Lions, and tigers, and bears...oh my! If you think the English countryside is only inhabited by a few lazy sheep and the occasional vole, then think again. Kent is home to a vast array of animal attractions, with big cats, gorillas, brown bears, swooping eagles, herds of elephants, and wolf packs prowling the landscape.
We've picked a few spots that let you get close to fantastic beasts without having to book an African safari for the privilege. Kids will also love visiting farm animals and discovering local wildlife in the great outdoors - and make sure you visit again in the spring to see all the newborns exploring the Garden of England!
Unforgettable magic moments await you at Port Lympne Reserve, home to some of the most rare and endangered animals on the planet. From regal tigers and mighty gorillas to boisterous bears and rambunctious red pandas, the 600-acre reserve offers an epic day out amongst 73 enchanting species, with acres of stunning parkland to explore.
Hop on board a dramatic truck safari to head out across the park’s very own Kentish savannah, seeing free-roaming zebras, rhino, giraffes, wildebeest and more.
To top-off an action-packed day, choose one of the park’s many dining options in which to refuel before heading home with some wonderful memories.
Step back to a time when wild beasts roamed England's woodland...this 40 acre wildlife park and conservation charity near Canterbury is sure to capture your heart, as you spy 200 British animals in semi-natural enclosures in ancient woodland. This year, we're celebrating the arrival of the new baby bear cub, as well as their new viewing platform for the recently rewilded bison (which, might we add, a certain Leonardo DiCaprio has been posting about on social media!). So head on out, get a look at the amazing wildlife and see for yourself what the stars are talking about...
Home to over 200 species, Wingham Wildlife Park is a great place to explore with all of the family. The park has grown substantially in recent years,with big cats, mandrills, penguins, Nile crocodiles, aldabra giant tortoises and smooth-coated otters to see. Most recently the park added a huge new enclosure for a family of chimpanzees, who had previously spent their lives in an American research centre. Visitors can get even closer to the different animals by joining the various keeper talks or booking an animal experience as a treat.
Set on the beautiful Thanet coastline, this 16 acre wildlife oasis is a wonderfully unique habitat to British flora and fauna that thrive in chalk-based habitats. With fantastic trail walks, bat caves, sculpture hunts, ponds, and (of course) the beautiful chalk cliffs, you can spend the day learning about the area and its bountiful, thriving life! Pack a camera, some snacks, and head off on a fun filled day.
The loveliest castle in the world has a lot more going on than just being a mighty fine piece of Instagram eye candy. The castle regularly hosts falconry displays in its grounds, which are a must see for all the family. After watching one of the fine-feathered shows, explore the rest of the estate and see the multitude of black swans, white swans, ducks and geese that call the magestic lake their home - and let your own little animals run off steam in the onsite adventure playground.
Head along to Fenn Bell with the family and learn all about the wonderful wildlife that call this place their home. With a variety of experiences on offer, from being a keeper for the day to getting up close with meerkats, you're sure to be amazed. Plus, when you book an experience, you can be safe in knowing that you're contributing directly to the conservation of these amazing species.
Sister park of Port Lympne Reserve, Howletts Wild Animal Park on the outskirts of Canterbury is home to the UK's largest herd of African elephants amongst many other noble beasts. The park is a great choice for those who don't want a full safari experience, but still want to be close to exotic big beasts in glorious surroundings. There is also an Animals of the Ice Age exhibit where life sized pre-historic creatures have taken over the woodland walk.An experience not to be missed!
For something a little different, Huckleberry Woods - Micro Animal Adventures is ideal for the young and young at heart. This family-run farm offers the chance to treat little ones to a picture of rural life with one-to-one experiences, relaxed visits, and the chance to meet (and fall head over heels in love with) a whole host of micro and miniature breeds. Say hi to the micro pigs, miniature Mediterranean donkeys, alpacas, Teddy Bear sheep and miniature chickens, and even arrange to take the micro pigs for a walk. Now, there's an animal adventure you didn't even know you were missing until now!
Take to the water this spring as the Sea Searcher Boat tours open back up and brings you days of exciting adventure. Departing from Ramsgate Royal Harbour, take the tour across the sea through this National Nature Reserve, where you'll be able to see an amazing range of birds, including the rare ingret. Continuing on with your journey, you'll get the chance to see the seals local to the area, learning all about the wonderful mammals and their natural habitat.
If you need a break from the big beasts, why not head to Kent Life and see some of England's traditional farmyard animals living the good life? The Maidstone attraction celebrates Kent's rural traditions, with plenty of little piglets, lambs, and goats to feed and cuddle on a day out. You can also learn more about Kent's rich farming heritage and see how our native hops are traditionally dried to make delicious ale....so something for all the family is guaranteed!
Get your Attenborough moment as you take to the Thanet coastline on a guided walk with filmmaker and birdwatcher Keith. See some of the birds local to the area, and soak up all of the knowledge as you stroll along Ramsgate Harbour. This is a day of learning, fascination, and wildlife that you won't want to miss out on - so pack the binoculars and head on out!
Who could resist the gaze of this handsome beast? You may have spotted The Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden in its recent BBC2 documentary, Big Cats About The House, and offers incredible experiences and luxury overnight stays for all the cat lovers out there. The sanctuary welcomes visitors on select open days throughout the year, but you're better off booking a Big Cat Encounter, a day as a ranger or a photography experience if you want to really see their family of kitties up close.
Get ready for a cuteness overload...The Rare Breeds Centre in Woodchurch is the perfect place to entertain the little ones - or if you just have the urge to cuddle a little baby goat. This farm attraction is home to numerous animals, big and small, so the family can learn all about their habitats and habits, and also enjoy a great day out on trailer rides, listening to keeper talks or watching the birds or prey displays. There are plenty of events on throughout the year, but spring is the best time to visit if you want to see all those cute babies frolicking in the hay.
Eagle Heights Wildlife Park is a small but magestic attraction in Darent Valley, home to more than 100 birds of prey - and they are an impressive sight! With more eagles than you can shake your tail feather at, along with owls, vultures, hawks, reptiles and sled dogs, this park is a true hidden gem and one well worth seeking out.