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The county of Devon is bursting with so much to see and do, it’s the perfect place to bring your family for lots of fun days out with your loved ones, making those special holiday memories.
Within its borders you can find two National Parks and five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, among award-winning beaches, magical woodlands, and historical buildings and monuments – the list of family Devon attractions is never-ending.
We have decided to sift through the plethora of awesome family days out in Devon and provide you with our top picks, so you have a go-to list of things to do in Devon when you start planning your trip. To make things easier we’ve split our choices into two sections depending on where you’ll be staying; North Devon and South Devon.
Read on to find out the best family days out in Devon…
Incredible experiences await you in North Devon, with the upper half of the county being home to most of the Exmoor National Park. It’s made up of several landscapes, including moorland, woodland, farmland, and valleys it is a vast area which is enjoyed and explored by around 2 million visitors each year looking to discover some of the best walking in Devon.
Sat at the top of the park on the north coast is Exmoor Adventures, a local business offering exciting activities for a wide range of ages and abilities, it’s a great North Devon attraction for families to enjoy. Try something you and the kids have never done before, like working as a team to do raft building, or experience rock climbing and abseiling at the “Valley of Rocks” on the North Devon coastline, or simply hire some bikes and head out into the park to begin your own adventure!
More information: www.exmooradventures.co.uk
The Tarka Trail follows the figure-of-eight route that Tarka the Otter traveled in the famous novel by Henry Williamson, and is now a well-loved way to explore North Devon. The full trail is 180 miles-long and, most importantly, includes 30 miles of traffic-free cycle paths!
Great for taking the kids out on their bikes, maybe even for the first time, the Tarka Trail is the perfect place to give them one last push and watch them cycle off! Hop onto the trail anywhere between Braunton and Meeth to take advantage of the flat terrain for some easy riding. You may just find one of the fascinating Devon hidden gems along your travels!
More information: www.tarkatrail.org.uk
A must-visit Devon attraction is Exmoor Zoo in Barnstaple, where the whole family will have a fantastic day marvelling at the incredible animals that now call North Devon their home. It is the only place in the UK where you can see a pair of black leopards, giving a feline meaning to the Exmoor Beast myth!
Go one step further and treat your little ones to a ‘Junior Keeper Experience’, where children aged 8-15 can spend a day in the life of a zoo keeper – cleaning and all! Get up close to the animals which include tapirs, reindeer, and lemurs. For the over 18s, get behind the scenes with the ‘Carnivore Experience’, with the chance to interact with some of the biggest cats and dogs in the world, such as pumas, leopards, maned wolves and bat-eared foxes.
It will be a day out in North Devon you won’t soon forget!
More information: www.exmoorzoo.co.uk
For something completely different, visit The BIG Sheep in Abbotsham, a unique sheep-themed family attraction in Devon. It is suitable for all ages and is even a great option for rainy day activity in Devon, with its Ewetopia Indoor Playground – expect many sheep references and puns – as well as an indoor animal barn, so from January through to October you can feed the animals yourself!
The adults will love the on-site brewery and gin distillery with a free tasting after ever brewery show. Bet some of your ‘ewe-ros’ on one of your new woolly friends when they host daily sheep racing in summer.
More information: www.thebigsheep.co.uk
A popular favourite for many families and surfers is Woolacombe Beach, set on the north-westerly corner of Devon. The golden sand stretches for 3 miles, so even during peak seasons you’ll still be able to secure your own spot. After you’ve built the most epic sandcastle fortress, played Frisbee with the dog, and taken a dip in the sea, take a stroll into Woolacombe village and explore what’s on offer.
Pile into one of the many lovely cafés for a spot of late lunch, or if you’ve played all day then make it a classic pub dinner in the evening, even if you do still have salty sea hair! Woolacombe itself is a great place to stay for a family holiday, as well as Mortehoe close by – within a stone’s throw of this fabulous Devon family day out.
More information: www.parkinestates.co.uk
Catch a boat to Lundy Island, a magnificent granite outcrop 12 miles off the coast of Devon, measuring 3 miles-long and half a mile wide, this little speck in the ocean is a tranquil haven. Lundy is a Marine Nature Reserve and is also famous for its bird population, with Lundy meaning ‘Puffin Island’ in Norse, there’s lots of opportunity to observe some amazing wildlife found in Devon.
A fantastic way to see as much of the island as possible and keep the children entertained is to do the Lundy Letterboxes. 27 letterboxes are scattered around the island each containing a stamp, with letterbox packs available to buy from the shop, collect as many as you can by exploring your surroundings before it’s time to catch the boat back! This family attraction in Devon ensures an unforgettable day out for all to enjoy.
More information: www.landmarktrust.org.uk
A beach day with a difference; walk through hand-carved tunnels out onto sandy shingle beaches, with a Victorian tidal bathing pool to dip into, it’s an exciting discovery for your little ones. The 4 tunnels were carved out in the early 19th century just when bathing and swimming were becoming more popular, so local entrepreneurs hired Welsh miners to hand carve through the Ilfracombe hillside to gain access to the rugged beaches on the other side.
Explore the rock pools with the kids, rich in wildlife, or play safely in the tidal pool, after reading about the history of this popular Ilfracombe attraction. Also make full use of our Devon Travel Guide, offering a host of ideas on how best to experience this superb holiday spot.
More information: www.tunnelsbeaches.co.uk
For a fin-tastic family day out in South Devon you need to spend a day at the National Marine Aquarium located on Plymouth Sound. It is the UK’s largest aquarium and is run by the Ocean Conservation Trust, a charity who are dedicated to connecting people with the ocean.
Stand before the largest single viewing panel in the UK to gaze at sharks, rays and all kinds of wonderful fish, it’s a Devon day out for the adults as much as the kids! From aquarium zones dedicated to local marine life to exotic fish and creatures of the deep showcased from around the globe, you are sure to see something you’ve seen before!
More information: www.national-aquarium.co.uk
Celebrating their 50th anniversary in 2019, the South Devon Railway is one of the most-loved tourist attractions in Devon. Originally built all the way back in 1872, the track runs for 7 miles along the incredible valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes.
Have this classic steam train take you over bridges crossing rivers, journey through farmland and rolling countryside, pass meadows with grazing animals and wind alongside the river. Your children will love the experience of travelling on a classic steam train that looks straight out of a storybook, and it’s also a great idea for a rainy day in Devon!
More information: www.southdevonrailway.co.uk
Set within the Dartmoor National Park among 90 acres of parkland is the River Dart Country Park, a haven of activities interspersed with nature, there’s something for everyone. Purchase your day tickets and gain access to a long list of activities including an adventure playground, a bike trail, a mini zip-wire, a pirate ship and more.
For an extra cost blaze a trail on the Dartmoor Bike Park, an impressive Freeride Area designed by ex-pro BMXer Kye Forte, with different levels of runs for varied skill-sets – impress the little ones with a few tricks by mum and dad! Alongside all this are their Adventure Days comprising of rock climbing, canoeing or kayaking, caving or high beams in the trees, this park promises a fun-filled day for all.
More information: www.riverdart.co.uk
This 600-year-old family home of the Earl of Devon is open to the public and makes a great family day out even on a rainy day. Be taken around the grand castle by a guide, through secret doors and shown a selection of the 100 rooms that Powderham Castle holds for an unforgettable family Devon day out.
Lead the children along the nature trail in the grounds, before having fun in the Walled Garden Play Area & Pets Corner. The house itself is set within the grounds of a huge deer park, so you can head out on a deer safari to see the beautiful creatures in their natural habitat. Discover even more things to do in the area with our handy Exeter Travel Guide.
More information: www.powderham.co.uk
Completely free of charge and a joy to visit is The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, where you and your family can meet hundreds of donkeys, mules and hinnies just waiting to say hello. Give some much-needed chin scratches and head pats to these loving animals who have been rescued from neglect and abuse, beginning as a UK project when it was created in 1969 but now an international organisation.
As well as the donkeys, the sanctuary also has interactive exhibits such as the Exhibition Barn to learn how donkeys can help communities all around the world, and the Understanding Donkeys Zone. Here, the future vets of the world can pop on some theatre scrubs and understand the biology of the sanctuary’s residents – promising a unique family day out in Devon.
More information: www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk
For those with children who are a little older and crave some adventure in the wild, take your little intrepid explorers to Lydford Gorge, the deepest gorge in the South West. Sturdy footwear is recommended to walk any of the several routes for different abilities and time scales.
Navigate up slippery paths, peer over steep drops and marvel at the natural wonders like the Whitelady Waterfall. Stop off at one of the tea rooms for a well-earned rest along with some tea and cake and be back on your way through this luscious green haven.
More information: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Enjoy the delights of North and South Devon for yourself by booking one of our wonderful cottages in Devon for a fantastic family holiday! Our Devon Travel Guide is the perfect companion for offering ideas and inspiration during your next family day out in Devon.
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