Most children at some stage love anything on wheels and when my son was young it dominated our conversations and activities. A few years ago we had a big block of flats being built near us and when they were in the early stages there was several trucks, diggers and excavators there and I would pick my son up from pre school with a picnic and we’d go sit on a log next to the site to watch them all. We became such regulars that the guys started saying hi and beeping their horns and honestly he’d sit there all day if I’d let him. His passion for vehicles rubbed off on me and I knew the names of tractors by their colour and would often shout ‘JOHN DEERE!’ when we saw one on the road haha. When the weather was fine we took picnics to all sorts of places like train stations and the beach when the diggers were laying huge new pipes.
There’s some great local events through the year like the Bournemouth Air Festival, the Dorset County Show, the Lulworth Motor Show, Classic Cars on the Prom, Great Dorset Steam Fair and Railway Galas. Below are some more ideas for places to go.
The Tank Museum in Bovington brings the history of tanks and tank crew to life with the world's best collection of tanks and action packed live displays. Additional activities normally run during the school holidays and if you buy a day ticket you receive an annual pass for FREE!
The award-winning standard gauge preserved Swanage Steam Railway allows visitors to journey through six miles of beautiful Purbeck scenery passing the magnificent ruins of Corfe Castle, travelling down to the blue flag beach at Swanage.
Moors Valley Railway which is found within the grounds of Moors Valley Country Park has one of the south’s longest fully signalled narrow gauge steam railway. Children (and grown ups too) can take a ride on the train around the play area, through tunnels, along the banks of the lake and into Lakeside Station where you can stop to look in the model railway shop or enjoy a cuppa before catching the train back to Kingsmere Station. Make a full day of your trip and enjoy the many play areas, trails and special events which are held at the Country Park.
The sit-on Weymouth Bay Miniature Railway circles the park area at Lodmoor and is open to visitors throughout the summer season. Within Lodmoor Country Park you will also find the SEA LIFE Adventure Park and Pirate Adventure Mini Golf, Sandworld, Leisure Ranch and the Brewers Fayre Lodmoor which has a fab soft play.
The Littledown Miniature Railway in Bournemouth runs for 1/3 mile through a wooded area in the Littledown Park. A variety of different locomotives are used to haul the trains, some belonging to the Bournemouth & District Society of Model Engineers, and some owned by individual members. Your train may be hauled by a steam locomotive, an electric (battery) locomotive or a petrol locomotive. The railway is usually open for rides on Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. Within the Littledown Park you will also find lots of space to run around, a play area and fab paddling pool which is open in the summer months.
The Wimborne DSME gauge railway is run by a group of model engineers and is situated on the outskirts of Wimborne. The railway operates on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month traaditionally from Easter to October. Rides are free however any donations are hugely appreciated and help with the running of the club. Riders can enjoy a train ride of approx 1/3 mile which takes you on a journey over a level crossing, past a disused halt, over a bridge and through a wooded area before passing through a tunnel.
There are over 50 aviation displays and exhibits at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum including fixed wing aircraft, a double decker bus and a helicopter. The staff and volunteers are always on hand to answer questions and while you are there you can check the Airport flight times and stand on the viewing platform to watch the planes taking off and landing from Bournemouth Airport.
Based upon a hilltop in the Countryside, Compton Abbas Airfield offers stunning views and is a great place to spot small aircraft taking off and landing.
If the kiddies enjoy a trip on a Land Train then you’ll find them running from Poole Quay, Bournemouth Seafront, Hengistbury Head and Weymouth Bay in the summer months.
The Sammy Miller Museum in New Milton is home to around 500 rare and exotic motorcycles from around the world.
The Haynes International Motor Museum in Yoevil has the UK's largest collection with over 400 amazing cars and bikes.
Beaulieu National Motor Museum - From the earliest motor carriages to classic family saloons, the world-famous National Motor Museum has one of the finest collections of cars, motorcycles and motoring memorabilia.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton comprises of four large halls which tells the stories of naval aviation from the first manned kites towed behind naval vessels, to helium filled airships, seaplanes, bi-planes and the carrier borne aircraft of WW2 and modern Sea Harriers and helicopters.
The Watercress Line - Travelling the 10 mile line in Hampsire from one end to the other by steam train takes approximately 40 minutes. Your ticket gives you all day unlimited travel allowing you to hop on and off at any of the four stations. The Watercress line is well known for their special events which include welcoming Thomas the Tank Engine where families can shake hands with the Fat Controller and ride on the train.
The Eastleigh Lakeside Miniature Steam Railway runs from the main station at Eastleigh Parkway to Monks Brook Halt, offering the opportunity to visit the lakes and children’s playground. The steam train returns back to the main station from Monks Brook Halt, with the entire trip taking 15-20 minutes.
Experience the sights and sounds of a working narrow-gauge steam railway which is located within the beautiful Exbury Gardens. Make a day of your trip and enjoy 200 acres of woodland, gardens and riverside walks, adventure trails and the play area.
Start your journey on the Dartmouth Steam Railway at any of the stations including Torquay, Paignton or Dartmouth and enjoy scenic sea views of the Devon coastline and wonderful towns. Make your journey extra special and you can go on a boat trip or paddle steamer on the River Dart.
Any train lover will enjoy a fun filled day out at the Devon Railway Centre and Model World with unlimited train rides around the centre, model railway exhibition and museum, Edwardian Model Village and Model Funfair. At the end of all that you can have a rest while the kids burn off some energy in the children’s outdoor play area, soft play and indoor play coaches.
Given the location of Pecorama which is high on the hillside above the village of Beer, a ride on the railway offers wonderful views over Lyme Bay and along the Jurassic Coast. There’s much more to do while you are there with gardens to explore, a soft play, outdoor play area and crazy golf.
The Seaton Tramway operates narrow gauge heritage trams between Seaton, Colyford and Colyton in East Devon's Axe Valley region. Travel alongside the River Axe estuary through two nature reserves and see if you can spot any wildlife.
Phew, that's all I can think of for now! If you know of somewhere great that's been missed in or near Dorset then please let us know.
Please note – all dates and specific details were correct at the time of writing. Dorsetmums has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this site and does not accept liability for any errors or omission. Please also note that an event or venue may cancel or close at any time and you should consider contacting before visiting.