With the summer holidays approaching, you may be thinking of things to do. Hampshire is a great place to spend the holidays, with something for the whole family to enjoy. From exploring history in castles and dockyards, to getting active in nature, find inspiration with our guide to exciting summer holiday activities in Hampshire.

Isle of Wight

Fancy a little trip? The Isle of Wight is an island off the south coast of Hampshire. One of the quickest ways of getting there is by ferry from Portsmouth or Southampton. Once on the island, there are a whole range of things to do. We recommend visiting one of its famous beaches where you can relax, swim and enjoy the many excellent seafront cafes and restaurants. One of the most popular attractions is the Needles, an iconic landmark. There are a range of attractions around these magnificent chalk stacks, including the chairlift ride to the beach. If you’re into outdoor activities like water sports, paragliding or horse riding, then this is the place to be. There are also great independent shops, as well as museums, galleries and historic sites.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

One of the most interesting things to do this summer in Hampshire is to visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, especially if you’re into ships. Anything related to naval history, you’ll find it here. There are impressive warships you can climb aboard, such as the HMS Victory and the HMS Warrior 1860. The HMS Victory is best known as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar. Check out the original guns used in battle, and admire the views of Portsmouth from the deck. There is also the option to take a tour of the harbour to learn how a naval base operates. Make sure to visit the National Museum of the Royal Navy to discover treasures from the past 350 years and hear thrilling stories from the people who worked on the ships. There are plenty of other exhibits in the Dockyard too, from Action Stations where you can do assault courses and interactive adventures, to boat rides from the Dockyard to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower.

South Downs National Park

The best summer holiday activities in Hampshire involve the outdoors. Hampshire is home to the lovely South Downs National Park, an area of 1,627 square kms. As well as the chalk hills of the South Downs, there are lush green pastures, wide open spaces, ancient woodlands, river valleys and scenic coastline. There are so many things to do within the park. With more walking routes than any other National Park in the country, the park is a haven for ramblers. There are also tons of cycling routes for all different levels, whether it’s a relaxing ride on a leafy lane or a challenging mountain biking trail. Alternatively, explore the park from the water with a kayaking adventure. If you’re a keen equestrian, the South Downs National Park is fantastic riding country, with 1200km of bridleways.

Marwell Zoo

Looking for a day out for the whole family? Marwell Zoo is the place to be. It’s home to almost 200 species of animals, including endangered and exotic species. There is a huge variety of animal exhibits on offer, including the Tropical House, World of Lemurs and the Penguin Cove. Hop on the Marwell Wildlife Railway to venture past the flamingos, hippos, rhinos and zebras. The zoo was one of the first zoos in Europe to promote animal conservation, and today it’s run by the conservation charity Marwell Wildlife. So by visiting, you’ll be helping with animal conservation projects around the world! If you want to learn more about conservation, there are daily talks and activities that you can get involved in to learn more about wildlife.

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

On a warm summer’s day, there’s no better place to be than a garden. Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is one of the most beautiful gardens in Hampshire. Founded in 1953 by the famous plantsman himself, the award-winning gardens are spread across 180 acres. There are 12,000 different plant species waiting to be explored in the Bog Garden, Winter Garden, Heather Garden, Himalayan Valley, Acer Valley and Hydrangea Walk. It’s also a haven for wildlife, with 80 species of birds and 25 species of butterflies to discover. Brimming with inspiration for your garden? Visit the garden centre for a huge range of rare and interesting plants. Little ones won’t get bored here, as the Wobbly Bridge, Woodland Treehouse, Super Snake Swings and Hilltop Adventures provide hours of fun.

Highclere Castle

Fan of Downton Abbey? You mustn’t miss a visit to Highclere Castle. The main filming location for the popular drama series, Highclere Castle is a magnificent Jacobethan country house built in the 19th century. Owned by the Earls of Carnarvon, the house is full of wonderful rooms that you can tour round. The extravagant State Rooms include the library, the music room, the drawing room and the saloon. Head upstairs to see the beautiful bedrooms, or make your way downstairs to see where the staff would prepare meals. The one bit not to miss is the Egyptian Exhibition full of antiquities and artefacts collected by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Butser Ancient Farm

For history nerds, there’s no better place in Hampshire than Butser Ancient Farm. This open-air museum features reconstructions of Stone Age, Iron Age, Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon buildings. Immerse yourself in the ancient world and learn what it was like to live during these times. Join workshops and courses to learn a range of crafts and techniques like metalworking, flintknapping, textiles, pottery, food, medicine and tree wrighting. See ancient breeds of animals or visit the eco visitor centre.