There’s no shortage of things to do in Sunderland. Outdoors, you have some wonderful parks and beaches right on the edge of the city to enjoy a blast of crisp northern air. Inside, Gravity Force, Empire Cinema and many more offer an enjoyable selection of activities to get your body moving and your brain engaged.
Activities in Sunderland
For a fresh hit of sea air, head to Sunderland’s twin beaches at Seaburn and Roker. The Blue Flag award-winning beaches have been favourites for families in the region for years and bear all the hallmarks of a quaint British seaside experience. The golden sands are a welcome sight whatever the weather – just remember to wrap up as soon as the mercury starts to drop – and lifeguards patrol the beaches during the summer if you’re brave enough to take a dip.
If you’re looking for a bit of nautical history, Souter Lighthouse was the first lighthouse in the world purpose-built to use electricity. Souter was a true technological marvel when it was built in 1871 and saved countless ships from a watery end in the most dangerous piece of coastline around the British Isles. While it was decommissioned in the 80s, you can learn about this maritime hero and the lighthouse keeper, and walk up the 76 steps to get one of the best views around, straight out to sea and of The Leas, two and half miles of limestone cliffs stretching north as far as the eye can see.
Beaches in Sunderland
Our video guide to beaches around Sunderland
Where to go
There are so many exciting activities in Sunderland to get your blood pumping and your neurons blasting.
Gravity Force is Sunderland’s premier trampoline park. With over 60 interconnected trampolines, a dodgeball court, two basketball lanes, a foam pit and angled trampolines, you can literally bounce off the walls less than half a mile away from our A19/A1231 hotel.
If that doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping, Laser Quest Sunderland will. It’s right in the heart of town, opposite Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Kitted out in a futuristic body pack and laser blaster, you’ll enter the digital battle zone of catwalks and mazes to try and get the upper hand on your opponents. Up to 20 players can compete together in the 20-minute sessions, so gather your sharp-shooter friends and let the games begin!
Laser Quest is also home to Clue HQ. If you’re more brain over brawn then test your wits as you solve clues to try to escape from one of three game scenarios in under 60 minutes.
If you prefer to have the entertainment brought to you, sit back and relax as you sink into your seat at Empire Cinema and lose yourself in the latest big-screen release. Located within the Sunniside Leisure Centre, a 10-minute drive from our North West hotel, you’ll find chain favourites Frankie and Benny’s and Nando’s on the doorstep if you want something a little more hearty than a bucket of popcorn. For more inside knowledge, check out our guide page all about indoor activities in Sunderland.
Built as a family home for the Hiltons in the 15th century, Hylton Castle has had a tumultuous past, changing hands and being renovated numerous times. Today, its West façade is the closest depiction of what the original structure might have looked like, made of wood instead of the fortified stone we see today. While there is no access to the interior of the castle, access to the grounds – less than five minutes’ drive from our A19/A1231 hotel – is free of charge and they are a well-kept homage to a grand past, with the imposing relic of the castle taking centre stage.
Just under five miles away from our City Centre hotel sits the sprawling expanse of greenery of Herrington Country Park in the shadows of the Penshaw Monument – a half-sized replica of the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens that overlooks the park from its lofty position atop a 136-metre hill. Famous enough in these parts to feature on the Sunderland AFC crest, the park is a perfect place to get some fresh air in beautiful surroundings. One of the largest parks in Sunderland, Herrington features a picturesque lake and a handful of easy-grade walking and cycle trails on well-marked paths. In recent years the park has played host to an abundance of events, like the Sunderland Festival, Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Race for Life, and was part of the 2012 Olympic torch relay.
Tours and trails
If you’re wanting to get ‘on yer bike’, hit St. Peter’s Sculpture Trail. Curated over a decade, the trail, which is at the end of the much longer Coast to Coast bike ride route, traces the social and industrial history of life around St. Peter’s Riverside through a series of sculptures. Just under a mile and a half from beginning to end on paved paths, the trail is also walkable and is a lovely way to see the riverside at a leisurely pace. If you haven’t come ready prepared, Roker Cycle Hub has a range of bikes available for hire for all ages and abilities, including standard two-wheelers, tandems, children’s bikes, electric bikes and trailers.
Taking place one weekend in the autumn, the Sunderland BIG Walk is a community event starting and finishing in Herrington Country Park which encourages friends and families to pull on their trainers and head out into the countryside. Suitable for all ages and abilities, the old maxim of ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ certainly rings true on this one. You can choose between distances of three miles, 7.5 miles or 11.5 miles, with the entry fee rising accordingly. The price includes a finisher’s goody bag to remember the day, as well as free access to a number of activity taster sessions to help you stay active throughout the winter.