With its national parks, seaside towns and rich naval history, there are plenty of things to do in Hampshire with kids. Whether you want indoor attractions or activities in the great outdoors, you’ll be spoilt for choice when choosing a family day out in Hampshire.
Located in the south-east of England, Hampshire is easily accessible from the home counties and excellent transport links make it an easy day trip from London. This guide will help you discover all the many things you can do on a visit to Hampshire with kids.
New Forest National Park
One of the best things to do in Hampshire with kids is head to the New Forest National Park.
Historically, the New Forest was a royal hunting ground, but was declared a National Park by William the Conqueror in about 1079. Nowadays, this ancient forest remains one of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in the south of England.
Visitors to the New Forest can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, including walking, cycling, horse-riding and outdoor play. There’s also a good choice of campsites for those who enjoy camping.
The New Forest is also home to many species of wildlife, but is famous for the ponies who roam freely across this vast area of stunning heath land. There is also a New Forest Wildlife Park, where families can see indigenous animals in a very natural setting.
The South Downs
The second of the amazing national parks in Hampshire is the South Downs National Park, which stretches from Hampshire to East Sussex.
The South Downs National Park is a stunning range of hills and has one of the best choice of outdoor activities for families in Hampshire. You can go walking, cycling, horse-riding or try some of the many water activities that are on offer.
If it’s hiking you are interested in, try some of the walks on the South Downs Way. This trail stretches for 100 miles across rolling hills, woodland and some of the pretty Hampshire villages. It’s a exhilarating way to take in some of the spectacular views of the local countryside.
Moors Valley Country Park
Moors Valley Country Park is in Ashley Heath, near Ringwood on the borders of Dorset and Hampshire. Set in a beautiful woodland, it’s one of our favourite places for outside family fun in Hampshire.
With woodland play trails, adventure playgrounds and a steam railway, there is plenty for kids to do at Moors Valley.
In addition to all the free activities on the ground, you can pay to have some aerial adventures in the canopy. The whole family can try the Go Ape tree top obstacle course. Alternatively, head for the new Nets adventures, where kids can bounce their way around the tree tops.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park
Queen Elizabeth Country Park is just South of Petersfield and is easily accessible from the A3. It lies on the South Downs and is a great place for a family day out in the great outdoors.
Covering 2000 acres of downland there are many things for families to do. As well as plenty of space for walking and cycling, there is a great playground and assault course. And don’t forget to climb Butser Hill for stunning views across Hampshire.
The Basingstoke Canal stretches for 32 miles from Woodham in Surrey to Greywell Village in Hampshire. Originally built to connect Basingstoke with the River Thames in 1794 , it’s now ideal for a family walk or cycle in Hampshire.
There is plenty of wildlife for children to spot or they can look out for the house boats or some of the 29 locks.
If you are on the stretch of canal near North Warnborough, you can visit the unusual looking Odiham Castle. Often known as St John’s Castle, the remains of this castle are on a site just adjacent to the canal.
Meon Valley Cycle Trail
Another family-friendly cycle route in Hampshire, is The Meon Valley Cycle Trail. The route follows a disused railway and is absolutely perfect for a family cycle ride, as it is completely flat and traffic-free.
This picturesque ride is about 10 miles and goes from West Meon to Wickham. Of course, you could start at the other end and shorten the route for younger children. Alternatively, the Meon Valley Trail is also great for a walk, or even a horse ride.
Beaches in Hampshire
One of the best family days out is always a trip to the seaside and Hampshire’s location on the South Coast, means it has a good choice choice of family-friendly beaches.
Some of the best Hampshire beaches include Eastney Beach, Southsea Beach and Calshot Beach. Of course, you could always pop over to Beachlands at Hayling Island, which holds a European Blue Flag beach award. The Hampshire beaches are mostly shingle or pebble, but are popular seaside resorts, with amazing views across the Solent.
If you are looking for somewhere to collect shells and fossils, head for Barton-on-Sea. This small, cliff-top village is perfect for collecting the famous Barton fossils.
Historic attractions in Hampshire
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
One of the most important historic places to visit in Hampshire is Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This is the part of the HM naval base that is open to the public. It is the ultimate destination for anyone wanting to learn more about British naval history.
The star attraction of the dockyard is its historic ships. Children will love climbing aboard HMS Warrior or Napoleon’s famous warship, HMS Victory. Or you could head for the Mary Rose Museum, to see the remains of the famous Tudor ship, Mary Rose.
Silchester Roman City Walls & Ampitheatre
Just 5 miles north of Basingstoke is an original Iron Age settlement, Silchester, which later became an important Roman town.
Today, Silchester is still one of the best preserved Roman towns in Britain. A day trip to Silchester makes a good educational day out with children in Hampshire. As well as the ruins of the city walls, you can still see the remains of the Roman ampitheatre.
Silchester is an ideal family attraction for any kids who are learning about the Romans. Even better, entrance is free, so it’s one of the many free things to do in Hampshire.
Little Woodham Living History Village
Another option for children to learn about history in Hampshire is at Little Woodham in Gosport on the South coast. Little Woodham is a replica 17th Century village and is a great place for children to find out what Hampshire rural village life was like hundreds of years ago.
One of the best parts of the visit is seeing the “villagers” is their period costumes in the village. Children can find out about the type of houses they used to live and the jobs they used to do.
Now owned by English Heritage, the ruins of Portchester Castle are another of the best historic attractions in Hampshire. Strategically located on England’s South Coast, the Romans originally built a huge fort here, so Portchester Castle is a perfect place to learn about the Romans, Saxons and Normans. You can also find out about its time as a Royal Castle and as a prison.
Families can also enjoy a visit to the church, a picnic and run about in the grounds. And, don’t forget to climb to the top of the keep for amazing views over Portsmouth Harbour.
Another important historic building in Hampshire is Southsea Castle, which guards the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour.
Southsea Castle was one of a series of forts built by King Henry VIII to defend the coast of England. Unfortunately, shortly after completion in 1544, King Henry’s flagship, Mary Rose, sunk before his eyes in front of the castle.
Today, children can discover more about King Henry and the castle’s history at the exhibition in the keep. Whilst you are there, take a wander round the ramparts for a chance to see the lighthouse and canons. You can also get spectacular views of the Solent.
After a visit to the castle, remember to take a tour of the tunnels. Admission is free, so even better, if you are looking for a free family day out in Hampshire!
Children can enjoy stepping back in time on the family trail at Winchester Cathedral.
Completed by the end of the 16th Century, Winchester Cathedral has a long, rich history. For many years the cathedral was the destination of pilgrims. Nowadays, this magnificent Gothic cathedral is still a stunning building and remains one of the longest cathedrals in Europe.
If you want a more magical experience, tie your visit in with a visit to Winchester’s Christmas markets.
Butser Ancient Farm
Just South of Petersfield, in the South Downs National Park is an archeology site called Butser Ancient Farm.
Reconstructed houses help children learn about the homes of their ancestors throughout the ages. Plus, keep an eye out for the collection of rare-breed animals at Butser Farm.
Animal Attractions in Hampshire
The perfect day out in Hampshire for animal lovers is a visit to Marwell Zoo. Home to over 140 species, this wonderful wildlife park is one of the best family attractions in Hampshire. With creatures great and small, there is something to appeal to everyone. Plus, there is a schedule of talks and feeding sessions throughout the day.
As well as animals, Marwell Zoo has a great adventure playground and a train that runs round the perimeter. Children will also love spotting the Supersized Lego collection of Lego brick creations around the zoo.
Hawk Conservancy Trust
If it’s birds of prey you are after, the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover is a great family day out in Hampshire. This popular family attraction is a conservation centre, that looks after owls, vultures, eagles and kestrels.
The centre holds a programme of activities throughout the day, so families can enjoy keepers’ talks, feeding sessions and flying demonstrations. Children will also enjoy tractor rides round the site, a playground and a ferret race!
Blue Reef Aquarium
If you are looking for family things to do on a rainy day in Portsmouth, head for the Blue Reef Aquarium. Located on the seafront at the tip of Southsea, the Blue Reef Aquarium displays a magical world of underwater creatures. From sharks and tropical fish to more local species, children will love discovering what lurks beneath the deep blue sea.
Finkley Down Farm
One of Hampshire’s best adventure farms is Finkley Down Farm in Andover. Little children will love getting up close and personal with the farm animals.
With both indoor and outdoor play areas, it’s a great attraction for little children, whatever the weather. There’s a choice of trampolines, climbing frames, crazy golf and soft play.
And don’t forget to check out the times for the daily sheep racing!
Liberty's Owl, Raptor & Reptile Centre
As its name suggests, Liberty’s Owl, Raptor & Reptile Centre is home to a collection of birds of prey and reptiles. Located at Ringwood in the New Forest, you can expect to see bird demonstrations and spectacular flying displays.
For those who don’t mind creepy crawlies, there is a small reptile house with a collection of spiders, snakes and lizards.
Longdown Activity Farm
One of the best days out for toddlers and younger children in Hampshire is the Longdown Activity Farm near Southampton. Children can have hands-on experience of feeding the animals at this family-fun farm. They have kid goats, calves, ducks and even some alpacas.
While you are there children can pet and hold some of the smaller animals in the Animal Encounter Barn. There is also a trampoline barn, outdoor play zone and soft play for kids to burn off some energy.
Museums in Hampshire
Winchester Science Museum & Planetarium
With over 100 interactive science exhibits, Winchester Science Centre is a fantastic child-friendly museum in Hampshire. Everything is hands-on, so even the youngest of children will have fun learning about the world of science and technology.
Winchester Science Centre is also home to the largest stand-alone planetarium in the UK. Here, you can go on a tour of the universe without leaving your seat. Kids will discover all they need to know about the stars and planets under this 360 degree domed-screen.
Beaulieu National Motor Museum
Another fabulous child-friendly museum in Hampshire is Beaulieu, Britain’s National Motor Museum. Located on the south eastern edge of the National Forest. Beaulieu is a paradise for car lovers and one of the top family attractions in the UK.
As you would expect, Beaulieu is home to one of the finest car collections since the automobile was invented. Top Gear fans will also love an exhibition dedicated to the cars used on its classic motor programme.
However, Beaulieu has far more to offer than just cars. History fans can enjoy a visit to the Beaulieu Palace House, with its Victorian kitchens and WWII spy school. The gardens at Beaulieu are splendid and keep an eye out for the ruins of the medieval Beaulieu Abbey.
Even better for children there is a monorail to get around and a new adventure playground, Little Beaulieu. We were even lucky enough to see an amazing falconry display on our last visit.
Milestones Museum of Living History
A great idea for things to do on a rainy day in Hampshire is a visit to the Milestone Museum of Living History in Basingstoke. Children will have the opportunity to find out what life was like in the times of their grandparents.
As well as authentic street scenes, old shops and vintage cars, children can marvel at household items from earlier times. Kids will also love the old penny arcade and traditional sweet shop at the museum..
Indoor Fun in Hampshire
I Fly Indoor Skydiving
If you are looking for indoor activities for families in Hampshire, then the I-Fly Centre in Basingstoke is the perfect venue.
Indoor skydiving simulates the experience of free-falling, without having to jump out of a plane. Flyers enter a giant wind tunnel, which generates wind and forces it upwards at approximately 120 mph. This lets you experience the sensation of flight, without the danger or cost.
The actual experience in the wind tunnel only lasts about 2 minutes, but the kids loved it. Anyone from the age of 3 can fly!
If you don’t fancy skydiving, try the indoor ski centre, where you can practise on a giant rotating carpet. A very odd sensation, if you are used to snow.
Another of the best indoor activities for kids in Hampshire is Flip Out. Flip Out is a giant trampoline centre, where kids can wear themselves out bouncing and flipping around.
Flip out now has trampoline parks in Portsmouth, Southampton and Basingstoke and is a great option for a rainy day in Hampshire.
Emirates Spinnaker Tower
For the best view in Portsmouth, head for the Emirates Spinnaker Tower on the waterfront at Gunwharf Quays.
At 170 feet high, this iconic observation tower will give you impressive views across Portsmouth Harbour and the Solent. If your kids are feeling brave, they can venture across the Sky Walk. This glass platform is in the middle of the viewing area and gives a direct view down to the harbour, 1,100 metres below!
More adventurous kids can also try the virtual reality “Altitude” experience or even have a go at abseiling down the side.
Mid-Hants Railway "Watercress Line"
Another fun day out for toddlers in Hampshire is a ride on a steam train at the Mid-Hants railway. It’s even better if you can go on one of their event days, so that the kids can meet with Thomas the Tank Engine or even Santa.
Theme Parks in Hampshire
One of the most fun days out in Hampshire for families is Paultons Park. This popular theme park is set in 140 acres of parkland in Romsey, on the edge of the New Forest.
Paultons Park is fantastic day out for toddlers, as it is home to Peppa Pig World. Who wouldn’t love a balloon ride with the loveable TV pig or a dinosaur adventure with her little brother, George?
However, it also has plenty to offer older kids. From animated dinosaurs to high-speed rollercoasters, there is something to suit all tastes. It even has its own Little Africa animal area, with meerkats and porcupines.
New Forest Water Park
Probably the best water attraction in Hampshire, is the New Forest Water Park. This giant aqua park has one of the UK’s biggest inflatable, obstacle courses on the water. It even includes its own trampolines, flip boards and climbing wall.
Other water activities at the New Forest Water Park include kayaking and paddleboarding. There is also a cable system for any kids wanting to learn to wakeboard.