As one of England’s oldest seaside resorts, Weston-super-Mare has been a destination for British holiday-makers for many years. Today it is home to a packed cultural calendar and several new attractions that keep visitors coming back. From its beloved beach and Grand Pier to its annual food festival and the neighbouring Mendip Hills, we profile the best things to see and do in Weston-super-Mare.
One of the UK’s longest natural stretches of sand, Weston-super-Mare Beach is a must-see when visiting the seaside town. Along the beach’s promenade, visitors will find plenty of places selling classic seaside eats like fish and chips, candy floss, and ice cream, alongside stalls offering souvenir postcards, buckets and spades, and the like. And don’t forget the quintessential seaside activities of donkey rides, sandcastle building or vainly attempting to get a tan (typical British weather permitting, of course). Weston-super-Mare Beach is also home to a 40m (131ft) observation wheel, offering spectacular views over the coast and the Bristol Channel.
Although Weston-super-Mare’s original Grand Pier – first constructed in 1904 – was destroyed by a fire in 2008, thankfully its owners completely rebuilt the pier and reopened the historic landmark two years later. Today, the Grand Pier is home to a host of rides and attractions, including dodgems, a ghost train, a 4D cinema and a 300m (984ft) go-kart circuit, as well as a number of restaurants and cafes. The Grand Pier is also host to a range of fun events including the pier’s holiday celebrations, comedy club evenings and murder mystery dinner parties.
One of the recent additions to Weston Super Mare, the Eat Weston Food Festival brings some of the best local food vendors to the streets of the city. Highlighting local talent, the food stalls are found in the picturesque Italian Gardens. If you’re looking for entertainment outside of the culinary arts, the food festival also has children’s entertainment, workshops and even tractor rides to keep the whole family entertained.
Art fans visiting Weston-super-Mare will be in for a treat with the chance to explore the Weston Street Art Trail. It features artworks from locally based graffiti artist JPS – who took up art after seeing a Banksy exhibition in Bristol in 2009 while homeless, and credits the exhibition with turning his life around. Organised in conjunction with the Weston Business Improvement District, the trail takes participants past 15 points in Weston-super-Mare that are adorned with the artist’s trademark street art, introducing art fans to JPS’s witty take on pop culture icons, from heroes and villains to horror film characters.
Home to 27ha (68 acres) of land and a variety of wildlife, Bleadon Levels Nature Reserve is a short drive to the south of Weston-super-Mare and is the perfect day out for nature lovers. Footpaths lead visitors around the reserve’s salt marshes, tidal creeks and grassland – home to a host of animal residents including water voles, otters and brown hares. It also hosts varied insect life such as ground beetles, butterflies and spiders, while two lagoon-side bird hides offer the chance to spot duck species like gadwalls, widgeons and pochards. Elsewhere in the reserve, keen-eyed bird watchers can also see common snipes and short-eared owls and, depending on the season, Cetti’s warblers and breeding skylarks.
The Helicopter Museum is the largest of its kind in the world and is home to over 80 rotorcrafts, including a Russian Hind Gunship and the world’s fastest helicopter, the Westland G-Lynx. Alongside its aircraft, the museum is also home to an interactive zone and film theatre, where visitors can learn more about helicopters and attend regular events throughout the year, including open cockpit days, air experience flights and a flight simulator convention.
First held in the town over 140 years ago, the Weston-super-Mare Carnival is a historic event traditionally held to commemorate Guy Fawkes’s 1605 plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Today, the carnival – which winds its way almost 2mi (3km) through Weston-super-Mare’s streets – is a two-hour-long spectacle of light, music and dance, attracting an average of 100,000 spectators each year. Around 130 carnival clubs take part in the carnival each year and bring about 50 large illuminated floats, which can measure up to 100ft (31m) long and carry up to 25,000 lightbulbs. It is a fun, family-friendly event.
A fixture on Weston-super-Mare’s cultural calendar for the past decade, the Weston Sand Sculpture Festival sees talented artists from across the globe – which in the past has included Czech artist Radovan Zivny and Dutch artist Joris Kivits – descend on the town’s beach to craft awe-inspiring sculptures using just water, around 5,000 tonnes (5,512 tons) of sand and a good dose of concentration.
A Weston-super-Mare tradition since it first took place in 1983, the RHL Weston Beach Race sees the town’s beach transformed into a gruelling, 6mi-long (10km) off-road motorcycling racetrack. Each year, around 200,000 tonnes (220,462 tons) of sand are formed into huge obstacles and laps – one of which is an exhausting 7km (4mi) lap that took even world champion Jeffrey Herlings 12 minutes to complete. The racetrack takes 55,000 hours of labour to build. Since its inception, the number of riders taking part in the race annually has grown from 500 to 1,500, and the event has attracted off-road riders from places as far away as New Zealand and Colombia.
A short drive east of Weston-super-Mare brings visitors to the Mendip Hills – a landscape of steep hilltops, rich grasslands and dramatic gorges so stunning that it was designated an area of outstanding natural beauty in 1972. An ideal day out for lovers of the outdoors, the Mendip Hills are home to dozens of walking and cycling routes, taking visitors past charming villages, wildlife havens and ancient monuments. The area’s southern reaches are home to Cheddar Gorge – a spectacular gorge, and Britain’s biggest, that cuts its way through the hilltops and hides stunning stalactite cave systems.
Now in its 93rd year, the Winter Garden Pavilion is one of the biggest and best venues in Weston-super-Mare. Recently refurbished as part of a £15 million renovation, the Winter Garden Pavilion has two fully-fledged restaurants, a stunning main ballroom and a selection of beautiful grounds surrounding the building. Playing host to a number of events throughout the year, including dance classes, live music and even wrestling, this venue offers no shortage of interesting nights out.
Just off the coast of the city you’ll find the island of Steep Holm, home to some fascinating history and a diverse selection of wildlife. With human settlement on the island dating back to prehistoric times, the island has seen its fair share of drama, from being used as a Viking stronghold to being laden with armaments during WWII. There are plenty of interesting archaeological finds to discover dotted around. On top of this, Steep Holm is home to a rare selection of flora and fauna, which can be spotted on one of several nature trails circling the island.