Days out in the South East: 20 best things to do with your kids

Days out in the South East are wide and varied, from safari trips to theme parks and play parks for miles, the family will love it

Days out in the South East illustrated by Kid jumping off bench to mans arms
(Image credit: Getty Images / Future)

Days out in the South East will have you happy and exhausted - there's so much to do. We've done the hard work for you and compiled a list of the top 20 things to do and see that are DEFINITELY worth packing up the family and leaving the house for.

Being the third largest region in the UK, it's no surprise the South East of England is bursting with brilliant attractions to explore with kids during the school summer holidays. Famed for its beautiful countryside including the New Forest and the South Downs, there are also plenty of vibrant cities in the area. Buzzing Brighton and happening Southampton are just two of the many to add to the list, meaning the South East is perfect for those seeking quiet countryside activities or families wanting a more urban adventure.

Travelling to the South East is straightforward, especially for those who don't have their own transport or want to travel sustainably. There are direct links from all London mainline stations, and local routes stopping near the top attractions. Excellent road links mean easy accessibility by car or coach travel is just as simple. Public transport is now often disability friendly and plenty of the South East's destinations are accessible, meaning the region is welcoming for all.

If that doesn't sound enough reasons to gather the family and dash to the South East, it also ranks as one of the top five safest regions in England. Dover, Ramsgate and Chichester have higher than average crime rates and you might want to exercise caution if visiting those areas, but the main attractions and areas of natural beauty fall in the safe areas. From a trip to one of the best UK theme parks to a castle visit with children, this round up of affordable places to visit cater for families looking for art, history, or adventure - there's certainly something for everyone. 

20 of the best family days out in the South East:

1. Port Lympne Safari Park Hythe

Port Lympne Wild Animal Park Kent

(Image credit: Roger Parkes/Alamy)

Best for inquisitive kids.

Mum-of-two, Steph tells us; "Did you know it's pronounced 'Port Limm'? I didn't until I heard a radio advert. I'd been calling it Port Limp-knee. Anyway, yes I recommend a day out here, not the cheapest but it will both engage and tire your kids out. Be warned you have to go through the gift shop to get out of the place."

Get up close and personal with some of the biggest and most fascinating creatures of the animal kingdom at Port Lympne in Hythe. You'll find free-roaming giraffes, grizzly bears, and a chance to glimpse some rare rhinos on an exclusive truck safari. Plus little ones will love the UK's largest dinosaur exhibition and letting off steam at one of three adventure playgrounds along the zoo route.

Information: Opening times: Monday - Sunday, 9.30am - 5.30pm | Price: Adult tickets from £29, child aged 3 - 15 from £26 | Age suitability: Suitable for all ages, but some add-ons and experiences have age restrictions | Parking: Yes - free, and on-site | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog-friendly: No - guide dogs only  

Places to stay nearby:

Hampton by Hilton Ashford International, Victoria road, Ashford - from £216 per night

Hampton by Hilton Ashford International, Victoria road, Ashford - from £216 per night

Located a 5 minute walk from Ashford International Train Station, Hampton by Hilton Ashford International offers 3-star accommodation in Ashford and has a restaurant, a fitness centre and a bar.

2. Windsor Castle, Windsor

A general view of people on The Long Walk and Windsor Castle, with Queen Elizabeth II in residence, on May 08, 2020 in Windsor, United Kingdom.

(Image credit: Getty Images / Chris Jackson)

Best for history loving kids.

History lovers will not want to miss out on a chance to visit the late Queen's favourite royal residence, that also happens to be the oldest Castle in the world. Steeped in royal history with stunning gardens to explore, Windsor Castle is great for exploring during the school summer holidays. With this South East attraction boasts special holiday activities for kids, and a rich programme of rotating exhibitions. 

Information: Opening times: Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Open 1 March - 31 October from 10am - 17:15pm, 1 November- 28 February 10am -16:15pm| Price: Adult tickets from £28.00, young person (18-24) £18.00, child (5-17) £15.50, disabled £15.50| Age suitability: Better for slightly older children over the age of 7| Parking: No | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: There is an activity centre but no play area | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: No, guide dogs only

Places to stay nearby:

Travelodge Windsor Central, 34 King Edward Court, Windsor, Berkshire - from £150 per night.

Travelodge Windsor Central, 34 King Edward Court, Windsor, Berkshire - from £150 per night.

The Windsor Central hotel is located right in the centre of Windsor, close to the designer boutiques at Windsor Royal shopping centre, and the Thameside green spaces of Alexandra Gardens, and just 0.2 miles from the Castle itself.

3. Chessington World of Adventures, Surrey

Park engineers test the world's only Jumanji rollercoaster, Mandrill Mayhem, at the launch of the new themed land, World of Jumanji, at Chessington World of Adventures Resort, south west London

(Image credit: PA Images/Alamy)

Best for adventurous kids.

A theme park and safari park in one - Chessington World of Adventures is one of those perfect family day outs in the South East that's sure to satisfy every household member. Little ones will love the teacups, log flume and the extra-special Gruffalo ride. Whilst big kids will get a thrill from classics like Rattlesnake, the Vampire and the new 'World of Jumanji', the world's first Jumanji themed land. 

Information: Opening times: Monday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm, all year round | Price: Tickets from £64 for both adults and children, under 3s go free | Age suitability: Best for those between the ages of 6 - 13 with a height of at least 1.3m to gain access to rides | Parking: Yes - free, and on site | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: No, guide dogs only 

VIEW CHESSINGTON WORLD OF ADVENTURES

Places to stay nearby:

Premier Inn Chessington Hotel, Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey - from £163 per night.

Premier Inn Chessington Hotel, Leatherhead Road, Chessington, Surrey - from £163 per night.

Enjoy a rollercoaster stay for all the right reasons, next door to Chessington World of Adventures with this hotel that is just a short drive from the attraction. 

4. The Mary Rose, Portsmouth

The wreck of the Mary Rose

(Image credit: Steve Vidler/Alamy)

Best for history loving kids.

The Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth is the place to head for family adventures in the South East. Explore HMS Victory, HMS Warrior or the Mary Rose - you can now dive the Mary Rose in 4D. Learn about the final moments of the Mary Rose (King Henry VIII's favourite warship) before it sank in the Battle of the Solent in 1545, and arm yourself with many more impressive historical facts. 

Information: Opening times: Summer hours 10am - 5.30pm, Monday - Sunday, winter hours 10am - 5pm, Monday - Sunday | Price: Adult tickets from £29, child £24, carers and under 3s go free | Age suitability: Some experiences are not suitable for under 4s, and very young children might find it boring | Parking: No | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: No | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: No, guide dogs only

VIEW THE MARY ROSE

Places to stay nearby:

Premier Inn Portsmouth Dockyard Hotel, Queen Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire - from £163 per night.

Premier Inn Portsmouth Dockyard Hotel, Queen Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire - from £163 per night.

Just a five-minute walk from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and Gunwharf Quays, this is the perfect place to rest after a day taking in the local history. 

5. The New Forest, Hampshire

The sun setting at Bratley tree, The new forest, Hampshire

(Image credit: Ben Holland/Alamy)

Best for kids who love the outdoors.

There's plenty of things to do in the New Forest whatever the season. From cycling to stopping to admire the 5,000 local ponies, the whole family will love a day out here. You can also camp close by, explore the area on horseback or take a long-distance hike through the impressive grounds.

Information: Opening times: Always open | Price: N/A | Age suitability: Suitable for all age groups | Parking: Yes  | Disabled access: Yes, there are disabled parking bays and some disability friendly trails | Children’s play area: Yes, several can be found catering for all ages and abilities | Toilet on site: Yes, in 23 areas of the district | Dog friendly: Yes 

VIEW THE NEW FOREST

Places to stay nearby:

Forest Park Country Hotel & Inn, Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire - from £125 per night.

Forest Park Country Hotel & Inn, Brockenhurst, New Forest, Hampshire - from £125 per night.

Nestled within beautifully maintained gardens, the South Lawn Hotel is located on the edge of the New Forest National Park, while only a mile from the beach and the Jurassic Coastline of Hampshire.

6. Bodiam Castle, Bodiam

Bodiam Castle

(Image credit: Tony Watson/Alamy)

Best for history loving kids.

With a stunning backdrop and surrounded by a beautiful moat, this castle really does bring history to life. Built during the reign of Richard the Lionheart, kids will love exploring and getting involved with all the great activities. They can visit the Medieval town, become a knight or princess and find out what Medieval food tasted like (surprisingly good!). This won't be just any trip to a castle, it will be an unforgettable day, soaked in history and learning.

Information: Opening times: Open Monday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm. | Price: Free for National Trust members, or adult £12, child £5.50, and family ticket options available | Age suitability: Suitable for all ages but very young children may find it boring | Parking: Yes - free for National Trust members of £4 for non members | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: Dogs welcomed in the grounds, but not inside the castle. 

VIEW BODIAM CASTLE

Places to stay nearby:

The Queen's Inn, Rye Road, Hawkhurst - from £117 per night.

The Queen's Inn, Rye Road, Hawkhurst - from £117 per night.

On the border of Kent and East Sussex, The Queen’s Inn in Hawkhurst offers rooms and family rooms alongside its high-quality restaurant and bar.

7. Canterbury City Centre Trail, Canterbury

High Street, Canterbury

(Image credit: Eye35/Alamy)

Best for outdoor and adventurous kids.

Indulge your kids' imaginations with this great spy-themed, self-guided walk around the historic city of Canterbury. As you follow the route, try to solve the clues and crack the code to solve the mission. Have your kids got what it takes to be a spy? This is a great and really cheap way to get little ones to explore local cities and really notice their surroundings. And while you're there why not check out Canterbury Cathedral? These great value treasure trails are available in a number of cities across the country so have a search to find your nearest one.

Information: Opening times: Take the trail at your leisure, but some included areas close at dusk so you will need to complete the trail before then | Price: £9.99 per family | Age suitability: More suited to older children as lots of walking and clues to solve | Parking: Yes, you can park in any Canterbury car park you find suitable - charges could apply | Disabled access: No, the trail is unsuitable for wheelchair users | Children’s play area: You will find some along the trail | Toilet on site: Toilets can be found along the way - it will be best to look them up the night before you take part in the trail | Dog friendly: Yes 

VIEW CANTERBURY CITY CENTRE TRAIL

Places to stay nearby: 

ABode Canterbury, 30-33 High St, Canterbury - from £109 per night.

ABode Canterbury, 30-33 High St, Canterbury - from £109 per night.

Within Canterbury’s historic city walls, ABode Canterbury is just 300 metres from Canterbury Cathedral. Each room has a luxury en-suite bathroom with a monsoon shower. Rooms also feature a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Children of all ages are welcome, with those aged 0-2 staying free.

8. Hastings Aquarium, Hastings

Best for inquisitive kids.

Head to an underwater world in this great aquarium. With fish of all shapes and colours - not to mention a few sharks - your kids won't be disappointed with what's on offer. Attend the ocean presentation to learn more about the fish and get a front-row view at shark feeding time. There's even a chance to get up close and personal with the creepy crawlies at the reptile-handling session. No matter what you do, you are guaranteed to have a great, if somewhat fishy, day out.

Information: Opening times: Open every day from 10am - 5.30pm | Price: Tickets from standard (age 13 - 64) £13.50, Junior (age 3 - 12) £10.50, family of four £46. Concessions available | Age suitability: Suitable for all ages | Parking: No - there is a pay-and-display car park nearby | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: No | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: No - guide dogs only

VIEW BLUE REEF AQUARIUM HASTINGS

Places to stay nearby:

Premier Inn Hastings Hotel, 1 John Macadam Way, Hastings, East Sussex - from £55 per night.

Premier Inn Hastings Hotel, 1 John Macadam Way, Hastings, East Sussex - from £55 per night.

This Premier Inn has free parking, and is a 10-minute drive away from some of the top attractions in Hastings, with the aquarium included. 

9. Hastings Adventure Golf, Hastings

Best for sporty kids.

Hastings top-rated adventure golf is based right on the seafront, and boasts 3 x 18 course mini golf courses that are suitable for players of all ages. Expect all the usual windmills and water mills with the traditional crazy golf course, and have fun tackling the pirate course complete with two shipwrecks! There's also plenty of snack stands to grab quick bites from whilst making your way around the courses.

Information: Opening times: Open daily from 8.30am - 10pm | Price: Adult tickets from £8.50, child £4.25, various family size deals available | Age suitability: Suitable for all ages, but some young children might find it difficult | Parking: No - there is a pay-and-display car park nearby | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: Yes, but must be kept on a lead

VIEW HASTINGS ADVENTURE GOLF

Places to stay nearby:

Premier Inn Hastings Hotel, 1 John Macadam Way, Hastings, East Sussex - from £55 per night.

Premier Inn Hastings Hotel, 1 John Macadam Way, Hastings, East Sussex - from £55 per night.

This Premier Inn has free parking, and is a 10-minute drive away from some of the top attractions in Hastings, with the crazy golf course included.

10. Legoland, Windsor

Legoland Windsor Resort theme park and resort in Windsor

(Image credit: Mint Photography/Alamy)

Best for outdoors and adventurous kids.

Legoland is the ultimate kids entertainment experience, with so much to do and see! There are lots of clever ways to make a visit more affordable - many visitors take advantage of cereal box offers or newspaper promotions allowing you to go for free. From the hilarious live pirate shows, the thrilling rides to the cool 4D cinema, there is something to suit all ages and tastes. It can be demanding to do Legoland all in one day, so you might consider staying overnight in the brand new knights-and-wizards-themed Castle Hotel located in the theme park, or there are affordable accommodation options nearby. 

Information: Opening times: Open daily from 10am - 5pm | Price: Adults and children from £34 with various packages available | Age suitability: Best suited for kids aged 3 - 12 | Parking: Yes - on site but chargeable | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: No, guide dogs only

VIEW LEGOLAND WINDSOR

Places to stay nearby: 

Travelodge Windsor Central, 34 King Edward Court, Windsor, Berkshire - from £150 per night.

Travelodge Windsor Central, 34 King Edward Court, Windsor, Berkshire - from £150 per night.

The Windsor Central hotel is located right in the centre of Windsor, close to the designer boutiques at Windsor Royal shopping centre, and the Thameside green spaces of Alexandra Gardens, and just 2 miles from Legoland.

11. Harbour Park, Littlehampton

Harbour Park Littlehampton

(Image credit: Andrew Hasson/Alamy)

Best for outdoor loving kids.

You'll have bucket loads of fun with the kids at Harbour Park and they can cool down in the sea nearby (weather permitting!) after their adventures. With lovely picnic greens and riverside walks, you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a lovely time here. The attractions are best suited for children aged between two and 12. If the weather turns there is also an indoor area for over 3s.

Information: Opening times: Open daily from 10am - 6pm, with rides opening at 11am | Price: Adults and children from £19 | Age suitability: Most rides and attractions designed for children aged 2 - 12 | Parking: No, parking is payable on the seafront car park | Disabled access: Yes | Children’s play area: Yes | Toilet on site: Yes | Dog friendly: Yes, but must be kept on a lead at all times 

VIEW HARBOUR PARK LITTLEHAMPTON

Places to stay nearby: 

Travelodge Littlehampton Rustington, A259 Worthing Road, Littlehampton - from £77 per night.

Travelodge Littlehampton Rustington, A259 Worthing Road, Littlehampton - from £77 per night.

Not only is this travelodge a 6-minute journey from Harbour Park, it's moments from a  Blue Flag sandy beach and a short drive from Arundel Castle and popular family seaside resort of Bognor Regis. 

12. Bluebell Railway, Sheffield Park

The Bluebell Railway

(Image credit: Andre Hasson/Alamy)

Best for adventure loving kids.

Take a trip on one of these fantastic vintage trains through the beautiful Sussex countryside. Bluebell Railway was one of the country's first preserved heritage lines, with services beginning in August 1960. During your visit, you can learn about the history and science of the industrial age, and experience first-hand the mechanics of a working steam locomotive. There are interactive exhibitions for the kids, and the current All Day Rover ticket allows you to hop on and off as much as you like all day. 

Information: Opening times: Train times are constantly subject to change and should be checked regularly | Price: Tickets from adult £25, children £12.50 | Age suitability: Suitable for all ages | Parking: No - pay-and-display parking a four minute walk from the site | Disabled access: Yes, but at times can be limited | Children’s play area: Yes| Toilet on site: Yes, but not all trains have disabled toilets | Dog friendly: Yes 

VIEW BLUEBELL RAILWAY 

Places to stay nearby: 

Premier Inn Uckfield, Ashdown Business Park, Uckfield, East Sussex - from £35 per night.

Premier Inn Uckfield, Ashdown Business Park, Uckfield, East Sussex -