Quite a few of my childhood memories come courtesy of Devon and a trip there in June reminded me just how lovely it is, and just how much there is still for us to explore!
I’ve compiled a list for kids including suggestions for rainy days, free family days out as well as sun on the beach.
With no further ado, here are my top 30 things to do in Devon with kids. Are there any you’d add?
1. Exmoor Zoo, Barnstaple
Get much closer to the animals than most zoos, whether you’re petting an alpaca or handling a spider – and there’s some larger animals, including the star black leopard firmly inside enclosures.
2. National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth
The UK’s largest aquarium takes you across the world’s oceans, from the shores of Plymouth to the coral reefs of the tropics. The Great Barrier Reef exhibit has over 70 species of fish alone, with sharks, turtles and rays along with jellyfish and anenomes in the aquarium’s tanks. Check out our day out there.
3. Occombe Farm, Paignton
This working farm has a nature trail, farm animals and gardens to explore, while the café is stocked with produce grown on the site – think crab cakes before a cream tea.
4. Donkey Sanctuary, Sidmouth
Hug, stroke and pet the 500 residents for free, with donkeys and mules looked after by the charity in charge. There are also nature trails through the fields.
5. The Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary, Buckfastleigh
Three species of otter live in the sanctuary, including native British ones, playful Asian short clawed and show-off North American river otters, while a specially designed habitat houses the tropical butterflies.
6. Totnes Rare Breeds Farm
You can get a joint ticket to the farm, and the butterflies and otters (no5), but with cute chipmunks, guinea pigs to stroke and some beautiful owls, it’s worth a visit in itself.
Amusement and theme parks
7. The Big Sheep, Bideford
A sheep-themed family amusement park? Sounds quirky but you can bet on sheep racing (using ewe-ros obviously), watch sheep shearing, try lamb feeding, and there are farm safaris and a soft play barn. And an on-site brewery, thankfully.
8. Devon’s Crealy Great Adventure Park
Split between Devon and Cornwall, this site has over 60 rides and attractions spread over 100 acres – not far from Exeter and just off the M5. With a massive 75,000ft of undercover play and outdoor adventure areas, there’s also more than 200 animals to meet so there’s something for all ages, whatever the weather.
9. The Milky Way, Clovelly
This is a great one with smaller kids – as well as a few rides, there’s slides and a play area, bird shows and several soft play sections for different ages.
10. Woodlands Leisure Park, Totnes
A whopping 60 acres of rides and attractions, split into nine main zones including a toddler area, along with a zoo and falconry centre, plus a section where you can paint pottery.
11. Golden Hind, Brixham
This replica of Sir Francis Drake’s famous ship has plenty for history fans but is also great for kids to scramble around – there are some steep steps if you’re visiting with babies, but even pre-schoolers will love turning the wheel and hunting for the hidden rats. Check out our review.
12. Kent’s Cavern, Torquay
A tour of this prehistoric cave is a fascinating glimpse into how people once lived, and it’s a great family day out for a rainy day too, with kids’ activities running along with the guided visit through the cavern.
13. Burgh Island sea tractors
The sands of Bigbury on Sea beach are perfect for families, but the sea tractor ride on the 1930s machine to Burgh Island at high tide is even more thrilling for kids. Although you can’t visit the gorgeous art deco hotel unless you’re staying, you can explore and wander back on foot at low tide.
14. South Devon Railway
Seven miles of railway running along the River Dart valley, it takes you between Buckfastleigh and Totnes – you can get combined tickets to the rare breeds farm (no6) and the Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary (no5) at either end or enjoy special Thomas the Tank Engine days.
15. Diggerland, Cullompton
One of several Diggerlands around the UK, the idea is simple – kids (and adults) can drive full size construction machinery, from dumper trucks to a 6 tonne digger and monster JCBs. Plus play areas and sandpits to do a bit more low-key excavating, and some rides. See what we thought of the sister site in Kent.
16. The House of Marbles, Bovey Tracey
The working glass and games factory has a collection boasting one of every marble made over the years, along with games from the early 17th century, plus you can watch glass making and discover the 4,000 year history of glass. Another good indoor option for rainy days.
Castles and heritage
17. Powderham Castle, Exeter
Just outside Exeter on the banks of the Exe estuary, you can see blacksmiths in the forge, take a tractor ride in the deer park, be king of your own castle in the wooden fort, and explore the centuries of history inside the ancient home of the Courtenay family too. See what we got up to on our visit.
18. Explore Exeter’s medieval history
Head underground in Exeter to explore the city’s 14th century medieval passages running beneath the high street – booking is essential, and this one is for over-fives only. Then head to the medieval cathedral to keep the history theme going.
19. Greenway, Galmpton
Even if you’re not an Agatha Christie fan, there’s plenty to discover at her former home, left suspended in the 1950s. Try a nature trail through the gardens, a family trail through the house spotting crocodiles and boats, and activities to tick off the 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ list.
20. Museum of British Surfing, Braunton
This quirky collection is perfect for surf fans, with a variety of early boards, and it runs special beach days and events. Great inspiration if you’re planning to take to the waves yourself – Croyde and Woolacombe are some of Devon’s top spots.
21. Rock Pools
Devon’s two coasts are great for rockpooling – Shoalstone beach is fantastic for clambering over rocks to discover crabs, tiny sea snails and the occasional minnow as well as a big sea water pool for swimming. Check out our review. Or Wembury Bay is a National Trust site with an education centre as well as lots to find on the rocky shore.
22. Berry Head Nature Reserve
This gorgeous clifftop reserve on the southern half of Tor Bar is one of the gateways to the English Riviera global geopark. Explore the fortifications from the Napoleonic War, gaze out to see to see if you can spot seals and sharks, or just enjoy the walking. Check out our review
23. South West Coast Path
Linking Devon, Dorset, Cornwall and Somerset, this section stretches the length of the English Riviera with miles of coastal walks whether you’re looking for a short amble or a longer hike.
24. Letterboxing on Dartmoor
The original geo-caching, it mixes treasure hunting and puzzle solving with orienteering as you track down over 100 letterboxes. When you’ve found them, use the stamp to mark a notebook or postcard, then sign your name or leave your own stamp in their notebook, until you get the set.
Where to start? You’ll never be far from a gorgeous stretch of sand – Blackpool Sands Beach is a Blue Flag family beach that looks straight from the Mediterranean, while the three miles of sand at Woolacombe are regularly ranked as one of Britain’s best beaches. Bantham Beach is shallow enough for younger swimmers while a smugglers’ tunnel takes you to the red cliffed rugged Ness Cove at Shaldon.
26. Geoplay Park, Paignton
There are four sections aimed at different ages within this park on Paignton seafront, so it’s great whether you’re travelling with toddlers or teens. Themed around the area’s geological history, you could try discovering the Devonian period with toddlers, riding on a trilobite and swinging over the sea which would have then covered Torbay.
27. Tarka Trail
Inspired by the novel Tarka the Otter, the trail runs for around 180 miles, but one of the loveliest stretches is between Braunton and Meeth along the area’s old railway lines. You might struggle to spot an otter, but there’s plenty to enjoy as you cycle or walk.
28. Lundy Island
As the Atlantic meets the Bristol Channel, Lundy Island is the last land before you hit America. Perfect for nature lovers, this car-free island has letterboxing to help you explore, you can spot seabirds and possibly dolphins on the ferry crossing.
29. Lydford Gorge, near Tavistock
The deepest gorge in the south west with a spectacular 30m waterfall known as the White Lady. The river and wildlife are beautiful whether you’re visiting with spring flowers in bloom or autumn leaves on the trees and different trails lead you past some of the highlights, including the bubbling Devil’s Cauldron. Not buggy-friendly, although you can borrow carriers and there’s not two tearooms.
30. Haldon Forest Park, Exeter
A sprawling 3,500 acres of woodland that’s only 15 minutes outside Exter. There’s mountain biking for older adventurers and a gentler 1 ½ mile Discovery Trail for families, among others, plus Go Ape and archery lessons.