There are so many things to do in Dorset with kids, we couldn’t possibly cover them all in one article – but we’ve done our best to include some of our favourites!
If you are staying at one of the many fun Dorset holiday parks, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of days out in Dorset to keep the whole family entertained.
With 7 miles of fine golden sand, Bournemouth Beach is one of the best beaches in England. The waters are warm and safe for children to swim, kayak, or paddleboard. Bring spades and small buckets as they’ll enjoy building sandcastles, too.
There’s plenty of food and drink places around the area, and you can hire deck chairs, sunbeds, and parasols if you want to just chill out and picnic by the sea. Beach huts are popular hires, too.
Take a stroll on the promenade or pedal up and down the beach (restrictions might apply during certain times of the year.)
To unwind, head over to Bournemouth Pier where Mum and Dad can sit and watch surfers ride the waves or catch that lovely sunset at nightfall.
The kids can play games at the amusement arcade, or visit the Rock Reef, an indoor adventure centre featuring a climbing wall, obstacle course, vertical drop slide, and jumping challenge.
Older, more adventurous kids can ride the PierZip, a zip wire that starts at the tower by the Pier’s end, zips over the waves, and lands onto the beach.
Bournemouth Big Wheel, a 30-meter tall Ferris wheel, is a popular attraction at the Pier Approach. There are lots of shops, snack stands, and restaurants in the area to cater for any palate and appetite.
Walk to the very end of the Pier for stunning panoramic views of the coastline.
If you’d rather “get away from it all” and enjoy some tranquility that’s close to nature, take the ferry and escape to the wildlife sanctuary of Brownsea Island.
A National Trust owned island on the South coast, Brownsea is a short boat ride from Poole Harbour with dramatic views of the Purbeck Hills.
Explore unspoiled nature trails, beaches, and woodland, with a high chance of encountering rare red squirrels, peacocks, pheasants, and wild deer. A wide variety of birds can also be spotted, too: dunlins, kingfishers, oystercatchers, and common and sandwich terns.
Spend the night and follow in the footsteps of Lord Baden-Powell and the very first Scouts who camped on the island over a century ago. (Bring your tent or hire one on the spot.)
Set amongst the woodland of Dorset is this enchanting ape and primate sanctuary, Monkey World.
The 65-acre park is home to over 250 rescued and endangered primates from around the world, from chimpanzees to orangutans to gibbons and a fantastic 14-species collection of monkeys and prosimians – all very well cared for.
Listen to keepers talk about some of the primates’ harrowing past in the hands of poachers, smugglers, lab scientists, circus owners or cruel photographers, before finding their permanent home here.
After the tour, the kids can ape around and burn off all their remaining energy at the huge Great Ape Adventure play area.
Fossil Hunting, Jurassic Coast
Take the family on a fossil hunting walk along Charmouth Beach, a World Heritage Coastline. Stop by the Charmouth Heritage Centre to marvel at fossil collections, learn about prehistoric history, and meet the Charmouth Dinosaur.
Guided walks provide information on fossils in the area and tips on how best to find them. Or go on your own and see if you’ll stumble upon a shark’s tooth… or the backbones of an ichthyosaur!
Afterwards, relax with a picnic on the beach, or a meal at the café while you admire and compare each other’s finds.
See what famous author Enid Blyton saw on these historic steam locomotives when she used the same railway a century ago.
The 20-kilometre ride through the beautiful Purbeck countryside includes stunning views of Corfe Castle.
At Swanage station, there’s a café and picnic benches where you can enjoy breakfast or a light lunch. (Or buy a takeaway for a picnic on board.)
At Corfe Station there’s a Railway Museum where you can take pictures from the platform with the castle in the background. The hop-on, hop-off vintage steam and diesel trains run daily from April to October and weekends throughout most of the year.
Portland Bill Lighthouse
Go on a 45-minute guided tour of this lofty lighthouse, perched regally on a cliff’s edge at the Isle of Portland.
Climb 153 steps to the top of the 41-meter tower and see foghorn machinery, lenses and mirrors still in active use, and of course, stunning views over Portland Race and the open sea.
Or, just walk the coastal path to enjoy amazing ocean scenery. (Hold on to your youngsters’ hands though.)
Gaze at the rugged coastline and watch crashing waves hit the rocky outcrop. Budding geologists will be mesmerized by the different rock formations.
For snacks, there’s a café nearby with outdoor seats looking out over the sea.
There are lots of interactive encounters at Farmer Palmers with the animal kind at this petting zoo, park, playground and kiddie farm.
Slides and tunnels greet children at the Farm Park, and a clean, 2-tier indoor soft play zone is available should the weather turn bad.
Younger children will especially love the large bouncy castle and the play barn with pedal tractors.
Older kids can help bottle-feed baby goats, lambs, donkeys and alpacas, groom ponies, and or handle pigs – both guinea pigs and swine pigs!
There’s also a cow milking demo which they can watch.
Other outdoor attractions include outside animal pens, a tractor-trailer ride, a deer safari, a maize maze (July to October), pedal go-karts, and a peaceful woodland walk by the river.
Crabbing In Mudeford
A local tradition and a popular, year round activity at Christchurch Harbour is crabbing at Mudeford Quay.
You can bring your own buckets, baits, crab lines, and nets, or buy them at the local shops.
Walk along the seafront to enjoy the golden sandy beach, watch boats pass, and take in the ocean view.
The promenade stretches from the Quay to the beach so kids can scoot or bike on sunny days.
There’s also a playground, an ice cream parlour, cafes, fish stalls, and some good public toilets.
Older kids looking for more action can go paddleboarding and canoeing on the water (always check local weather conditions for safety in the water).
One of the most iconic survivors of Britain’s Civil War, William the Conqueror’s Corfe Castle sits on a hill along the Purbeck Ridge.
Climb up the ruins and enter some rooms – the views from the top are spectacular.
Look for “murder holes”, arrow loops and fallen walls. Listen to the guides’ historical tales of treachery and treason that caused the fortress to be invaded centuries past.
Catch historical events – from medieval archery and falconry, to re-enactments of the Civil War – on weekends and school holidays.
There’s a shop, tea room, cafes and restaurants that you can visit at the quaint old village nearby.
Walk over to the Village Square to survey the Corfe Model Village, a 1/20 scale model that shows how the area would’ve looked like in the 1600s.
The Tank Museum
This very popular destination in Bovington boasts the world’s best collection of tanks and explosive live display.
Come face-to-face with the world’s first-ever tank, the feared German Tiger, the Modern Challenger 2, and almost 300 armoured vehicles of different shapes, sizes, and nationalities.
See how tanks evolved from their first roll out in 1915 up to modern warfare times in Afghanistan.
The exhibit halls are large and the collections well laid out. Walk on your own and view information booths, stop by interactive screens, or sit when you tire and watch countless videos on modern history and all-things-tanks.
Guided tours are available, as well as organised activities for children. No worries if you run out of time – tickets are for a year-long pass.
Dorset Adventure Park
Ready to get wet and dirty? Head out to this exciting waterpark and mud trail at Corfe Castle, featuring 18 acres of woodland and lake with breath-taking views of the Purbeck Countryside.
The Outdoor Wibit Waterpark (min. age is 6) is a floating obstacle course spread over 2 lakes and more than 200 metres of fun, inflatable obstacles.
The Muddy Mayhem mud run (min. age is 4) is a 50-metre assault course of muddy obstacles over a 2 km adventure trail. Both are exhilarating ways to laugh, let loose and be silly!
There are lockers for your change of clothes, warm outdoor showers to wash the mud off, and communal changing rooms. Wet suits and shoes are for hire. (Tip: wear swimsuits underneath your mud clothes.)
There’s a snack shack with hot and cold offerings, and a picnic area overlooking Corfe Castle.