The Kent Downs and ancient Kent woodlands including The Blean and Swale Woodlands just north of the city and the Denge and Larkey Valley just to the south surround Canterbury. Woodlands and countryside around the city offer a wealth of walking opportunities, with the North Downs Way National Trail passing through surrounding woodlands. Travel just 2 or 3 miles from the city centre and discover pretty Kentish villages including Chartham, Chilham and Petham. A plentiful choice of holiday cottages and rural B&Bs make excellent bases from which to explore Canterbury and the Kent Downs, and offer easy access to great family attractions like Druidstone Park and Howletts Wild Animal Park.
The Blean Woodlands & Druidstone Park
The beautiful old woodlands of The Blean and Swale push up towards the coast north of Canterbury city centre and feature a host of cycling and walking paths. Grab your two wheels and head off on the 7 mile long traffic free Crab and Winkle cycle path from Canterbury to Whitstable on the coast, running through the Blean en-route. Cycle hire outlets are available in Canterbury city centre. Right in the heart of the Blean woodlands sits Druidstone Park, a fairytale woodland world with adventure play areas, enchanted wood, family trails, a duck pond and animal farm park. Free parking and a café are onsite.
Howletts & Wingham Wild Animal Park
Two great family fun animal parks sit around Canterbury. An easy daytrip if you’re based in the city centre, Howletts Wild Animal Park is just 3 miles south east of Canterbury, clearly signposted off the A2. Covering 90 acres, Howletts is a real family adventure, home to the UK’s largest herd of African Elephants and a unique collection of primates in the Open Top Monkey enclosures. Fun activities include high ropes and Treetops Challenge. Kids will adore the outdoor play area with Pavilion Restaurant adjacent.
Wingham Wildlife Park is located midway between Canterbury (5 miles) and Sandwich just off the A257. Wingham began as a bird park and today is one of Kent’s top animal park attractions with more species here than any other Kent zoo. See Penguins, Primates, Big Cats and more at Wingham which also features plays areas and fun activities including mini diggers and go-karts.
The North Downs Way & the Kent Downs AONB
Kent’s great backbone of a National Trail pushes through the heart of the region. The trail is 153 miles long and in Kent runs from the Dover on the coast up through the Downs towards Canterbury, and from Canterbury towards Winchester. Villages such as Chartham, Chilham and Petham with picture-postcard medieval churches and old inns make excellent bases from which to access the trail. Chartham’s 13th century church with beautiful stained glass and the famous 14th century Artichoke inn, and Chilham’s 600 year old Woolpack Inn with oak beams, inglenook fireplace and cask ales are not to be missed.
Escape the hustle and bustle and explore the Kent Downs to the south of Canterbury. Some of Kent’s most beautiful landscapes and highest peaks are here in the Downs around Barham, Wye and Elham. Walk to the top of the 260 foot coombe – the Devil’s Kneading Trough in the Wye National Nature Reserve for spectacular views towards the Weald and Romney Marsh. Perfect for a walking weekend, the Wye area and Downs villages including Elham, Hastingleigh and Elmstead afford easy access onto the Stour Valley Way, the Elham Valley Way and the North Downs Way. Taste the local produce of the Downs at Wye Farmers Markets held twice monthly and explore the best of Kent Vineyards in the Elham Valley.
Stodmarsh Nature Reserve
One of the South East’s top spots for birdwatching, Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve located just north east of Canterbury sits on the lower North Kent Plains in the Stour Valley. The reserve has a mixed landscape of woodland, fens, marshland, reedbeds, meadows and lakes, and is an important site for breeding and migratory birds. Star species include marsh harriers and bittern. Stay in a Downs cottage near the villages of Stodmarsh and Upstreet for easy access into the reserve and onto the Stour Valley Walk.
Goodnestone Park & Gardens
Beautiful Goodnestone, one of Kent’s famous gardens was a favourite with Jane Austen and today makes the perfect family day out near Canterbury. Explore woodland gardens, a walled garden, the Arboretum and Gravel Garden and stunning Parterre and Terraces. Goodnestone hosts regular concerts and special events across the summer season.
Sample some of Kent’s fine wines and head off along the A257 to the 3 acre, family run Barnsole Vineyard in Staple with free 20 minute mini tours and wine tasting available. Free parking and picnic areas are onsite.
East Kent Railway
Hop aboard a scenic 4 mile round trip on the little East Kent Railway near Canterbury. Built between 1911 and 1917, the light railway line runs from Shepherdswell to Eythorne and once served the Kent coal mines in the area. Attractions and free parking feature at both stations, with a miniature railway, museum, shop, visitor centre, static buffet carriages, viewing platforms and picnic areas all at Shepherdswell. Themed events take place on the line all year round including 1940s events, ghost trains and Teddies Picnics.