11 of the Best family days out in Kent
With two young children to entertain I am always on the hunt for great family days out in Kent. And luckily for me there are lots to choose from. Kent is blessed with a rich history, gorgeous outdoor spaces, a beautiful coast and many a wildlife park. I am slowly trying to make my way through them all and here are my favourite days out in Kent so far.
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham
Of all the days out in Kent, this is my little boy, Finley’s favourite. The Dockyard is a place steeped in history and adventure. For over 400 years Chatham Dockyard built, repaired and maintained warships for the Royal Navy. Finley’s favourites include boarding the three warships, his particular favourite being the cold war submarine. Free tours and talks are included in your entry ticket but do need to be booked on arrival.
There is so much to see and do you’ll be hard pushed to do it in a day. Luckily, tickets are valid for a year so you can come back and explore as much as you like.
Leeds Castle, Maidstone
There is so much more to Leeds Castle than the castle itself – I dare you to try and fit it all in a day! As well as exploring ‘the loveliest castle in the world’ there are beautiful grounds and gardens with gorgeous wildlife to look out for. There are two castle-themed playparks, an obstacle course and castle-themed adventure golf.
Further to this is the maze – a word of advice take someone with a sense of direction as I spent ages trying to find my way out. Reach the middle and discover an underground shell grotto. You’ll also find a bird of prey centre with seasonal falconry displays. And if it’s your thing there is also a dog collar museum – I’m yet to visit.
Like Chatham Dockyards, if you buy a ticket you can enter for a whole year for free.
Howletts Wild Animal Park, nr Canterbury
I fondly remember visiting this zoo as a child and I love that I can now share that excitement with my two little ones. There is a range of beautiful animals over 390 in fact, including tigers, lions, elephants, rhinos and gorillas. There are talks throughout the day so that you can learn more about the animals in their care. For an extra cost, you can also book different animal experiences such as keeper for a day.
My son’s favourite part are not the live animals however but the Animals of the Iceage, a woodland walk featuring lifesize prehistoric animals.
Howletts are committed to conservation and through their charity foundation, they are able to reintroduce animals back into the wild. They are currently planning the rehoming of their entire herd of elephants in South Kenya.
Dover Castle, Dover
Finley’s favourite castle in Kent and perhaps the most impressive. Sat atop the famous White Cliffs, Dover Castle has been an important part in history since it was built in 1066. Inside the castle you’ll find recreated rooms and lots of nooks and crannies to explore – the children love trying out the toilet! Climb the spiral staircase and make your way to the top of the tower for stunning views across the Channel.
As well as the castle itself there is lots more to discover including wartime tunnels and an underground hospital. Outside there is plenty of room to run riot and lots of cannons to climb – one of the reasons my son loves it so much.
Wingham Wildlife Park, nr Canterbury
We have a yearly pass for Wingham and we visit often.A family-owned wildlife park, Wigham is home to the largest number of species at any zoo or park in Kent. these include tigers, orangutans, giraffes, penguins and the UK’s only moon bears.
Again my son’s best part of the day is not the gorgeous animals but instead the dinosaur trail – which features moving mechanical dinosaurs and a huge T-Rex. He also loves the soft play whilst I enjoy a drink and a slice of cake.
Like Howletts there are animal talks throughout the day and you can pay for different experiences.
Kent Life, Maidstone
Kent Life has a bit of a mix and for that reason should please the whole family. You’ll get the chance to get up close to traditional farm animals. There are free-range livestock including sheep, pigs, horses, donkeys, goats, poultry, ferrets, ducks, geese and alpacas. In Cuddle Corner, there are smaller farmyard animals; rabbits and guinea pigs which can be stroked and held.
The Vintage Village retells the history of the Garden of England, with restored and relocated historic buildings. Step inside traditional Hopper’s huts, a blacksmith’s forge and Second World War cottages.
Knole Park, Sevenoaks
Knole Park is a great day out, especially if you want a bit more of a relaxed pace than some of my other suggestions. Take a picnic and enjoy a bit of calm and tranquillity in 1000 acres of woodland and parkland. It’s perfect for a slow wander or a family game of rounders. Why else do I love Knole Park? It’s home to two herds of around 350 wild deer that roam the park freely – it won’t be long before you spot one of them.
Entry to the park is free but if you want to visit Knole House there is a cost.
Elmley Nature Reserve, Isle of Sheppey
A great day out for lovers of the great outdoors. Situated on the Isle of Sheppey, the Reserve is 3,300 acres of wonderful wilderness. It is a family-run farm with a long-term vision to restore nature and a commitment to the sustainability of the landscape and land. Perfect for birdwatching Finley brought along his binoculars and loved spotting the different wildlife.
The staff and volunteers that work on the site are really helpful and were constantly pointing out different birds. We loved seeing the gorgeous barn owls swooping across the pretty pink sky as the sun began to set.
You can book different tours of the reserve at a cost and if you like you can even stay the night in one of the different beautiful accommodations.
Kent and East Sussex Railway, Tenterden
We recently went on KESR and had a fabulous family day out. Passenger trains originally began running in 1900 until 1954, with services returning in 2000.
You can choose to ride on steam trains or diesel trains, we chose one each way! On our visit, the staff and volunteers made our day truly wonderful and were full of information about the history of this light railway. The journey takes you through beautiful Kent countryside and the children enjoyed looking out for different wildlife. We travelled to Bodiam and visited Bodiam Castle before returning back to Tenterden.
As well as the usual train timetable there are special experiences such as ale trains and fish and chip suppers.
Hever Castle, Edenbridge
Probably my son’s second favourite castle purely for the amazing play area. You’ll find it difficult to drag the kids away from this 9-metre play castle, which has towers to climb, hidden tunnels to crawl through, a roof maze and a secret dungeon.
Once the children have worn themselves out there’s lots more to explore including stunning gardens and of course, the castle. The stunning castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. You’ll also find different mazes, boats for hire and a military museum as well as beautiful walks including the lake walk. There are great spots to stop and have a picnic with gorgeous views of the castle.
There is nothing like a bit of nostalgic fun by the seaside for the perfect family day out. A place I remember excitedly visiting as a child and home to the UK’s oldest roller coaster, Dreamland is a vintage theme park. There is a wide range of rides and something to suit all ages. I love the big wheel for great views of Margate and no theme park is complete without waltzers! The kids find the funny mirros hilarious and the busy bee coaster is perfect for little ones.
Entry to the park is free with a pay-per-ride system in place.