In a Life Before Kids, did you find that the summer beckoned with the candy floss allure of long weeks of endless sunshine?  There were days out, evenings on the beach, fun explorations of places near and far; the summer world was your oyster….?

Now, there is Life After Kids!  Do you find that the summer holidays loom LARGE and LONG?  If you find the daily (sometimes hourly) struggle to keep those pesky patience-sappers entertained is REAL, read on!

Over the last 11 years of parenthood, I have visited many an attraction in and around Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Crowborough and the South East.  I have accumulated a useful (and extensive) list of places to visit with the kids which I would love to share with you!  If you are time starved and in need of inspiration, check out my list for great Summer Days Out With The Kids.

1.  Dunorlan Boats & Playground

The boats in Dunorlan Park have been run by a single family since 1954.  Offering pedaloes, canoes and rowing boats, you can hire them by the hour or half hour from April to October and spend a very enjoyable time getting up close and personal with the bird life on the lake.  Keep your eyes peeled and see if you can spot the terrapin that lives there!

Whilst at Dunorlan, you can also visit the café for a drink, a bite to eat or treat yourself to some fabulous italian icecream, as well as exploring the natural adventure play area which is home to the Dunorlan Dragon!

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2.  The British Wildlife Centre

The BWC is home to the finest collection of native wildlife in Britain boasting over 40 different native species.  I can attest to what a fantastic day out for all the family the it is.  You will walk amongst red squirrels, get close up with foxes, stoats and teeny tiny mice and enjoy an owl display.  A fave day out for my family close to Lingfield near East Grinstead, Surrey.
3.  Wakehurst Place
Wakehurst Place is situated in the heart of Sussex near Ardingly.  Home to the millennium seed bank, it boasts over 5000 acres of diverse landscapes and plants from across the globe.  There you will find play spaces scattered across the site for kids to enjoy; woven willow tunnels and a labyrinth to explore as well as Tree Trunk Trek where kids can crawl, climb and get to know the trees on this adventurous log trail in Coates Wood.  There is a great cafe and plenty else to explore besides.  A great day out.
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4.  Bedgebury Pinetum
Home to the worlds leading collection of conifers, Bedgebury is a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and picnics in the rolling hills and valleys of the High Weald.  Whilst there enjoy miles of trails for family cycling, walking and running.  Let’s the kids run free on the FANTASTIC play trail with a range of play areas for different ages including the Gruffalo trail which will keep them busy for hours and hours!

You can also hire bikes from Quench cycles to explore the family friendly bike trails or get really adventurous and have a go at a treetop challenge with Go Ape!

There is also an excellent cafe at the visitor centre.

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5.  Port Lympne
Port Lympne provides an unforgettable safari experience set against hundreds of acres of stunning Kentish savannah.

With over 800 animals to see, jump on board a safari truck to travel through South America, Asia and Africa in one day where you’ll encounter free roaming animals.  For dinosaur lovers, discover the UK’s largest outdoor dinosaur exhibition which features life sized creatures from pre-historic ages.

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6.  Penshurst Place
Penshurst has something for everyone.  A historic manor house, beautifully manicured formal gardens (including the 100m peony border in May and June), a fantastic adventure playground AND a woodland play trail.  In the years before covid, there was also a fun maize maze to explore, but it’s worth checking to see if they will be reintroducing this in the post-covid era.

It’s a great day out for all the family with two excellent cafes and a treasure trove gift shop too!

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7. Kent & East Sussex Railway

Steaming through the Weald from Tenterden to Bodiam, via Northiam, this is a lovely way to while away a summers day in Kent & East Sussex.  The journey from Tenterden to Bodiam takes approximately 45 minutes, and from Bodiam station, you can either walk 5 minutes down the country lane to visit all the delights of Bodiam Castle, or head through the fields behind the station for a bite to eat at The Hub at Quarry Farm.
8.  Spa Valley Railway
Trains run between Tunbridge Wells West station (down at the big Sainsburys) and Eridge, stopping at High Rocks and Groombridge along the way.  A shorter ride than the KESR, but no less enchanting as you chug through the beautiful countryside between Tunbridge Wells & Eridge.  Get off at High Rocks to explore the eponymous monument or nip into the High Rocks Inn for a bite to eat.  Or alight at Groombridge to explore the lovely village or head into Groombridge Place and all that it has to offer.
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9.  Rare Breeds Centre
The Rare Breeds Centre is owned and run by the Canterbury Oast Trust charity which supports adults with learning disabilities to take control of their lives.  So you can entertain the kiddies, and feel good about supporting a really worthwhile charity!

In the barn, children and adults alike, can interact with farm animals, such as pigs, horses and goats as well as handling rabbits and guinea pigs.  Take a relaxing tractor ride around the site, enjoy some highly entertaining pig racing and visit the butterfly tunnel!  There are various different playgrounds across the site, plenty of opportunity for a wander around the countryside setting or head to the indoor softplay barn with your youngers kiddies.   A fabulous day out come rain or shine.

10.  Hever Castle
Experience 700 years of history at the romantic double-moated 13th century castle once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I.

The  magnificent, award-winning gardens set in 125 acres of glorious grounds might not enchant the children quite as much as the adults, however, the castle playground, the amazing water maze (NB: take spare clothes and magic towels) and the castle itself should keep them entertained for a good few hours!  No matter what time of year you visit you are guaranteed a great day out.

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11.  Ashdown Forst Leisure
Ashdown Forest Leisure offers water-based activities in Ashdown Forest. If you’re looking to try something new or you are feeling adventurous over the summer holidays, you can have fun kayaking, paddle boarding, rowing or open water swimming in the very safe environment of the life guard managed lake.
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12.  Bewl Water
Discover incredible landscapes, native wildlife, and woodland adventures at the largest reservoir in the South East.

Open all year round, the 800-acre parkland provides a wealth of entertainment opportunities for your little ones.  With miles of scenic pathways to walk, cycle, run or ride, and hundreds of protected species to discover, Bewl Water is packed full of healthy outdoor fun.  Younger children will spend hours in the pirate ship playground and enjoy the MASSIVE slide!

Join in the fun at the aqua park, have a go at laser quest, head indoors to the softplay or try one of the many water sports available.

13.  Riverhill Himalayan Gardens

Riverhill is renowned for its beautiful and historic gardens, expansive views across the Weald of Kent and warm and friendly welcome.  Home to the Rogers family since 1840, these family-run gardens offer visitors space to explore, gardens to admire and excuses to celebrate. We are proud of our unusually creative events for all generations (and their dogs) and wonderful restoration stories
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14.  Bowles
Bowles is an outdoor education charity and people development centre.  It supports thousands of young people from all backgrounds to take part in outdoor education courses and activities all aimed at helping young people to grow and to develop in a beautiful, adventurous and challenging, yet safe environment.  Bowles supports hundreds of schools and youth groups to help their young people get the best experiences possible.  The outcomes of The Bowles Rocks Trust are self confidence, resilience, physical and mental health, friendship and fun.
15.  Wilderness Wood

An A to Z trail runs around the perimeter of the wood and takes about 45 minutes – longer if you are with a curious toddler and shorter if you are keeping up with your dog.

The trail takes you through many and varied types of woodland at different stages of growth – with bluebells in spring, chestnuts in autumn and beautiful views out in winter when there are no leaves.

Along the way, there are also play structures, art works, leaky dams and amazing woodland architecture.

Add in a mud kitchen, fabulous rope swing and refreshments from The Hatch in the form of delicious home made cakes, biscuits and icecreams, Wilderness Wood will not disappoint!

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16.  Leeds Castle
There are so many things to do at Leeds Castle and it’s more than just a great day out. We are the perfect spot for a romantic break or weekend getaway too, a place of contrasts from thrilling experiences to tranquil escape and quiet reflection.

With your ticket you can enjoy all we have to offer at your leisure, with a whole year to explore this unique chapter in the story of historic England. Whether you’re a couple proposing or a history buff exploring, or a lover of wildlife wandering, what you do is up to you. This is your Leeds Castle waiting to be discovered. Plan your day and then come again.

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17.  Mr Mulligans Dino Golf
With an epic, dino themed, adventure golf course whether you’re a big kid or a little kid, there really is fun for everyone!
18.  Hastings Aquarium
Discover more about Hastings Aquarium, what tanks we have and which animals call us home – find out more about them with fun facts! We work hard to raise awareness of the conservation of these and all other animals across the globe, protecting their habitats and helping to ensure their future.
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19.  Hastings Adventure Golf

It’s 3 championship miniature golf courses on one site! The biggest in the UK, do we need to say anymore?

20.  Beech Hurst Park Miniature Railway

This Miniature Railway near Haywards Heath is run entirely by volunteers.  Open to the public since 1954 the track runs for almost half a mile. The railway boasts two tunnels, steaming bays, covered accommodation for rolling stock, fully automatic colour light signalling, club house and extensive workshops.
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21.  Middleton Butterly Gardens

The farm is open year round so even in the depths of winter, you can walk amongst the amazing butterflies at Middleton Farm. Within the tropical flight area the farm have worked hard to create an environment which is carefully controlled and monitored to ensure perfect conditions for the live butterflies. The high temperature and humidity is created not only for the hundreds of tropical butterflies, but to also sustain the tropical plants and flowers needed to enable the butterflies to feed, breed and lay their eggs.  So be warned, it’s best to go on a cool day, when the heat inside the tunnel won’t be quite so hot!
22.  Blackberry Farm
Between Uckfield and Hailsham, Blackberry Farm is a family run enterprise.  The  park offers a huge selection of outdoor play, farm animals and exciting rides for the whole family to enjoy. As well as a range of food outlets and outdoor picnic areas.  You will be able to enjoy close encounters with a range of animals, outdoor play such as swings and giant pillow trampolines and rides for all ages.
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23.  Diggerland
Your days out in Kent can be super fun and adventurous when teamed up with a day at Diggerland. Guests of all ages can ride, drive and operate real diggers! All in a safe and family friendly setting.
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24.  Groombridge Place
Journey on foot or by canal boat to discover water pools, rope swings, wooden bridges and a maze. Spot fallow deer as you approach Crusoe’s World, with its large wooden ship, two tree houses and central viewing tower. Once at the top, look out over your own forest kingdom and marvel at the countryside around you.  Discover the Giant Tree Swings which provide thrills for all.  The UK Owl and Raptor Centre are based here and provide two interactive shows each day for visitors to enjoy.  Watch as the birds soar effortlessly above your head as you listen to lively commentary about each of the birds from their experienced falconers.
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25.  Tonbridge Swimming Pool

It’s difficult to find outdoor pools these days. Long gone are the days of the lido.  However, in Tonbridge there is a fantastic leisure centre with both an indoor AND outdoor pool; perfect if we do ever get those boiling hot summer days!  Always best to book in advance if the weather is hot.  And when you’ve finished your swim, head to the miniature railway just ouside….(see below).

26. Tonbridge Model Engineering Society

Located outside the swimming pool in Tonbridge, trains run most weekends from when the clocks go forward in March till they go back in October.  However, this is dependant on weather and driver/locomotive availability, so always best to check in advance.
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27.  Tonbridge Boat Trips
Based at the Big Bridge in Tonbridge High Street, you can indulge in a sightseeing trip of Tonbridge from the river.  The quiet, green, sedate, electric launch, will take you around the town and out in to the countryside; the skipper will provide some local history and point out any wildlife along the route, whilst you enjoy the peace and quiet of the river!

If you fancy a more energetic trip on the river, you can also hire rowing boats by the hour…

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28.  National Trust: Scotney Castle

If you don’t have National Trust membership, now might be the summer to get it!  With 9 easily accessible locations close to Tunbridge Wells and access to over 500 NT sites across the UK, the family membership is a steal at £13 a month (or just under £150 for the year).  

Scotney Castle is under half an hour from central Tunbridge Wells and is a favourite with the kids all year round.  There is a ‘natural’ playground, mud kitchen, acres of beautiful grounds to explore and the house might even keep some kids interested for a minute or two!  On top of that, there is an excellent cafe in the old stables with the usual delcious array of NT treats to bribe them with!

If your kids are prepared to head further afield, there is a beautiful estate walk as well.   

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29.  National Trust: Knole Park

Knole Park has had some extensive refurbishment over the last few years and I have to admit, I have yet to visit the house at Knole.  However, I have visited countless times just to walk in the grounds and thse alone will keep the kids entertained for hours; climbing trees, looking out for friendly (sometimes too friendly!) deer and running off any excess energy!

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30.  National Trust: Igtham Mote

Igtham Mote offers a moated house which is fun to explore, beautiful if not extensive gardens, a small natural playground (with stream) and a giant dog kennel – perfect for small to medium sized children!!

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31.  National Trust: Emmetts Gardens

Emmetts is famous for its’ beautiful bluebell display in Spring.  However, it is wonderful to visit at any time of year!  There is a huge open meadow/field with stunning views over the Weald.  In the summer, there are countless games to play – all housed in a sweet little shed that the kids can help themselves to!  There is skipping, skittles, hula hoops, cricket bats, balls – you name it, you could spend the entire afternoon in the field and never see the rest of the site!

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32.  National Trust: Standen House & Garden

I am led to believe that the house itself is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts workmanship, but I’ll be honest, I’ve never braved the house with my kids!  However, the extensive grounds always have a lot to offer.  The natural play area features a willow maze, wooden swing and balance beam.  At the entrance there are often a number of lovely old fashioned toys for the kids to play with – hobby horses for example!  🥰

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32.  National Trust: Chartwell

Chartwell is famous as the home to Winston Churchill and his family.  The formal and walled gardens are just beautiful in the summer and well worth dragging the kids round – especially as there is also a delightful wendy/playhouse next to the walled garden.  The grounds are extensive and a stroll up into the woods and the play trail will provide plenty to keep the kids entertained (including a 2nd world war bomb crater!).  Beware of the black swans near the lake in summer; they are notoriously grumpy!

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33.  National Trust: Sheffield Park

I have been to Sheffield Park so many times, I have lost count!  It is stunning in the Autumn, but in summer, it provides lots of cool, shady walks and plenty of opportunities to explore, climb trees and spot wildlife.

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34.  National Trust: Nymans

Nymans has an impressive and ultimately sad history.  The original house was built around 1839 and underwent various adaptations and remodels until the house was ravaged by fire in 1947.  The family were unable to rebuild so they made safe what remained of the house, with the rest turning to ruin.  It leaves an impressive site to visit now.  The gardens have been maintained beautifully and house fascinating plants and trees from across the globe.  When I visited last summer, a field was given over to activities for the children, who were able to have running races, dress up and generally enjoy some wonderfully wholesome outdoor fun!

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35.  National Trust: Sissinghurst Castle

I adore Sissinghurst.  The gardens in Spring and Summer are simply breathtaking!  The children don’t necessarily agree – but hey!  You’ve got to do some things for yourself as a parent!  What they did enjoy, was climing the tower to enjoy the specatular views around the High Weald.  As well as the den building activities further into the estate.  Gorgeous opportuities for pinicing here too!

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So there you have it: a nice long list of summer days out with the kids in and around Tunbridge Wells this summer.  I would love to hear about the places you go to with your kids during the summer holidays.  Let me know in the comments below!

Still need ideas of what to do with the kids over the summer?  Check out the best family friendly beaches near Tunbridge Wells here.