Free things to do with kids in Devon

Days out

Posted by Kate W on 20th February 2020

Whether you and your family are after adventure, culture or simply want to meet a few of the animals that live in this magnificent county; there are plenty of fantastic free days out for kids in Devon.

Discover a whole range of fantastic free days out in Devon for families where you can explore natural spaces, uncover ancient objects and enjoy thrilling adventures across the Devon countryside and along the breathtaking coastline.

When you have chosen all the places you want to visit during your holiday to Devon, you’ll need to find the perfect place to stay! Browse through our collection of cottages in Devon and find a holiday escape that everyone will love!

Cottages in Devon

Read on to discover a fantastic choice of free family days out in Devon, allowing you an insight into the many weird and wonderful ways that both big and little kids can enjoy this excellent county.

Jump to free days out in:

Free days out in North Devon

1.     Go dolphin spotting at Baggy Point

Dolphin spotting at Baggy Point

For a free day out in North Devon, the coastline is always an excellent place to start! Depending on the time of year, you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins, seals or even basking sharks off the Devon coast. Marine life is often spotted around Bideford Bay and Baggy Point in North Devon.

2.     Meet the goats at the Valley of Rocks

Meet goats at Valley of the Rocks

There have been goats living in the valley for some 6,000 years that you can meet while exploring this magnificent section of coastline.

Take the coastal path from Lynton around the magnificent rocks for incredible coastal views, a mix of wildlife and to see the local herd of goats who live here.

3.     Watch the sunset at one of the UK’s favourite beaches

Watch Woolacombe sunset

Sure, Woolacombe is famed for its excellent surfing, and if you happen to have surfboards in the trunk of your car it’s a great place to test your skills. But one of the best things about the North Devon Coast is that it faces north-west, meaning spectacular sunsets are all but guaranteed.

Spend the afternoon building sandcastles and splashing through the waves before warming up with a BBQ and dining on hot dogs and burgers as the sun drops below the horizon.  

4.     Cycle along the Tarka Trail

Cycle Tarka Trail

You can enjoy a walk or cycle ride on the 180 miles of Tarka Trail, which runs in a figure-of-eight route centred on Barnstaple – a great free thing to do in Devon if you bring your bikes along on your travels. It passes a multitude of pretty coastal villages and you’ll find yourself cycling through forests and past rivers too. The Instow to Barnstaple section of the trail is always a favourite!

5.     Drop by the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

Barnstaple museum

Open all-year-round, this museum is a great free day out in Devon offering exhibitions and informative displays on a range of subjects. The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon also runs activities for children during the holidays, with a ‘Victorian Christmas’ held for the last 2 years.

6.     Follow in the footsteps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Walk the Coleridge Way

Follow the winding footpath of Coleridge Way which traces its way through the childhood homeland of famous Lakes poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It showcases the glorious scenery which connects a number of sites related to the English poet. Choose a stretch of the 51-mile long walk to conquer during your trip and get the kids out into nature.

7.     Feed the ducks at Bicclescombe Park

Feed the ducks at Bicclescombe Park

Enjoy a fun day out at this scenic park, 1 mile from Ilfracombe, which boasts a children’s play area and a sensory garden which are both open all the time, as well as a Boat Lake, Duck Pond and Mill Leat which powers the on-site mill wheel.

Let the kids burn off steam on the play equipment and feed the ducks before popping into the Old Mill House and Tea Rooms for cake and a coffee.

8.     Meet the Exmoor Ponies

Meet Exmoor ponies

The ponies who roam the Exmoor National Park are used to seeing people and can be super friendly. Feed them grass or even a slice of apple if you're feeling generous (just check what they can and can’t eat if you plan to get that close!).

Go walking and discover one of the iconic Exmoor natural spots of Porlock Hill, Winsford Hill or Molland Moor – all areas where you’re likely to see an Exmoor pony.

9.     Play pooh sticks at the Tarr Steps

Play pooh sticks on the Tarr Steps

An ancient clapper bridge is set in the scenic wooded valley of the River Barle, it’s an easy free thing to do in Devon and a delightful spot for a picnic on the grassy riverbank - you also can enjoy a short walk by following the orange waymarks.

It’s the perfect place for children to go paddling on warm summer days and similar natural places you could visit on Exmoor include the ever-popular Watersmeet or Dunkery Beacon – all free places to visit in Devon that you and the kids can discover together.

10.  Collect seashells at the beach

Collect seashells at Westward Ho!

The classic British beach, Westward Ho!, offers up a whole load of wonderful seaside attractions including go-karts, arcades and kid’s play areas. Sit on the green and eat chips while you watch waves roll in off the Atlantic, or collect seashells and build sandcastles down on this sandy beach.

Build your own natural windbreak amongst the pebbles of the pebble ridge or walk along the beach to nearby Northam Burrows Country Park, where you might meet sheep and ponies grazing on the grass.

Meet friendly goats living wild by the coast, follow in the footsteps of a famous poet and play pooh sticks at an ancient Exmoor site during your holiday to North Devon. Browse our holiday cottages in North Devon today.

Cottages in North Devon

Free days out in Mid Devon and Dartmoor

11.  Take in magnificent views of Meldon Reservoir

Take in the views at Meldon Reservoir

This beautiful lake in the north of Dartmoor National Park is a wonderful choice for a free day out in Devon and a fantastic area to enjoy walking, cycling, picnicking or wildlife spotting with local residents including adders, grass snakes, herons and natural brown trout.

The Granite Way cycling trail passes the impressive Meldon Viaduct, certainly worth a look while you’re there, and if you’re up for a long walk, you could head over to Black-a-Tor Copse or Wistman’s Wood.

12.  Play games at the House of Marbles

Play games at the House of Marbles

A great free place to visit in Devon is the House of Marbles where children can have a go with the marble runs in the interactive museum and discover the animated animals, fairground mirrors, penny press and giant floating marble. Check out the vintage and traditional toys in the shop, enjoy lunch in the restaurant and don’t forget to search for the secret door in the garden area. It’s a wonderful place for children especially toddlers who’ll love the magic of this extensive toy shop.

13.  Hike to the top of Brentor

Hike to the top of Brentor

The small 13th-century church that is perched on this tor is what makes this place so iconic, with people often stopping by to take pictures of this photogenic spot. As it’s steep but a relatively short climb up to the church, it’s a great choice for young walkers who might not want to venture too far but can still enjoy the fantastic views and you could roam further with a walk around Brentor village.

14.  Wild swim at Spitchwick Common

Wild swim at Spitchwick Common

A fantastically fun activity for kids, perfect on a warm sunny day! A wild swim is an exciting way to get children interested in the natural world and spending time outdoors, and Spitchwick Common is a wonderful spot for youngsters or older kids.

There is a shallow end and a deep end (so do keep an eye on children) and there’s a lovely picnic or BBQ spot where you can unwind after expelling all that energy.

15.  Spot deer at Rackenford and Knowstone Moors

Rackenford and Knowstone Moors

Children will love looking out for the animals that roam the Rackenford and Knowstone Moors – the magnificent red deer is the animal you are most likely to spot during your adventure.

During the spring, the wildflowers attract butterflies and moths to this reserve. Other animals that live here include the roe deer, otter, harvest mice, barn owl, as well as the common frog and toads too, so keep an eye out!

16.  Go letterboxing or geocaching on Dartmoor

Go letterboxing of geocaching on Dartmoor

For a fun and free day out in Devon, you could go letterboxing or geocaching! There are lots of great sites across this beautiful moorland for you to seek out. Letterboxing originated in Dartmoor in 1854 with James Perrott who left a postcard in a glass jar for the next walker to find, while geocaching only began in 2000 but is popular all across the world – both activities are great ways to get to know the hidden places of Dartmoor with the kids.

17.  Go mountain biking at Tamar Trails

Go mountain biking at Tamar Trails

Bring your bike along on holiday and follow the free mountain biking trails at Tamar Park. Most of the trails offer gentle stone tracks, perfect for mixed ability groups - but there are steeper tracks to seek out as well, perfect for anyone looking for a challenge. 

If cycling isn’t your thing, you could go walking and there are Woodland Adventure Club worksheets and treasure maps for youngsters and buggy-friendly trails for you to traverse. You could also go geocaching and if you decide to spend a bit of money on the day, there are horse riding and canoeing opportunities too.

18.  Take a picnic to the Grand Western Canal Country Park

Picnic beside the Grand Western Canal

Enjoy a free day out in Devon at the Grand Western Canal Country Park. A beautiful place with plenty of picnic benches to sit at beside the water and a children’s canal-themed play park, it’s a great place for a morning out with the kids. You can hire a boat or simply relax on the banks – take a net and the kids could try catching small fish in the shallows.

19.  Conquer the highest tor on Dartmoor

Climb the highest tor on Dartmoor, High Willhays

High Willhays, otherwise known as ‘High Willies’, offers up a wonderful walking route with spectacular views when you reach the top. The whole family can feel like hiking champions – you could even make reward badges for the kids when they reach the top! – and enjoy the challenge of tackling this impressive Dartmoor tor.

20.  Uncover an ancient stone circle

Uncover an ancient stone circle

Venture out on a historic walk and you’ll come across Scorhill Stone Circle, one of Devon’s biggest and most intact stone circles dating back to the Bronze Age. It’s an impressive sight and a great bucket list item to tick off while you’re on holiday.

While following the walk, you’ll also come across Fernworthy Reservoir, Shovel Down Ceremonial complex and Round Pound and Kes Tor Settlements.

Watch marbles tumble down marble runs, dive in for wild swimming in the dramatic Dartmoor landscape or uncover Bronze Age sites during your holiday getaway to Mid Devon. Browse through our collection of holiday cottages in Mid and East Devon. 

Cottages in Mid and East Devon

Free days out in South Devon

21.  Meet these magnificent mammals at the Donkey Sanctuary 

Meet donkeys at the Donkey Sanctuary

For a free day out in South Devon, one of the best places to visit has got to be the Donkey Sanctuary. A great chance to get up close to these magnificent creatures, The Donkey Sanctuary is a great free activity and only asks for a small donation should you visit. The working farm attraction is home to more than 500 donkeys, mules and hinnies, and visitors can go along and say hello to the lovely animals.

22.  Go rock pooling at Wembury Beach

Go rock pooling at Wembury Beach

This South Devon beach is a fantastic place for rock pooling with plenty of marine life to spot including limpets, anemones, shore crabs, pipefish, sea scorpions, spiny starfish and Cornish sucker fish. Children will have a wonderful time discovering all kinds of underwater creatures on this sandy beach.

23.  Solve puzzles at Haldon Forest Park

Haldon Forest Park

This expansive, beautiful Forestry England landscape covers over 3,500 acres of woodland with three walking trails, five cycling trails and play equipment for you to make the most of.

Best of all, children will love following the Shaun the Sheep Farmageddon Glow Trail which includes a series of puzzles to solve along the way.

24.  Follow the Agatha Christie Literary Trail

Follow the Agatha Christie Trail

If it’s literary history you crave, you can take the Agatha Christie Literary Trail, which flows through Torquay and Torbay, allowing an insight into the famous author’s life. It passes by local landmarks including Beacon Cove, Kent’s Cavern and the St. Marychurch Clifftops.

25.  Hunt for fossils on the Jurassic Coast

Hunt for fossils at Beer

Go fossil hunting on this ancient stretch of coastline or simply go walking and take in phenomenal far-reaching views and see if you can spot any ammonites or belemnites in the cliff faces you pass by. Seaton and Beer are two places on Devon’s Jurassic coastline that offer up good fossil hunting.

26.  Enjoy a bucket ‘n’ spade day at the beach

Enjoy a bucket 'n' spade day at Blackpool Sands

Why not enjoy a free frolic in the waves, rock pooling, or even take time to build sandcastles at Blackpool Sands? This beach is a little slice of paradise backed by luscious evergreens and pines, and with wonderful shallow waters for you and the kids to paddle in.

What’s even better is that a lot of Devon beaches allow dogs; although some do have restrictions in the busier months, so make sure you check in advance. Take a look through our guide to dog-friendly beaches in Devon for more ideas on where to go for a free day out with the kids. 

27.  Walk along the South West Coast Path

Walk along the South West Coast Path

Ok, so the South West actually stretches around the entire coast which means there are plenty of excellent routes in North Devon as well, but one of our favourite family-friendly routes is in the south. Go for an evening stroll from Dawlish to Dawlish Warren, an easy route that’s perfect for little legs.

28.  Uncover ancient civilisations at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum

Uncover history at the RAMM

There are plenty of free-to-enter museums throughout Devon, but this is one of the biggest and best! It holds a whole range of artefacts not only from the local area but from all around the globe.

From Mesopotamian to Egypt and Greece, there are some impressive artefacts for you to uncover. There are also regular events on throughout the year for kids so check ahead when planning your holiday, and a café is on-site for when you’re ready for a snack.

29.  Introduce the kids to bird watching

Go bird watching at Berry Head Nature Reserve

South Devon’s Berry Head National Nature Reserve is an exquisite stretch of coast, surrounded on three sides by water with plenty of scenery and wildlife to discover. Dogs are welcome too, so you can bring the entire family for a day out at this coastal destination. Guillemots are the most famous species in this reserve and are protected, see if you can spot a few as you explore.

30.   Get creative at the beach

Get creative at Bantham Beach

Another excellent South Devon beach, the beautiful Bantham Beach is a great place for children and toddlers to dig moats, make footprints and write their name in the sand. Make the sand wet with a bucket full of seawater and get creative building sandcastles, boats or mermaids that you can enjoy knocking down at the end of the day before you head home.

Enjoy fossil hunting and rock pooling along this unique coastline, solve puzzles along Haldon’s ‘glow trail’ and discover the historic objects in Exeter in beautiful South Devon. This scenic coastline offers plenty for family days out so browse through our holiday cottages in South Devon and find your ideal retreat. 

Cottages in South Devon

There’s plenty of wonderful free things to do in Devon for fantastic days out across the region! Meet friendly donkeys and spot red deer, swim in wild places inland and on the coast, and hike your way through the epic landscape of Dartmoor. For even more great days out ideas, why not have a read of these too?

Where will you stay during your time here? Start browsing our collection of holiday cottages in Devon today. 

Cottages in Devon

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.