How suitable is Black Gang Chine for families with young children?
We visited Black Gang Chine in August with our two young children (aged 3.5 and 1.5). This was part of a one night glamping trip where we crammed in as many exciting adventures as we could. To find out more about our trip read: Isle of Wight Glamping – Wedding Anniversary Trip.
Considering Black Gang Chine is marketed as ‘The UK’s oldest amusement park’ we weren’t too sure what to expect. However, with places like Restricted Area 5 (Dinosaurs!) and Fairyland we knew we had to visit!
You have to walk from the car park across a small road to get to the entrance. This is not a busy or main road but there is still the likely possibility of cars. Therefore, keep those excited little ones close by.
Interestingly and somewhat oddly, you have to walk through the gift shop to purchase your tickets. Those of us with young children know that the ‘conversation’ about getting a toy is usually in the toy shop at the exit – not the start. This entrance shop is also the exit so be prepared!
The slight annoyance of having the toy shop at the entrance was quickly resolved. Children under the age of 4 are FREE. Most places start charging from the age of 3 or even 2 so we thought this was great. Aged 4-59 tickets cost £22 each. However, this does include unlimited entry for 7 days.
As soon as you walk through the entrance you will see the Chine Cafe. Although we didn’t eat here, it looked good. This is new for 2017 and has an extensive menu including: hand-made pizzas, freshly battered cod fillets and children’s picnic boxes all served inside or outside with table service.
At the entrance there are also toilets and the start of Restricted Area 5 – Dinosaurs! Important to note: the female toilets have baby changing facilities however the changing station pulls out in the sink area (so very public) and next to the hand dryers (very loud). In the rest of the park, the changing facilities are located in the disabled toilet and these are far more suitable for little ones.
Restricted Area 5 – Dinosaurs!
We were all very impressed with this area. You walk on gravel tracks, wooden walkways and inclines, spotting huge dinosaurs. This was all buggy friendly; however, expect to work up a bit of a sweat on the inclines!
Useful Tip: early on in the walk there is a Dilophosaurus (left hand side) which squirts water as you walk past. Our son did not like being caught by surprise so had we known we would have given him some forewarning.
Restricted Area 5 then leads onto the Butterfly and Giant Bug Walk, where we spotted huge bug figures, hidden among the shrubbery. As you exit this walk you will come across a Crooked House.
We didn’t know what this was so wandered in. Had I known, I wouldn’t have bothered. In my opinion, it was very odd and not suitable for young children. If we go again, I would definitely skip this part.
Firstly, it’s not buggy friendly. You walk through narrow, crooked hallways peering at mannequins in old fashioned rooms (the young children are not tall enough to see on their own).
Like I said, all rather odd, creepy and difficult to explain to a confused 3 year old.
The main focus of this section is the 2 large pirate ships. The children can explore these and use the cannons and guns to squirt water between them. Our two children found this fun however it was not suitable for them to explore independently. The steps inside and the height meant they needed support.
There are also lots of typical arcade type games and attractions you can go on but these weren’t particularly suitable for our young children and you have to pay for them. This area also has iScream and Chocabloc. These sell ice creams, sweets, waffles, doughnuts as well as hot and cold drinks. There is also a good amount of open space here as well as a toilet block with disabled toilet/baby changing facilities which made it a great spot to have a picnic. We had a picnic here with the most incredible view:
Underwater Kingdom (new for 2017)
We loved this land – it was so colourful and imaginative. To be clear, it doesn’t have any real water or sea creature attractions. Instead you walk through the dark, tunnel into a beautifully vibrant and colourful coral reef. This opens up into a lovely clearing with turtles suspended from above before approaching a model of a HUGE whale (also suspended from above)! The children LOVED being able to run around safely whilst taking in the incredible sights. There is also a shipwreck section where you can crawl through the tunnels into the shipwreck and peer through holes spotting treasure and other sights! The shipwreck is not all tunnels and the centre is a larger open space which doesn’t make it feel so enclosed.
After this section you can cross the walkway to the other side of the park where you will find many other lands and attractions.
As soon as we approached this the children tensed up. We edged closer but the flashing lights and loud noises coming from within the mansion were too frightening. There was no way they were going in. From what I’ve researched there are scary goblin type models and scenes accompanied with more loud noises and flashing lights. I feel this is definitely worth a miss with young children.
Snakes and Ladders
This is a section made up of lots of stairs (ladders) and lots of slides (snakes). I was a little wary at first because the slides are very big and the stairs very steep. Therefore this is not something the young children can do independently. However, with support and close supervision this was amazing! My two have always been a little nervous with even the smallest of slides but by the end of our trip our son was doing the biggest ones independently.
Tip: If there are two of you with the children, have 1 adult go up the stairs with the children and the other adult always waiting at the slide exit. Like I said, these slides are big, twisty and long so the exit is often far from the start and quite a maze to get to. It would not be safe for young children to wait at the bottom on their own.
The walkway to this is right by the Snakes and Ladders. As you follow the wooden path you have to spot different fairies along the trail. You will then come out onto their village and castle.
You can go into the Fairy Castle which our children were desperate to do. However, be warned that the stairs and walkways are very narrow, small and steep. This was very slow and tricky with a toddler. It is not something they could explore independently and would need a lot of supervision. That being said, they loved it!
This replica Western town has a saloon, jail, stables and more. There are good toilet facilities and a restaurant. La Cantina Restaurant has burgers, hot dogs and Mexican favourites – we did not eat here but there were lots of customers.
Cowboy Town looked like great fun and was clearly a very popular spot (busy). However, there were a lot of children (mainly older than our little ones) and the majority were running around with loud toy guns pretending to shoot everything and everyone. Lots of the children also had little ‘dynamite’ toys that you throw on the ground and they make an explosive sound – I believe they are called Fun Snaps? Well, all of this loud noise coming from here, there any everywhere, combined with the large masses of people made it very overwhelming for our young children and we simply walked straight through (quickly).
You can also do Panning for Gold here (additional £3 fee) however, the height of this meant our little ones would not have been able to reach on their own.
This was a nice, peaceful land to walk through. There were lots of play scenes for the children to look at and elements of it that they could explore.
Close by you will also find the Hedge Maze and Water Garden which are worth a visit with young children. Again, these are nice walks and all buggy friendly.
There are also some rides the children can go on. We did not go on these but if you were interested:
Cliff Hanger Rollercoaster (1.1m minimum height to ride)
Water Force (minimum height to ride 1m with an adult)
Pirate Barrels (no height restriction)
Black Gang Chine – suitability for young children:
This park caters for children of many ages so there are a lot of parts which we do not believe are particularly suitable for young children. However, there are many that are! Our favourites were definitely Restricted Area 5 and The Underwater Kingdom. Our children had a great day and we did too. There were some areas where the children had great fun but needed close supervision e.g. Snakes and Ladders and the Fairy Castle. Therefore, be prepared to be very hands on – it will be tiring! We had a great day out at Black Gang Chine with our young children and we would definitely go back.
Some useful tips:
Snakes and Ladders – This area is closed in bad weather and rain due to it becoming too slippery. Therefore, if it is something you are hoping to do, but the forecast isn’t great, consider heading there first.
This is England, so be prepared for rain! From our photos you can see we had beautiful weather. However, we did experience a downpour at midday so we were very pleased we had our raincoats with us!
Visit the official website to find out more.