Looking to take your kids to Coral Reef in Bracknell and want to know all the insider information on what to expect, what to pack and whether it’s worth the money?
The answers are here in this ultimate guide to visiting Coral Reef with your kids. This is an in-depth review of Coral Reef Waterworld in Bracknell from a mum of two who has been visiting the pool for more than two decades.
Before we carry on there’s one extremely important thing you need to know about Coral Reef in Bracknell if you are planning on a visit.
All booking must be done online as of August 2019.
This means that in peak times particularly, if you do not book online, you will not get in! This is a radical change for the leisure centre, but there are a few perks to it.
Although you will be allocated a swimming slot of just 1.5hours – less than the two hours Coral Reef used to offer on entry – the pool has reduced the user numbers by 25 per cent. This means fewer people in the pool, and so hopefully more chances for you to use the slides and enjoy the facilities without overcrowding in the water and changing room.
We’ll talk more about the booking process later, but it’s very important that you know this piece of information before you rock up to the pool with a car full of kids and are turned away disappointed as all of the slots are booked!
Coral Reef Waterworld review summary
The great thing about Coral Reef is that there’s something for everyone, no matter how old or young they are.
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.
The pool underwent a £13million refurbishment in 2017, under the ownership of Bracknell Forest Council in Berkshire.
The layout of the leisure facility remains exactly the same. The pirate ship and canons are still there, along with the two jacuzzis, volcano, snakes, rapids, outdoor pool and rocks. There’s also a spa if you happen to be lucky enough to be visiting Coral Reef without kids!
Inside the spa is a steam room, several different saunas, cool pool and seating area, with a bar serving refreshments.
The main difference following the massive refurbishment is the upgrade to the flumes, which have been completely replaced with a new tower and five amazing slides.
What’s at Coral Reef?
If you have never been to Coral Reef before, then what can you expect?
The pool is designed to be like visiting a shipwreck on a tropical island. There’s a pirate ship with canons that shoot water into the main swimming pool area.
Around this focal point of the pool are tropical palm trees, huge snakes that spit out water, rocks, a parrot, a giant clock that looks as if it’s been constructed by a shipwrecked crew and volcano that fires out water, also into the main pool area.
For very tiny children there is an area called Little Corals. This features a sloping beach area, where you can easily walk into the water with very small children.
There’s also a number of small water jets and features for kids to enjoy splashing around in. There are small shallow pools with little slides that are perfect for babies who are just learning to sit up.
Entry to Coral Reef
The team at Coral Reef has recently introduced an online booking system. This is the only way to purchase your tickets for Coral Reef!
You can no longer simply arrive at the pool on the day and purchase your tickets for a swim during school holidays and weekends. This includes off-peak sessions, although it appears you can still buy entry tickets for off-peak sessions from reception.
This is a pretty radical change for Coral Reef, but it hopefully will mean fewer queues, less overcrowding in the car park and less stressful time finding a spare locker and changing room.
The pool reopened after refurbishment in 2017. I remember visiting in the morning of a school inset day just after the pool reopened and the queue took more than 30 minutes.
During the more recent school holidays (August 2019) I visited having failed to book online. I was turned away at the entrance to the car park.
But I went straight online and booked a swimming slot for the day after in the morning. This shows you can find plenty of swimming slots the day before your visit. However, if you have a special day trip to Coral Reef planned, I suggest booking as far in advance as you can!
The changing rooms
The changing rooms have been spruced up and look great, and clean.
If you are visiting with a family, you’ll be best off using the larger family changing rooms. These are located in two clusters in the changing area.
The smaller changing cubicles will be tricky if you have babies and very small children to get dressed. All cubicles have a small bench in them where you can sit small children for changing.
There are toilets inside the changing rooms, as well as in the reception area where you queue for entry.
There are plenty of lockers, but they vary in sizes and the larger ones seem to be snapped up quite quickly. The small changing rooms are fine if there are one or two of you, but you may struggle to get everything in for a larger family.
You need a £1 coin deposit for the lockers, which is returned to you after use.
You enter the pool via the shower area. Next to the showers (there are around 15 shower heads in this area) there are a number of hooks where I always leave a bag with the children’s towels and shampoo in. I don’t leave any valuables here, but it’s just nice to have our kit ready for showering as soon as we are out of the pool.
The pool at Coral Reef
Whenever we go to Coral Reef, we get in at the sloping beach area, as you can just walk straight in.
You used to be able to borrow arm bands from a bin on poolside, however you now have to bring your own. You can buy arm bands at reception if you need to, as well as a swim nappy for little ones who are not potty trained.
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.
Both of my kids love wading out and exploring this area. Watch out for the big bucket that drops a large amount of water every few minutes or so. It’s just after the small slide on the pirate ship. It’s funny if it gets you, though not quite so funny for small kids if they get drenched unexpectedly.
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.
Even on days when the schools are out and lots of older children flock to Coral Reef, the pool doesn’t feel too crowded.
This has particularly been the case since Coral Reef introduced the booking online system. There are now fewer people in the pool per session, so you have less queueing for the slides and it just doesn’t feel as overwhelming for little kids.
The pirate ship had a face lift as part of the refurbishment in 2017. It has a lovely little slide for small kids, and children can have a go at shooting the water canons and see if they can squirt their friends in the pool.
Going out from the Little Corals area and 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. You will need to hold onto smaller kids and kids who aren’t comfortable at swimming.
The slides are without a doubt the most significant change at Coral Reef and they are amazing! There used to be just three slides but now there are five.
They’re interactive with lights and a score board at the end. I’ve taken my two-year-old and my four-year-old down the Aqua Splash slide.
On this one you pick a theme – from pirates to mermaids there are a few to choose from – and then go when the green light shows.
It’s a fun ride, including a bit where the tube becomes transparent and you can see to the steps where other sliders are climbing up to have their turn.
There are flashing rings of light you need to try and hit as you go down, but while holding my daughters I haven’t managed to get the hang go this!
You do come flying out of the bottom of the slide, but with both kids in armbands I’ve never been worried about them and was able to grab them again straight away.
The other slides at Coral Reef are:
- The Cannon (fast) – this is for kids aged eight and over only.
- Storm Chaser (medium) – you ride on a raft for this one. Small kids need to be accompanied by an adult on a double raft. Rafts are handed out at the bottom of the stairs to the slides by staff.
- Poseidon’s Peril – raft slide open only to kids over eight.
- Maelstrom – Another raft slide which parents can accompany kids down on a double raft.
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.
Spectators need to pay around £3 to sit in the restaurant. This includes a free cup of tea or coffee. You can see over the rest of the pool from there so it’s a nice spot for a relative or friend to sit and wave as you’re enjoying your swim.
The restaurant serves hot and cold meals and snacks.
This has also been refurbished and looks way better than it did before.
What you need to know about visiting Coral Reef
- Book online! Whenever you are visiting the pool, you need to now book online. Of course if it’s quiet then you can probably book on the day you plan to visit. But to be sure to not be disappointed you need to book in advance.
- 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 no longer borrow armbands from boxes next to the pool. Bring your own or buy them at reception.
- 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, toys, goggles 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.
New ticket options have been added as of August 2019 with the new online booking system. For this reason the prices for Coral Reef have been removed from this review in an effort to keep it up to date and not mislead anyone.
There is a big difference between an off-peak ticket and peak ticket in terms of price, obviously. The off-peak sessions do not include use of the slides, which are closed weekdays before 3.30pm.
Since the online only booking system was launched, Coral Reef added and Flexi ticket options, as well as a Fixed ticket option.
The Flexi option is more expensive by around £1 but enables you to amend the timing of your booking up to one hour before your arrival. You simply log in to your Coral Reef account, which you will have created when booking, and amend the session you wish to use that day.
This is great if you are travelling a long distance to reach Bracknell and get stuck in traffic. It means you won’t lose any precious time in the pool!
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.