Need some respite when Britain swelters in a heatwave? How do lidos, fountains, a marine lake, splash pads and outside water play sound to you? Here are the best places to stay cool when the temperature rises in Bristol.
I’ve heard more than one person describe being at The Lido in Bristol, ‘like being on holiday’. And I agree, the place oozes such uber-chilled vacation vibes, that even on a dreary day, you can be transported to the sparkling waters of foreign climes.
Come summer, it’s the perfect place to chill out and stay cool in the heat in Bristol. The low-chlorine, open-air, infinity-style pool is heated year-round (but still feels refreshing on a hot day). Victorian-esque dressing rooms run down one side, a pool-side restaurant serving delectable tapas, cooling cocktails and a la carte upstairs, the other.
If you’re brave enough to face the sauna in the heat, don’t forget to douse yourself with a bucket of cold water afterwards, treat your muscles in the outdoor jacuzzi or perhaps even indulge yourself with a spa treatment upstairs. There’s no children’s splash pad per se, but if you keep a good eye in summertime, a few splashes from a passing swimmer is pretty entertaining for the mini ones.
Kids can join their parents in the swimming pool between 2pm and 4pm during the non-member swim sessions (Mon-Fri 1pm-4pm). All under-18’s must be accompanied in the pool on a one to one basis. £7.50 per child aged 4-17, or free for children aged 3 and under (swimming nappy required). Afterwards, whiling the afternoon away with your poolside Alhambra beer should swell the soul.
2. Outdoor water play: Explore Pools, Millennium Square, Bristol
Millennium Square has its own little splash pad! Outside We The Curious (Bristol’s excellent interactive science centre) and its giant disco ball (which houses the UK’s first 3D Planetarium), there are fountains and water features galore – perfect for splashing in on a hot day and staying cool in the heat in Bristol. Pitch up and paddle – there’s plenty of space for little ones to go nuts – just check the water for dangerous or sharp objects beforehand, these are city centre fountains after all.
3. Fountains at Cascade Steps
Just round the corner from Millennium Square, the outdoor water fountains at Cascade Steps are also fun for a kiddo splash about.
These are city centre water features, so people are urged to check for dangerous or sharp objects before entering or allowing children to go into the water – and to consider wearing footwear as a further precaution. The fountains are checked, treated and cleaned regularly.
As well as carrying out regular checks and a full cleaning and maintenance programme, the water in all of these water features is chemically treated in order to reduce the risk of infection should an accident occur.
You’re right next to the Floating Harbour here and Bristol Ferry Boat pontoon, so afterwards you could take to the water and pootle around the Harbourside on a Bristol Ferry Boat to find somewhere to grab a bite to eat…or a cheeky cider.
4. Stand Up Paddleboarding around Bristol Harbourside
There’s nothing so nice as messing about on the water when the mercury rises, and Bristol’s Floating Harbour is at its sparkling, buzzing best on a sunshiney day. And I’ll tell you a freaking excellent way to get around Bristol in summer – by paddleboard!
SUP Bristol offer 2.5 hours of Harbourside adventures at weekends, 1.5 hour taster sessions on weekday evenings, or you can round up your friends and family and book a group session. Whatever you choose, exploring Bristol’s historic waterways in this way, floating past iconic attractions like Brunel’s SS Great Britain and being part of the Harbour whir is pretty special. And of course you can always ‘let’ yourself fall in, should you need to cool off.
5. Outdoor water play in St Andrews Park, Bristol
St Andrews is one of Bristol’s loveliest parks – a classic Victorian landscaped park with a fantastic playground for kids, including a large sand pit. The park comes into its own in summer and families flock to the large, free paddling pool for young’uns to splash about in. There’s plenty of grass to picnic on, gorgeous old trees for shade and when ice cream sellers aren’t wandering the pathways there’s a charming little kiosk at its centre where you can get refreshments to cool your innards down.
6. Splash pad at Bristol Zoo Gardens
Once you’ve visited the zoo’s exotic animals, make your way through the zoo’s colourful gardens so everyone can get good and soggy. The splash pad at Bristol Zoo Gardens alone is worth the ticket price during the warm summer months and when I was a member, I’d sometimes just skip straight here so the kids could cool off.
Bridges crossing shallow water ways and tiered splash pools make perfect toddler-style sheep dips! There are water dam gates to play with, stepping stones and basking (wooden) crocodiles.
For a bit of relief in the sweltering heat, head a few miles out of Bristol, to Portishead (where the famous band got their name) to a picturesque spot overlooking the Bristol Channel. Portishead lido is a large open-air pool heated by green energy with a non-slip, shallow toddler pool alongside for little ones to cool down in. Amphitheatre-style steps make the most of the view and are a great sunbathing spot when you’re not wallowing in the water. There’s also a tuck shop and onsite cafe for snacks, or bring your own for a picnic by the sea.
A short hop down the M5 from Bristol and you’ll reach the charming Victorian seaside town of Clevedon. Famous for its historic pier, a huge draw for water lovers is the 15,000m² marine lake (fed by the Bristol Channel) for cooling off hot bods. Visitors can also hire boats, ‘zorb’, paddleboard and canoe atop its waters.
This local woodland was once part of the Earl of Warwick’s hunting estate, and then became part of local coal mining activity. These days it’s great for adventurous families who want to get back to nature and experience a bit of wild swimming and outdoor water play. From the parking area, it’s a short walk through beautiful countryside to a shaded shallow stream and waterfall.
10. WWT Slimbridge Welly Boot Land
Whether you’re an avid twitcher or a bird-loving tot, WWT Slimbridge is a fantastic, wildlife-filled day out. Spring brings newborn ducklings, cygnets and goslings around the centre, summer is perfect for splashing around in the outdoor splash pad, Welly Boot Land (although if you take wellies and a puddle suit, it’s great during colder months too!)
A shallow streams wiggle its way around a wooden obstacle course, through soft green astroturfed ground and alongside slides and roundabouts. Waterwheels, bridges and fountains make this a one of the best watery playgrounds we’ve experienced. Top tip – pack a floating device to take with you and you’ll be the envy of all other parents there.
For more waterborne fun, there’s also a kilometre-long canoe safari (extra fee payable) where you can explore areas of the wetlands that aren’t accessible on foot. Spot water voles, dragonflies, kingfishers and more!
12. Mundy Playing Fields, Thornbury
A big park with play equipment including a water spray area, toilets and a small stream babbling alongside. During peak times there’s usually an ice-cream van to please the crowds.
13. Warleigh Weir, Claverton
It’s estimated up to 500 swimmers a day visit this 100m long weir near Bath (30 minutes’ drive from Bristol) during the summer. Considered one of the UK’s best wild swimming spots, there’s a leat where people take inflatables, shallow paddling areas above the weir and play areas under the weir near the bank. Just be sure to take your rubbish away with you!
15. The Wave Bristol
One of Bristol’s most eagerly-anticipated attractions, The Wave is a state-of-the-art surfing lagoon located just outside the city in Easter Compton. Offering perfect surf all year round, and boasting as many rideable waves in one hour as you would get during eight hours in the sea, it has been luring beginner surfers as well as intermediates and pro surfers since it opened in October 2019. You’ll need to book a lesson or session in advance if you want to ride the waves here, otherwise spectators can pay £5 to watch from the (very lovely) cafe.
Brean Splash waterpark is located at Brean Leisure Park near Burnham-On-Sea. It’s about an hour’s drive from Bristol, but if you’re looking for an outdoor splash pad on a scorching hot day, then it’s worth the journey.
There’s a seaside water play area for under 12s made up of 3 water slides within a shallow pool, plus 3 super water slides for older kiddos and a sunbathing area. If the weather should dramatically change, there’s an indoor splash pool, indoor swimming pool and baby pool. The waterpark is normally open from Whitsun through to the end of August.
This seasonal splash pad (normally open from mid-April to September) sits opposite Weston–super–Mare seafront. Kiddos will love the aquatic playground with sprinklers, fountains and sprays triggered by sensors and buttons. Expect shrieks of delight as little ones try and dodge the rain shower. Located next to Melrose Car Park just over the road from Marine Lake and Knightstone Island.
Just over an hour away from Bristol, perched high on a hill in the Welsh Valleys, is the castellated mansion, Cyfarthfa Castle, near the town of Merthyr Tydfil. It might seem like a long way to go to find a splash pad, but there’s so much for families to do onsite, it’s perfect for a day trip from the city.
The beautiful ground, filled with immaculate flower gardens, green fields, woodland and lakes, stretch out over 65 hectares, and there’s an animal sculpture trail (ask at reception) to motivate kids to explore.
Within the parkland is a Splash Pad, an outdoor water play facility, located within sight of the Canolfan Cyfarthfa’s café – check ahead for opening times as seasonal timetables do apply.
Once kiddos have frolicked in the water to their heart’s content, there’s also a miniature train to ride(seasonal opening times apply) which skirts the lake, museum, adventure playground, bowls, golf and tennis courts.