Hampshire’s geographical position on the south coast of England allows it to benefit from fresh breezy coastlines, as well as lush green countryside.
Hampshire is a large county, so when it comes to finding attractions and interesting places to visit, there are a lot of options. This is what makes Hampshire an ideal destination for family days out.
Originally created as a public and educational building to celebrate the new Millennium, The Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is taller than both Big Ben and the London Eye.
There are two ways to approach the Spinnaker Tower.
The Laid-Back Approach
There are 570 steps leading up to the View Decks.
Luckily for those of you who like your sightseeing with a nice cup of tea and a sit down, you will be pleased to learn that there is a lift.
The lift will zoom you up to the View Decks in just 30 seconds (but if you want to tell people you climbed the stairs, we won’t tell).
Once you arrive at the View Decks, head straight to the Clouds Café.
From there you can take in the incredible views across Portsmouth harbour whilst enjoying a traditional afternoon tea including sandwiches and of course, scones with jam and clotted cream. The High Tea Experience costs £55 for two people; and includes a general admission ticket to explore the tower at your leisure.
Or for a touch more glamour, the Tower & Sparkles Experience includes a reserved table at The Clouds café, a mini bottle of Prosecco, and a general admission ticket for the tower. This experience is for over 18s only, and costs £15 per person.
If you want to make the most of your visit and see as much of the tower as possible, book a Guided Tour. Available every day at either 11am or 3pm for £16.50 per person, children are welcome if they are accompanied by an adult.
On a hot day, the Sky Garden is where you’ll want to be. Not only does it give you the highest view, it is also open to the elements, so you’ll feel refreshed by the sea breeze.
The Daring Approach
Do you consider yourself to be daring? Living life on the edge is one thing, but are you brave enough to jump off it?
Begin by climbing the 100 steps of the tower’s hidden staircase, then step onto a metal platform 25 metres above sea level and leap fearlessly in a harnessed descent.
The Drop costs £18 for adults, or £15 for children (11- 15 years). This experience is not suitable for children under age 11 on account of how terrifying it is.
If you don’t fancy jumping off the edge of the building, you could always abseil down the side of it.
Available on selected dates, abseiling 100 metres down the side of the tower starts from £100 per person, and includes a medal for participating. For an extra £30 you can go for the Gold package, which gives you a GoPro video and a photo to use as proof later.
After all that, this last one is going to seem easy. The Sky Walk is a walkway with a glass floor exposing the landscape below. A tentative walk over it will give you a bird’s eye view and a great photo opportunity.
Marwell Zoo is home to hundreds of animals, including endangered species and animals you probably haven’t even heard of, such as Mountain Bongos, Binturongs, and Blesboks, as well as a few that just sound fictional, like the Gila Monster and the Painted Dragon.
If you are visiting with kids, your first stop should be the Info Cabin to pick up an Explorers Trail pack. For a suggested donation of £1, explorers can collect stamps as they visit different areas. Once they have completed the trail and collected all nine stamps, take the pack to the gift shop to claim a free sticker and have a chance to win an annual membership for 2 adults and 2 children.
Marwell Zoo has not one, but five different adventure playgrounds, ensuring there is a place to play for children of every age. Each play area has been strategically placed near a location that sells tea and coffee, so there’s something for adults of all ages too.
It is difficult to visit a place like Marwell Zoo without making a trip to the Gift Shop and purchasing an irresistible cuddly toy version of your favourite animal. On the plus side, profits from the gift shop go back to the animals to pay for their care, as well as funding conservation programmes around the world.
Marwell Zoo even has an Art Gallery, with a permanent exhibition showcasing incredible wildlife paintings by Artist-in-Residence, Pip McGarry. Make sure you drop in before you set off for home.
Near to the zoo, Holden Farm is an ideal place to go camping. With hot showers and fire pits, you can have a taste of the outdoors without having to venture into the wilderness.
With two large national parks, Hampshire has a huge capacity for outdoor activities in the daytime. Hire bikes for the day or follow a walking route; and remember to pack a picnic – there is plenty of exploring to do.
New Forest National Park
New Forest National Park is exactly what its name suggests: Vast stretches of woodland, inhabited with all kinds of wildlife. If you need to escape for a while, escape here.
The New Forest covers such a large area that it houses several attractions within its boundaries, including Exbury Gardens, a 200 acre site.
If you are visiting Exbury Gardens with children, you can pick up an activity sheet at the Visitor Entrance. The activity sheet prompts children to learn about the nature around them by looking, feeling, and smelling the plants that they come across. And whilst you are at the Visitor Entrance, you can also buy a bag of fish food for £1 so that the children can help to feed the koi carp.
South Downs National Park
South Downs National Park reaches all the way from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex.
The scenery is best taken in as you meander along South Downs Way on foot, bicycle, or horseback. Follow in the footsteps of writer Virginia Woolf, who loved to walk on the South Downs.
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
For a more educational day out, visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Spend a day exploring the many attractions, exhibitions, and museums. Take a little time out for a tea and cake break at the Copper Kettle café on board the HMS Warrior.
National Museum of The Royal Navy
The National Museum of the Royal Navy tells the story of the last 100 years of Naval history from the perspective of those who lived through it.
The HMS- Hear My Story exhibition allows you to learn more about what life was like for the ordinary men and women who contributed to the Navy’s history through times of both war and peace.
Located in Romsey, Paultons Park is a family theme park filled with rides and rollercoasters, as well as log flumes to keep you cool on a hot day.
Peppa Pig World
If you are considering visiting Paultons Park and you have younger children, make sure they don’t see the website or any marketing material from the park before you have decided whether or not you are going.
If they do happen to come across any marketing material, they will instantly see giant Peppa Pig characters, a huge Peppa Pig themed castle, and the colourful cartoon style Peppa Pig based rides that make up Peppa Pig World.
At this point it is out of your hands. No longer a question of whether you will go, the focus will quickly shift onto how soon you will go. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
For the more dinosaur oriented, the equivalent is the Lost Kingdom. Think Jurassic Park: Prehistoric scenery; animatronic dinosaurs walking around; and of course, dinosaur themed rides.
Meeting dinosaurs and celebrity cartoon pigs can really work up an appetite. So on the way home, treat the family to some traditional pub food at The Empress of Blandings. With classic English dishes made to high standards, this is how pub food should be. Just make sure you save some room for dessert- apple crumble fans will not be disappointed.
There are two different McDonalds restaurants near to Paultons Park, so it’s likely the kids will have spotted at least one on the way in. If they ask, tell them you’ve got a special place in mind for dinner. Then when you arrive at The Empress of Blandings, point out that there is a picture of a pig on the sign, tell them it’s Peppa’s favourite restaurant, and hand them a kids menu. That should do the trick.