The butt of many a joke, beautiful Boggy down on the south coast isn’t so bad. Many people will be coming to Butlins this spring and summer, and we are often nabbed on a walk along the sea front by visitors wondering where else they should go. Here are our top picks of where to go when you venture beyond the gates of Butlins.
The beach is pebbly, but when the tide’s out there is a nice expanse of sand for several hours, and some rock pools or mini pools by the groin ends. Check the tide times for the best time of day to hit the beach. Turn left (East) towards Middleton and Felpham, or right (West) towards the pier where you will find a number of kiosks and small cafes, as well as a small fairground area for young children from Easter onwards.
At Felpham there is a large café on the beach and the smaller Lobster Pot, which serves a good breakfast and nice lunches such as Ploughmans etc, with a few sun trap tables by the beach. At this end the sandy bit is higher up the beach so you don’t need to wait till low tide, bring your bucket and spade! There is also a nice little grassy play area on the way, Longbrook Playground, perfect for play and a picnic.
If you walk on further to the east, there are interesting patches of sea vegetation and a decent stout-shoed walk (babies in carriers!) takes you to the villages of Middleton and Elmer. You can always get the bus (600) back if you don’t fancy trekking again.
Heading west, towards the pier, there is a wide promenade with various ice cream, souvenir and beach supply outlets, a bandstand with free children’s activities in the summer, fishing boats and the pier amusements. A little train runs from the car park outside Butlins day entrance towards the pier. On fine days there is a selection of small fairground rides and a big bouncy castle, plus crazy golf in Waterloo Square, just opposite the pier entrance. Behind the mini golf are some pretty gardens, a bowling green and café.
A second mini land train takes you from the pier to our ‘local’, the Waverley. Set on a corner plot it has outside seating on two sides and is great for lunch, dinner or just a pint. Make sure you say hi if you see us!
From here you can walk along in front or behind the beach huts to the beach café, and eventually to a small boat yard. Or running parallel are the well kept Marine Park Gardens (more mini golf). Both routes will bring you to West Park, which has a good children’s playground, zip slide, and café. Or bring a picnic and a football and sit on the grass.
Back at the other end of town, turn right and right again as you come out of Butlins day exit and at the top of the road you will find the entrance to Hotham Park. This beautiful park has everything: trees, shrubs, open spaces, squirrels, duck pond, wildlife area, boating lake, lovely café (open all year), train ride, children’s playgrounds, and regular events throughout the summer.
Town itself is a few minutes’ walk away with two main shopping streets forming an inverted T shape. The vertical street is pedestrianised, with a preponderance of charity shops, junk shops and jewellers at the very top, and the usual chain stores etc at the lower end.
Slightly north of this shopping street, at the crossroads, is our wonderful Picturedome cinema where you can still take the whole family to see the latest film for less than £20, with snacks! A proper, old-style cinema, well worth supporting, and there’s always a child-friendly film on.
Back at the bottom of town, the horizontal high street runs parallel with the sea. From the High Street,a delightful nineteenth century arcade takes you down to Place St Maur where there is a small market and the super Galleon café (best breakfast around). The Regis Centre has regular productions of all kinds, so worth checking their website. On the sea front here is The Regis, a Brewer’s Fayre pub with small soft play area for the kids.
If you are looking for a nice place for dinner, we recommend SEN, a lovely Mediterranean tapas restaurant at the bottom of Sudeley Street. Serving a quirky mix of authentic Spanish and Turkish dishes in lovely surroundings, they also have a pretty walled garden, ideal for warm evenings.
Our other favourite restaurant is Tup Tim Siam, just west of the pier at the bottom of the delightful Steyne Gardens. It serves some of the best Thai food I’ve had outside Thailand, and serves a beautiful white Rioja, which suits the cuisine perfectly.
So that’s our potted guide to Bognor Regis, officially the sunniest place in Britain (not that you'd know from my grey day photos!) If you are coming this way on holiday, staying at Butlins, or just passing by, pop in for a look round. The charms of nearby Chichester and Brighton are more obvious, but for good old-fashioned seaside fun, Bognor Regis does just fine.