Begin family holidays in Kent in the historic city of Canterbury, where you can scoot around Canterbury Cathedral, founded in 597AD, then listen to yarns at The Canterbury Tales, a visitor centre offering children’s commentaries to accompany Chaucer and his characters on their pilgrimage from London to the shrine of St Thomas Becket in the cathedral. If you have more time to spare, take an historic cruise along the River Stour, or venture 5km miles south of Canterbury, to Howletts Wild Animal Park, home to the UK’s largest African elephant herd, apes, tigers and snow leopards, plus a Treetop Challenge for ages 5 and up.
Head due north to the coast at Whitstable, where kids can learn to kite-surf on the flat water known as The Street, and the whole family can explore the town’s shops, galleries and delis. Herne Bay has its pretty, quiet beach, while Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs also offer great beaches and old-fashioned British seaside fun. Ramsgate Harbour is perfect for seal spotting and speedboat trips. See our feature Ten Best Beach Holidays in the South East for more on Whitstable, Broadstairs and Herne Bay.
Move on to Faversham, where Farming World offers tractor rides, adventure playgrounds and soft play, as well as animals including pigs, horses, llamas and alpacas.
Venture southeast of Whitstable, where Wildwood Woodland and Wild Animal Park has more than 50 species of British wildlife, including owls, otters, wild boar and wolves, in 40 acres of woodland.
Near Sandwich, see gibbons, wallabies and a whole host of other animals, plus animatronic dinosaurs, at Wingham Wildlife Park.
Explore the fortifications at Deal Castle or head to Dover to see the famous white cliffs and Dover Castle with a new attraction telling the story of the Dunkirk evacuation.
Don’t leave the south coast without taking a ride on the Hythe and Dymchurch Miniature Railway, the world’s smallest steam railway, from picturesque Hythe out to bleak but atmospheric Dungeness. See our feature A Great Family Journey by Steam Train.
Head inland, to the area around Ashford, where Port Lympne Wild Animal Park offers a 90-minute safari ride to see giraffe, black rhino, wildebeest and zebra, and the Rare Breeds Centre between Hamstreet and Woodchurch offers more traditional pastimes, including trailer rides and seasonal pig racing. Little ones will also love the ride on Thomas the Tank Engine on the Kent and East Sussex Railway.
Enjoy Maidstone's fantastically child-friendly Leeds Castle with its Knights' Realm playground, maze and grotto, and Go Ape! treetop course for ages 10+. At neighbouring Hop Farm Family Park, enjoy themepark-style attractions including a magic factory, giant jumping pillows, a children’s driving school and an outdoor adventure park, and at Kent Life Heritage Farm meet a range of farm animals, as well as discovering the adventure play area, nature trail and tractor rides.
Carry on north of Maidstone, to Chatham with its trio of family-friendly attractions. You might check out the pirate play days and ghost walks at the Historic Dockyard Chatham, and in nearby Strood, play on the scaled-down JCBs at Diggerland.
Don’t overlook west Kent, where 13th-century Hever Castle has an adventure playground, a splashing water maze and enough armour to keep little gore seekers satisfied, and Scotney Castle in Tunbridge Wells is a romantic medieval ruin that’s fun to roam.
Don’t leave Kent without taking the Spa Valley Steam Railway to Groombridge Place Gardens and the Enchanted Forest, where little ones can play on giant swings and get lost in a mystical forest of animals including deer and giant rabbits.