Have you been to Bluestone or Centre Parcs? We’ve now visited both and after four Centre Parcs trips in two years, I feel I’m in a good position to compare these two holiday resorts so you can choose the one that’s right for your family.
Four Centre Parcs Trips in Two Years?
No I’m not made of money. Each trip has been done on a tight budget and all out of term time to get the best deal. You can read all about that HERE.
So Why Try Bluestone?
To be perfectly honest, I’d never heard of Bluestone National Park Resort until late last year. When I did discover this Pembrokeshire Luxury Resort, I instantly wondered whether it’d live up to our Centre Parcs breaks.
Last week we enjoyed a five day, four night mid-week break just like we’d previously done at Centre Parcs and I went with a view to honestly compare them in as many aspects as I could.
Bluestone’s 500 acres of rolling countryside is spectacular. Unlike Centre Parcs, Bluestone is not a chain but a single site. We’ve visited three of the Centre Parcs sites and although they are were all lovely, the natural surroundings varied significantly depending on the age of the site. Some were much more densely filled with forest and others pretty sparse.
At Bluestone, it felt as if the location had been carefully chosen for it’s natural attributes rather than it’s convenience and easy reach. West Wales is not going to suit everyone but even with an almost 5 hour drive from the East Midlands, it felt worth it.
The Bluestone site was also more spread out than at the Centre Parcs we’ve visited. There was more space between lodges and more open land to explore.
At first we though the nature of the resort was going to prove tricky with two little ones who are not the greatest walkers. I’d ignored advice to prebook a golf buggy and when we arrived they were all allocated. As much as the golf buggy experience would have been fun, we weren’t left stranded.
At Bluestone, there seemed more choice for getting around. There were all the options you get at Centre Pacts but then also the golf buggies which were extremely popular and then our favourite, the land train. It’s not really a train but a jeep with two large enclosed trailers that runs in a loop around the park all day.
Once we’d figured the times, this was invaluable to us and we hoped on and off multiple times a day to get us to and from the Blue Lagoon Water Park and Adventure Centre. Of course, you can just bike around like at Centre Parcs but I’d say it is pretty hilly.
We were welcomed warmly by a chatty and friendly guy. Another member of the team also spoke to us on the Land Train and was again very friendly. Overall, I found no discernible difference in customer service as we’ve only had positive experiences at all the resorts we’ve visited.
At Bluestone we stayed at the Ramsey. This particular detached two-bedroom lodge is quaintly referred to as an upside down house. Our girl thought this was amazing. On the ground floor there were two bedrooms; one double with an ensuite including a shower over the bath and one twin with an ensuite wetroom.
Upstairs, the large open space is divided into a living area with sofas and a TV, a dining space and kitchen. This layout is lovely for taking in the views and gives a sense of privacy being higher. However, you will need to cart all your shopping up when you arrive.
The Bluestone lodge felt significantly larger than the Centre Parcs equivalent and is over two floors which I personally preferred. There seemed like a lot of thought had gone into the little things. The bins were full size unlike the tiny ones at Centre Parcs. Also the toiletries weren’t complimentary but refilled luxury hand soaps from a local social enterprise.
At Centre Parcs, we’ve always stayed in the 2 Bedroom Woodland Lodge. These are attached to another lodge. We’ve never had an issue with this or even heard our neighbours. Centre Parcs very cleverly orientate their lodges so even thought they are much closer than at Bluestone, they still feel secluded and private.
Inside, woodland lodges do feel like they have a little more character. We particularly love the log burner feature especially as it has a safety frame. We also like the fact that being on the ground floor, you often get wildlife coming to the door. There is wildlife to discover at Bluestone but you might need to go looking for it.
The Blue Lagoon Water Park at Bluestone was fantastic and perfect for little ones. There were different zones and two shallow pools for under fives. Our girls particularly enjoyed the lazy river and thrice hourly waves. There were flumes and a rapids ride for older ones but Bluestone felt better suited to younger families than thrill seekers.
Another bonus was the free swim nappies for all under fours. I thought this was a helpful touch and certainly a money saver for those who need it. Bluestone had a variety of family changing rooms some smaller, some larger with changing table and toddler seats.
We couldn’t find any family showers only the communal preswim ones just before you get in. We just showered back at our lodge. Overall the Blue Lagoon seemed quieter than swimming at Centre Parcs and we never needed to wait for a changing room.
Centre Parcs Sub Tropical Paradise is definitely larger and has more to offer but for young families especially where you need a 1:1 ratio with little ones, the bigger rides aren’t an option anyway.
The Indoor Adventure Centre at Bluestone, really stood out to me as being one of the features that is missing from Centre Parcs. It is a huge space which incorporates a massive wooden adventure play structure great for 4/5yrs+. There is also a lovely, large soft play area and ball pit which is more suitable for toddlers and little ones.
If that wasn’t enough, there is a bouncy castle and free miniature golf too. Above you there is a high rope course, a climbing wall and cafe as well. On a particularly rainy day this was perfect to get us out and about.
At Centre Parcs there are often one or two much smaller soft play areas typically in the sports bar or in restaurants. The adventure centre suited us better and our girls loved trying to get right to the top.
Outdoor Play Areas
The central play park in Bluestone’s village was great for little ones and preschoolers. It also was visible from the cafe opposite so you could sit and enjoy a drink whilst watching them.
Centre Parcs has multiple play areas however, we found most are more suitable for older children.
Personally we never eat out at these type of resorts and take a full shop so we can cook breakfast, lunch and dinner in the lodge. However, Bluestone had a great range of eateries. I spotted a grill restaurant, a traditional pub, fish bar, an Italian and a couple of cafes.
There are probably a few more options at Centre Parcs but like I said we don’t use these so I couldn’t vouch for the food at either.
Add on Activities
You’ll definitely find loads to do if you want to add on extra activities at either resort. Again maybe I’m tight or I prefer frugal, but we don’t usually do these. However, I was tempted by the Camp Smokey outdoor eating experience.
At Bluestone, there is something for everyone from high adrenaline, crafts, sensory play, messy play, woodland workshops and the wellness spa, puppet shows and dinner shows. You’ll also find live music and a twice weekly pub quiz.
Centre Parcs also offers similar experiences and probably more but there is only so much you can squeeze into a short break and the offerings at Bluestone would be more than enough for most young families.
We visited Bluestone the week before February half term and the cost for our Ramsey lodge would have been £209. On this occasion, we were kindly gifted our break for the purpose of this honest review.
If we’d gone the following week out of term time, the price would have gone up to £869 for the Monday-Friday Mid-Week break.
The Centre Parcs equivalent, a 2 bed woodland lodge would have cost £429 for the same week. That’s more than double. In February half term it shoots up to a whopping £1199.
Other costs to consider are the experiences. These seemed cheaper at Bluestone and the village shop was certainly cheaper. We found a deal for two pizzas for a fiver. The Centre Parcs shops wanted to charge £8 a pizza.
Winter Lights Festival
We were also lucky enough to be a Bluestone during their free Winter Lights festival. Every evening the village is lit up and you can catch a short light display a couple of times an hour after about 4pm.
Even more magical was the enchanted trail which was a highlight of our trip. Light displays and illuminated characters made a memorable winter’s evening walk something truly special.
So Which to Choose?
If you’re looking at keeping costs down, and are happy to travel to Wales, Bluestone is for you. It’s totally geared up for young families and offers much better value. It has everything you’d want from Centre Parcs with the bonus of spectacular views and a short drive to the stunning coastal town on Tenby.
If you’re happy to splash the cash or are limited with you location, then Centre Parcs might fit the bill better.
Honestly, I went to Bluestone with pretty low expectations and was delighted to find it easily comparable to Centre Parcs. I found it to be a resort I’d confidently recommend to even the most loyal Centre Parcs enthusiast.
So there you have it. A very honest and hopefully helpful comparison of these two UK resorts. If you think there is anything I’ve missed, please let me know and if you’ve been to both, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
My lovely friend Anna over at Popitha.com has some top tips for Centre Parcs with little ones so go check that out too.