Wildlife, transport and family action: great days out and things to do with the kids around Bournemouth
Here’s our pick of the 10 best things to do with kids close to the South Coast beach resort of Bournemouth…
Go Ape, located in Moors Valley Country Park, has high ropes courses suitable for your family’s little monkeys and big apes. There are 1000 metres of crossings, a unique double Tarzan swing and a gulp-inducing 166-metre-long zip wire.
Kids need to be at least 10 years old to harness up for the main course, or can get their swing on around Tree Top Junior as soon as they hit one metre tall.
To add to this active day out, families with children over 10 can glide around the forest on segways. Or there are woodland playgrounds and even a miniature steam-train ride within the country park to make this a full outdoor adventure day.
This National Trust haven for the endangered red squirrel and the site of the first-ever scout camp is an ideal destination for wildlife-loving families. Begin your day by boarding the ferry from Poole Quay or Sandbanks. There are about 200 native British squirrels living on the island, where they are protected from their competitive grey cousins.
Brownsea Island is also a great place for bird spotting, offering woodland, heath and wetland habitats. Other activities to do with kids during your visit include seeing the site of Lord Baden-Powell’s first scout camp in 1907 and finding out about the island’s military defences at the visitor centre.
The wildlife is visible year-round from the ferry – check the website for details.
Whatever the weather, families with young children will enjoy a day at Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park. On hot days they can cool off in the splash zone and build castles to their heart’s content in the sand playground
Come rain or shine, there are fluffy animals to cuddle, tractor rides, a play barn and pig races. Don’t miss meeting the farm’s herd of deer. They love eating food from your hand.
When your own tummies start to rumble, the Hen House restaurant is set up for diners of all ages: from microwaves for warming baby food and milk, through to home-cooked meals with smaller portions for kids.
This active day out is perfect for thrill-seeking kids over the age of six. Splashdown has 13 indoor and outdoor flumes ranging from gentle slides for beginners though to high-speed shoots for adrenaline junkies, tyre rides with whirlpools and black holes.
Children must be over one metre tall to go on the flumes and cannot ride with a parent.
If you do visit with toddlers, there are splash zones suitable for under-fives and you can buy a combined attraction ticket to access the neighbouring Lemur Landings Soft Play.
Dorset is home to many family-friendly beaches. But if you’re looking for golden sand and shallow shorelines away from the town, then Sandbanks is a stunning spot for a day at the seaside.
This strip of powdery sand runs along a spit from Bournemouth towards the mouth of Poole Harbour and is known for its beautiful views. Dogs are welcome on the western end of the beach.
As well as the sea and sand, there’s crazy golf, a children’s play area and a café for that all-important ice cream.
Feel like a giant during a visit to Wimborne’s Model Town and award-winning gardens. Walk through a 1:10 scale model of the Dorset market town of Wimborne Minster as it would have looked in the 1950s. Buildings from the town centre have been lovingly recreated, down to the miniature goods in the shop windows.
Pick up a fun sheet for the kids so they can search for clues among the tiny lanes and streets, test your golfing skills on the putting lawn or be dwarfed by the giant game of chess.
Meet the stars of the Channel 5/Sky TV series Monkey Life at Monkey World. The programme follows the day-to-day lives of the 250 residents from 20 different species at the ape rescue and rehabilitation centre.
Monkey World has a fascinating 30-year history of working with smuggled and abused monkeys. There are half-hourly talks by the primate care staff, who introduce the characters they work with.
If you’re a Monkey Life fan, you might also like to book onto a tour for a more in-depth look around. As well as meeting the monkeys, kids can display their own primate skills in the Great Ape Play Area – the south’s largest adventure playground.
From the mini-motor play area to the World of Top Gear Test Track Challenge, there’s plenty to keep children entertained at Beaulieu.
Take them on the monorail ride, spot cars from classic films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the James Bond and Harry Potter series; and get behind the wheel of mini cars and karts.
But Beaulieu isn’t just about automobiles. Explore an exhibition about the estate’s role as a top-secret Second World War training establishment and tour the grand Victorian country home and gardens. Palace House is a ‘Treasure House of England’, making it one of the top 10 most impressive stately homes open to the public in the country.
Get hands-on at Bournemouth Aviation Museum, where many of the aircraft cockpits are open to visitors. There are 17 planes and helicopters at this outdoor attraction, plus a free flight simulator, airfield vehicles and aircraft engines to look around.
The museum is located right next door to Bournemouth Airport, so visitors can see commercial flights taking off while looking around the exhibits.
It’s hard to find a more beautiful section of train line than the old Southern Railway line between Swanage and Norden. Swanage Railway passes through six miles of countryside and within sight of the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle. At the end of the line, you can walk down to the blue flag beach at Swanage.
Make the most of the views during your trip by sitting in the Observation Car for a £1 supplement. Don’t forget to check the timetable for the days it is running.
For an extra special treat why not experience driving a steam or diesel train under the supervision of the experienced footplate team? Check the Swanage Railway website for details.