Muddy stays: Watergate Bay Hotel
Gagging for a super-stylish spa stay right on the beach? You got it! Muddy's Cornwall editor gives us the lowdown on Watergate Bay Hotel.
Built in 1904, Watergate Bay Hotel was originally intended to serve as a railway terminus hotel for a proposed Newquay to Padstow branch line before acting as an Officers’ Mess during the war. Bought by the Ashworth family owners back in 1971, the hotel has shrugged off its previous more traditional ‘bucket-and-spade’ vibe with a loving transformation into a stylish hotel with restaurants and swim club.
The 71 bedrooms offer a mix of doubles, twins and suites, plus family and dog-friendly rooms. Residents (and day members) have exclusive access to the Swim Club’s Ocean Room where lounging by the roaring fire is practically obligatory, plus the hot tub on the deck looking over the Atlantic. The Living Space, a generous and light-filled lounge is on the next floor, offers a mix of sofas, tables and of course the terrace overlooking the beach, and serves food all day.
Most guests stay on a dinner-bed-breakfast option which includes an evening meal in Zacry’s, the chic Cornish brasserie under executive chef Neil Haydock (tan leather banquettes, reeded glass and zinc-wrapped refectory tables and oak and tiled chevron floors) or could also be at the more relaxed option of The Beach Hut, which is cool, coastal colours, pale wood and panoramic views of the beach.
Offering relaxed hospitality and deriving inspiration from the surroundings, aiming to deliver the experience of a beach-side ski resort vibe, The Watergate Bay Hotel is all about the balance of life: getting active & having a good time.
The Watergate Bay Hotel is the only beach-front hotel in Watergate Bay and the views are divine. As you’d expect from such a location, the hotel makes it really easy to get active – there are even beachside changing areas and hot showers. The Swim Club, the Watergate Bay Hotel take on a spa, was built to blur the boundary between beach and hotel – the infinity pool looks right out over the surfers – and a surfing lesson from their own Extreme Academy is included in your stay.
The decor is chic and tasteful, seaside like but not cliched, and even the swimming pool changing areas are how you wish your bathroom at home might be (right down to the blue & white pool towels that you don’t have to wash, and the gorgeous smelling full-size land & water toiletries).
Watergate Bay is perfectly positioned in North Cornwall on the south-west coast path yet handily only five-minutes drive from Newquay Airport (and just a little further from the A30/A39 if you’re driving down). You could happily spend an entire week at Watergate Bay without venturing any further, however, the bright lights of Padstow to the north and Newquay to the south may prove too tempting, particularly if you’re a foodie.
Activities wise Watergate Bay itself has almost all you could ask for on the water bar sailing and kayaking (find both slightly further north on the Camel Estuary). The Cornish weather being what it is though, should you tire of all the activities at the hotel (is that even possible?) which include yoga and films, then The Eden Project near St Austell, National Maritime Museum in Falmouth and various National Trust properties are within an hour’s drive.
SCOFF & QUAFF
We ate at Zacry’s which is one of two restaurants inside the hotel, both of which are open to non-residents. Zacry’s, named after, so I’m told, the square, rocky outcrop that lies out to sea, serves up a contemporary menu of chargrilled meat, fish and vegetables.
My starter fig salad was clean, fresh and utterly delicious. We followed this by the steak special for 2, which our waiter promised was the best in Cornwall, cooked on the new indoor charcoal oven at the heart of the open kitchen, and it didn’t disappoint. Although my personal preference would have been for french fries to accompany it rather than the more pub-style triple cooked chips, they and the other side dishes were expertly cooked. The puddings were also delicious, particularly the chocolate and peanut butter tart with salted caramel ice cream.
The interior style is a Cornish take on a French bistro. Larger zinc-wrapped refectory tables share the space with smaller booths with tan leather banquettes. In the evening the low light and lively atmosphere creates an intimate grown-up space.
By breakfast time though the light and different crockery make the space something else altogether. The pantry-style self-service breakfast bar had all the options you could want, from full-English to every kind of fruit and cereal. Taken as I was with the do-it-yourself waffle machine, I decided to save that for my return with the kids, as it is sure to be a definite crowd-pleaser.
No active holiday is complete without a good sundowner and the view from Watergate Bay Hotel’s Watchful Mary is second to none – the name comes from owner Mary’s delight in watching for the sunset’s rare ‘Green Flash’ – a ray of green light that, if conditions are right, can apparently be glimpsed as the sun dips below the horizon.
Our room had a beautiful sea view from two aspects where we could look out over the beach and the contemporary style continued – think wooden panelling, natural fabrics and a gorgeous freestanding bath in the window.
Yes, I did have a drink in it whilst watching the sunset, and yes, you can fit two of you in there, since you obviously were wondering. There was also a balcony off to one side which in summer must be delightful. The bathroom was stocked with full-size land & water toiletries, thick white towels and dressing gowns, and had a back heated mirror so I could get ready for dinner easily even though we’d also run the shower.
The bed was large and comfortable and other welcome touches included a Bluetooth speaker so I could listen to my own music and proper Cornishware cups so my morning cuppa (drunk from bed watching the sunrise and a lone surfer, obviously) was actually enjoyable. The only thing I missed was a pair of slippers, so if you like cosy feet on a wooden floor, pop your own in your suitcase.
The family suites are well thought out (I have it on good authority that room 51 is a favourite) with separate bunk rooms for the children as well as a king-sized adult space.
In a word, yes. But, I should add, it doesn’t feel like you’re in a hotel full of children. There are adult-only sessions for the spa and swimming pool, and the dedicated kids areas (run by fully trained and Ofsted registered staff) are away from the main social spaces.
The Kids’ Zone is full of all sorts of fun things including a table-tennis table, pool table, computer game suite and cooking area, and the programme of arts, crafts, cooking and outdoor activities which runs in the school holidays has enough to keep even the most teenage of young children nice and happy. (And the most teenage of adults, as we snuck in after hours to have a game of pool … ssshh!)
The family suites sleep a family of up to six (plus a dog if you have one) and even the regular doubles can include a cot or children’s bed. Babysitting and baby monitoring services are available, and sessions in the kids club are included in the cost of the stay, with supervised sessions available in the Kids’ Zone for children aged 3-7 years and 8-12 years.
The monitoring service is all done via camera and tablet (using its own wifi network) – and extends as far as The Beach Hut – so you can have a drink whilst the kids eat at 5pm and then have a peaceful supper once they are all asleep.
The Swim Club, the Watergate Bay Hotel take on a spa, was built to blur the boundary between beach and hotel and the indoor pool does indeed feel like you could keep on swimming straight into the sea. It strikes just the right balance between relaxation and fitness (and is definitely kid-friendly during specific hours) with the sauna and hot tub positioned outside on the clifftop deck outside, tucked in out of the wind, of course. The treatment rooms are as dark and relaxing as you’d expect with the exception of the mani/pedi stations which look out over the beach – no magazines needed here.
I had the most glorious massage by a therapist with a sports massage background, so I left thoroughly relaxed and rejuvenated with the knots worked nicely out of my shoulders. The land & water massage oil, specially designed for the spa, smelt and felt so good that I bought a bottle on my way out from the handily positioned shop.
The only downside I could find was that I (eventually) had to leave.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Lovers of style as well as function, those searching for a beautiful beach with excellent active options as well as luxe living, and families with lots of spare cash – it’s expensive but worth it, as so many activities are included.
Not for: Those who prefer a hybrid self-catering option on their holidays might want to wait until the apartments are ready, and if you really don’t want to run the risk of running into a child ever, this may not be the place for you. If you need to be in a town to be happy on holiday, this also isn’t the option you’re looking for.
The damage: From £195 per night for a house double.