Theme Parks in the South of England – Just How Accessible Are They?

Theme Parks in the South of England – Just How Accessible Are They?
Theme Park

A theme park can be a thrilling experience for the whole family. A well-laid out range of rollercoasters, sights and restaurants. It appears the perfect day out. Often these sites are reached by people taking their cars, but how does the choice fare for those accessing the park via public transport?

In focus are South East leisure attractions, we analyse 8 parks, breaking down public transport access and showing travel times. As spring is round the corner and theme parks reopen for the 2022 calendar, we looked at Public Transport data for people arriving at the theme parks below on a Saturday by 11am.

  • Adventure Golf
  • Dinosaur Safari Park Golf
  • Legoland Windsor Resort
  • Pirate Cove Adventure Park
  • Chessington World of Adventures
  • Spy Missions
  • The Lido
  • Thorpe Park

Score System

The following are ranked by how many people can access by public transport within two hours, based on 2011 Census.

2021 Rankings

1st, Chessington World of Adventures (2015: 5th)

With a theme park, zoo and hotel complex on site, Chessington is a firm favourite for the whole family, with the added bonus of GoApe and a SeaWorld, it’s not surprise almost half a million visitors flock to the green gates yearly. Almost 9 million visitors can access the park within a two-hour commute due to its superb connections with the South and London.  This is an increase of a few million on the 2015 results.

2nd, Pirate Cove Adventure Park (2015, 1st)

One of the biggest miniature golf UK venues for all ages, located in the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent boasts a high rank for private car access. However due to its favourable location in London, it has an excellent public transport network with over 8 million people able to visit in under two hours by public transport, a slight increase on 2015 where 7.8 million could access.

3rd, Dinosaur Safari Park Golf, (2015: 3rd)

An enjoyable mini golf themed day out, the Dinosaur Park located in Barnet, Greater London trumps like-minded venues by serving 18 golf holes and even the chance to bring your canine friend. The Thameslink connection to nearby Elstree & Borehamwood being a Zone 6 allows for easy access for over 7.4 million within a two hours’ time window, a small increase on the 7 million in 2015.

4th, Thorpe Park, (2015: 4th)

Despite being one of the most visited attractions in Europe, the site has a low number of visitors using public transport. Only 100,000 people can access Thorpe Park in under 40 minutes, however, being close to London offers over 6 million people an option to access the attraction within 2 hours.  This is a decrease of 300,000 people on their 2015 result.

5th, Spy Missions, (2015: 2nd)

Unique for having a spy-theme in its complex – the attraction is suited for families as well as work socials. It’s a surprise winner but due to its close connection to Milton Keynes Central Station which is known for its well-connected routes from other hubs, including London and Birmingham. Over 3.3 million can access within 2 hours, a real decrease in access since 2015 due to reduced rail and bus connectivity.

6th, Legoland, Windsor, (2015: 7th)

Famed for its unique LEGO brand and having the odd Royal visitor over the years, the site is also known for having two themed hotels. Due to its central location in the commuter belt and minimal bus times from the main station, over 3 million within 2 hours, improved connectivity has doubled the amount of people that can access since 2015.

7th, The Lido, Worthing, (2015: 6th)

An all-year round attraction on the seafront, the Lido welcomes visitors both domestically and internationally with various attractions inside and out. The central location of Worthing in West Sussex between Brighton and Chichester with strong rail links means over 1.7 million people can enjoy what the Lido has to offer within 2 hours of transport time, this is an increase of 200,000 people since 2015.

8th, Treasure Island, Adventure Golf, (2015: 8th)

The pirate-themed golf course in Southsea has an enviable location hogging the South Coastline, however only 1.1 million can access the centre in just under two hours by public transport.  This pretty much stayed consistent, with only an additional 20,000 people able to access the site in 2021.

What does the data tell us?

The contours are sporadically laid-out, meaning if you live in these places outside of the isochrone threshold, it represents a reality of not being able to access an attraction in less than two hours, often limiting the choice to visit an attraction by private transport.

 

As we know, public transport routes change regularly, it is interesting to take a look back in time and see how access maps look 6 years ago, it is quite compelling to see the changes – they show a slight improvement or deterioration of public transport options under two hours in a number of locations.

 

 

Where are the areas that have improved and can now be included in our area plot?

Improvement

  • East Hertfordshire
  • Berkshire
  • South Surrey
  • Central Kent
  • East Kent
  • Northern, East Sussex
  • Brighton, East Sussex

The transition from 2015-2021 contour data shows signs of improvement and significantly more options of transport accessibility to residents to get to theme parks.

Reduction 

  • Bedfordshire
  • Andover, Hampshire
  • Margate, Kent

These areas, often due to their dependence on a major hub to get to a theme park means it doesn’t make for the easiest of journeys to get there on a Saturday at 11am.