15 OF THE BEST FAMILY DAYS OUT IN HAMPSHIRE
I’ve been busy exploring the local area to ensure that I provide only the best recommendations. This is a round up of my top family days out in Hampshire. You’ll find something for all budgets; some free activities and some which may be saved for a special occasion.
Hampshire has a huge variety of family days out; from beaches and forests to cities and farms.
Beaulieu and the National Motor Museum
This is my personal number one family day out in Hampshire because it offers such great value for money. The entry price includes access to the museum, TopGear exhibition, gardens and grounds, monorail and the exceptional adventure playground.
You do not have to be a petrolhead to enjoy a day out here. The museum regularly has new exhibits; from James Bond to Miniature Motors. They also host a number of other events throughout the year such as the Artisan Christmas Fair.
The monorail gives you a birds eye view of the grounds and children love to ride it. In the gardens you’ll find some enchanting Alice in Wonderland topiary and an extensive kitchen garden. There’s a beautiful Abbey to explore as well. As for facilities, there’s a decent restaurant and a huge free car park. The highlight of this attraction has to be Little Beaulieu – an adventure playground which is great fun for children of all ages. There’s a toddler sandpit, role play garage and a zipline to explore.
Finkley Down Farm Park
If I were to choose my favourite farm park in Hampshire it would be Finkley, a place I enjoyed during my childhood and am now sharing with my daughter.
It’s set up perfectly for a full family day out with animals to see and feed, soft play areas for all ages and lots of outdoor play equipment including trampolines. There’s a great café and plenty of space for picnics.
You’ll see a timetable of activities on entry including rabbit petting and the famous goat gladiator race! The animals include several goats, alpacas and cute meerkats. You’re quite likely to see baby animals in Spring and Summer too.
Exbury Gardens and Steam Railway
Situated in the New Forest, Exbury Gardens looks stunning all year round. My favourite plants are the rhododendrons in the Spring, and acers in the Autumn when there’s a photo opportunity around every corner. There are several paths and trails to follow and children will particularly enjoy hunting for the Wiggly Tree and dragonflies at Dragonfly Pond. They can also feed the giant fish in the main pond. The miniature steam railway provides views of Dragonfly Pond, as well as some hidden sculptures unable to be viewed from the main gardens.
There is a choice of cafés for food, space for picnics and a play area too. Worth an annual membership if you live nearby. They run regular activities during school holidays where children can make nature-based crafts such as bird feeders and bug hotels. This makes for a perfect family day out in Hampshire.
West Green House
This is a privately owned property in Hartley Wintney which is free for National Trust members to visit. You’ll need half a day maximum as the gardens are quite small but there’s a café and picnic space in the orchard. The main reason this makes the list of my top family days out, are the fantastic events run throughout the year.
There’s an autumnal apple weekend, where children can follow the apple trail and try freshly pressed juice. A Halloween event where the gardens are transformed into a spooky adventure trail of cobwebs and ghosts. The Christmas illuminations is their most popular event; where the gardens become home to incredible light displays and decorations, truly magical!
Miller's Ark Animals, Hook
This is a working, family run farm which often opens its doors for Open Days (they also do adult only days). The staff are among the friendliest I’ve met and will give you a warm welcome. If you’re looking for a farm where you can get really close to the animals, this is it. You can get inside the animal stalls and pet them as they are very tame and friendly.
You’ll only need a couple of hours to look around but do have some refreshments in the barn café after your visit. Highlights for me included seeing several baby donkeys, scratching little piglet bellies and playing with the goats. One for animal lovers for sure!
Marwell Zoo, near Winchester
Perhaps one of Hampshire’s best known family days out, but for good reason. This is a lovely zoo with a fantastic conservation programme. There are giraffes, tigers, zebras, hippos, meerkats and hundreds of other species. My favourite things to see are the lemurs, and trying to spot the sloth which inhabits the Tropical House.
There’s a tractor trailer which helps little legs navigate the grounds and play areas along the way. You can choose to go at your own pace, or join the many keeper talks and demonstrations throughout the day. This is one of the more pricey places to visit on my list, however it’s well worth the entry fee. We have annual passes which are great value if you are local as they also provide discounts on shop and café purchases.
Royal Victoria Country Park, near Southampton
Here’s a free day out (except parking) where you can spend a whole day. The chapel is an iconic landmark in the middle of the huge green space, suitable for picnics. There is also a café here if you prefer and sometimes a pop up food stall selling wood fired pizzas.
You can paddle down by the waters edge, or watch the boats and fishermen. There’s a woodland play area with a beautiful castle carved into a tree stump. You’ll find other play areas too, suitable for a range of ages.
There’s a miniature Victorian railway which does come with an extra charge (bring cash) and during the summer months there will be some inflatables and crazy golf too.
Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World
I couldn’t very well compile this list without Paultons Park, given it’s status as the UK’s top family theme park! Children of all ages will love it here as there is a great mix of rides, whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or not.
Tornado Springs is their latest section, which opened in Spring 2021 and has 8 new rides and attractions themed around a 1950s American desert resort.
This is definitely the most expensive day out in my list, so you might need to reserve it for a special occasion like a birthday. It is a fantastic day out though whether you have a Peppa loving toddler or a thrill seeking teenager.
The Hawk Conservancy, near Andover
This is a lesser known attraction near Andover which more people need to hear about, because they do incredible conservation work with endangered birds across the world. They specialise in vultures and will change any preconceptions you had about these birds.
The reason this place makes the list is because of the fabulous flying displays which take place throughout the day. My recommendation is to arrive just before the first one (check the website for times) and then you can still watch the last one without feeling like you’re hanging around waiting. The flying displays vary from watching the hilarious secretary bird catching a ‘snake’, to vultures swooping so low that you’ll feel the breeze from their wings on your face. I love the woodland show with the majestic owls flying at twilight.
There are also many birds of prey, including a gorgeous family of burrowing owls which you can pay extra to interact with. For £19.50 you can spend time with them in the aviary whilst a staff member encourages them to land on your hand. They are really special birds and I loved meeting them like this.
Lepe Country Park
Aside from car parking, this is a free day out on the south coast. There’s a long shingle beach where you can paddle in the waves whilst looking out to the Isle of Wight. This is a popular location for kitesurfing too which is fun to watch.
The park extends across grass and leads into a walking trail, and there’s a good sized play area for children. You can get refreshments at the Lookout café or make use of the green and bring a picnic.
Not an attraction as such, but probably my favourite place on the south coast of Hampshire and you can easily spend all day here as a family.
At one end you have Clarence Pier, with it’s amusement arcades, funfair rides and adventure golf. Go across to the common and there are parks and extensive picnic space. As you walk east you’ll see Blue Reef aquarium, and the Pyramids – now home to Exploria for soft play and trampoline fun. There’s also Southsea castle, one of Henry VIII’s southern forts.
Further along the promenade is another pier and the boating lake, model village and tennis courts. At the incredible Tenth Hole café (seriously, the best cakes in the county) with mini golf too.
Sir Harold Hillier Gardens and Arboretum
These beautiful gardens are near Romsey and home to hundreds of tree species, making them a year-round attraction. There are many different trails and paths you can take – see if you can find the double swing!
Kids will love the play areas here, there’s a big treehouse, climbing frames and fun swings. They’ll also enjoy looking for the woodland pigs which take up residence here from the autumn. Look out for different exhibitions too; the sculptures which are currently there are stunning.
The café sells a good selection of hot and cold food, and there’s the Garden restaurant for a slightly more formal meal. It’s also worth looking around the garden centre next door.
Another free day out – this is a hidden gem near Bordon and some of the locals are quite protective of it! There’s a really great play area, surrounded by sandy paths and picnic spots.
You could visit just for a walk, or spend a few hours exploring the trails and having a picnic. There is also a good café selling plenty of coffee and cake.
After you visit you could always stop by The Shed in Bordon, home to a variety of food and drink places – I highly recommend Dylan’s gelato.
River Hamble Country Park
There are plenty of riverside paths to follow here and if you go down to the pontoon you can also take part in crabbing. The main visitor centre has recently been refurbished and is serving a range of hot and cold food and drink options.
The wooden play area is ship themed and there’s lots of grass around it where you can sit and watch the kids play.
It’s free to visit the country park, but you can walk a mile up the path to Manor Farm (which does have an entry fee) if you want to incorporate a visit to the animals.
This is the perfect day out for any children who are fascinated by planes, helicopters and the military. There are the hangars to explore, and plenty of interesting exhibits along the way. The kids will be able to play with the interactive areas too. You’ll see a number of military aircraft, and a tank outside too.
And if you don’t have time for the museum, you can visit the café for free; it looks out onto the airfield where you might be fortunate enough to see some aircraft taking off and landing. There’s an outdoor play area too which is great for younger guests.
A great way to visit is to go along to Wallop, Wheels and Wings – an annual festival and fair which is a great family day out.