8 Things to Do in Hampshire with the Family This Summer



As counties go, Hampshire really is among the best of the bunch – this fab corner of South East England has two national parks, historic cities, stunning seascapes and a wealth of top family-friendly days out.

There's a huge variety of things to do in this part of the world – including a good number of free Hampshire attractions if you know where to look for them – with options ranging from theme parks to outdoor activities.

But how’s a newcomer supposed to know where to start? To help plan out the itinerary of your next Hampshire holiday, we’ve come up with a handy list of 8 things to do in Hampshire with the family this summer. 

Ready to get going? Check out our full selection of campsites and holiday parks in Hampshire. 


Petersfield farm views

Cycling in the New Forest National Park

Holidays in Hampshire mean twice the walks, wildlife and scenery, as this splendid south-eastern county is home to two national parks – the New Forest and the South Downs. 

While both parks have their own appeal, when you’re in the mood for cycling there’s really nowhere quite like the New Forest. This leafy part of the world is crisscrossed by car-free waymarked cycling routes, making it a great family day out for seasoned cyclists and newbies alike. And, while it's not entirely flat, the New Forest is a good deal less hilly than the South Downs, meaning cycling here is a lot less strenuous. 

If you've brought your own bike, cycling in the New Forest National Park is absolutely free; if not, bike hire is available in a number of the bigger villages like Brockenhurst and Lyndhurst. 

Feeling outdoorsy? Click here to explore our selection of the 5 best walks in Hampshire.

Winchester Cathedral 

Winchester’s ancient and medieval past means the city's streets are strewn with all sorts of monuments and landmarks – but Winchester Cathedral is its undisputed highlight. You can't miss the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe – just head to the centre of town and you'll soon see parts of its gorgeous stonework peeping between the trees, coffee shops and houses. 

Inside, you can peer at illuminated manuscripts and admire relics and stunning stained glass windows before descending into the crypt, home to a striking Anthony Gormley sculpture. Once outside, stop off for lunch or a light bite at the cathedral refectory, wander through the water meadows that line the river Itchen, or take a short stroll around the corner to see the house where Hampshire-born novelist Jane Austen lived out her last days.

 Winchester Cathedral (Franz Hajak/Unsplash)


Portsmouth city centre

While Winchester's home to old-world grace, Portsmouth is a dynamic maritime city with all sorts of exciting options for visitors. Start off by browsing the big-brand outlets at Gunwharf Quays before heading to lunch at one of the restaurants along the waterfront. 

For afters, you might like to take a lift 100 metres above the city streets to take in far-reaching vistas from the top of the Spinnaker Tower or explore Henry VIII's flagship the Mary Rose in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where you can also see vessels like HMS Victory and HMS Warrior. Portsmouth is also one of Hampshire's gateways to the Isle of Wight – take the hovercraft from the ferry port and you can be in Ryde in as little as 10 minutes. 

Highclere Castle 

Sitting in spectacular parkland close to the border with Berkshire, Highclere Abbey is a sure-fire way to keep Downton Abbey fans happy – the majority of the award-winning show was filmed in the grounds of this handsome Hampshire pile. 

Even if you’re not a fan of the show, there are still plenty of reasons to visit Highclere Castle – the historic State Rooms are among the best interiors in all of England, while the Egyptian exhibition sheds light on the links between the castle’s founding dynasty and the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. 


Birds of prey in Hampshire


The Hawk Conservancy Trust

​​Find yourself face to face with magnificent birds of prey at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, a wild day out near Andover in the mid-Hampshire countryside. Natural history fans will definitely appreciate the opportunity to experience some of the most spectacular flying shows in the area, visit the centre's family of unusual burrowing owls and check out other exotic species like ibis, storks and vultures. 

This family-friendly spot is well-equipped for young adventurers, who have a bird of prey-themed playground to explore and a kids' activity trail. Guests over the age of 12 can also book onto handling and falconry experiences and see what it's like to handle these majestic beasts. 

Marwell Zoo

While the Hawk Conservancy Trust is a hotspot for bird fans, if you're looking to meet a wider range of animals you'll need to hot-foot it to Marwell Zoo, one of Hampshire's most popular wildlife parks. Set in the grounds of a stately home within easy reach of the M3 and M27, Marwell Zoo is home to almost 150 different species, all of which can be visited in a fun and family-friendly environment.

In addition to the zoo's extensive collection of wildlife, the park is home to an immersive tropical house, four adventure playgrounds, cafés, leafy picnic areas, gift shops and handy miniature trains to help tired little feet get back to the car at the end of the day. 

Paultons Park

The prospect of a trip to Paultons Park, a theme park near the market town of Romsey, is a tried and tested way to encourage (i.e., bribe) the kids into a week of good behaviour. There's a reason the small sorts like coming here so much, what with the rollercoasters, rides and 80 species of birds and animals to investigate. 

Paultons Park is also home to Peppa Pig World, an area of the park where kids can step into the world of the much-loved TV show. 

While Paultons Park has something for almost everyone, the site is generally geared towards younger kids, making this Hampshire attraction a great pick for families with children under 12.  


Lepe beach

Free days out in Hampshire: Moors Valley and Lepe country parks

Looking for somewhere in Hampshire that’s free to enter? The county has a wide range of country parks to explore, whether you’re after forest explores, coastal capers or riverside picnics. 

Our first pick is Moors Valley Country Park and Forest, a vast expanse of wooded land that sits on the border with Dorset just to the west of the New Forest National Park. There’s no charge to enter Moors Valley (although you’ll have to pay to park if you’re coming by car), and the park is home to free family-friendly activities including a huge adventure playground, sculpture trails and bike paths. 

Beachgoers will also appreciate the wide range of amenities available at Lepe Country Park, a coastal spot with views over the Solent and facilities like a café and shop. For a small charge, the kids can also pick up a guide to a trail with brass rubbings, quizzes and puzzles from the site office. 

Like to be beside the seaside? There’s more where that came from – have a read of our guides to the best beaches in Hampshire and Hampshire’s best dog-friendly beaches to learn more. 


Bagging a Hampshire break this year? If you’re opting for campsites, glampsites or holiday parks, get the most out of your getaway with our ultimate beginner’s guide to camping in South East England