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Josh Carter
12th April 2024

Ah, the summer holidays… A lengthy time off basking in the sunshine, while taking trips out as a family which will no doubt remain a fun memory throughout the year taking us into autumn and winter. Sometimes it can be a tricky thing to fill the weeks with enough to keep everyone in the unit entertained, so we’re here to help. From historic days out to anniversaries and plenty of activities, here’s our guide to the summer holidays in Kent…

Set sail to the Historic Dockyard Chatham

It’s a big celebration for the Historic Dockyard Chatham this year as the site has its 40th Anniversary since the closure of the working dockyard, and start of the charity that looks after it today. Being the home of the National Historic Lifeboat Collection, the Dockyard has a new special exhibit which marks 200 years of the RNLI, telling the stories of the men and women who have saved hundreds of lives over the years.

On the 15th and 16th June, the Dockyard turns into a hub for gaming, technology and entertainment as the Medway Gaming Festival returns for another year of the ultimate gaming experience – think live sports, cosplay and table top games.

Spend summer in the city of Canterbury

Wherever you are in Canterbury, you will find a beautiful view in the summertime, but throughout the warmer months you will also be able to head to a range of special events. On the 6th July, the city celebrates its history with the Medieval Pageant, beginning with a large parade of historical characters and re-enactments, and a mass of activities and crafts at sites throughout the city. Up at the University of Kent, the family arts festival bOing! will be celebrating its 10th anniversary – bringing together a heap of dance and typography workshops to exhilarating acrobatics and silent discos.

If we’ve been granted a scorcher of a day when you visit, take a trip north to Herne Bay where the coast will cool you down. Take a wander along the pier, visit some traditional seaside amusements and then take in the coastal history at the Seaside Museum.

Another ideal scenario for not just warm days, but even the winter, is Canoe Wild. In 2024, they are introducing Summer Holiday Young Paddlers Camp. This full day is for 8 to 14 year olds to take part in paddle sport activities as well as complete challenges, play games, make friends and even receive British Canoeing Awards!

Stop at an English Heritage property

With Castles dotting the east Kent coastline, English Heritage certainly has an historic tale or two to tell to the family! Make your way to Dover Castle daily from 10am to 5pm from 20th July to 1st September to learn what life was like in medieval times – think sword schools to medieval fun and games, with the activities changing each week. On special weekends, there’s also other events taking place. For high seas adventure, ‘Pirates!’, is running Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th August – watch history's most famous pirates battling right in front of you, with opportunities to hear their tales of mischief through shows, demonstrations and hands-on activities. On August 24th to 26th, from 10am to 5pm, Clash of Knights comes to Dover Castle. There will be plenty of knights battling, archery for you to take part in, a medieval encampment and freshly cooked-over-the-fire food, as colourful banners flutter above you like a proper camp of the day.

A little further north from Dover is Walmer Castle. The home to the Queen Mother during her visits to the coast as Lord Warden, English Heritage are opening up the private Lord Warden’s apartment to the public for the first time, so you can explore the sitting room, dining room and master bedroom of a bygone and historical era. For the little ones, follow the quest around the stunning gardens and complete exploration challenges, which should keep them busy while you admire the wildflower meadows, kitchen garden and more.

With all of these, be sure to book online before visiting and save 15%!

Wander the lavender at Castle Farm

Have you dreamed of visiting the rolling lavender farms, where there’s nothing but blue sky and purple? Well dream no more! From mid-June to late July, Castle Farm’s lavender comes alive. Not only does lavender help you sleep, but a day wandering the fields, having a BYO picnic, or hopping onto an educational Lavender Tour will bring you a day full of relaxation. Their onsite farm shop also offers visitors plenty of lavender infused gifts as well as plenty of local produce.  

Do all the things at Betteshanger

A 250 acre site, Betteshanger Park has activities for everyone – whether you want to cycle, walk or run their green rolling grounds, burn the kids’ energy at their play park with zip lines, maze and climbing frames or learn about the county’s mining heritage, you could easily spend a full day here. Throughout the summer there’s also a packed event schedule, including the Heritage Sprint which celebrates two wheels, and interactive and informative dinosaur shows plus school holiday clubs!

Spend the summer on the Folkestone coast

Gazing across the English Channel with the sun high in the sky and a packed events schedule – it can only be Folkestone. Head to the south east coast in May for Music in May, when the town hosts over 150 events for live music and concerts – including lots of local to international talent! Later in July on the 13th, there is the Charivari street carnival, which has around 700 costumed participants and street bands dancing their way through Folkestone. Another to note is the iconic Harbour Arm event ‘The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever’ on the 28th July – the community feelgood day where everyone is dressed in red and prepared to dance!

Whether you're seeking a family adventure or a rejuvenating mid-summer escape, stay at the View Hotel and savour the essence of summer – sea views, dinner and breakfast included all thoughtfully prepared, and everything in between! As you might not want to leave, there are discounts available for multiple-night bookings in their Summer Breaks Package too.

Explore the sandy shores in Thanet

Another of Kent’s stunning coastline areas is Thanet, and they certainly have a packed event schedule! On the 9th to 16th August, Broadstairs Folk Week makes its triumphant return, which has outdoor theatre, workshops for all abilities in music and song, the Hobby Horse Club to get the kids singing and dancing - and you could say a lot of live music!

For those you want to be with toes in the sand and over the rock pools, hire a Coastal Explorer Pack in Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate which contain packs with equipment, activity cards, trails and images to help you discover the heritage and coastline of Thanet. But, if you’d rather a little tour of the coast, take in the coastline with Stagecoach’s Thanet Open Top Bus which runs daily from 27th July to 1st September.

Just 10/15 minutes from Margate is the Powell Cotton Museum, which has the some delightful open air theatre on August 21st – a new adaptation of Beatrix Potter’s much-loved tale, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck.

Wonder at miniature worlds

A diverse array of exhibits and events featuring iconic brands such as Hornby, Scalextric, Airfix, Corgi, and Pocher awaits you at the WonderWorks in Margate. Home to a range of interactive pieces from Hornby's model railways featuring miniature towns, landscapes, and railway stations, and racing against friends and family on the Scalextric tracks, to testing your skills on the Airfix model building stations, where you can assemble your own miniature masterpieces. This is one all of your family (especially the dads as well!) will take a day out for. The WonderWorks will also feature a fascinating range of free daily workshops, events and ‘meet the team’ sessions throughout the summer, be sure to keep an eye on their What’s On page for details.

Ancient grounds at Godinton House

The stunning gardens and house near Ashford is worth a visit to wander in the British summer sunshine, topped off by an ice cream from the Stables, or cream tea and cake in the old Billiard Room tearoom, any day of the summer. However, Godinton House too have a grand events schedule! On the 13th and 20th July, there is Pantaloons in the gardens’ open-air theatre with shows of 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'Robin Hood', and then on 3rd August, The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company’s 'The Dressing Book'.

Beyond the White Cliffs

The coastline that lies around the Dover area is incredibly dramatic, with the cliffs of course, but also the shingle beaches at Deal and Dover and the sandy beach in Sandwich Bay. In St Margaret’s Bay, you can take the kids rock pooling to uncover what lies among the chalk and flint, or perhaps even paddleboard. To see this coastline from a different perspective, take a Dover Sea Safari trip (which is suitable for those above three years old), spot seals and have a unique view below the White Cliffs. Inland, step back in time and enjoy a 4-mile round trip on Heritage trains and the miniature railway, see the smaller gauge model railway carriage and enjoy a leisurely stroll around The Knees Woodland, all courtesy of East Kent Railway. For those who might wish to have a more exhilarating experience in the water, near Sandwich is Whitemill Wake and Aqua Park, the only wake park in Kent with a state of the art ski cable system plus an incredible floating obstacle course, open-water swimming and other water-based activities for all ages. 

To make it a short break, consider staying at the Sea Purse in St Margaret's Bay - located right on the beach with a wrap around balcony and uninterrupted sea views, it’s a perfect group holiday home!  

Climb the Riverhill Himalayans

Over the summer, the Riverhill Himalayan Gardens are taking inspiration from their namesake, the Himalayan Mountains, the highest mountain range in the world. Having created an activity for each of the five countries that border the Himalayas (plus an extra yeti themed activity for good measure!), you can collect your passport in the first week and then embark on the likes of creating prayer flags from Nepal, dream catcher weaving from Pakistan and shadow puppets from China!

Take inspiration from Kent’s Wildlife

Celebrate Kent’s nature by taking part in some of Kent Wildlife Trust’s summer events. Across the break and with various dates in July and August, their Wilder Holiday Club offers days full of activities to harness your child’s love of nature, at both their Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve and Tyland Barn Nature Park in Maidstone. On the 6th July, there is a Festival of Nature at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve & Visitor Centre – a celebration of nature, with sustainable stalls and a raft of nature-themed activities! Finally, on the 13th July, at Victory Wood, there will be a Wilder Blean Festival, which will be centered around how Kent Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust and RSPB’s introduction of bison at West Blean Woods has helped the local ecosystem. It will feature talks and tours from conservation experts, wildlife crafts and activities and celebrate the launch of the children’s book ‘The Bison and the Butterfly’.

Performance in the castle grounds

We’ve got a thing for outdoor performance in the summer here in Kent – and the settings of Hever and Chiddingstone Castle are certainly up there as some of the best places you can view it. The Festival Theatre at Hever Castle has been called "The best theatre setting in the world!" and this year there is a fabulous programme of family shows with the likes of The Adventures of Doctor Dolittle on 31st May and the classic tale of Peter Pan on 23rd July. For a colourful show full of inspiration, take in an afternoon of ‘Top Secret – The Magic of Science’, an interactive puppet show in ‘Out of the Hat’ and Horrible Histories ‘Rotten Royals’ in August. Plus! For an added bonus, tickets for an afternoon performance include the opportunity to enjoy Hever Castle gardens and playground after the show.

Nearby at Chiddingstone Castle, and as part of Hever Festival, there are a host of events beginning with The Circus of Curiosities on 14th July - a joyous afternoon of curious circus acts, the opportunity to work on your circus skills in a skills workshops and take part in a Curious Trail through the Chiddingstone Castle museum.

Back to nature at Penshurst Place

Summer holiday activities don't have to be expensive for you and your family to have the best day, just take a look at our free things to do in Kent feature. This summer Penshurst Place and Gardens have a selection of exciting activities to get involved in all included within general admissions. If it's the thrill of living like a true wilderness explorer then Bushcraft may just be the perfect fit for your little ones, or maybe it's a chill day listening to a wonderful story in the gardens you would prefer or, why not treat yourself to the best of both worlds with a Falconry display so you can sit back, look up and relax. Sounds like a countryside summer is sorted!

Leeds Castle puts on a show

We don’t need to paint too big of a picture of Leeds Castle to you already as you’ll know it’s quite the place, yet over the summer it becomes even more of a must-visit! On the 10th and 11th August, there will be live stunt shows, cars from the Second World War to modern day, jet ski freestyle shows and live music as Motors on the Moat returns. Throughout the summer you can take in the seaside in the middle of the countryside as the grounds have their very own sandy area to build your own little castles. For those who want to see another, more natural display, head to Leeds Castle’s Bird of Prey Centre, which has daily displays (weather permitting) of the likes of Mozart a European Eagle Owl and Norris the Tawny Owl.

Take the bus! 

If you’re stacking up the ideas with all of these things to do, make sure you keep the costs down by travelling with Stagecoach! Not only do they offer 50% off Wildwood entry when you travel with them, but kids travel for £1, which will no doubt make sitting at the front on the top deck even more fun!

Kids travel for just £1!

With stations covered in the likes of Dover, Ramsgate to Sevenoaks, nearly all the of the above adventures are on Southeastern's network, plus throughout the summer on off-peak services you can take up to four children with you for just £1 each! Download the Southeastern App to buy your tickets and plan your journey.