Adventure Island, Southend

An aerial shot of Adventure Island, Southend, Essex

“My best bit was Captain Blackbeard on the jiggledy pirate boat!” Etienne, 4

Just a stone’s throw away from Southend-on-Sea’s beach and pier, this theme park has 29 (out of 31) rides stamped with a logo deeming them ‘disability-friendly.’

Admission to the park itself is free, but the rides are charged – this allows for a great deal of flexibility, as you can either pop in and buy tickets for single experiences, or, if you’d prefer a day of unlimited fun, you can purchase a wristband (either Mini, Junior or Big Adventure, depending on age and height). This means that if you’re a hesitant parent with highly adventurous children who want to try everything, you can pay for their thrills, while watching from the sidelines for free. Toddlers, teenagers and adults will all find something that appeals though. The Viking Boats – a gentle merry-go-round on water; Flying Jumbos – ride-on elevating elephants; and Blackbeard’s All at Sea – a pirate-boat themed special effects theatre show, with a short film, moving benches and water spray, are each suitable for all ages. The Barnstormer and Green Scream roller coasters will keep Junior and Big Adventure band holders entertained, while the twenty-one-metre high Sky Drop is a white-knuckle experience only suitable for the latter group. Far gentler pleasures can be found in the amusement arcade.

A large car park is close-by, equipped with a lift and sloped access. Blue Badge holders can park in bays within yards of all four entrances. Unlike many theme parks, there aren’t any turnstiles at the park gate, but they are present at some ride entrances – disabled visitors can enter the rides via the exits to avoid these though. The ‘disability-friendly ride’ logo means that rides are ‘suitable for most disabled people with the help of a carer’ – obviously whether this applies to you will depend on your individual circumstances. Be aware that if you cannot get onto a ride alone, staff can help out, but a carer must be present to assist. Ride signs also indicate possible safety contraindications (which may include pregnancy and particular disabilities) intended to help visitors assess suitability. Guests ‘with severe limb amputations’ should check in advance. Visitors can discuss details of the rides, limitations and the possibility for reasonable adjustment with staff – a disability policy is available online or from customer services.

Food & drink: The on-site restaurant Pizzas of Eight has a family-friendly environment and plenty of child-friendly and reasonably priced options. It has an accessible toilet and baby changing facilities.