days out for the kids in Dorset

Affordable days out in Dorset for the kids

Take the kids on a day out in Dorset that wont break the bank...

The end of term is certainly a cause for celebration if you happen to be a kid or a teacher. But for parents on a tight budget, finding interesting ways to spend the school holidays can seem like a tall order. But fear not; outings in Dorset needn’t cost the earth and some can even be free! Here are three ways to fill those days without breaking the bank.

days out in Dorset

Moors Valley Country park

Without doubt one of the best value cheap kids days out in Dorset, Moors Valley Country Park has enough on offer to satisfy even the most demanding little tearaways. Open from 8am all year round and situated just 10 miles north of Bournemouth, vehicles with up to 13 seats can park all day for £8.00 during the spring half term. There’s masses to do in the park on foot, two wheels or even up in the treetops.

Centrepiece of the park and free to use, is a 3.5k play trail punctuated by 10 huge play structures varying from a giant wooden ants nest to the “snake pit” play fort. Take your bikes and a picnic and there are also miles of free cycle routes to explore. For a small additional cost - and highly recommended, you can treat the little darlings to a ride on an authentic narrow- gauge steam railway that winds its way around a mile of track through tunnels, around the lake and via a dinky station. Trains run every weekend and all through the holidays. Buy the kids an ice cream and pack them off to the large adventure playground near the car park and you can grab a sneaky cake and a cuppa in the café to finish off your day. Half term activities this year will woodland story telling and evening walks for younger children plus a chance for older kids to have a go at night cycling.

Moors Valley also hosts exciting Go Ape treetop adventures for adults and children over 10 as well as a junior version for younger kids. These additional activities don’t come cheap and need to be pre-booked at busy times, but are adrenaline-filled treats. Those who fancy something different can even try a Segway safari around the forest tracks (over 10’s only and kids must be accompanied by an adult).

To visit Moors Valley's website, click here.

fun days out in Dorset

Ringstead Bay

When the sun comes out there are few better places be than the seaside and Dorset has more than its fair share of lovely beaches. Many of them are busy in the holidays but Ringstead Bay – just up the coast from Weymouth is one of Dorset’s hidden Gems and perfect for kids of all ages. You can even take the dog. Situated off the B3390 near Poxwell, the Ringstead turning winds it way towards the top of a steep hill. Carry straight on at the top and you can mingle with the paragliders in the free National Trust car park – but it’s a steep 30 minute walk to the sea. Turning right down the toll road is the more expensive option as parking at the private car park at the bottom of the hill costs £5 from Spring to autumn (£2 after 4pm) but gives access to loos and a brilliant café/shop that sells lovely grub and absolutely everything a beachgoer might need. The shingle and sandy beach is just a short walk and perfect for children as a rocky reef a handful of meters from the shore ensures calm water and gives the kids somewhere to aim for at low tide. Many locals use the beach and in the summer months it has a real family feel as dinghy’s bob and barbecues smoulder late into the evening.

Top tips for a great day at Ringstead Bay:

· Get online and grab the kids a good second-hand wetsuit. Cheap as chips on Ebay or Gumtree and they can stay in the water all day.

· Take a jumper just in case – It’s often windy.

· Turn right and stroll along the beach or take the cliff top path to Osmington and grab a bite to eat at the excellent Smuggler’s Inn (about a mile-and-a-half each way).

· Don’t venture too far along the coast to the left or you’ll end up on the nudist beach!

To find out more about Ringstead Beach, click here.

family days out in Dorset

Swanage and Durlston Country Park

It’s surprise people keep coming back to Swanage year after year as its absolutely lovely. Being quite compact it’s easy to wander around the town on foot and not too difficult to find somewhere to park for free in the residential (but steep) roads away from the town centre. The railway station bang in the centre of town takes you right back in time as imposing and immaculately maintained steam locomotives chuff in and out throughout the day. Fares are expensive but benches on the road next to the platform provide the ideal elevated vantage point to watch them come and go. Wander into town and an eclectic assortment of quirky shops of all shapes and sizes – including a whole bunch of charity shops, offer bargains galore, while the seafront amusement arcade is open all year round and has a great selection of slots old and new for the kids. Culinary highlights in town include Hayman’s family bakers who serve up a multitude of diet busting delights with a smile. Top tip for excellent fish and chips is the appropriately named Fish Plaice right in the centre of town. From there its only a short walk past the historic pier to the picturesque Durlston Country Park which is the ideal place to burn off all those calories with miles of coastal walks offering stunning sea views all the way down to the lighthouse at Anvil Point.

Top tips for a great day in Swanage:

· Snap up a children’s combo rod and reel set from the Swanage Angling Centre on the high street and try your luck fishing from the pier (£15 all in, including fishing charge).

· If the sun is shining head for Studland Bay (Just a short drive from Swanage towards the Studland Ferry) The beaches are amazing; in fact almost Mediterranean, with miles of fine sand and the imposing Old Harry Rocks within easy walking distance.

· Seek out Chococo. This Purbeck-based chocolate company nestles in a courtyard behind the main shops. It’s not easy to find but is well worth the effort. The chocolates are simply amazing and you can also enjoy a sumptuous hot chocolate and a selection of sweet treats in the attached chocolate café. Yum!

To find out more about Swanage, click here.

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