Last updated on September 1, 2023
I always thought you had to sacrifice style when opting for a family hotel, but since having Otis, I’ve been repeatedly proven wrong – and never more so than when visiting Watergate Bay Hotel in Cornwall.
Every detail of the hotel exudes style, comfort and ease, which are my top three ingredients for a luxury family break. Add to that a stunning beachfront location and you have what has to be one of the UK’s best luxury family holidays.
We went during a stormy weekend, and even the weather didn’t detract from the hotel’s charms – in fact, it felt extra special getting cosy inside while the winds raged across the ocean.
Here’s a full review of Watergate Bay Hotel, including all the elements that conspire to make it one of the best luxury family hotels in Cornwall. We’ve also included it in our guide to the best UK family Christmas breaks.
Also see our guide to the best things to do in Cornwall with kids. And if you’re looking for an Airbnb, we have a curated list of the best Airbnbs in Cornwall. Plus these lodges with hot tubs, and this beautiful yurt near Bude.
Disclosure: We were invited to Watergate Bay Hotel and were gifted two out of our three nights there. All opinions, as always, are our own.
10 reasons to love Watergate Bay Hotel, Cornwall
1. It’s not just a family hotel
It’s a very good sign (and no mean feat) when a hotel that is well kitted out for families still appeals to couples and people travelling without kids. This is not a place that’s all primary colours and overbearing kids entertainment, which is what I had always imagined when I thought of family holidays. Instead, it’s a beautifully stylish space where adults with and without children can enjoy a luxury, romantic break. This means that, as a parent, you can get an experience a little closer to what you were used to pre-children (and I’m the type of parent who really needs that).
In the evenings, children aren’t allowed in the Watchful Mary bar past 7pm, and diners with children under 8 are encouraged to book a table at Zacry’s restaurant before 7:30pm. This gives two child-free spaces where you can have a grown-up evening, plus there are supervised kids’ clubs until 10pm where children from age 3-12 can be looked after while you have some alone time.
2. The rooms rival some of the most stylish hotels we’ve ever stayed in
On our first night at the hotel, we stayed in one of the newly refurbished rooms and I was blown away by the design. It reminded me of the likes of the Hoxton in New York, but with added homeliness, and was up there with some of the most hip boutique hotels we’ve ever stayed in. The older rooms are still stylishly done with light wood and beachy tones, but the new rooms have definitely taken things up a notch with thoughtful decoration that adds a bespoke, designer feel.
The rooms come in different categories, some with sea views and some without. The suites with bathtubs in the windows, looking out to the ocean, are the highlight. Although the family suites are also brilliant as they have an extra room with bunkbeds, so you can stay up if the kids go to sleep early. It’s a squeeze, but we were able to fit Otis’ cot into the bunk room. There are also two-bedroom apartments available with kitchen facilities.
3. There’s a baby monitoring service, so you can have dinner while the little ones sleep
This was one of our number one reasons for going to Watergate Bay. You can get a baby monitor in your room that works throughout the hotel and all its bars and restaurants. This was a major bonus for us as it meant that once Otis had gone to sleep, we could continue our evening and make the most of all the hotel’s facilities, all while being able to see that he was safe and sound. Our trip coincided with Valentine’s Day, so we celebrated with a three-course meal in Zacry’s, followed by some drinks at the bar. It was such a luxury to be able to do this while on holiday with a toddler. You can also hire a babysitter through the hotel if you want the extra care. And the kid’s club runs until 10pm for children over 3.
4. The food is excellent (and the hot choc even better)
It’s never a given that a hotel will be serving good food, but Watergate Bay has it sorted with four different restaurants/bars, all serving different styles of food that will appeal to different tastes. Zacry’s serves a seasonal a la carte in candlelit surrounds, Emily Scott Food has a bar menu of small plates, The Beach Hut offers laid-back contemporary seaside dining and The Living Space is a mixture of all three, where you can lounge with a coffee or enjoy a three-course meal, depending on your fancy. Zacry’s is also where the epic buffet breakfast is served (complete with make-your-own waffles) and where children can dine at 5pm from a special kids’ buffet.
Whatever you do, make sure to order the Beach Hut’s extreme hot chocolate, which is an indulgence not to be missed. The bay also used to be home to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen but that sadly closed in 2019. It’ll be interesting to see what takes it place.
5. The views are epic
The crowning glory of Watergate Bay Hotel is its location on the fabulous beach of the same name. Not only does this mean you have access to a gorgeous, sweeping cliff-backed beach, it also makes for epic views from across the hotel. Watchful Mary, the Beach Hut and the Living Space make the most of this with huge windows and terraces looking out to sea. And many of the bedrooms also come with wide ocean views, sometimes from the bathtub.
But perhaps the best view of all comes from the Pool Club’s ocean room where you can lounge on sofas and pick a book or game from the in-house library while taking in the perfectly framed beach views. When the tide is in, it feels like you’re on a boat out at sea.
6. Even the kid’s play area is beautiful
The Kids’ Zone, for ages 0-7, is the kind of play space you see in design magazines with wooden toys, cosy nooks and plenty of fodder for creative play. Otis was in his element, and even for adults, it’s a nice place to hang out. For older kids, there’s the XA games room, which includes table tennis, table football, and a video games room. And the outdoor play space is equally impressive. I really appreciated the attention to design and detail in these rooms as they managed to complement the luxuries of the hotel, rather than detracting from them as kids’ spaces often can. Guests are free to use these spaces freely when they’re not being used for supervised kids clubs, which takes me to the next point…
7. There’s a free kids club
There are supervised play times for kids aged six months and older where you can leave your children with professionally trained staff (the space is Ofsted registered and run by DBS accredited staff). It’s like a high-end nursery school/after-school club with lots of entertainment and fun, from sandcastle building and flour-bomb dodgeball to cookery classes and graffiti workshops. The supervised sessions vary throughout the week and year, for example running from 10am-12, 2-4pm and 6:30-10pm.
8. The infinity pool is a dream
One of the first things that got my attention about Watergate Bay was the infinity pool that looks out across the ocean. It’s a dreamy place to swim or laze around enjoying the view. It’s also nicely heated, so suitable for young children. We spent hours there over the weekend with Otis. It was especially appreciated in the stormy weather, allowing us to enjoy the beachside setting while still being warm and cosy in the pool. There’s also an epic sauna with big windows overlooking the beach, and an outdoor hot tub with ocean views.
9. The spa treatments are A+
The Swim Club isn’t just about the pool – it also has a full menu of luxury spa treatments in relaxing rooms that offer a sweet holiday retreat. My pregnancy massage was one of the best I’ve ever had, and Steve was also impressed with his back, neck and shoulder massage. It’s another thing that makes this a perfect, luxury family holiday – all without having to leave the hotel. You can also get manis and pedis in a beautiful room with an ocean view.
10. You can learn to surf
Watergate Bay is also home to Extreme Academy where you can learn to swim at any time of year. They also offer SUP, bodyboarding, handplaning, waveskiing and kite surfing. Even this has a luxury element, offering showers, changing rooms with a hair dryer, and everything you need to stay warm. The hotel also has a gym in the Swim Club and offers Pilates and yoga classes.
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UK family travel guides: Birmingham with kids |Bristol with kids| Cornwall with kids | London with toddlers | Edinburgh with kids | Manchester with kids | Best UK family Christmas breaks | Travelling with a baby