11 of Weston-super-Mare’s most missed tourist attractions

Weston-super-Mare has seen many changes over the decades.

And some of the attractions the seaside resort was most famous for – from its much loved open air pool at the Tropicana to its very own waxworks – are a thing of the past.

Many locals who grew up in the town will remember days out visiting the model village and going to the Knightstone Pavilion Theater and for a swim at the baths.

And they were just as popular with the millions of tourists who visited the town for day trips or their summer holidays each year.

Times have changed, along with the offerings of Weston enjoyed by so many.

Here we take a look at some of Weston’s most missed-and loved-tourist attractions.

How many did you visit?

Tropicana



The Tropicana bar in 1998

It was once home to a popular outdoor pool with flumes and wave machines and has welcomed celebrities including Laurel and Hardy and Diana Dors.

But the Tropicana of yesteryear is very different from what stands on the seafront today.

The Tropicana opened in 1937 following a £60,000 project to give Weston its own outdoor swimming pool.

At 950 sq meter (10,200 sq ft) it was the largest open air swimming pool in Europe and included an art deco diving board.

In its heyday it attracted crowds of thousands for a swim and hosted events including the Modern Venue beauty competition – with Hollywood film stars Laurel and Hardy as guest judges.

The pool remained popular through the decades used by locals and holidaymakers.

A £1 million redevelopment happened in 1982, which included demolishing the diving boards – which were replaced by a wave machine.



The Tropicana in 1990

Other improvements included Pineapple shaped water chutes and a water heater.

On its first day 7,500 visitors turned up, meaning many had to queue until 6pm to get in.

In 1997 the Tropicana celebrated its 60th birthday with a party hosted by the late comedian Eddie Large.

But the pool’s fortunes started to fail and after yet another wet summer The Tropicana reluctantly closed its doors as a swimming pool for the very last time in 2000.

Following numerous unsuccessful attempts to develop the venue, North Somerset Council breathed fresh life into the Tropicana with the creation of The Bay Café in 2015.

This was followed by the arrival of ‘Dismaland – Bemusement Park’, an art installation curated by the world famous street artist Banksy at The Tropicana for just five weeks.

The “sinister twist on Disneyland” featured original works by Banksy and 58 other artists including Damien Hirst and attracted over 150,000 visitors from all over the world, generating £20m in revenue for the town.

The Tropicana is now used to host a number of theater performances and live music gigs as well as a pop up amusement park.

The council has now bid for Government cash to create a 9,000 seater arena at the venue.

Knightstone Pavilion Theater



The Knightstone Swimming Baths

Concerts, plays, operas and other shows were performed at the Knightstone Pavilion on its heyday.

By the 1970’s Knightstone Pavilion was struggling financially and it finally closed in 1991.

There were plans to convert the site into a leisure complex but these never came to anything and the buildings on Knightstone Island gradually deteriorated.

In 2006/7 the whole island was redeveloped.

The Bath House and front section of the ground floor of the pavilion were converted into commercial premises.

The rest of the pavilion and the swimming pool was converted into homes and two new apartment blocks were built on the island.

Weston Waxworks



Weston-super-Mare Waxworks

The waxworks were situated in Regent Street where the arcades are now and were popular with holidaymakers in the 1950’s and 60’s.

However the waxworks closed in the 1980’s as the seafront offer started to change.

Weston-super-Mare Aquarium and Zoo



Weston-super-Mare Aquarium

The aquarium was based at Knightstone Causeway where the temporary RNLI lifeboat station now sits.

As well as being an aquarium, it also was home to a small ‘zoo’ as it was called and some seafront public toilets.

The aquarium was operated by the then Woodspring District Council but was closed in the 1980’s.

The Campbell Steamers



The Bristol Queen Paddlesteamer

The Campbell Steamers -owned by P and A Campbell, -dated back to Victorian times and were part of the ‘White Funnel Fleet’.

They used to operate from Birnbeck Pier taking holidaymakers and locals on trips along the channel and across to Wales.

There were four steamers – the grandest of which was the Bristol Queen.

There was also the Cardiff Queen, the Glen Usk and the Glen Gower.

The steamers finished operating following the opening of the Severn Bridge and the availability of foreign holidays.

Their operation was also hampered by the decline of Birnbeck Pier where they used to sail from.

The model village

The model village used to sit on the area of ​​grass next to the Cabot pub and hotel.

It was a miniature whole village -but not based on Weston-super-Mare.

It was relocated to Kewstoke in the 1970’s but is no longer in operation.

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Miniature railway and putting green

The miniature railway was based on the northern section of the Beach Lawns opposite where the beach huts now sit.

The railway had a miniature train which went around the putting green.

Children used to sit on the trains to enjoy a ride around as people played golf.

The miniature railway was closed around 10 years ago. The site has since been used for music events.

There are also plans in the pipeline to put a Pétanque court and French themed cafe on the site.

Winter Gardens




The Winter Gardens, along with a rose garden, putting green and tennis courts, opened in 1927.

Now a base for Weston College, the Winter Gardens saw some top acts in its heyday during the 1970’s, playing to a packed house each evening.

This included acts such as Cilla Black, the Small Faces, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Marc Bolan and T. Rex.

The Winter Gardens – complete with the Starlight Disco – was the place to be for a night out.

North Somerset Council offered the building to Weston College in 2014, and after it was bought for £1 it was agreed it would be used as a law and professional services academy.

Fortes Ice Cream Parlor

Fortes Ice Cream – owned by the same people who run the Fortes Hotels – had a number of outlets in Weston-super-Mare.

There was one at what is now Princess Royal Square on the seafront and another where the Italian restaurant Michaelangelo’s now sits.

A trip to Fortes – hailed as the best ice cream in the south west – was a must do experience when visiting Weston-super-Mare.

The outlets closed in the 1980’s.

Boating lakes and ponds



The boating pond on the northern part of Weston beach

The boating lakes were popular with youngsters wanting to sail their handmade wooden and paper boats.

There was one opposite the Winter Gardens, which is now no more, but the one on the south side near the Tropicana still exists.

The one by the Winter Gardens had to be demolished in the 1990’s after suffering with concrete cancer.

There were also boating lakes and ponds at various parks in the town including at the Prince Consort Gardens.

The one at the Prince Consort Gardens has recently been restored by volunteers and is now a wildlife pond.



Ashcombe Park boating pond in Weston-super-Mare which was bombed in World War 2

There was also a boating pond at Ashcombe Park in the shape of the Bristol Channel.

But this was damaged and later removed after being bombed in the Second World War.

Weston Seaquarium



SeaQuarium in Weston-super-Mare

The seafront Seaquarium shut in 2019 after years of operating at a loss.

It was once hugely popular with visitors featuring and array of tanks – small and huge – featuring a variety of marine life.

The seaquarium was purchased by businessman Kerry Michael last year and following a £1.7 million refit has now opened as the Revo Kitchen complete with Glo Golf – a glow in the dark mini indoor golf course.

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