Over the Bank Holiday with the good weather being so nice for a change, we really wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t been before – somewhere outdoors, and preferably near the sea.
My husband said he fancied seeing the famous White Cliffs of Dover, so we checked the journey time, which was only 2 hours from us in Outer London, maybe slightly longer from Central London and decided to set off the next morning for our day out in Dover to do a one day tour of this beautiful part of the UK in the county of Kent.
When choosing a day out, I normally look carefully and try to choose somewhere with loads of children’s activities and features to keep the little ones entertained, but this trip was quite refreshing because it was more back to basics, and had no all singing all dancing flashing lights and entertainment for the boys, just sun, sea, and fresh air – and they absolutely loved it. It felt like a great adventure for them, and I’m thinking we should do this kind of trip more!
We set off in the morning, on a bright clear day, and enjoyed the drive down as it was such a sunny day, and there’s lots of countryside and scenery to enjoy en-route so the 2 hours drive went pretty quick. If your kids would like some entertainment in the back of the car, try these road trip printables to help keep them busy (totally free to download and print out)
As we approached Dover we could see the sea in the distance, and drove past the ports which the boys found really exciting seeing all the ferries coming and going.
Here, on the English Channel, you will also find the Dover Cruise Terminal. If you’re lucky enough to have a cruise booked, you may be able to squeeze in a mini dover day trip on route depending on your timings and how much free time you have after travelling down.
There was a massive queue of traffic to get into the car park for the White Cliffs, so we decided to go along the road a little to St Margaret’s Bay, a small village nearby, where we could stop and have some lunch and go along to South Foreland Lighthouse
South Foreland Lighthouse is a National Trust property. It is a Victorian lighthouse on the South Foreland in St. Margaret’s Bay, Dover, Kent, England, used to warn ships approaching the nearby Goodwin Sands. Built in 1843, it went out of service in 1988
We had a quick lunch at the tea room at the Pines Gardens at St Margaret’s Bay. The lunch was lovely. The bread of the cheese baguettes was so nice and soft.
We didn’t have a chance to go into the gardens themselves as we wanted to get on towards the lighthouse but we did have a quick look at the fish pond just outside.
Where to park for South Foreland Lighthouse
The next task was to try and find somewhere to park for South Foreland Lighthouse where we did not have too far to get to the lighthouse. Some of the information we had found suggested walking directly from St Margaret’s Bay for a one mile walk compared to a 2 mile walk if you go along the cliff edge from the Visitor Centre at the White Cliffs.
One mile sounds okay, but we soon noticed the path was pretty uneven and hilly, and with two kids to push in a buggy / pushchair, it didn’t look like it was going to be ideal. Luckily we managed to find somewhere a bit nearer.
There is a road called Lighthouse Road which is marked as having no access to the lighthouse, but if you go down it then you can park much closer with only a small footpath to go down. This is definitely a much easier option for families with small children.
So very soon we arrived at South Foreland Lighthouse, which is a National Trust property. It is right by the sea and you have amazing views while walking around nearby the lighthouse.
To go up to the top of the lighthouse there’s an extra cost of 5 pounds per adult. For those with slightly older children, you can go on a tour where they will tell you all about the working of the lighthouse as you go up. The tour guides were friendly and your tour guide will tailor the information to however much level of detail will be suitable for your family and the age groups that you have with you.
The boys were mainly happier having the best time just exploring and running around in the area outside. There is a little boat which children can get inside and play about on, which they loved especially the 3 year old.
They also have kites freely available for any visitors to borrow and use. They are just kept outside the shop in a little treasure chest and you just help yourself! This is a great place to fly kites, with so much open space and a good breeze
I love kites! Seeing them flying in the blue sky on a sunny day is just such a nice sight, and idyllic in the summer months. Somehow I had not actually taken the boys to fly kites before, so this was their first time. They were really excited to have a go, and after a few attempts, we managed to get it going.
We also took the chance to have a cup of tea and some scones and cakes while we were there. It came with proper china crockery which is a nice touch! The boys had Victoria Sponge cake which they enjoyed.
We still hadn’t been to see the White chalk Cliffs by this point, and it was starting to get a bit late. We couldn’t go without seeing those as its a major landmark and the main attraction of this area. The White Cliffs of Dover are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a part of British History with the famous World War 2 song The White Cliffs of Dover by Vera Lynn
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and seeThere’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
Tomorrow, when the world is free
So we went back over and by that time the car park situation was much bette without so much traffic later in the afternoon.
It’s a beautiful view! I love these pics my husband took of my 4 year old at the cliffs.
Soon it was time to start heading back home, but we had a great day. I would definitely recommend the area for any families wanting to get away from the city for a bit and have some fresh air and countryside. You can easily spend a full day in Dover as there are other major attractions we did not include in our day – notably Dover Castle
This beautiful castle is an English Heritage property, which includes secret wartime tunnels and an underground hospital.
Step inside the Great Tower and discover the grandeur of Henry II’s medieval palace. Explore vividly-recreated rooms filled with colourful furnishings and imagine the world of courtly intrigue and royal ambition. Make sure to climb to the rooftop for unmissable views across the English Channel.
Fast forward over 700 years and discover the vital role Dover Castle played in two world wars at the recreated Port War Signalling Station. Operation Dynamo was the rescue operation implemented by the Royal Navy, co-ordinated by Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay and his small team in Dover Castle.
On weekends, meet costumed characters who will reveal the medieval story of Dover Castle as the recreate the court of Henry II at the mighty medieval Great Tower.
There are over 80 acres of castle grounds to explore too. Walk the battlements and mighty defences as you stretch your legs and imagination at England’s greatest fortress. Visit the English Heritage site to find out more about the private tour available and things to do and see at Dover Castle
Canterbury Cathedral is not within Dover itself but only a 22 minute drive away in the ancient city of Canterbury, and home of the Canterbury tales.
Some people chose to combine this with a London to Dover day trip as it is so nearby, if you would like to combine more historical sites into your trip this is definitely worth considering as Canterbury Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been a place of worship for more than 1400 years.
In the centre of Dover, Britain’s historic port town, you can find the Dover Museum and Bronze Age Boat Exhibition which tells the fascinating story of this rich and important area.
Our day trip from London to Dover was pretty different from the usual “seaside” experience which we have done before. Much quieter, really peaceful and a bit rural.
We are thinking of going camping soon and this day out really gave me a taste for doing the more simple, natural and back to basics kind of activities with the kids, so I’m now starting to think of all the different areas we could explore within the UK.
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Anna Marikar, mum of four and seasoned blogger, has spent over a decade sharing her parenting journey and passion for kid-friendly crafts and free printables.
Her easy-to-follow craft ideas and practical parenting advice have transformed In The Playroom into a cherished resource for parents.