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30 things to do in Kent with kids

30 things to do in Kent with kids

16th April 2020

There’s a lot of competition for my favourite UK county – but if you’re counting most visited, it’s Kent which tops the list. And not just because there are so many fab days out in Kent with kids.

Old traditional Kentish round stone oast house with white tipped cowls, red tiled roof in south east English countryside, used for drying hops - my pick of the best things to do in Kent with kids

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There’s also a huge variety of things to do in Kent with kids: visit the coast, explore a string of castles, head into the countryside, find animal attractions… you can even drive giant diggers or go to a vintage theme park.

And while there’s plenty to fill a UK family holiday, Kent is also ideal if you’re looking for days out from London. So if you’re wondering where to go in Kent with kids, here are my top picks to start you off.

Contents – click to jump to a section

Kent castles and historic houses

Hever Castle

One of my all-time favourite Kent days out with kids, there’s masses to fit into a visit to Hever Castle – if we lived just a bit nearer, I’d be tempted to get the annual membership.

As well as being able to explore the Castle itself, where Anne Boleyn was born and which still houses pieces from Tudor times, you can wander the grounds with a maze, a water maze, a lake, gardens and more to see.

But one of the best parts are the characters wandering around: Henry VIII called me a peasant (claim to fame!) before taking his Queen and knights down to the joust – tip: either get to the joust early and wait for them for good views, or you can follow them down from the castle entrance.

For my full review of a day out at Hever Castle, Kent, click here

A view of Hever Castle, Kent from the grounds against a blue sky - our family day out at Hever Castle with kids

Dover Castle

Another fabulous Kent fortress packed with history. There’s more than ancient history to be discovered at Dover Castle too, with wartime tunnels used for naval operations during the Second World War as well as centuries of use with an Iron Age Fort and Roman lighthouse built near the Norman castle.

The castle itself has plenty for kids to get hands on, including staff dressed up in medieval costume to show them how to card wool in the kitchens, plus bedchambers decorated as they might have been for royal inhabitants.

Even when we visited on a chilly winter’s day, the grounds were great to wander around with some views down to the English Channel, and older kids will also enjoy the underground hospital.

Read my full review of a visit to Dover Castle with kids

Leeds castle in Kent seen across the water against a blue sky - one of the best things to do in Kent with kids

Leeds Castle

Not far from Maidstone and the village of Leeds (not the more famous city in Yorkshire), Leeds Castle is easily one of the most beautiful historic sites in Kent – and there’s plenty of competition.

Sat reflected in the lake, with peacocks roaming the grounds, this has always struck me (and my daughter) as the kind of castle to house princesses rather than a fearsome fortress.

Once home to Catherine of Aragon, many of the rooms are decorated in lavish 1920s style, although you’ll also find ones straight from medieval times. Outside, along with those peacocks, there’s an adventure playground and falconry displays plus adventure golf in the grounds.

Check out my review of visiting Leeds Castle with a toddler

Scotney Castle

There’s two for one when you visit Scotney Castle – not only the ruined 14th castle itself, which seems almost frozen in time surrounded by a moat and parkland, but also a Victorian country house to explore not far from Tunbridge Wells.

There is a priest hole to spy in the castle and secret door in the house, itself decorated as if the family had merely stepped out for a few minutes, right down to the retro tins in the kitchen. You can even find the footprint of an Iguanadon in the quarry garden (closed, alas, when we visited).

If you’re visiting Scotney Castle with kids, there’s plenty of room to race around in between the historic buildings, although the natural play area is a huge temptation with plenty of options to play with, so be prepared to spend a large chunk of the visit here.

Read my full review of our visit to Scotney Castle, Kent with kids

Looking across the water to the ruins of the 14th century castle in Kent - our winter day out at Scotney Castle with kids

Knole

There’s the chance to see a herd of wild deer as well as an impressive collection of 17th-century furniture on a trip to Knole near Sevenoaks, which started life as a medieval archbishop’s home before finding its way into Henry VIII’s hands.

Mary I lived here before it passed to the Sackville family, who lived here for centuries – there’s now a fabulous collection of portraits for anyone interested in art.

Kids get the opportunity to dress up in Tudor era clothes as well, while there’s also a treasure trail for kids ages 6 to 12 to follow through the rooms. Bring a pencil and paper and you can try your hand at the nature-themed brass rubbing as well.

Ightham Mote

There are some fun trails to follow for kids at Ightham Mote, although the grounds, gardens and crooked beamed house with its moat are always a hit too.

With everyday items like a vintage rocking horse and more gruesome historic sides, including an oubliette, there are plenty of things to catch younger visitors’ attention too. Outside, you can hunt for the secret garden as well as walking past the lake to the natural play area – or follow one of the walking trails if you want to venture further.

Not far outside Sevenoaks, Ightham Mote is also a great option if you’ve only got a couple of hours in Kent with kids to spare, although you could also happily spend a lot longer here, especially on a sunny day.

Here’s what we got up to on a short visit to Ightham Mote with kids

Lead paned windows in one of the windows of Ightham Mote medieval manor house in Kent, looking up from the house's courtyard - our day at Ightham Mote with kids

Chartwell

Home to the Churchill family from the 20s, there are gardens, woodland and ground to explore beyond the house at Chartwell, including a natural play area and dens. Follow the ‘Life and Legacy Trail’, one of several walks with facts about the Churchills along the way.

Keep an eye out for Jock as you explore too – Winston Churchill’s will stated that there should always be marmalade cat named Jock, with a white bib and four white socks. The current furry inhabitant is number 6.

Groombridge Place

There’s a huge amount for families at this country estate on the Kent-East Sussex border, A private family home for centuries until it was opened to the public in 1994. Beyond the formal gardens and 200 acres of parkland for you to explore at Groombridge Place with kids, you’ll find an enchanted forest, play areas and other activities.

Wander forest paths past pools, tree swings, zip wires, a maze and even a recreated pirate ship to climb and swashbuckle in.

Throw in giant swings, a giant chess set, a variety of animals from chicken to deer and even an owl and raptor centre with flying displays, and you’ll need more than one day to explore. Older kids will love the Sherlock Holmes museum too, with its tribute to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Animal attractions

Port Lympne

If you fancy visiting a small slice of Africa without having to get on a plane, it’s hard to beat Port Lympne, near Hythe – this safari park is home to some fantastic wild creatures from giraffe to gorillas and big cats, not to mention a very convincing dinosaur forest, plus views across the English Channel.

Luna the giraffe tucking into some leaves - my Rhino Lodge Port Lympne review

Even more excitingly, you can stay here overnight. We spent a night in Rhino Lodge, a converted gatehouse with rhinos at the bottom of the garden, but you can also wake almost face to face with tigers and lions too.

Check out my full review of a stay and visit to Port Lympne

The Big Cat Sanctuary

If it’s big cats that are the biggest attraction for you, you can also get the safari experience without having to go to the airport at The Big Cat Sanctuary in Ashford (though just with cats here).

They also offer experiences where you can see the cats up close, including the chance to hand feed one if your kids are over the age of 16.

Howletts Wild Animal Park

At Howletts Wild Animal Park you can get up close and personal with an amazing variety of animals from elephants to anteaters and even lemurs at the sister park to Port Lympne.

Howletts, near Littlebourne, is home to the largest herd of elephants in the UK and there are more than 390 animals to spot during your visit, which helps their conservation efforts as you enjoy yourself.

While you’re there you can hop in a safari jeep and explore the park just as you would if you were in Africa. There are also options for spending the night that will allow you to be immersed in the lives of the lions or rhinos.

An eagle owl sits on a staff member's fist at the Rare Breeds Centre near Ashford

The South of England Rare Breeds Centre

The perfect day out in Kent with young kids, the Rare Breeds Centre is a toddler and pre-schooler favourite. The focus is on helping protect and conserve rare breeds (the only one in Kent to be approved by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust) although from kids’ point of view, it’s a fabulous chance to get close to smaller farm animals.

You can pet some of the littlest, including giant rabbits and guinea pigs, plus there are goats, horses and more to see, along with grounds to roam, soft play and tractor rides at the site near Ashford.

Read my review of a day at the Rare Breeds Centre in Kent with a toddler

Kent Life

Another fabulous family day out in Kent with toddlers and younger kids, Kent Life near Maidstone has an outdoor play area as well as indoor soft play for rainy days in Kent with kids, the chance to ride donkeys, paint pots, rampage around in pedal tractors and take a ride on the land train or tractor trailer.

Plus there are animals galore to meet, including bottle feeding the lambs at Easter, and seeing other farm animals such as pigs, horses, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and alpacas.

It’s also home to the Kent Owl Academy, with 12 different owls, including live shows and some special experiences suitable for kids aged six and up.

Wold at Wildwood Park in Kent - one of the best days out in Kent with kids

Wildwood Discovery Park

Wildwood Discovery Park near Herne Bay is a conservation park that focuses on British wildlife, with over 200 animals, including some that you just won’t see in the wild anymore like bears and wild cats.

While adults can even get close (safely!) to bears, wolves, and the adorable arctic foxes in their special experiences, there are also options for younger kids such as becoming junior rangers for the day for ages seven to 11.

Kent theme parks

Diggerland

The chance to play with genuine diggers is every toddler’s dream come true – and just as much fun for bigger kids. Including very big kids, as I discovered when we visited Diggerland in Kent.

The Spindizzy digger ride at Diggerland Kent - one of the attractions on this family day out

It’s an unexpected idea for a theme park, but with rides and the digger activities, plus other play areas to explore, this is a fantastic family day out.

Read my full review of what it’s like to play with a JCB at Diggerland

Dreamland Margate

Step back in time at Dreamland, where kids (and adults) can discover vintage thrill rides, including traditional favourites that are perfect for younger kids.

There’s also a special play area just for kids under eight and a roller disco for the whole family as well as bigger thrills for older ones (and you can check any height restrictions on the website). You can pay as you go or buy wristbands in advance for unlimited rides to get the most for your money.

Traditional fairground ride at Dreamland Margate in Kent - one of the best Kent days out with kids

Museums in Kent with kids

Canterbury Roman Museum

With its long history, there’s plenty to discover in Canterbury apart from its famous cathedral (though that’s worth a look as well!) – not least several interesting museums. One of the best museums for kids in Canterbury is the Roman Museum.

Set underground and built around the remains of a Roman town house, it’s a great way to visualise yourself back in Roman times as you venture down to the original street level.

As well as seeing the fantastic mosaic floor, still in place, there’s an introduction to Roman Canterbury plus activities for kids including trying on a toga, making their own mosaic, handling real Roman objects and even trying to uncover their own treasures.

Even better, there’s no charge for children (up to a maximum of two accompanying each paying adult) – not one of the entirely free days out in Kent with kids but still a bonus if you’re on a budget.

For more ideas of Roman sites in the UK to visit with kids, check out this post

Dover Transport Museum

Another great option for young kids fascinated with different forms of transport – the Dover Transport Museum is home to different types of vintage transport, set among some retro shop fronts.

There’s also a model railway to play with and a taxi and bus hunt for children – plus this is a great one to take the grandparents to.

Maidstone Museum and Bentliff Art Gallery

The museum houses over 6,000 artefacts including local history but also pieces from farther afield, such as ancient Egypt and Japan. There are also collections focusing on archaeology and costume, plus you’ll find temporary exhibitions and school holiday activities.

Based in an Elizabethan mansion – Chillington Manor – there’s also a dinosaur section, including information on the ones which would once have stalked this part of Kent. Maidstone even has a dinosaur on its shield!

Even better, there’s no entry charge (except for some of the special activities and temporary exhibitions) if you’re looking for free days out in Kent with kids.

View of people at Historic Dockyard Chatham in Kent with one of the ships against a blue sky - one of the best things to do in Kent with kids

Historic Dockyard, Chatham

This is a fantastic slice of British history, the very dockyard where some of the ships that helped conquer the world’s oceans were built, including the chance to discover everything from a Victorian Sloop to a Second World War Destroyer and a Cold War submarine.

More than 400 warships were built here, including the three which you can board and explore, plus there are other tours and experiences to discover including master ropemakers using centuries-old techniques, while kids can try completing Mission Explore with a code to crack if you tick off the missions and facts to discover along the way.

Tickets to the Historic Dockyard Chatham are valid for a year – make sure you book on to any tours you want to take, including the HM Submarine Ocelot, as soon as you arrive.

Lashenden Air Warfare Museum

There’s an impressive collection of parts of planes from Second World War wrecks at the Lashenden Air Warfare museum near Headcorn – not far from Leeds Castle, if you’re looking for a couple of different Kent days out with kids in the same area.

As well as vintage aircraft and other unusual displays such as a gyro kite and the world’s only fully restored and operational pillbox of its type, you can also see live flybys and there are festivals during the summer which are great for families.

Other family days out in Kent

Whether you’re looking to get outdoors to explore or for other ways to keep kids entertained, try these other things to do in Kent with kids, including plenty of inspiration for sunny days.

Druidstone Park

An amazing fantasy park set in the countryside with dragons, goats, and enchanted mushrooms, it’s sure to spark the imagination of children of all ages.

As well as feeding animals, there is a fantastic adventure play area at Druidstone Park, in Blean, plus the Enchanted woodland with its deer and carpet of bluebells if you visit in spring.

A carpet of bluebells in UK woodland - getting outside on days out with kids

Jeskyns Fairy and Elf Village

Fairy and elves have set up a little village in the woods, with even the smallest legs enjoying this magical little walk at Jeskyns Fairy and Elf Village near Cobham.

Perfect for younger kids, you can find tiny residences including Acorn Apartments, Mushroom Manor, The Old Boot Inn and Tree Top Village, plus a sand pit play area and different walking trails. If you’re visiting Kent with your dog, unfortunately the elves are frightened of them so no four-legged friends allowed inside.

Bluebell Hill Nature Reserve

Not purely for bluebell season, Bluebell Hill is a gorgeous place to go for a picnic and chance to get outdoors, as well as to see some of Kent’s natural beauties.

Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see voles at the nature reserve near Aylesford. There’ll almost certainly be butterflies in the summer when the grass is dotted with wild flowers.

Canterbury Spy Mission Trail

One of my favourite ways to explore a new place with kids, there are two treasure trails to choose from in Canterbury, including the spy mission treasure trail – perfect for taking in some of the highlights, as well as taking you to corners you might easily miss otherwise, it’s a very fun way to get kids exploring.

The two-mile loop trail takes around two hours to complete as you crack the case to complete your mission (and you can get some clues by text if you need to).

For another fun way to discover Canterbury, you can also go punting to get another view of the city and relax at the same time.

Medieval half-timber houses and Stour river in Canterbury, Kent - one of my top places if you're wondering where to go in Kent with kids

Kent & East Sussex Railway

There’s nothing like the novelty of riding a steam train and at Kent & East Sussex Railway, you can enjoy chuffing around the countryside in one of the classic carriages or stop by to watch the engines.

The route from Tenterden will take you into Sussex with the last stop within walking distance of Bodiam Castle.

Keep an eye out for special appearances from Thomas the Tank Engine, and with older kids, there are also a number of walking trails if you’re looking to combine a journey with a hike.

Pirate Cove Adventure Park

There’s not 18 but 36 holes of adventure golf at Pirate Cove, all with a swashbuckling theme – you’ll venture onto a pirate ship and into smugglers caves as you practice your strokes on the two courses.

There’s also a genuine boating experience if you fancy testing your sea legs too, with shark-themed boats, all next to Bluewater shopping centre.

Kent seaside

There are beaches galore to discover in Kent, including classic British seaside, unspoiled wild stretches, sand, shingle and rockpools – so many miles to explore that I could write a whole separate post just on the best Kent beaches!

Until that point, I’ve picked a few of my favourites, whether you’re looking for a day trip or a longer stay at the Kent seaside.

Girl relaxing on the shingle beach at Whitstable looking out to the sea on the Kent coast - my tips from our trip for Whitstable with kids

Whitstable

One of my favourite spots on the Kent coast, it’s as much fun looking for shells on the shingle beach, combing through the treasures as the waves crash, as wandering past all the little boutiques (some for kids, plenty for adults) or picking up some great fish and ice cream too.

If you’re looking for sandy beaches, you need to head closer to Margate, but we’ve very happily filled a weekend break without sandcastles, and it’s great for crabbing.

There are some fantastic cycle paths here to explore further, including the fabulously named the Crab and Winkle Way which leads to Canterbury, plus some great street art in Whitstable itself.

Check out my favourite things to do in Whitstable with kids

Broadstairs

One of my own favourites, it’s also one of the first UK beaches my daughter ever went on – make sure you stop at Morelli’s for ice cream at some point, while there are helpful boardwalks if you’re visiting Broadstairs with a baby.

As well as all the open stretches of sand, Botany Bay in Broadstairs is great for fossil hunting and rock pooling.

Or you can join the Viking Coastal trail cycle and walking route here too.

The view of the pier at Herne Bay in Kent on a summer day, with the funfair and classic carousel and people paddling

Herne Bay

A visit to Herne Bay always reminds me of seaside breaks from my own childhood – a proper old-fashioned funfair, including helter skelter and carousel, as well as more shingle beach and shallow pools to explore with a net.

There’s fish and chips galore too, plus ice cream of course, and if you wander a little further from the town, those brightly coloured beach huts which always seem so quintessentially English to me.

You can pop into the Seaside Museum while you’re there too, with its mammoth tusks and a display of some fossils found locally.

For more ideas of great UK days out with kids, check up my round-up of the best from across the country

PIN FOR LATER: THINGS TO DO IN KENT WITH KIDS

The top 30 things to do in Kent with kids - the best family days out in Kent, UK, including castles and historic houses, animal attractions, theme parks, coast, free days out in Kent with kids and ideas for rainy days in Kent. #kentuk #daysoutwithkids #mummytravels

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Main image/Leeds castle image/bluebells/Canterbury courtesy of Depositphotos; Wildwood wolf/Historic Dockyard Chatham copyright Visit Kent; Dreamland Margate copyright Visit Kent/Kallaway PR; all others copyright MummyTravels

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