10+ Special Places for Autumn Days Out in Kent & East Sussex

When the days grow shorter and darker, and the weather isn’t always as tempting as it is more often in the summer, it can get trickier to think of good places for days out, I think. Whether it’s for learning or socialising or exercising or fun – or maybe for all those things at once – these are 10 places in south east England which are great for autumn days out!

Bedgebury Pinetum & Forest

Bedgebury Pinetum is a nature area in Kent, belonging to Forestry England. It sits within the High Weald Area Of Natural Beauty, and provides a lovely environment for visitors to explore by foot, bike or horse. It hosts a huge collection of different types of trees, so if you’re home educators like us, it’s a great place for learning related to trees, seasons, seed dispersal etc.

There are many different paths to choose from, depending on your fitness, mode of getting around etc. For children, there’s a play trail which is about 2 km with little play areas dotted along it. There’s also a Go Ape, as well as a café, toilets, and bike hire shop.

One of our favourite things about Bedgebury, other than the overall relaxing atmosphere, are the little lakes and ponds. We always find reason to pause for a while somewhere by the water, watching the surroundings, the birdlife, and maybe spotting fish in the water too.

When you visit Bedgebury, you only pay for the parking, no entry per person, so if you’re a family or group it’s quite good value for money. To plan your visit: https://www.forestryengland.uk/bedgebury

Buttercups Goat Sanctuary

This is the best day out if you love goats! Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats is the UK’s only goat specific charity, and it was established about 20 years ago with the purpose of maintaining their sanctuary at Boughton Monchelsea, near Maidstone (Kent).

Buttercups take care of goats that have been neglected or mistreated, or need rehoming for other urgent reasons. They currently have around 130 goats living at the sanctuary, plus about 100 more living in foster homes but still under the wings of Buttercups.

Buttercups’ opening times for visitors during April-October is every day except Wednesdays 11am-4pm. During November-March they are open weekends only, so Saturday and Sunday, and the times then are 11am-3pm. They sometimes close due to bad weather, so it’s a good idea to check their social media before setting off: https://www.facebook.com/ButtercupsSanctuaryforGoats

There is no set entrance fee, but a suggested donation of £4 per person. They have a small café/shop where you can buy snacks, coffee, souvenirs etc, as well as feed for the goats. The café area is enclosed so that the goats cannot get in there, so you can feed them through the fences, which is great as they can get VERY keen for snacks! Please note that a small number of the goats are on medication/special diets and should not be fed by visitors. They wear a purple collar so that you can see who this applies to.

For more about Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats and how to support them etc, please visit https://www.buttercups.org.uk/ There is also a lovely Buttercups community page on facebook, where volunteers and visitors regularly post photos of the goats, and where you too can join in and share photos from your visits: https://www.facebook.com/groups/buttercupsgoats

Herstmonceux Observatory & Science Centre

In the mid 20th century, the Royal Observatory at Greenwhich was moved to Herstmonceux, East Sussex, to escape the problems of being in London (lights, smog, electric fields etc). However, after just a few decades at Herstmonceux, it was decided that this location wasn’t ideal either. The giant Isaac Newton Telescope that had been installed in 1967 had been moved a more cloud-free location in the Canary Islands, and the Royal Observatory moved their base to Cambridge.

Instead, a hands-on Science Centre opened at the site in 1995 (after a temporary trial run in 1994), and since then it’s a great place for exploring and learning about scientific concepts of various kinds, and it also hosts lectures, exhibitions and activities for schools, colleges, astronomical societies, as well as for the general public.

The Observatory Science Centre is currently open Saturdays and Sundays plus one or two weekdays per week, 10am to 4 pm. It is recommended that you book and pay for your tickets in advance (you book a whole day, no time slots), but they also accept buying tickets at the door if places are available. More information is available on their website: https://www.the-observatory.org/. If you’re planning to arrive in the afternoon, please do phone them in advance to check last entry time, as I can’t currently find that information on the website.

For those who prefer to visit at a quiet time, the Observatory Science Centre have reserved two Wednesdays in November – the 2 and 30 – as ‘quiet sessions’, with no large groups booked in: https://www.the-observatory.org/quiet-session

For more about what you can expect when visiting, take a look at my more detailed blog post here: Days Out In The South East: Herstmonceux Observatory Science Centre

I can’t talk about Herstmonceux without also mentioning Herstmonceux Castle, which is located next to the Science Centre. The grounds and gardens are a fantastic space for days out during spring, summer and much of autumn, but is closed during the winter, sometimes with the exception of a few select weekends.

This autumn, their last normal day of being open is Sunday 13 November, and their opening times in October & November are 10am-5pm, with last admission at 3pm. For more info: https://herstmonceux-castle.com/times-and-prices/


Howletts Wild Animal Park is one of two large animal parks in Kent run by the Aspinall Foundation conservation charity. Howletts is located outside the rural village of Bekesbourne, not far from Canterbury, while its sister park is at Port Lympne, near Hythe.

They have a great range of animals at Howletts, including elephants, tigers and other big cats, wolves, rhinos, gorillas, hogs, ant eaters, bison, honey badgers (one of our favourites!), lots of different kinds of monkeys and apes, and several types of deer too.

Here’s a post about one of our previous trips to Howletts, and a little activity we followed it up with: A Visit To Howletts Animal Park – And A Simple Follow-Up Activity

For current opening times and more info, as well as booking tickets, see the Howletts website: https://www.aspinallfoundation.org/howletts/plan-your-day/

Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne

The Battle of Britain Memorial is situated at Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone, high up on the cliffs with views over the English Channel. It is dedicated to the fighter pilots & bomber crews who fought in the Battle of Britain in 1940, and consists not only of a memorial monument as well as a memorial wall with the names of all who flew in the battle, but also a visitors’ centre which houses an interactive and educational exhibition, gift shop, and a cafeteria with fantastic views. There are also full-size replicas of a Hurricane and a Spitfire to admire in the grounds of the memorial.

For more information and images, take a look at this post I wrote about our visit to the Battle of Britain Memorial earlier this year!: Visiting the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-Le-Ferne (Kent, UK)

The opening times in October-February are 10am-4pm. They are currently open 7 days a week, but from November to February the visitors centre will be closed on Mondays. The exhibition inside the visitors’ centre is the only part of the memorial for which there is an entrance fee (though if you arrive by car there’s also a small fee for parking). More details on their website: https://www.battleofbritainmemorial.org/

Blue Reef Aquarium, Hastings

The Blue Reef Aquarium has become one of Penguin’s favourite places to visit this year (after a hiatus over the pandemic etc). It’s not a huge place but still manages to house a great variety of fishes and other marine life, as well as some reptiles and creepy crawlies.

There are lots of different areas to explore, including a ‘native zone’ which focuses on marine life that can be found along our local coastline. There’s also a ‘jungle room’ which houses their land-living creatures, and an ocean tank with a walk-through tunnel, where you have fishes and sharks swimming over your heads.

The Blue Reef Aquarium is open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas Day). Their opening times vary somewhat with the seasons, so do check their website before you go: https://hastingsaquarium.co.uk/

For more glimpses of what you can find there when you visit, check out this reel I made after one of our visits earlier this year:

Sheffield Park & Garden

Sheffield Park & Garden is a National Trust property in East Sussex, and it’s particularly renowned for its awesome displays of autumn colours. In fact, it’s so popular during the autumn that you’ll need to book your visit in advance, via their website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sheffield-park-and-garden However, if you are visiting on a regular weekday, you may be able to make bookings for the same day, or at least within the next day or two.

We don’t generally like visiting places when they’re too busy, but although Sheffield Park & Gardens is so well-visited in autumn, we’ve not found it overly crowded on our visits there. It’s a large place with many different paths to explore, as you can find out more about in another blog post of ours, here: Autumn Colours at Sheffield Park & Garden


Another favourite National Trust place for us, in autumn as well as other times of the year, is Sissinghurst Castle Garden, in Kent.

This place is world famous to people with a passion for gardening, especially for its ‘white garden’ which consists of a wide range of plants that all flower in white. That particular part of the garden is at its most spectacular during the summer, but autumn at Sissinghurst still has so much beauty to offer, with lovely walks in the wider grounds of the property, as well as through the wonderful gardens.

Read more about it here!: An October Visit To Sissinghurst Castle Garden.

The gardens and estate are currently open until 5.30 pm each day, but from 7 November they will be switching to winter opening times, closing at 4 pm. To find out details about times for last entry, as well as opening times of the tower, library, cottage, shop, restaurant etc, please refer to their website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/place-pages/299/pages/opening-times-calendar

The coast!

The coast here in the South East is very well visited in summer. For us, the less crowded parts of the year are at least as good, if not even better, for exploring all the fantastic places along the coastline. To give some inspiration of where you might like to go, here are 10 fab places in pictures:

Another exciting spot on the Kentish coast is the area around Kingsgate and Botany Bay, which I’ve written about before, here: https://sensationallearningwithpenguin.com/2020/01/03/days-out-in-the-south-east-kingsgate-botany-bay-kent/

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is a magnificent medieval structure, with history all the way back to the 6th century, although most of what is there today is from the 12th to14th centuries.

There is a lot to explore at the cathedral, so make sure you allow plenty of time for your visit. Here are 10 of the things you won’t want to miss!: https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/visit/information/our-top-ten/

Personally, I think the cloisters are my favourite part of Canterbury Cathedral, although it’s a tough call as all of it is quite amazing!

At the time of writing, children (aged 17 or under) go free (in the company of a paying adult, with max 2 children per adult). If you’re an English Heritage member, you get 20% off the entrance fee, as well 10% off in their shop. To learn more before your visit, take a look at their website, here: https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/

Looking for more ideas of places to go?

Below are a few more blog posts I’ve written about autumn days out in Kent and East Sussex:

Autumn in Sussex also means it’s bonfire season, with several events taking place across the county (as well as some in Kent) from September to November! We usually visit the Rye Bonfire Night, and below is a post I wrote about it in 2018, as well as a reel from last year’s event:

For even more ideas for days out in the South East, have a browse in our ‘days out’ section: https://sensationallearningwithpenguin.com/category/days-out/

Have you visited some of these places? Are you putting any of them on your ‘bucket list’? Please share with us in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading, I hope you’re enjoying a beautiful autumn and can get out to explore your surroundings, wherever you are x

11 thoughts on “10+ Special Places for Autumn Days Out in Kent & East Sussex

  1. All these are great places to visit with children. I like the goat sanctuary . Seems like a great place for young children to spend time with farm animals.
    Thanks for sharing. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

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