Coral Reef and I go way way back. I used to work there as a lifeguard about 15 years ago and I was swimming there as a child even longer before that.
So I was so excited to check out the results of the £13million refurbishment the pool, which is owned and operated by Bracknell Forest Council in Berkshire, has just undergone.
I’m a huge fan of swimming but with two under three I don’t manage to take the kids much at all. I can’t handle them both on their own, it would just be too chaotic and I don’t think it would be safe enough in the pool. Maybe in a year or so.
But my husband offered to sit with my baby in the restaurant and watch myself and my toddler having a splash about.
Here’s the full lowdown on our visit:
The pool only reopened a few weeks ago and it was a school inset day when we visited. We arrived at about 10am and the queue was pretty long.
Luckily it moved reasonably quickly and we were at the till after about 35 minutes.
I know there has been a lot of criticism of how long the queue has been outside the doors and that some people have waited for two hours.
However I think this is a bit unfair. The pool just reopened and it’s been half term week. Of course it’s going to popular. Plus, the pool has a capacity number that it can’t go over. That’s for your safety and your enjoyment. Who wants to swim in a pool where you’re all packed in like sardines? No thanks.
If you want to avoid the queues altogether then I suggest booking in advance. It’s what I’ll be doing next time we go.
Entry is a lot more than I remember it being. To be fair, with older kids I can imagine spending a good few hours here and you can get a family ticket for around £30 so I think it’s not too bad. I wish it was under £10 for an adult at peak time, but I don’t mind paying when the facilities in the pool are so extensive.
The changing rooms
The changing rooms have been spruced up and looked great, and clean. We managed to find an empty family changing room which has more than enough space for us and would have had room for my husband and baby too. They’re a generous size.
There were plenty of lockers free but ours was quite tight. If all four of us had gone swimming we may have needed two lockers.
Once we were ready to hit the pool we entered at the sloping beach area, as you can just walk straight in. We borrowed some armbands for my toddler. There are loads in storage boxes by the pool and they’re free.
The water temperature is lovely and warm. It’s absolutely perfect for small kids. There’s no dipping your toe in and having to take a deep breath before plunging in.
There are loads of water features dotted around this beach area. Some squirt out water, others drop a bucketload on your head if you’re standing in the wrong place.
My daughter loved wading out and having the armbands on meant I didn’t have to stress about her going under.
There are currents and jets of water that bubble up every now and then so you absolutely need to keep small children close to you. However I felt pretty relaxed.
Although the queue had been big the pool didn’t feel overwhelmingly crowded. We had plenty of space to have a good swim.
In terms of the changes, at first glance not much is different in the pool area. The pirate ship has had a face lift, there’s more non-slip surfaces dotted around and there’s a new slide coming out of the pirate ship which my daughter thought was brilliant.
The Little Corals area is still there, which is just a couple of inches deep and is perfect for kids who are just walking and babies. There are a couple of slides there that she loved going down again and again. It feels really safe in this section of the pool.
Going out into the main pool it obviously gets deeper but adults can still stand comfortably. We went round and round the rapids, which my toddler loved floating in.
The biggest change that I can see is the slides. These are totally new and they look amazing. There used to be three but now there’s five and they are seriously impressive.
They’re interactive with lights and a score board at the end. I didn’t brave it with my toddler this time but I definitely will on our next visit. Kids of all ages will be totally addicted to them. Check out this video to get a taste of what they’re like. I doubt there’s many leisure centres in the UK with flames like these ones.
We didn’t stop to eat there but my husband sat in the restaurant with my youngest and had a coffee. You can see over the rest of the pool from there so my toddler had a wave at her dad every now and then.
This has also been refurbished and looks way better than it did before.
What you need to know
- Remember to bring a swim nappy for toddlers and babies. They do sell them but at £1.50 a go, it’s cheaper to bring your own.
- You can borrow armbands from boxes next to the pool.
- You need a £1 coin for the lockers.
- There are large family changing room but these do fill up fast. They have baby change tables.
- Get to know the time sequence of all the water jets before setting off into the middle of the pool with your little one. Some of the water jets, such as the one from the volcano, are pretty powerful.
- The shop by reception sells swimming costumes and towels in case you forget.
- Parking is £3 for five hours. Remember to take your ticket stub with you to reception as the cost of parking will be discounted from your entry fee.
- If you plan ahead, I would definitely recommend booking in advance. You sail right to the front of the queue. You need to book 48 hours in advance. You can book tickets here.
Peak ticket prices (peak hours are Monday to Friday – 3:30pm to 8:45pm, Saturday and Sunday – 9:30am to 5:45pm, bank holidays – 9:30am to 5:45pm)
Under 16 £7.80
Family (2 adults and 2 under 16s or 1 adult and 3 under 16s) £30.90
Under 5 Free
Disabled person £4.50
Carer of paying disabled person Free
Spectator (free coffee) £3.20
Off peak ticket prices (Monday to Friday, 10:30am to 3:30pm)
Under 16 £4.50
Over 64 £4.50
Disabled person £4.50
Carer of paying disabled person Free
Parent and toddler (1 adult and up to 2 pre-school children) £6.50
This isn’t a cheap family trip out during peak hours but it’s so worth it.
There’s so much going on and what’s really great is the pool caters to so many different age groups, something that isn’t easy.
Coral Reef has always been a brilliant family day out but with the money invested in the pool’s future it just got even better. I suggest you dive in and see for yourselves!
Coral Reef Waterworld is located in Nine Mile Ride, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 7JQ.
Visit the website for more information.
All details above are correct as of October 2017.