Much more than just about monkeys and a rock! It’s a quirky tiny place where Britain is hot and walkable to Spain whilst being able to see across to Africa. Oh and the ocean is warm! Not sure why I haven’t been before!
Well I do know, a place known for monkeys climbing over you and essentially a high street resembling a british town – I thought there were far more amazing places to explore but with Covid numbers and quarantines becoming harder to predict it was a safe, sensible and surprisingly superb option in more ways than one.
Airport and transfer
Landing at Gibraltar airport is such a treat in itself … stepping down onto the runway, with that giant rock proudly stood behind the plane – now that’s a welcome!
The airport is small so it was also a small queue for passport control and we wizzed through. Note because it was small (and we had hand luggage) we naively didn’t return for departure till 90 minutes prior to boarding … rookie mistake! They only had one security X-ray machine working and 3 flights all leaving within an hour of each other… luckily we all made it but it was touch and go! If you do arrive back with more time then airside theres just a bar, souvenir shop and general shop. So bring a book!
You could however also arrive or leave by walking or driving across the Spanish border! In normal times we would have explored more of Spain but as it is currently on the UK governments quarantine list – we didn’t dare!
So as Gibraltar is only 6.8 km² and we were staying at the Marina there was no need for taxi or the bus… a 15 minute stroll (crossing the actual runway – yup I have now walked a run way!) and we arrived.
We picked the Sunborne – a novelty 5 star ship themed hotel that’s permanently docked. Being such a small place there were limited choices for the lux hotels we love. But a long time ago I had promised my friend I would try a cruise ship (and we all know what Covid-19 has done for them) well this seemed the perfect compromise.
We were greeted with a glass of cava …. in a paper cup 😂, check in was smooth and Gary the manager very helpful. The whole interior is genuinely like a ship with floors being called decks and even a pool on top!
The rooms were lovely, if a little tired, the beds could do with an upgrade but the bathroom was spick and span and one of the best hotel showers (and a hair dryer that actually dries your hair I’ve ever experienced.)
But the real treat is if you are airport facing and an airplane geek, you can watch planes take off and land… as your room is opposite the runway! (Also does mean can be noisy)
We had breakfast included but due to Covid there was no buffet instead a super generous offering of everything you could want including a little cava! If you like going out for breakfast then you don’t have to walk far as opposite is the marina and a ton of places to sit and sip that coffee (or cava) 😉
There is also a casino on board though due to Covid was very very quiet and with masks quite hard to read faces so a challenge for those who like this entertainment. (Not me!)
The rooftop pool & resturant
Like any respectable ship… there was a rooftop desk pool but be warned it’s small.
But perfectly sized for an afternoon dunk or just to cool off during a sun worshiping day. Plus it has epic views of the rock and marina, a cocktail bar and chilled tunes. 🍹
It really is a great place for a lazy afternoon 😎 Though be warned there aren’t many sun loungers and some are at the front on the ship so it’s quite a walk round for that dunk. We were also told during Covid it had been a booking system but now back to good ole first come first served. So it’s rise and shine if you want a spot for the day!
The rooftop resturant is also where breakfast is served – indoor though you can request out, which were tables down the side of the desk. Unusually we didn’t eat dinner here despite the rooftop status! Inside just felt a little like a conference room and due to Covid, outside was sadly very quiet and lacked atmosphere. But I imagine in usual times would be full of fun.
Dolphin boat trip
So I’ll be honest when my friend suggested Gibraltar all I thought was army base, rock and monkeys. No one had altered me that, despite Covid this could just be the most amazing bucket list trip …. as there’s dolphins and I mean hundreds of dolphins in the wild, just 15 minutes out on a boat.
There’s two boats to choose from yellow or blue and costs around £20-30 for an hour or so. We were recommended yellow by our hotel as heard they treated their customers better and I can vouch for how well they did. Super kind and helpful, considering how often they must go out. They constantly and generously pointed out pods of dolphins as they popped up and moved around the boat to ensure we didn’t miss one back flip! (The babies love to show off!)
They also were the perfect photographers for us too. Which was good for me as my friend isn’t a boat person so hadn’t come … and I love a captain of the boat pic! However she was able to wave at me from our room as we came in and out of the marina – hence the pic below … am right at the front sat down pretending it’s just me and the ocean!)
It was without doubt one the best trips I’ve ever done. Not the height of my usual boat glamour but not needed when you see these creatures in the wild! Also as the capacity on the boat was reduced due to Covid it was even more special as so much space. Only thing you can’t do is jump in – tempting as it was!
So I felt Gibraltar was like Brighton meets the Costa Del Sol and to that it was excellent for the budget!
For people who like their home comforts you’ll find your Pizza Express and other well known restaurants all in walking distance at Ocean Village. Whilst the food is the same, the setting is not – sat on the marina having a pizza with a glass of cold rose – without breaking the budget of a fancy place – genius for money saving.
There’s also lots of others options like The Bridge Bar and Grill perfect for a lunchtime salad.
There are also some old school gems like The Rock Hotel. Infamous for hosting many a celebrity in its day and still …
Its old school glamour if not a little worn down but then I like shiny new places.
Drinks on this terrace are a must – the sunset lingers for hours and does not disappoint though be warned it’s hot up there!
We stayed for impromptu for dinner. They had a 3 course special at a billy bargain rate we shouldn’t then be surprised that the food was nice but not as wow as the views.
Lastly theres also a rooftop pool and bar at the Elliot Hotel and indoor restaurant- currently only for hotel guests due to Covid but a great spot on the deck for pre dinner drinks for more on the rooftop click here
Grand Casemates Square – am old bomb proofed barracks is like a typical Spanish square lined with restaurants and bars leading then you to the high street.
The pound is the currency and nearly all the shops are English if not English speaking – there an M&S, Matalan, Peacock’s and a lot of souvenir shops. Be sure to get your rock of Gibraltar 😂
So there’s three beaches that reminded me so much of Sydney’s Bondi, Bronte and Coogee walk – though less dramatic scenery. The Eastern Beach is the closest to the town and even meets the runway! A long stretch of beautiful sand and a cute little beach bar Bella Vita that due to Covid wasn’t open when we went. The flags were red so we couldn’t swim but determined to get in the sea this year we continued our quest!
Next you walk 10 minutes round to Catalan Bay. Which is a chocolate box seaside colourful village.
It has lots of little seaside restaurants next door to each other where you can stop for some lunch and a Gibraltarian Beer!
It also has the prettiest of churches with the rock in the background standing tall!
The flags were out – I liked to think for us 🤣 but actually it was to celebrate Gibraltar national Day. Sadly, this year, less of the usual fun was able to be had.
If you carry along the bay you get to the Caleta hotel where we would have had dinner at Nunos (note there are two restaurants named this in Gibraltar!) vit was sadly closed. But we made up for us with a pina colada instead!
As they happen to also have a cute terrace for cocktails that overlooks the Resturant and the ocean!
Lastly there is Sandy Bay, just another 10 minute walk along … and my favourite. 💙
In height of summer they do have sun loungers but not when we went, so you can buy a cheap towel in the town to take down with you. Mine matched my swimsuit which made me happy!
But also getting in the water did! There’s a wave breaker here so very safe to swim!
You can taxi back to the town or taxi to start at Sandy bay and walk back yourself doing the ve verse stops or just walk back and forth! The beauty is how small this place is and all taxis are around £8 taxi and there’s just the one firm!
Lastly one attraction that everyone does, but me – the cable car up to the top of the rock where there is apparently an amazing insta worthy viewing platform and of course… the monkeys. 🙈 Which as I heard like to take your bag and have no concept of social distancing I gave them a miss! Dolphins and the ocean were far more preferable!