I spent £10 at Bournemouth Pier and it wasn’t nearly as tacky as I thought


Our county is home to many seaside towns, but perhaps none are better known than Bournemouth, home to the lush beaches, chines and landscapes of Dorset. But as with many British seaside towns, alongside most of the pretty sights are the tacky entertainment that makes the area so charming.

What is synonymous with beach towns is a long pier for people to enjoy the sea view and entertainment areas full of arcades and gambling machines. Bournemouth has both of these things and in good measure, which is perhaps what makes the region so friendly.

Having visited a few seaside towns in my time, I expected to experience all the fun of pier entertainment – from the 10p coin machine which is now transformed into ITV’s hit game show, Tipping Point, to the machines with claws to pick up toy hugs. It’s been a while since I’ve set foot in the fun zone, simply because the whole thing has often turned me off. I wanted to see for myself what they looked like now.

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Being such a big part of what it means to be a beach town, I had assumed little would have changed to the entertainment on the pier. In my head, I still had this image of cheesy games with middling prices and rusty arcade hardware that was in dire need of restoration.

Although some of the traditional games you might find in seaside town entertainment still exist, it seems the pier is catching up faster than I imagined. Gone are the days of winning a keychain or small toy, now the ante has been upped on the prizes with machines containing tablets and voice recognition devices.

With some machines only costing £1 for two games, I was tempted to blow my £10 for 10 games for a chance to win an Amazon Alexa, but thought it best to take a look. take a look at what the rest of the arcade had to offer. I wandered around the Bournemouth Pier entertainment area and here’s what I found.

It looks like the prizes are now bigger than ever

It was like being in Vegas

As in any arcade, the first thing that usually strikes you are the blinding lights of the machines all flashing to entice you to play. Still, this arcade, with all its fancy, upgraded machines, looked even shinier than I remembered.

Stepping into the arcade felt like stepping back in time and I was transported like a kid to a candy store wanting to try all the games. I guess if that’s the point, then they did a good job.

It was more like looking into slot machines in Las Vegas because of how flashy everything was. I visited on a sunny day which created a great atmosphere as I saw many avid beachgoers enjoying all the games and having a great time. I have to admit, the sounds of their little cheers as they won and their laughter at their falls made me smile.

Prizes in some include fancy gadgets like the Amazon TV Fire Stick and Alexa
Prizes in some include fancy gadgets like the Amazon TV Fire Stick and Alexa

huge prizes

The prizes up for grabs at the arcade are huge – both in size and value – something I can’t remember when I visited the seaside arcade as a kid. I think the best thing I won was a little keychain, which at the time was the biggest prize ever. But now it seems that a small keychain is not enough.

Instead, there are machines full of Amazon merchandise up for grabs. From the Amazon TV Fire Stick to Alexa, the machine lets you £1 for two games trying to get the gadget out of its cage. Think claw machine, but instead of cute toys, it’s fancy electronics.

Shocked is an understatement – I was baffled to see such high value items in a place designed for people to let off steam and have fun. However, it seems times are changing and I respect arcades so I can keep up.

Another thing that surprised me was the size of some of the claw machine toys. Scattered around the flashy machines were other equally flashy glass cylinders containing huge stuffed toys – the type that could gobble up a small child if they tried to hug the toy. It was 50p per game, which isn’t too bad if you’re desperate for an almost life-size version of Winnie the Pooh.

The arcade now accepts contactless payment on some machines
The arcade now accepts contactless payment on some machines

Contactless payments

With the rise of contactless payments, I usually only bring my smartphone to shop and often forget to bring cash. I almost kicked myself approaching the pier as I had a momentary shock where I thought I hadn’t brought any cash.

However, I don’t have to worry as arcades are moving with the times faster than I can comprehend as some machines have integrated contactless payment. A dangerous feature in my opinion – I just know that I could wipe out my bank account if given the freedom to play as many games as I want. But I agree that this is a handy feature if you’re short on cash, but you should note that it’s only available on a few of the machines.

On the Mario Kart car arcade, there was a touchless machine right next to the steering wheel so you could tap your card or phone to play. Being one of my favorite games growing up, I decided to play a few games of Mario Kart. It cost £1 a game, but was worth it for the nostalgia.

I’m also not ashamed to say that I may have wasted most if not all of my £10 on Mario Kart. Money well spent? Probably not, but the main thing is that I had a good time.

While my preconceptions of the classic seaside arcade were of a run down place in need of renovation, it seems my thoughts and feelings have completely changed. From someone who would avoid the entertainment of the pier, I seem to have become an arcade game addict.

What do you think of the fun at Bournemouth Pier? Leave us a comment below or email us at [email protected]

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