With its dramatic coastline, scenic country parks and array of family-friendly attractions, Dorset is the ideal destination for all ages; from adrenalin-pumping high-rope courses to horse farms, the region offers adventures to suit every member of the family. Stay at the elegant Summer Lodge, located in the heart of Evershot, to hop between the best family attractions in Dorset.
Moors Valley Country Park
Head over to this 1,000-acre adventure park for walking trails, a steam railway, golf, Segways and a Go Ape high-wire adventure course; expect zip-wires and Tarzan Swings set among the towering tree tops (minimum age, 10 years). There’s also a cycle hire centre, and the park hosts a variety of family-orientated events during the school holidays.
Located around an hour from Evershot, Adventure Wonderland is a paradise for thrill-seeking, Alice-in-Wonderland-loving kids. Aimed at children aged three to 10 years, it offers an array of rides alongside a large, jungle-themed indoor play area, characters from the book and ‘Shrinking Mirror Hedge’, a collection of distorting mirrors hidden among the bushes.
Take the little monkeys to this 65-acre ape rescue centre in Wareham, where children can enjoy spotting stars of monkey TV shows such as ‘Monkey Business’. There’s a Great Ape Adventure Play Area where your kids can let loose, and the park runs family events throughout the year, from bank holiday prize draws to Easter egg hunts.
Sea Life Adventure Park and Tower
Rides, a splash zone, an interactive rock pool and an indoor ocean tunnel greet visitors at this huge indoor and outdoor park in Weymouth, where you’ll find over 1,000 sea creatures. Admire penguins, turtles, seals, sharks and stingrays, before climbing the Jurassic Skyline, a 53-metre tall tower, which offers 360-degree views over the stunning coast.
Dorset Heavy Horse Centre
Drive an hour south of Evershot to discover this park dedicated to horses. Alongside several rescued heavy horses there are donkeys, kunie kunie pigs, alpacas, snow dogs and more, and a daily schedule of tours, talks and tractor rides turns the park into a hive of activity.
The Dinosaur Museum
This fascinating collection of fossils, skeletons and reconstructions will have you as intrigued as your kids. Set right by the Jurassic Coast and known as one of the biggest of its kind in the UK, it offers hands-on experiences designed to engage and educate little ones in a fun, interactive environment.
Kayak the Jurassic Coast
Kayaking is one of the best ways to experience Dorset’s beautiful, dramatic coastline, and it’s also the perfect way to keep restless teenagers entertained. Jurassic Coast Activities offer kayaking tours out from Lulworth Cove for those aged 12 and above, so embrace the great outdoors and take them on a trip you’ll all remember for years to come.
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park
Choose your favourite animal in the pig race, embark on a tractor safari through the deer enclosure and help your kids find their way around the maize maze (in summer) at this popular park aimed at under-eights. There are milking demonstrations, two bouncy castles, a water play area and a ‘straw mountain’ for the little ones to explore, too.
The region’s rugged cliffs form the perfect backdrop for rock climbing. Dorset Adventures organise introductory climbing trips, for anyone aged 12 and over, in Portland and Swanage, teaching basic skills on easy routes, before progressing to more challenging ones later on in the day.
Purbeck’s ancient castle-ruins regularly play host to historical re-enactments, taking you and the family on a journey back through time. There’s also a quiz trail and model village, and at Swanage Railway around the corner, you can take a ride on a classic steam train to experience life as it was in the 1950s.
Image credits: Cover photo of the train to Corfe Castle © iStock / addimage. Moors Valley Country Park © Flickr / Train Photos. Cherri and Thelma at Monkey World © Monkey World. Humboldt penguins can be seen at Sea Life Adventure Park © Flickr / Martin Pettitt. The Jurassic Coast © Flickr / Robert Pittman. Corfe Castle © Flickr / Jim Champion.