Top things to do in Plymouth with children

By Emma

We love a day trip to Plymouth, and there are a host of great things to do with children. It is a beautiful place to visit in the sunshine as there are plenty of lovely spots to explore by the water, and lots of great family-friendly walks. But, there are also some great indoor activities so we have included some of our favourite ones here too; great for those less than sunny days!

Plymouth Hoe & Smeaton’s Tower

This is such a lovely part of Plymouth to explore with children. There is so much space to enjoy with wide open paved areas great for scootering, large grass areas for picnics and games, and gorgeous views of the water. It is also the place to see the iconic Smeaton’s Tower, which you can climb for a small cost. Built in 1759 and standing at 72 foot high, it offers stunning views of Plymouth.

The Hoe is a lovely place for family walk, with a variety of interesting statues and gorgeous period buildings, plus beautiful views of Plymouth Sound. It is here that Sir Francis Drake is immortalised in a statue, just feet away from the green where he was playing bowls before heading out to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. At the eastern end of the Hoe is the Riyal Citadel, the most impressive 17th century fortress in Britain. The whole area is full of history and a really lovely place for a family walk. We recently had a late afternoon stroll in the sunshine there and it was a great place to end the day.

The Barbican

Plymouth’s historic barbican is a delightful old port, full of cobbled streets, independent shops, galleries, restaurants, cafes and fascinating Elizabethan warehouses. It is a lovely place for a walk and great for some souvenir shopping. My children also love it for the food! Fish and chips, ice cream and sweet treats are found in abundance, and there is a range of good restaurants in the area. You can also combine an exploration of the Barbican with a visit to the aquarium, the Mayflower trail or a boat trip.

The Mayflower Trail

The Mayflower trail is a great walk to do with the family and allows you to discover life in Plymouth in 1620. The trail starts by introducing you to the Mayflower story before meeting the people and buildings that shaped the town of Plymouth at the time. It is a fascinating history with a port that would have been bustling with merchants, pirates and sailors at the time.

The trail is 1.2 miles and takes about an hour. It is relatively flat, with one ascent up Looe Street. My boys, at 3 and 9, managed it happily and really enjoyed following the trail markers on the floor. It was like a little treasure hunt for them and they loved it. The walk also allowed us to explore some parts of Plymouth we had never seen before, including some fascinating historic streets and buildings.

The Box

The Box is Plymouth’s new £46 million cultural destination. A museum, gallery, archive, shop and cafe, it is great for the family with plenty to discover. We really enjoyed a couple of hours here, particularly the ‘Port of Plymouth’, ‘Mammoth’ and ‘100 Journeys’; it is great for the children and in a perfect location for combing with other Plymouth activities. You can find out more here.

The National Marine Aquarium

We have always loved a trip to the Aquarium and feel really lucky it is so close to us. It is a great day out with children, with plenty of options for food and drink, and further family-friendly walks, in and around the nearby Barbican. The Aquarium is made up of 4 main zones, with lots of different exhibits and animals found in each. This is great with kids as it is really varied. The lay out of the Aquarium means you start your journey in the local waters of Plymouth Sound, and then as you journey around the Aquarium you explore the World’s oceans, finishing in the stunning Great Barrier Reef. You can find out more about a trip to the Aquarium here.

The Plymouth Patriots

We are big basketball fans (very much led by my husband and our eldest son), but whether you have watched basketball before or not, this is a really great experience with the family. The Plymouth Patriots play at Plymouth Pavilions, which is easily accessible from the city centre (we normally park in the city centre, near Drakes Circus and walk down to the stadium. It is an easy flat 10 minute walk). The atmosphere is fantastic and the crowd is full of families. There are refreshments available and a small shop selling Patriots merchandise. A really fun way to spend an afternoon.

Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal is a great destination for the family with a range of shows from kids favourites to west end spectacles and an excellent pantomime every winter. There are often opportunities to purchase early bird tickets to keep the cost down, and the theatre is really well located with a short walk to the city centre shops and Drakes Circus. We have enjoyed some brilliant shows there, including Horrible Histories which was a massive hit with our eldest! You can find out what’s on here.

The Barcode

Barcode is a relatively new leisure and entertainment destination in Plymouth, just opposite Drakes Circus. There are a number of restaurants and bars to choose from, a new Cineworld cinema, indoor adventure golf and a Battle Boom Bar. There is also plenty of parking, and it is within easy walking distance of the shopping centre, the Theatre Royal and the Barbican. It is a great location with children, especially if you are looking for some indoor activities.

Royal William Yard

We love Royal William Yard. It is a beautiful location, blending history and modern design. It is a fantastic place to eat and drink with lots of options, plus a really beautiful setting and stunning surroundings.

It’s a much-loved Plymouth destination, with a mix of bustling restaurants, bars and shops, water sports and even a marina, sitting alongside a lively artistic community, with lots to see and do. We really enjoy it for a bit of a wander and a bite to eat.

Surrounded by water, Royal William Yard offers breath-taking views over Plymouth Sound and across to Cornwall. You can find a list of eateries and what’s on here.

Drakes Island

Visiting Drake’s Island is the perfect family adventure.

The guided tours are really unique and offer an opportunity to learn all about the history and the mysteries surrounding the island. You can walk the tunnels, deep into the island itself, see the abundance of wildlife that has made Drake’s Island their home and view Plymouth from a whole new perspective. There are opportunities to climb to the highest part of the island for that perfect photo opportunity too.

There is a also a ferry that will take you to and from the island, as opposed to the guided tours.

You can find out more about tours and the ferry here.

Tinside Lido

Overlooking Plymouth’s spectacular seafront, Tinside Lido is really beautiful and such an iconic part of the city. It is consistently voted in the top 10 of Europe’s outdoor pools, and it is easy to see why. The art deco pool was built in 1935 and is Grade II listed. It opens from May every year for the summer months, and is a great summer holiday destination. The beautiful salt water swimming pool is perfect for everyone and is fully accessible to people of all needs. As well as the pool itself, the facility also features an amazing sun deck.

Happy adventuring!

About the author

Hi I'm Emma, mum to two boys, ex-teacher, now on a new career path running my own business. I have always loved to travel and as a big history nerd, love a good city break. We try to travel and spend as much time outdoors as we can with our two little ones, and are passionate about exploring new places with them. Living in Devon provides lots of opportunity to explore, and we are keen to share tips and experiences of travel, days out and good eats. We are a bit obsessed with photography too so will probably have a few of those to share along the way...

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