From London’s probably smallest terminus station, Fenchurch Street Station – which Douglas Adams fans may well be familiar with, after all Fenny aka Fenchurch was conceived there in the queue in front of the ticket counter – there is the only direct train connection to Southend Central. Arriving in Southend-on-sea, it’s only a few meters to the amusement park Adventure Island, which is located on both sides of the Southend Pier. Contrary to most opinions about Southend, this path is quite nice, at no time does it give you the feeling of being in the filthy gambler’s paradise of Blackpool, to which the city is often compared.
If you previously bought your Adventure Island ticket at one of the ticket counters of the c2c railway company, you can now exchange your travel ticket for a whristband, which means that the train ride to the park is free. However, with some crowds it can take a little longer until it is finally your turn to have your wristband put on. In this case it should be mentioned that there are also cash desks on the left side of the park.
The right and smaller part of the park consists mainly of children’s rides, like the little dark ride Devil’s Mine Train, a Helter-Skelter slide decorated with colorful stars, a Fabbri skateboard, a really crooked Crooked House with a pretty weird interior and much, much more. In addition to a Zamperla Disk’o, a Tivoli Scorpion, a KMG Move It! 24, as well as a Twister in Pharaoh design join the rides in this area as somewhat wilder rides.
A Tivoli Scorpion is basically a HUSS Troika like ride, but it differs in some features. The most obvious feature is the much more compact design, because a HUSS Troika would need at least three times the space needed. Therefore, the forces are much higher, which, in combination with the noticeably higher speed, results in large swings, which of course are transferred unbuffered to the passengers. The gondola bearings are also very smooth-running, which makes a Scorpion an all-round intensive ride pleasure.
If you want to feel really miserable afterwards, you should not miss a trip on The Claw. While a ride in a Move It! 18 can be a lot of fun and the big equivalent of Soriani & Moser brings a big grin to your face, the local Move It! 24 is just unpleasant to ride and quite repetitive. After you have been turned slowly upside down, you are accelerated very fast, which can lead to headaches and discomfort. The fact that a Move It has the biggest potential if the ride doesn’t go full throttle appears to be rather unknown to the park. A strange ride, which somehow doesn’t fit to the actual target group of the park.
However, since last year there is the Kiddi Koasta – a children’s roller coaster made by Zamperla. This compact ride is characterised above all by waves lying on the ground, over which you ride after a sleek downward helix. At least theoretically, as the very unpleasantly run-in lift and the jerky start spoil the experience a bit.
The Mighty Mini Mega Coaster from Pinfari is located on the roof of a game hall built in 2010. This layout shows impressively that you can build a lot of track on as little space as possible, especially since the space used for this is hardly larger than that of the Kiddi Koasta one level below. The ride is also very smooth, which is hard to believe, especially because of the strangely shaped curves and the – for an adult body – much too narrow seats. Just like the braking track of the layout whose braking effect is generated solely by a plate mounted on the track. The friction wheels then torture the train at a snail’s pace back to the station. Afterwards one can say goodbye to the ride operator with a high five; at least if one has found the ride mighty mega.
Only separated from a ferris wheel, which is tightly squeezed into a suitable gap, we immediately find the next roller coaster in the park. Also with the Barnstormer a part of the ride runs over the roofs of the park buildings before it goes rapidly into a helix down to the ground, whereupon the ride ends. The Barnstormer offers a smooth and satisfying ride on a very untypical track. The only thing you can and may argue about is the color scheme of this roller coaster.
In the right part of the park, there are mostly full-grown attractions, at least as far as their ride length is concerned. A good example is the Green Scream – one of the rare New-Tivoli roller coasters made by Zierer. Compared to the one year younger Barnstormer, the ride is rather rugged, but the ride length and the length of the train are quite convincing. Especially positive is the fitting tape announcement, which almost deprives the Flying Fish at Thorpe Park of its coolness.
On the former site of the Dragon ride, and thus in the immediate vicinity of the turtle-looking wave swinger called Archelon, which can also be found at the danish theme part BonBon-Land, stands the Time Machine. Like other rides in the park, this ride is a self-construction. It’s just too bad that this attraction, originally planned for the 2011 season, simply isn’t spared from children’s illnesses even towards the end of the 2012 season, which is why a ride on the Enterprise-like carousel unfortunately couldn’t take place.
The last roller coaster at Adventure Island is called Rage and is a Eurofighter 320+ from Gerstlauer. The highest roller coaster of the park combines all important elements of a Eurofighter and adds a pinch of strange peculiarities. While the start remains the same, you can feel a strange lateral offset during the looping . This is followed by a rather bizarre turn, similar to a cutback, whereupon you see yourself head over heels again in a heartlineroll after an upward curve. A helix then rounds off the offering. While the ride can be compared to Vildsvinet from the Danish BonBon-Land and therefore can’t show any significant unrest, it still doesn’t give a perfect sensation, which is why I refrained from multiple repetitions.
Situated in a strange cul-de-sac is the Zamperla tower Sky Drop. Unfortunately, the system can’t generate any negative forces during the drop, but as soon as it starts to rise again, the positive forces are quite strong and provide a very odd ride experience. Unfortunately the ride becomes monotonous very quickly. The ride experience could be a little bit better with less riding time.
Somewhat squeezed between the Tidal Wave dinghy slides and the dark ride Over the Hill there is another ride from Tivoli. The Orbiter runs in circles until at some point an inclination of 90° is reached. Without shoulder restraints and at a constant high speed, the ride is an exciting experience.
The main attraction of Adventure Island is the ghost train Over the Hill, which comes with an eerie comic style. During the pitch-black ride over the hill animated scenes alternate with animatronics. Funnily enough, the ride is actually quite frightening, as there are a lot of things that are quite different from what you think. Over the hill is one of the most atmospheric ghost trains I’ve seen so far and therefore one of the reasons why you should definitely go to Southend-on-Sea.
Adventure Island is a very remarkable amusement park on the English North Sea coast, which above all has a terrific staff that is absolutely outstanding. The dense development of the amusement park and the numerous self-constructions provide a lot of charm, which you should not miss in connection with a visit to the longest Pleasure Pier – where even a railway line connects both ends of the pier!
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