Summer 2015 has been as elusive as it gets in England. Bank holiday August had grey skies, showers and very rarely a patch of blue sky or a ray of sun. Half desperation, half denial, we headed on a rainy Sunday morning towards Dorset.
Sandbanks, one of the best sandy stretches of Dorset and within 2.5 hours of London still has charm despite the dubious weather. Advised by friends, we booked Haven hotel, as good as it gets they said by the seaside.
Location they say really makes it. I’s also add makes it quite on the pricey side. Yes, right on the beach and views of Old Harry rocks and facing National Trust beautiful Studland beach. Hotel’s oceanside terrace is stunning, swimming pool outdoors and indoors and direct access to beach. At £275 a night room rate though customer service is poor and not accommodating, from mats by the pool, to bar service, check-in and out. Most of the hotel facilities could use some updating and family rooms ridiculously small. We opted for a seaview deluxe, terrace is large but mostly from our room we were facing the building next door rather than the sea.
Our friends confessed dinners were average to disappointing and we were grateful they organized bookings at Shellbay; just on the other side, a short 5 minutes ferry ride. Food in there has been a fresh feast, lobsters, seabass, clams, pasta and great options for little ones, plus charming and hospitable personnel and views on Brownsea island.
Breakfast at Haven has been a rather pleasant affair; just had to be pushy to get a table looking at Studland beach and eventually after 30 minutes managed to source a high chair. Not much served at the table, but food has been fresh and good. With weather still in a dire state, after breakfast we headed to Haven’s sister hotel, Sandbanks hotel, a slightly cheaper version with more family entertainment facilities. A cool aquarium and staff entertaining older kids, we headed with the toddlers to the softplay area.
After another great lunch at the Shell Bay, we headed to Durdle door, another favourite Dorset of mine and a good fit in terms of drive and toddler nap. Rather windy and chilli, but stairs and pebble beach are an excitable combo for little ones. Few dogs, kids and brave souls dipping into the sea and jumping from the rocks; the 3 of us keeping dry and with about 3 layers.
So all in all, good trip despite the weather, with friends and sea landscapes quite re-energizing. Haven hotel though not on our repeat list, surely there must be better Dorset family friendly & boutique options?