10 Family Days Out
By Helen Steel
With many of us seeing our 2020 foreign holiday plans scuppered by Covid-19, fun days out closer to home have become more important to us parents than ever.
From big attractions to natural adventures, here are just a few ideas to help you have fun and make memories in Medway.
One for the big kids as well as the little ones! The themed adventure park in Strood celebrates its 20th birthday this year. Enjoy 20 different rides and drives and get to grips with JCBs, excavators, go karts and dodgems. Pre-booking is essential, and check out the safety measures before you travel.
Medway Valley Leisure Park, Roman Way, Strood, ME2 2NU.
Children always love castles, and Medway is blessed to have not one but two to chose from. Upnor Castle is located in a picturesque location offering amazing views of the River Medway. Explore the gun fort and its turrets and discover the castle's history as an installation for fighting off enemy invaders on the water. The castle grounds are great for little ones to explore too, and the sound wand interpretation is a great way to get a guided tour of the site.
Upnor Castle, Upper Upnor, ME2 4XG
This is a little gem of a zoo, loved by locals. The zoo offers a safe haven to rescue animals. You can get up close and personal with animals including lemurs, monkeys, meerkats, otters, parrots and owls. There are also children's play areas and a refreshment kiosk. (The pub on site currently remains closed).
Fenn Street, St Mary Hoo, Rochester, ME3 8RF.
4. Trampoline Parks
The ideal solution if, like me, you have kids with energy to burn or the weather's not looking so hot. Take your pick from Medway's two indoor centres - Soar and Flip Out - which have both re-opened with reduced capacity and safety measures. Each offers all the thrills and spills you'd expect from a trampoline park, with areas and activities suitable for little ones through to teenagers and beyond. Pre-booking essential.
Soar Trampoline Park, Units 5 and 6, Medway Distribution Centre, Courteney Road, Gillingham, ME8 0RT.
Flip Out, Pier 5, Dockhead Road, Chatham Dockside Outlet, ME4 4ZJ.
Sit back with a cuppa and let the children wear themselves out in the play area before exploring the network of paths along the River Medway estuary and the wildlife it is home to. The play area includes climbing unit, slide, swings, a trampoline, play houses, climbing and a balance trail and will keep little ones happy for ages. Or why not take your bikes and explore more of the estuary on two wheels, with marked off-road cycle routes along the river.
333 Lower Rainham Road, Rainham, ME7 2XH.
One of Kent's most popular attractions. Explore three historic warships - including a submarine - walk the decks, look through periscopes, ring ship's bells and let their imagination run wild. There's loads of other interactive tours, talks and exhibitions - my kids really loved the RNLI Lifeboat collection, plus there are two play areas and a soft play. Tickets are annual passes, so you'll want to be sure you can make good use of them through the year.
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, ME4 4TZ.
7. Chatham Snowsports Centre
This might seem a strange suggestion for summer, but you don't need snow to have fun on the UK's longest toboggan track. Check out the videos on the centre's website to see what fun it is! (Minimum age 4, under 8s must ride with an adult). The tubing on the training slope also looks great fun. Pre-booking essential.
Once you're done, why not explore the rest of Capstone Farm Country Park, with its play areas and walking/running and cycling trails.
Something a little different - get yourselves lost in a maze of maize! The 10-acre field of maize has been carved into a pumpkin-shaped maze with clues to solve along the way. There's also a mini maze and the chance to pick your own sunflowers for 50p a flower. Open Thursday-Sunday until the end of August.
Lower Rainham Road, Rainham, ME8 7TL. Visit Maize Moon website
Follow in the steps of Lewis Hamilton, who honed his racing skills on the circuit. Karting sessions are available for ages 4+ through to teenagers, and the sessions are really safely marshalled. Look out for the family sessions. Pre-booking recommended.
Maidstone Road, Chatham, ME5 9QG
10. Watersports Centres
Take to the water and enjoying a spot of kayaking, paddleboarding or more at one of the local watersports centres. Chatham Maritime Watersports Centre in Basin 2, Medway Watersports Centre at The Strand, Gillingham, and St Andrews Watersports centre in Halling all offer an array of bookable activity sessions. Who needs the Mediterranean anyway!