We don’t pretend to be experts, or even especially experienced campers, but I’m so often seeing posts on our local Facebook groups asking for recommendations for campsites which are good for families (and dogs and fire pits and near the coast and with good facilities etc etc) that I thought I’d write about the ones I know and can vouch for with a view to adding to this list as the summers roll on. We are based in West Berkshire and tend to only go camping for a weekend once or twice a year, so there’s a southern UK bias at the moment I’m afraid!
Best for Groups of Families: Farrs Meadow, Wimborne, Dorset
With cars parked away from the tents and vast meadows for the kids to run riot, Farrs Meadow has created a really special atmosphere. On arrival you empty your car into their trailer which they then drive up onto the main camping field. We camped there with 6 other families and had plenty of room to spread out without encroaching on any neighbouring pitches. There were other large groups there at the same time, but as there was enough room for everyone, we barely noticed or heard them. Without any cars about at all we felt very relaxed letting the kids run around. On site, away from our pitches, was a tree swing which kept the kids entertained. During the day it’s possible to walk from the campsite into Wimborne. The long-drop loos were in converted horseboxes with fairly lights. Some of the kids found these a little nerve-wracking! There were showers in converted horse boxes too, but they weren’t working on the weekend that we stayed. It’s also near the coast, and allows campfires and dogs. Glamping available but no campervans. Fridges and freezers and phone charging all available.
Best for Active Kids: Avon Tyrell, New Forest
There truly is something for everyone at this incredibly well-equipped campsite in the southwest corner of the glorious New Forest. They allow dogs, firepits, groups, campervans (though not in all areas and not all at the same time). Electrical hook-ups available and our group was even able to pitch our tents around two picnic tables which made serving and eating a breeze! If you have active kids you’ll be delighted at the range of activities on offer. We’d brought our bikes to take advantage of the trails that cover the site, but you can hire them too. With our large group we didn’t book into any of the activities on offer, choosing trips to the beach (Mudeford Quay and Highcliffe both about a 15-20minute drive away) instead as that suited all of the age groups better. But members of our group did hire bikes and we all cycled with the kids. We could have kayaked or pedaloed on the lake, gone climbing, zipped down the zipwire and more if we’d had time! One to revisit and plan in some of those activities I think. Café on site, decent toilet and shower block, and lodges are also available to book.
Best for Entertainment: Wowo Campsite, Uckfield, East Sussex
You’ve probably already heard of Wowo in the gorgeous Sussex countryside. It’s seems to be firmly on Londoners’ radar and gets booked up very quickly! Having said that, all the hype is actually based on something. I went with my two boys and another friend and her two boys (no dads on this trip) and we had the best time. We set up our tents around a fire pit with benches set around it. We were in the middle of a vast field and though it was full of other campers, they didn’t impact on our spot at all. The facilities are fantastic and the communal barn was a great touch. My eldest particularly loved running ‘found’ items up to the ‘Lost Proper-tree’. There are fridges and freezers available for use and charging facilities in the barn too (which was important to my freelance social media manager friend). There is entertainment on site, but this is no ordinary entertainment…this is Instagram-friendly entertainment. Circus school classes for the kids and music around the campfire in a tepee were just two of the options on offer when we visited during May ½ term in 2017. Our boys also loved the tree swings and playing in the stream that runs through the campsite. Local attractions include the Bluebell Railway and National Trust’s Sheffield Park.
Best for Camping Unplugged: Inwood Camping, near Basingstoke, Hampshire
Part of a group of campsites collectively known as Camping Unplugged whose ethos is built around stripped back camping, they don’t provide defined pitches, and don’t welcome you with a long list of rules. Sensible campfires are allowed, as are well-behaved dogs. This a great way to experience wild camping but in a family-friendly, safe way. At their site near Basingstoke we camped with another two families and another dog. No electrical hook-ups, long-drop toilets (there were showers but we didn’t use them). We loved exploring the site around our pitches and the kids, and dogs, enjoyed playing with the sticks in the forest. No glamping, no campervans.
Best for Glamping: Sloeberry Farm, near Cardigan Bay, Wales
Glamping is getting more and more popular in the UK with sites offering more and more inventive shelters to book. From shepherds huts, to yurts, to pods, with or without built-in kitchens, loos and showers. We had our first taste of easy camping on the Ile-de-Re in France last summer where we stayed in a safari tent with kitchen and paid extra for ensuite shower and loo. This Easter we stepped up a couple of notches for our stay at Sloeberry Farm in Wales. This is no ordinary safari tent…this has Chesterfield sofas, a wood burning stove and proper beds! Solar-powered lighting and a gas stove all add to making this place a very easy spot to bed down for a couple of nights. Two of their tents even had hot tubs! You can read more about our stay, and local attractions here. One of the highlights of our trip was going on a dolphin sea safari. Charging points and freezers available. Dogs welcome.
Best for feeling ‘hosted’: Harry’s Field, New Forest
It’s back to the New Forest for this simple camping field. The pitches are quite close together and the field itself is rather uninspiring (though sheltered by the hedgerows) but…right on your doorstep is the glorious New Forest and its fabulous walking and cycling trails, nearby streams and woodland to explore plus plenty of great pubs and local attractions (we highly recommend Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre). What makes this place really special, however, are your hosts. They are there to welcome you, answer any questions and listen to your ideas. They respond to the needs and wishes of their campers and seem to really enjoy hosting. They run a small shop, keep the facilities clean and occasionally put on special events such as a cool outdoor kids disco. A pizza van on a Saturday night and fresh croissants on a Sunday morning are welcome special touches too. Dog-friendly, charging points and freezers available as well as tea and coffee making facilities.
Best for Swimming: Appuldurcombe Gardens Holiday Park, Wroxall, Isle of Wight
This campsite was recommended to us as it was close to some family we were visiting in the Isle of Wight one year. It was a while ago now (nearly 4 years ago) and we spent most of our days with our family nearby but I do remember the holiday park being divided into family-friendly areas, having very clean facilities, a great playground and a fantastic pool! The location was great too with some lovely spots to take the dog for a walk nearby plus a short drive to the coast (well, everywhere is a short drive to the coast on the Isle of Wight!). The pitches were a little regulated for our liking so if we go camping on the Isle of Wight again I think we’ll try something different.