Kent and Sussex both have some great places to visit with the family. If you have kids in tow they are in for a real treat. Both counties are full of castles, theme parks, beaches, activity centres and train rides. There are four heritage railway lines in the region too for train enthusiasts to enjoy. We have compiled a guide to family attractions for all the family, and this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Herstmonceux Castle & Gardens also Science Centre, Hailsham
This beautiful castle is set within immaculately landscaped gardens open to public enjoyment. It’s also home to the Herstmonceux Science Centre.
Its observatory still houses several fully operational telescopes. There is a comprehensive programme of events and open evenings throughout the year where you can learn all about the cosmos and the centre’s equipment. A visit here whilst staying in Herstmonceux comes highly recommended.
Drusillas is a small but excellent zoo with kids rides too. It is one of the county’s top tourist attractions. The adventure playgrounds and themed rides are very popular with kids from toddlers and upwards. The super active meerkats are a spectacle but the animal fun goes way beyond. Widely regarded as the best small zoo in the UK, it’s a great environment for all the family to get involved and spot some great creatures. Get up close with nature and make room for an afternoon at the zoo on your holiday.
The Sheep Centre, East Dean
Into sheep? This attraction is popular especially around Easter when the lambing season is in full swing. Everybody can fall in love with a lamb, they are adored by young children who can enjoy feeding them. Frisk your offspring before they leave as they may just try to spirit one of the lambs home with them.
Smugglers Adventure, Hastings
Older children and parents will really appreciate the Smugglers Adventure in the heart of Old Town in Hastings. Take a journey through an ancient cave system and learn the history of smuggling in Hastings and beyond.
Blue Reef Aquarium / Fisherman Museum / Shipwreck Museum, Hastings
All three of these attractions are within yards of each other in Hastings, just opposite the East Cliff funicular railway. There is an admission charge for the aquarium but the museums are free entry and really do have some interesting exhibits. The aquarium is a must see if you and your kids love underwater creatures and fish. It’s a colourful wonderland, full of tanks and displays. The Shipwreck Museum contains artefacts recovered from shipwrecks off Hastings and from around the world. One local wreck that you can find traces of along the shore is the Amsterdam (1749) at Bultherhythe in West Hastings. The Fisherman Museum is also packed with interesting displays dedicated to the trade of the hardworking fisherman and how the industry has changed and where it has remained the same.
Adventure and Crazy Golf, Hastings
With its gigantic replica pirate galleon ship, Hastings Adventure and Crazy Golf Centre Museum is the place to head to if you love this fun and twisted remix version of the gentleman’s sport. The three 18-hole golf courses on Hastings seafront are a ‘Mecca’ for enthusiasts! It’s even the venue for the World championships! The courses are well-kept and it’s a great way to pass some time with the family when in the area.
Poohsticks Bridge, Ashdown Forest
Ashdown Forest is the home to A.A. Milne’s fictional favourite Winnie the Pooh. When visiting the forest it will be easy to see the similarities between EH Shepherd’s illustrations from the books.
The Poohsticks Bridge is a small bridge in a very big forest. The game of pooh sticks is encouraged and most popular. Stop by the nearby Blackberry Farm which has lots of activities for children and good chance to see how a farm works.
Play the arcade and video games at the Flamingo then head over to Dreamland, also brave the rollercoasters and win prizes in the shooting galleries. Whether you’re a nostalgist, a big kid or love showing your kids a good time, Dreamland promises good seaside fun for everyone. There’s the Octopus’ Garden, Roller Room, a creepy crawly display, Teddy & Betty’s Spooky Adventure and loads more. A good programme of events are available at Dreamland too so be sure to book ahead.
Not to be confused with Dreamland, kids and grown-ups can ride and drive real diggers and JCBs of all shapes and sizes. There’s go-kart course for under-17s and then you can take a breath taking ride on the Spin Dizzy. Adults can get involved in JCB or dumper truck race if they pre-book. It’s a great day out to remember. ‘It’s muddy good fun!’
Kent Life, Sandling
Kent Life has a real working farm and an opportunity to find out about rural life over across the decades in the county. There’s an old village with oasthouses and farm buildings. Children will love Cuddle Corner where they can encounter young animals. Kent Life showcases and breeds traditional farm animals. There’s a varied programme of events on at the farm so be sure to check their website. You can also take your kids to the ‘paint a pot’ studio or take a tractor ride around the 28 acre site. In between activities you can enjoy some refreshments at Dotty’s Tea Room.
Chislehurst Caves, Chislehurst
The whole family can marvel at this brilliant system of manmade tunnels forming a maze covering over six hectares thirty metres below the woodlands above.
They were dug for chalk used in lime burning and brick-making for the building of London, also for flints to fire the tinderboxes and flintlock guns of years ago. The caves were recently seen in the film The Borderlands.
Howletts Wild Animal Park, Canterbury
Howletts is a 90 acre wildlife park where it’s possible to see endangered and exotic creatures. There are many themed events too that happen at the park so be sure to check their website before a visit. See tigers, monkeys, elephants, black rhinos and much more in a lovely big environment. A real treat for animal fans.
The bygone age of steam railways is not so bygone in Sussex and Kent. This is because there are several heritage railways in operation in the region. Well-loved, not just by actual children but by big kids (we mean Dad and Granddad) too. All of them run a very full calendar of events throughout the year, attracting people from all over the world. For children, the Thomas the Tank Engine events are fab, and for the bigger kids, there are murder mystery events, themed vintage nights, fish and chip suppers and special events to mark Christmas.
The Bluebell Railway
Run by a team of dedicated volunteers, the Bluebell Railway operates between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead. This is a paradise for the railway enthusiast as this line hosts an outstanding collection of engines, locomotives and carriages. The Bluebell Railway will prove to be an unforgettable day out for kids and grown-ups alike.
The Lavender Line
The Lavender Line is a short two mile round trip between Isfield and Worth Halt in the heart of East Sussex. The trains travel through beautiful Wealden countryside. The project is volunteer run and offers an interesting range of events throughout the year. At Isfield you will find the original Victorian station and signal box. With a range of old fashioned steam trains this is a great place to enjoy a family outing.
Kent & East Sussex Railway
The Kent and East Sussex Railway wends its way from Tenterden (the Jewel of the Weald) to Bodiam in East Sussex, where you can hop off and enjoy a trip to the stunning ruins of Bodiam Castle or even hop on a boat at Bodiam Boating Station. The line has been run by a private company since 1973 and the full history of the line’s restoration can be read on the website. There is a good stock of locomotives and a regular timetable. There are five stations along the line, all restored originals.
Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
This railway is a small gauge railway that runs 13.5 miles across Romney Marsh between the remote and bewitching Dungeness and the small town of Hythe. It’s a fantastic way to explore the area, and take in the expansive beaches that border the wetlands of Romney Marsh. You can also hop on and off between four stations along the way.