We’ve compiled a list of the best family-friendly places to visit within a two-hour radius. Places marked with an asterisk (*) are slightly further, but still considered worthy of the list. London deserves a list all its own, so nothing in London is included on this list. ‘NT’ denotes a National Trust site, ‘EH’ denotes English Heritage sites.
Beaches & Sea Views
The following Norfolk area beaches come highly recommended from people living in East Anglia:
Brancaster Beach, Great Yarmouth, Holkham Beach, Horsey Beach, Hunstanton, Sea Palling, Sheringham Beach, Wells-Next-the-Sea, Winterton-On-Sea
Average distance: 60-90 minutes
For more recommendations on the top Norfolk beaches visit: http://www.tournorfolk.co.uk/norfolkcoast.html
Pebble beach located on the southern coast of England about an hour south of London. It’s one of the best known beaches in the UK.
Distance: 2 hours, 15 minutes, Post code: BN2 1TW,
Seven miles of beach along the Essex coast with the “longest leisure pier in the world”.
Distance: 90 minutes, Post code: SS9 2DN, Website: http://www.visitsouthend.co.uk/things-to-do/beaches.aspx
Post code: CT16 1HJ, Distance: 2 hours, 30 minutes, Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/the-white-cliffs-of-dover
Beautifully intact and preserved 14th-century castle surrounded by a full moat. A must see while living in East
Post code: TN32 5UA, Distance: 2 hours, 15 minutes, Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodiam-castle
Post code: S44 6PR, Distance: 2 hours, 30 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bolsover-castle
Post code: PE31 6AH, Distance: 55 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/castle-rising-castle
Huge 11th-century castle that has been refitted over the centuries for its important defensive complex. No visit is complete without touring the secret wartime tunnels used in WWII.
Post code: CT16 1HU, Distance: 2 hours, 20 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dover-castle
13th century castle and brief residence of “Bloody” Mary. Click here for more information.
Post code: IP13 9BP, Distance: 1 hour,
Post code: CO9 3DJ, Distance: 60 minutes, Website: http://www.hedinghamcastle.co.uk
12th-century castle that was expanded and improved in the late 14th century. It was occupied much longer than
similar medieval castles and has a fascinating history.
Post code: CV8 1NE, Distance: 2 hours,
Beautiful, privately owned 19th-century castle on an island in the center of a lake. The original castle on the site dated back to the 12th-century and was a popular residence for multiple kings.
Post code: ME17 1PL, Distance: 1 hour, 45 minutes, Website: https://www.leeds-castle.com
12th-century castle now converted into the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
Post code: NR1 3JU, Distance: 50 minutes, Website: http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Visit_Us/Norwich_Castle
Post code: IP12 2ND, Distance: 90 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/orford-castle
Post code: ME1 1SW, Distance: 90 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rochester-castle
Post code: CV34 4QU, Distance: 2 hours, Website: https://www.warwick-castle.com
Just west of London, it’s the largest and oldest occupied castle in Europe. The magnificent castle has undergone numerous rebuilds since it was initially founded in the 11th-century.
Post code: SL4 1NJ, Distance: 2 hours, Website: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/windsorcastle
Churches & Historic Sites
Post code: IP33 1LS, Distance: 20 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bury-st-edmunds-abbey
12th-century priory converted to a country house in the 17th-century with a lavish interior on the outskirts of Cambridge. Its extensive gardens and outdoor play areas are equally impressive.
Post code: CB25 9EJ, Distance: 25 minutes, Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey-gardens-and-lode-mill
17th-century palatial country house with extensive gardens and grounds along the River Cam.
Post code: CB11 4JF, Distance: 35 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/audley-end-house-and-gardens
This stunning cathedral is the oldest in Britain and dates its founding back to St. Augustine in 597. It was extensively rebuilt in the 12th-century following a fire and its rich history includes the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket by the knights of King Henry II.
Post code: CT1 2EH, Distance: 2 hours, Website: http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit
This small monastery was built in the 11th-century and remained active until the mid 16th-century. Exploring the impressive ruins and the remnants of Castle Acre Castle just down the road is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Post code: PE32 2XD, Distance: 40 minutes, Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/castle-acre-castle-acre-priory/
Considered one of England’s most beautiful cathedrals, it has become a frequent filming location for popular movies. It was founded in 672 but the present structures date back to the 11th century. In addition to touring the main level, tower tours are also available.
Post code: CB7 4DL, Distance: 30 minutes, Website: http://www.elycathedral.org/visit
Post code: CB2 1ST, Distance: 40 minutes, Website: http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/visit
Post code: NR1 4DH, Distance: 60 minutes, Website: http://www.cathedral.org.uk/visit/things-to-see-and-do
Scenic 15th-century country manor surrounded by a moat. While not a castle, Henry VII and Elizabeth once visited and famous needlework panels stitched by Mary, Queen of Scots hang on its walls. The 70-acre estate is full of beautiful walking trails and gardens.
Post code: PE33 9PS, Distance: 30 minutes, Website: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/oxburgh-hall
Second oldest cathedral in England, established by Justus who accompanied St. Augustine to England in the early 7th century. The current cathedral was built and modified over the original church from the 12th-15th centuries.
Post code: ME1 1SX, Distance: 1 hour, 40 minutes, Website: http://www.rochestercathedral.org/visiting
18th-century country house and private estate owned by the Queen. The Royal Family spends Christmas here each year.
Post code: PE35 6EN, Distance: 60 minutes, Website: https://www.sandringhamestate.co.uk/visiting-sandringham
Outdoor heritage museum and archaeological site with huts reconstructed on the location of a 5th-7th century Anglo-Saxon village. The site hosts kids’ digs, archery lessons, and living history exhibits throughout the year.
Post code: IP28 6HG, Distance: 15 minutes, Website: https://www.weststow.org
Rare breeds farm open year round with horse, sheep, pigs, chickens, and rabbits. Also offers an indoor play area, adventure playground, and tractor rides.
Post code: PE34 3HT, Distance: 40 minutes, Website: http://www.churchfarmstowbardolph.co.uk
140-acre “mixed” farm. Its farm trail is open year round and includes sheep, goats, chicken, rabbits, alpacas, and cattle with kid-friendly activities such as rope swings, climbing poles, and slides interspersed.
Post code: IP7 6HX, Distance: 55 minutes, Website: http://www.hollowtrees.co.uk/farm-trail.htm
Rare breeds farm park and shop open year round. Animals include pigs, emus, goats, reindeer, alpacas, cows, donkeys, and horses. There’s also a butterfly house and several children’s play areas.
Post code: IP9 2AR, Distance: 55 minutes, Website: http://jimmysfarm.com
Forests & Adventure Playgrounds
Tucked away at the back of the gardens and ruins of the Abbey at Bury St. Edmunds are three outdoor play areas. There’s a traditional playground, a sand play area, and a small tree house for older kids.
Post code: IP33 1XL, Distance: 20 minutes, Website: http://www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/leisure/Parks/abbey-gardens.cfm
Huge forest treehouse adventure park with rope bridges, slides, zip lines, a maze, rides, and more. Designed for children ages 2-12 and their families.
Post code: NR12 8JW, Distance: 70 minutes, Website: http://www.bewilderwood.co.uk
Sprawling wildlife oasis along the River Lark with lakes, meadows, and woodlands.
Post code: IP28 6HX, Distance: 15 minutes, Website: http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/lackfordlakes
Post code: IP28 7SG, Distance: 7 minutes, Website: http://infolink.suffolk.gov.uk/kb5/suffolk/infolink/service.page?id=So2QpinbjnI
Post code: IP27 0AF, Distance: 20 minutes, Website: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/highlodge
Post code: MK3 6EB, Distance: 90 minutes, Website: https://www.bletchleypark.org.uk
Post code: CO10 9QZ, Distance: 45 minutes,
Check out Nottingham Castle and its incredible cave tour, then grab a pint of ale at England’s famed oldest inn, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. And if you’ve got time, head to Robin Hood’s old stomping ground, Sherwood Forest!
Post code: NG1 6EL, Distance: 2 hours, 15 minutes, Website: http://www.experiencenottinghamshire.com/explore
Rows of lavender that stretch for 25 miles. Walk through the fields, pick flowers, and take plenty of photos. Best time to visit is July when the flowers are in full bloom.
Post code: SG5 3UA, Distance: 75 minutes, Website: http://www.hitchinlavender.com
Home to horse races attended by royalty since at least the 17th century, the sport of racing is still very much alive at this course over 350 years later. Check out their events for upcoming family fun days and races.
Post code: CB8 0TF, Distance: 25 minutes, Website: http://newmarket.thejockeyclub.co.uk
This historic airfield is the home of Britain’s largest aviation museum with over 200 aircraft and military vehicles. The museum hosts annual air shows and hangers used in the Battle of Britain are still in use and can be toured.
Post code: CB22 4QR, Distance: 35 minutes, Website: http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-duxford
Explore historic Cambridge by boat on the River Cam. Punting guides give a concise history of the University’s colleges and interesting residents while you relax and take in the scenic views along the river.
Post code: CB2 1RS, Distance: 40 minutes, Website: http://www.visitcambridge.org/things-to-do/punting-bus-and-bike-tours
Karting and go-karting track in Red Lodge. Minimum age to ride is seven for their slower carts (and meet height requirements).
Post code: IP13 9BP, Distance: 15 minutes, Website: http://www.redlodgekarting.com
Birthplace of Shakespeare and location of five major Shakespeare heritage sites (his birth home, his final home, his wife’s childhood cottage, etc). The scenic town along the River Avon is an excellent way to spend a day out.
Post code: CV37 6GW, Distance: 2 hours, 20 minutes, Website: http://www.discover-stratford.com/shakespeare.cfm
Blakeney Point is a nature reserve on the north coast of Norfolk and popular start point for seal sighting boat trips. Seals can be found birthing and nursing their pups along Horsey Beach in winter and molting in early spring. More info here.
Post code: NR25 7NQ (Blakeney) and NR29 4EF (Horsey), Distance: 90 minutes
50-acre zoo with over 2000 animals including giraffes, lemurs, snow leopards, zebras, Siberian tigers, cheetahs, meerkats, and red pandas.
Post code: NR16 2HE, Distance: 35 minutes, Website: http://www.banhamzoo.co.uk
Widely considered one of the best zoos in the UK, it sits on 60-acres of land with over 270 species of animals in a large array of themed habitat zones. If you visit only one “local” zoo, it should be this one.
Post code: CO3 0SL, Distance: 65 minutes, Website: http://www.colchester-zoo.com
Small, 18-acre zoo with an emphasis on education and conservation. Species include lions, kangaroos, tigers, snow leopards, zebras, porcupines, and lemurs.
Post code: CB21 4NT, Distance: 30 minutes, Website: http://www.lintonzoo.com
360-acre safari park where visitors drive their cars through large animal exhibits to see free roaming animals including elephants, rhinos, black bears, giraffes, camels, and lions. There is also a walkthrough zoo, indoor and outdoor play areas, and a high ropes course.
Post code: MK17 9QN, Distance: 75 minutes, Website: http://www.woburnsafari.co.uk
For a comprehensive list of kid-friendly activities in the local area and across Great Britain, check out dayoutwiththekids.co.uk! Still looking for inspiration? Check out National Trust or English Heritage properties near you! American to Britain also has a great list and information about attractions in the East Anglia area available here: http://americantobritain.weebly.com/east-anglia.htmll.