKER TOWER
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Peering out of one of a trio of viewing decks that are respectively 100m, 105m and 110m tall, for sensational views over Portsmouth Harbour, Gunwharf Quays and the Historic Dockyard. The purpose-built tower opened in 2005 and on View Deck 1, floor-to-ceiling glass walls give you vistas to Selsey Bill and the New Forest. On View Deck 2, 5m higher, a tall latte at Clouds café really is tall, being drunk so high up. The pinnacle is the open-to-the-elements Sky Deck. Adrenalin junkies can abseil down the side of the Spinnaker on summer weekends, £90 per person. Tickets cost £9.95 adult, £7.95 child. Call 023 9285 7520 or book at spinnakertower.co.uk.
8. THE NEEDLES CHAIRLIFT
Alum Bay, Isle of Wight
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Unrivalled, bird’s eye views onto Alum Bay and its famous geology as you hitch a ride on one of the lift’s 50 chairs. First, The Needles – jagged sea stacks guarded by the red and white striped Trinity Lighthouse. Second, the towering multi-coloured cliffs that contain 21 different shades of sand made from layers of mica, feldspar and quartz. The bay is at the westernmost point of the island and has a shingle beach, with clear blue waters to swim in if you fancy a dip. Once you’re on the beach you can get even closer to The Needles on a 20-minute boat cruise or a 15-minute high speed rib ride. A return ticket is £6. Call 01983 752401 or go to theneedles.co.uk for more details.
9. ZIP WORLD VELOCITY
Penrhyn Slate Quarry, Bethesda, Bangor
WHAT’S THE THRILL? Riding a zip wire with such expansive views is said to be the nearest thing to flying. Zip World Velocity, set in the still-active Penrhyn slate quarry, is the fastest zip line in the world and the longest in Europe. Build your confidence on the Little Zipper before being transported in a big red truck up to the daddy, the one-mile long Big Zipper, with views over Anglesey and the North Wales coast. On the Big Zipper you can reach speeds of over 100mph – you have been warned! A single ticket costs £60, a family ticket is £220 (two adults and two under-16s) or £260 (two adults and three under-16s). Call 01248 601444 or book at zipworld.co.uk.
10. GRAMPIAN EYE BIG WHEEL
WHAT’S THE THRILL? At its peak, the Grampian Eye big wheel rises to 100ft, giving riders superb views across the city of Aberdeen and the busy harbour, out to the North Sea. The ferris wheel is the focal point of Codona’s amusement park, where you can also go on the white water log flume, the looping star rollercoaster, the galleon pirate ship, and the waltzers for added thrills and spills. An all-day outdoor family wristband is £12.99 per person. Call 01224 595910 or browse codonas.com for more.