The OH would have hated it, but when you’re at the seaside, you need to pop in to the amusements to play on some arcade games. I love it, N loves it. They remind me of playing the 2 penny games with my Great Uncle in Cleethorpes, when he’d give us £1 in change to play. I think it helps teach N a little bit of fun is ok, but only play with what you can afford to lose. And it gives him the chance to make decisions whether to save his winnings or spend them all.
We only stayed in Blackpool one night, and I was hoping to entertain N enough so we could stay out late enough to see the Blackpool illuminations turned on. We didn’t quite manage it but we had a great evening at Coral Island.
What is there at Coral Island Blackpool?
Coral Island is a large indoors, free admission amusements centre, catering for all. It’s not just the arcade games, but also has various places to eat, bingo and a couple of rides. It’s loud, it’s buzzing, it’s busy. But there’s lots going on and is hugely popular.
It opens from 10am-11pm Monday to Thursday, with longer opening on Fridays to Sundays, and weekend opening at 9am.
Where is Coral Island?
You can’t miss Coral Island Blackpool. It’s easily visible from all sides, with a huge Central car park behind it. It’s just the other side of the promenade near Central Pier. The alternative is to get the tram.
Eating out at Coral Island
To make it easier on our evening out, I decided that we should eat at Coral Island. There are several places to eat – the pirate themed Buccaneer family bar and restaurant, Captain Jack’s Bar and Grill, Peggy’s Snack Bar, and The Traditional Chippy. We’d decided on the Buccaneer restaurant as the most suitable menu wise for what we wanted. It’s the biggest of the restaurants too. As it was a Friday early evening, I had prepared N that we might have a wait.
The table system works well at the Buccaneer restaurant. It’s a large pub style restaurant with additional outdoor seating. If it’s busy, you wait at the door, and they’ll send you inside once the previous people have been shown to a table. We didn’t have to wait long before heading in, while they found a free table for 2. if you want to sit outside you can just grab a table, but we wanted to get some quiet rather than be out with all the amusements noise going on).
Inside there’s a good buzz going on and all the waiting staff were friendly. They’re dressed in pirate gear, while the décor is pirate ship themed. N was intrigued by the coloured glass in the floors which you can spot treasure in.
The best thing about eating at Coral Island is that children eat free with each adult meal. They do check the age of the children you’re ordering for that they’re under 10. There’s a choice of several children’s meals, and plenty for adults – the food is normal pub food, with just the right sized portions. I chose the chicken tikka which came with rice and naan; you could add onion bhajis and poppadum for under £2. N had the kids burger, chips and beans. His was a reasonable sized meal for an 8 year old with a good appetite.
N said his meal was good – I wished I’d added chips to my order as they were tasty. My curry was disappointing – there was little flavour, and it certainly wasn’t spicy enough to be a tikka. It was more tomato tasting, than curry. It was edible, but just not what it claimed to be. The naan was good and the onion bhajis were really tasty with great flavour.
The only thing I didn’t like was having to order at the bar. Yes, it’s a pub rather than just a restaurant, but the queue for food ordering was long, and I had to leave N sitting at the table alone for 20 minutes way out of my sight. I know he’s sensible but he would have been bored stiff, and I didn’t know if I’d taken him to the counter to order, whether we’d have lost our table. Having to requeue again put us off ordering dessert.
It would be nice if they’d sort out an ‘order by app’ or machine so speed things up, if they’re not using the waiting staff for taking orders. Once you put the food order in, then you had to queue for drinks at the bar. Sigh,
It was a pain and not particularly family friendly when it’s really busy. I was horrified that the 2 young mums who came and sat at the table just behind N, both went up to order food leaving their 2 babies sitting in high chairs. We had to keep picking up their toys they dropped to avoid them crying.
It is handy to know you’re all paid up at the start, so don’t have to wait for the bill though.
Entertainment at Coral Island
We started off on the Flyer ride which is a monorail high above the room. It’s a great way to see what there is, and where you might want to head first to play the games. N just liked pretending to shoot the gun. There’s also a small children’s train ride, and a ghost train which is also high up.
Coral Island is a sprawling maze of games and machines. From computer style racing games, to funfair style throwing games, right down to 2p machines, there’s hours of fun to be hand. Games range from 2p up to £2ish, with everything in between.
We changed a set amount of money at the cashier, then changed some of that into 2ps at the change machines. On the Friday night there were a lot of change machines that weren’t working. It did sometimes take time to find machines that were working to change amounts into 2p or 10p.
We didn’t notice any aggressive behaviour when we were there, although there were a few occasions where people stood a bit too close for my liking when we were playing games when I’d put my bag on the floor, or when we were changing money. Mostly it was children, obviously just a bit excited, but it did make me aware to keep hold of my bag and our jacket near us.
Tickets mean prizes
At Coral Island, many of the games give you tickets for playing and getting more points. At the end of your time you can either feed them into the ticket feeders and use the receipts to spend at the prize shop, or save them up over time for better prizes. The queue for prizes was huge and not really moving so we didn’t bother using our 390 tickets to get a prize. Prizes ranged from pocket money tat to huge electronic prizes like Xboxes. The feeder machines were fun in themselves though!
We mostly played the 2p machines, trying to tip the money over the edge with only minimal success. Some machines run out of tickets, but you can ask staff if there’s a problem or prizes are getting stuck. We also played the camel race where you have to throw balls in the high scoring holes to make yours go fastest and win.
But our favourite game was hit the clown. We played together and ended up getting lots of tickets from that one. Basically you had 16 clowns standing up and you had to throw balls to knock them over to gain points. Hitting the red lit up clowns meant more points. For £1 each go, we had about 6 goes. Great fun, and nice to have a game with a bit of skill to it. Let’s just say, N needs some throwing practice but we did pretty well, mostly beating the people who’d had a go before us each time.
Before we left, we also tried the piano game. If you’ve played Drum King on the Wii it’s similar. The tune plays, the order you have to hit the 4 keys comes down the screen and you have to hit the keys in the right order. I found this pretty easy (as a piano player in the past, I’m used to looking ahead and knowing what’s coming up), but N found it more challenging. He gave it a good go though. It was my type of game, I could have played for ages, but N was getting ready to go.
We spent about 3 hours in Coral Island Blackpool, although I could have spent a lot longer given the chance.
Blackpool evening stroll
I was hoping to keep N up for long enough to see the lights switch on, but it was only 7.45 when we emerged into dusk and he couldn’t last past 8.30pm. We bought a couple of ice creams (N said his strawberry one was good, but mine – a cookie dough flavour – was revolting) to eat while we wandered along the promenade people watching. The sunset was lovely, making the water inlets on the beach so pretty.
Heading back towards the tram stop, Blackpool was buzzing. The illuminations switch on party was in full swing, and from the beach side you could see in to the stage and screens. So we stood and watched Busted for a bit. N wasn’t excited by them, but I was – I think if he gave them a chance he might like their rocky pop sound, so I might have to introduce him to more when he’s less tired.
The trams were running til late and there was one at North Pier waiting as we walked up. The tram conductors are friendly and once I worked out how to pay (get on then pay the conductors, old bus style, rather than contactless at ticket machines before you get on like in Manchester), they’re so easy to use. We had commentary at each stop from our conductor – evidently ours, just outside the Imperial Hotel where we were staying, used to be known as the ‘Posh Stop’.
While we didn’t make it out long enough to see the switch on, our evening in Coral Island was a lovely evening out. I’m sure it made N feel quite grown up being out and doing quite adult activities as well.
For around £40 we had a meal and around 3 hours of entertainment. Not a bad night out, and it fitted right in with how I see Blackpool. Busy and brash, unsubtle but fun.
Have you ever been to Blackpool and enjoyed Coral Island?
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