This is the perfect time to come on holiday with your little ones, whether they’re babies, toddlers or pre-schoolers. There are great hotel deals to be had outside of the main school holidays, attractions are a little quieter, and there are plenty of sandcastles still to be built (just bring a sweater). To help you plan your Devon holiday we’ve found some great toddler-friendly hotels and attractions, plus top tips for making your holiday a success.
- Find more toddler-friendly Devon attractions and Devon events
- Read about family-friendly Devon
- Find child-friendly pubs in Devon
Tips for toddler-friendly holidays
Before you go Even if you’re going to a particularly toddler-friendly hotel, make sure that when you book you tell them the ages of your children and what you need. That way they’ll have the essentials ready for you when you arrive, plus the extra little touches that some provide when they know you’ve got little ones.
Getting there Make getting there part of the fun by using public transport. Most little ones love the novelty of travelling by train, bus and boat, so ditch the hire car and use public transport where possible. It’s easier to keep them amused when you’ve got your hands free, or comfort them if they do get fed up. Don’t worry about the light travelling that this necessitates – stay at a toddler-friendly hotel (see below) and you won’t need to pack as much as you think.
Out and about Give toddlers or pre-schoolers their own camera (you can get special ones for this age group) to encourage them to notice interesting things and keep them amused at quieter times. You might be surprised at what catches their attention, and what the world looks like from their level.
On the beach Stick a handful of nappy bags in your pocket and wrap a big square scarf round your shoulders. The bags are good for the shells, stones and bits of drift wood that little ones collect, and they also come in handy in the event of any falling-over-in-rockpool incidents – as does the scarf as an emergency towel/rug/extra layer for warmth.
At night If you’re sharing a room in the hotel, bring a clip-on reading light so you can read without disturbing sleeping children.
Saunton Sands Hotel, near Croyde
This family-run Devon hotel (main picture) stands on a stunning spot on the north coast, above miles of beach and rockpools. Being four-star with great facilities and food, it’s smart enough to keep adults happy, but is very family-friendly too: there are two heated pools, an Ofsted-registered playroom (with two hours’ free childcare per day per child), great kids’ food, baby-listening and sitting services, and entertainment all year round. It also offer a great Baby-Go-Lightly service, which supplies all the bits you don’t want to travel with, such as buggy, carrier and changing mat. Find out more
Bovey Castle, Dartmoor
This top-notch country house hotel may seem very upmarket (and it is) but it prides itself on its warm welcome to families: “While we offer our guests luxury and indulgence, this isn’t a stuffy hotel where you can’t sit on the furniture or let your kids enjoy themselves,” the hotel says. It offers the world’s only Lego Room Service – all children are given a toy order form upon arrival (Duplo is available), and the ‘Lego concierge’ delivers to your door. With an indoor pool, supply of small children’s essentials (this service costs extra here), good children’s food and the regular appearance of (tame) birds of prey due to the hotel having its own falconry expert, Bovey Castle goes out of its way to make even its smallest guests very happy. Find out more
Derwent Hotel, Torquay
Kids under 5 stay for free – full board – at this lively central Torquay hotel. It’s totally set up for families, and has a leisure complex that includes the Aztec Falls (fun pool, toddlers’ pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room), 10-pin bowling, and soft play, plus an outdoor adventure playground. Find out more
Official Devon tip: Torbay’s a great favourite with families, with lots of attractions including Babbacombe Model Village (see below), Paignton Zoo and Living Coasts.
The Manor House Hotel, near Okehampton
Like a country club for families, this mid-Devon ‘sports, craft and spa’ hotel is set up to provide entertainment all day long, for kids both big and small. On-site facilities for small ones include a three-level soft play area, dedicated under 5s play room with games and puzzles, outdoor play area and indoor pool with age-appropriate slides. Of course the accommodation and food are well set up for children too, with lots of family rooms and relaxed dining. Find out more
Langstone Cliff Hotel, Dawlish Warren
Set in 19 acres of woodland on the coast at Dawlish Warren, The Langstone Cliff Hotel is perfect for those with toddlers who just want to run … and run! On-site there are indoor and outdoor heated swimming pools and children’s play areas, and the fantastic beach, nature reserve and entertainments of Dawlish are literally on the doorstep. They’ll certainly sleep well at night here, because there’s plenty to wear them out – and the baby listening service means you can then relax. Find out more
Little Stars and The Milky Way, near Bideford (pictured)
With loads of indoor space to run about in, The Milky Way is a great all-weather option – and in 2014 it opened Little Stars, a brand-new play centre dedicated to imaginative and fun play for those aged 0-6. With a tailor-made multi-level soft play area, dressing up, ride-on toys and a ‘pretend pizzeria’ room, plus lots more, it’s perfect for little ones. What’s more, in The Milky Way itself there are more great play areas dedicated to pre-schoolers, including mini tractors to ‘drive’, sand pits and soft play, whilst outdoors they’ll love the train ride, mini-roller coaster and birds of prey. Find out more
National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth
The UK’s largest aquarium (pictured) is fascinating to even the smallest babies, as they can get millimetres away from beautiful sea creatures of all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the biggest draw is the Atlantic Ocean display: the biggest tank in the UK, which includes sharks, fish, rays – and often divers. Find out more
Babbacombe Model Village, Torquay
Even tiny ones feel like giants here, and they’re often fascinated by the miniscule models at Babbacombe Model Village: encourage them to look into the windows to see inside the tiny houses, and watch out for the animated models. Find out more
Devon Railway Centre, near Tiverton
Any little train enthusiast will love the Devon Railway Centre and its indoor and outdoor railway themed attractions. They can ride two different railways (and clip the tickets and wave the flag), and there are indoor play coaches too. Find out more
Official Devon tip: Pecorama in South Devon is another great train-tastic day out for toddlers
Exmoor Zoo, near Combe Martin
This lovely compact zoo won the gold award for visitor attraction of the year at Visit Devon’s 2012 tourism awards. Perfect for pre-schoolers, there are lots of exciting animals, but its clever layout means little legs don’t have too far to walk. Find out more
Pennywell Farm, Dartmoor
We challenge any toddler to not love what’s on offer here: baby animals, ferret racing, hedgehogs, mini piglets and pint-sized ponies, plus tractor and trailer rides and the Rainbow Railway. Find out more