Best things to do outdoors with Kids in Essex

Essex has lots of things to do outdoors for families. It’s not too far from London if you’re wanting city life and more busy, exciting days out for kids but Essex also has a good variety of things to do for families with kids of all ages. Read on for our favourite outdoors things to do in Essex with kids.

Colchester Zoo:

For families seeking outdoor adventures, a visit to Colchester Zoo is a must-do in Essex. This award-winning zoo offers a unique opportunity for children to observe over 260 species of animals up close and personal. From majestic elephants to playful meerkats, the diverse range of wildlife will surely captivate young minds but they also have lots of activities and things to do at the zoo to promote conservation awareness.

Adventure Island (Southend-on-Sea):

Another exciting family-friendly destination in Essex is Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea. This amusement park boasts an array of thrilling rides and attractions suitable for kids of all ages. Parents can join in the fun on roller coasters like ‘Rage’ or enjoy more relaxed activities such as mini-golf. With its bustling atmosphere and scenic seaside location, Adventure Island guarantees a day filled with laughter and lasting memories for the whole family.

Audley End Miniature Railway (Saffron Walden):

This miniature railway offers a unique journey through picturesque woodlands aboard charming steam trains, providing children with an unforgettable experience of riding on a real-life locomotive. The surrounding gardens and picnic areas make it an ideal spot for a peaceful family day out in Essex. There’s also a cafe and an adventure playground area.

Audley End Miniature Railway

Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park:

For a fun day out with the family in Essex, head to Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park where kids can interact with farm animals, enjoy tractor rides, and even try their hand at fishing. It’s got a great outdoor play area and they have family friendly activities and events on all year round from Christmas to Easter to Halloween so it’s always a good time to visit!

Tilbury Fort

Take a step back in time at the historic Tilbury Fort, where children can learn about its fascinating history through interactive exhibits and engaging activities. Tilbury Fort is an English Heritage Centre so if you’re a member – your visit is free. There’s a picnic area, adventure playground and pretty garden to explore.

Colne Valley Railway

Castle Hedingham, Halstead CO9 3DZ

You can visit Colne Valley Railway to ride the steam trains, see the model railway and there’s a decent woodland walk there too.

Mountfitchet Castle

Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex CM24 8SP

If your kids are studying the Domesday period in primary school then a visit to Mountfitchet Castle is a must! Kids will love the rescued animals that roam freely in the grounds and visiting the Included in your ticket price is a visit to the largest Toy Museum in the world – House on the Hill Museum and if you dare – there’s a haunted house to explore! It’s a great family day out.

Redwings Horse Sanctuary Ada Cole

Broadlands, Epping Road, B181, Roydon, Nazeing EN9 2DH

This family friendly sanctuary houses 90 donkeys, ponies and horses who have been rescued from poor treatment. It’s a lovely place for an afternoon out where you can look around the horses and stables. Visitors can participate in demonstrations on how to look after horses.

Fun Outdoor Things to do with Kids in Essex

Hyland Gardens and Park

Hylands Park is a great place to wander around with a stately home and beautiful gardens. It is also home to a fabulous climbing adventure castle play area, with realistic features such as a cool drawbridge entrance – kids love it!

Wyvernwood (Colchester)

Wyvernwood is a magical adventure park day out for families with kids aged 2-12. It’s set in picturesque countryside with fun outdoor activities such as go karting, an adventure playground, jumping pillows and treasure hunts. Wyvernwood is based around magical characters and there are story-telling sessions and unique interactions with all of the characters that happen all day long.

Outdoor Walks and Hikes for Kids in Essex

If it’s a walk in the countryside you’re after, Essex also offers an array of outdoor adventures such as hiking in Epping Forest or Tollsbury Wick. You can immerse yourselves in nature and wildlife at Abberton Reservoir Visitor Centre, where birdwatching and nature trails await for curious young minds. Hockley Woods is also a great place for a walk with kids. It’s a 280 acre ancient woodland which has a diverse array of animals, birds, plants and insects, including the nationally rare Heath Fritillary butterfly. There’s also a large playground and a good sized car park, making it a great place for a picnic and day out in Essex. Check out this other good walking trail from Gunpowder Park to Lee Valley White Water Centre and back.

Hadleigh Country Park is one of the great things to do outdoors with kids in Essex, it has acres of open space for nature lovers. It’s perfect for a family short walk or is well known as a great cycling route (in the 2012 olympics, it was used as the mountain bike route). Hadleigh Country park is open daily, has free entry and a small wooden playground that kids will love. Thorndon country park is the best place in Essex for a woodland walk with kids and is great for cherry blossom spotting. It also has the great Gruffalo Trail, a nice cafe and the Thorndon Nature Discovery Centre has special events on during the school holidays.

Epping Forest with Kids

Weald Country Park

A good day out in Essex is the Stick Man sculpture trail at Weald Country Park, it’s based on the much-loved picture book by Julia Donaldson. There’s also a lake, deer to spot and brilliant kid’s adventure play areas with natural woodland to explore.

For more things to do on a family friendly woodland walks in the south east, check out our guide.

Cycling Routes for kids in Essex

There are great bike riding trails for families in Essex. Try visiting River Lee Country Park which is great for family friendly bike riding or try cycling along the scenic Flitch Way. Lee Valley Regional Park also has good bike routes as well as a boating lake (see below for more information.)

Cycling with Kids in Essex
Cycling with Kids in Essex


Marks Hall Road, Coggeshall, Essex, CO6 1TG

Markshall is a beautiful place for a wander where you can explore trees from across the world in the Aboretum. It has a lovely cafe, walled flower garden and an adventure playground. Visitors can view the fish and explore among the gardens.

Best Places for a day out in Essex with kids

Barleylands Farm Park

For a family day out in the great outdoors, Barleylands ticks all the boxes! As well as the farm, they have tractor rides, jumping pillows, two good sized adventure play areas and lots of family events that occur during the summer holidays. Young children will love the barrel train rides and petting the guinea pigs in the Animal barn.

Belhus Woods Country Park

Set over 300 acres in South Essex, Belhus Woods Country Park is a good place for a fun family day out – it has ancient woodland, a musical themed kid’s play area, flower meadows, open grassland lakes with ducks. It’s a gorgeous place for a cycle, or a picnic by the lake.

Best Beaches in Essex for Kids

Visiting a beach is a brilliant and cheap day out for families. Some of the most popular sandy Essex beaches to visit with children are: Frinton On Sea, Walton On The Naze and Brightlingsea. Find our best ideas for things to do on a beach with kids here to keep them busy!

You can also experience an outdoor day out with a difference by taking to the water on the River Blackwater Estuary. You can travel down the estuary by barge, boat or travel on jetski or learn to paddleboard!

For more beautiful beaches to visit in the South East – try our favourite sandy beaches here.  

beach in essex

Places to learn how to paddle board in Essex with kids.

If your kids would like to learn how to paddleboard, there are regular Tuesday evening sessions for children and adults on the River Stort at Harlow – learn the basics of stand-up paddle boarding with friendly instructors. It’s the perfect place for family day out.

Things to do outdoors with Kids in Essex

Great Notley Country Park

Great Notley Country Park is also great for older kids and teenagers with high sky ropes that are perfect for any outdoor adventure.

Promenade Park

Park Drive, Maldon, Essex, CM9 5JQ

Promenade Park is an 100 year old Edwardian park which houses an ornamental lake, a large water Splash Park, beach huts, sandpits, a galleon play ship and aerial zip-wire and several picnic areas. There are stunning river views over the Blackwater making it a popular outdoor day out in Essex and perfect for summer days outdoors in Essex.

Check out our article here for more fun family days out in South East London, near Kent.

Hope you find this list of outdoor places to visit for families in Essex. Where’s your favourite place to go on a day out in Essex with kids? 

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