South Devon could have been made for family days out, and for those of you who love nothing more than to come face to face with all kinds of furry friends during your holidays you’re in luck – you’ll find some of the region’s best zoos, farm parks and nature reserves right on your doorstep. Whether you’re after a relaxed day on the farm with plenty of chances to get close to the animals and a shop that’ll tempt even the most discerning foodie, or a beautiful nature reserve that shows just why we love the South Devon countryside so much – there’s a day out just waiting to greet your clan.
One of the biggest family attractions in the county, Paignton Zoo is home to more than 2000 animals, and as the zoo’s set in 80 acres of natural woodland there’s a laidback feel to the zoo that makes it perfect for families. The attraction hosts special events throughout the year, and the land train not only ferries passengers from A to B around the zoo but it’s also great fun.
A colony of friendly penguins isn’t what most visitors expect to find beside Torquay’s harbourside, but Living Coasts is home to penguins, seals and even octopus. The perfect choice for those days when the sun doesn’t want to come out and play, one of our favourite things about this one is the zebra crossing that lets the penguins waddle their way from the enclosure to mingle with the public.
Found in the heart of the countryside close to Buckfastleigh, Pennywell Farm is a great day out for those with younger children. Barely half an hour goes by without an event or activity taking place that the kids can join in with, and there’s always plenty of opportunity to feed, cuddle and make friends with the resident animals.
Berry Head Country Park
One of Brixham’s many beauty spots, Berry Head Country Park is a dramatic, yet peaceful headland within walking distance from the harbourside. Whether you take a picnic on a sunny day or a flask if it’s cooler, there’s nothing better than setting up camp in the bird watching hut for a while and seeing what you can see. Here’s a tip too, keep an eye on the waves below as you might just spot a seal playing in the water…
Buckfast Butterflies and Otter Sanctuary
One of Devon’s most unique days out, Buckfast Butterflies and Otter Sanctuary is a small, welcoming attraction that’s dedicated to breeding and rehabilitating rescued otters. Step into the tropical butterfly habitat before saying hello to the three species of otter that call the sanctuary home. The friendly keepers are always on hand to tell you all about the otters, and wherever possible, they’re reintroduced back into the wild as soon as they’re ready.
We love Occombe Farm, not only is it free, but it’s also the kind of attraction where a whole afternoon floats by without you even realising it. The farm animals are always thrilled to welcome visitors, and there’s also a nature trail for those of you keen to make the most of your time in the countryside, and a farm shop that’s so good even the locals rely on it for their local produce.
Stover Country Park
Now, this one’s a little off the beaten track, but Stover Country Park is unspoilt, quiet and stunning. Just outside Ashburton, Stover’s one of those well-kept secrets, so it’s rarely crowded even on the sunniest of Devon days. With 114 acres of sun-dappled woodland to explore, you’ll have your pick of walkways as you make your way around the lake, and if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll spot birds, butterflies, dragonflies, squirrels and even the odd deer.
You’ll find Shaldon Zoo overlooking the pretty town of Shaldon near Teignmouth. With an acre of woodland to its name and a collection of monkeys, the zoo cares for some of the world’s most endangered species. Open every day of the year (except for Christmas Day), Shaldon Zoo is smaller than some of the others in the area, so there’s plenty of chances for younger visitors to take their time and watch the primates go about their business.
Totnes Rare Breeds Farm
When was the last time you fed a red squirrel? Well, now’s your chance. Totnes Rare Breeds Farm enables its visitors to truly embrace Devon life, and you’ll be welcome to cuddle the guinea pigs, feed the squirrels and watch the chipmunks as they show off for their visitors! There’s never a dull moment at this friendly little farm, and you’ll even be able to stroke Wizard, the eagle owl.
Not only is Woodlands one of the biggest family adventure parks in the whole of Devon, but it’s even home to its own zoo farm. From the shire horses in the Big Barn, to the guys in the Pig Palace, Woodlands Farm Zoo would have plenty to keep the whole family entertained for the whole day – but with rides for every age calling, you’ll have to divide your time between adrenalin-packed thrills and time with the four-legged folk on the farm.