7 things to do with children near Bristol harbour

Bristol is my home city and I love it . The area around Bristol  harbour is particularly popular with tourists and I think it is a lovely place for families to spend a couple of days.  If you are planning to visit Bristol with children I have a few suggestions of activities you might enjoy.  The Bristol tourist office is located on the harbourside and they have a good selection of leaflets, maps and souvenirs. They are also happy to answer any questions.

Bristol used to be an important port but the river Avon is too narrow and tidal for large  modern boats to navigate. The old harbour has been transformed into a popular area for leisure with museums, art galleries, cafes and bars.

Although you can walk around the harbour children might prefer to catch a yellow ferry boat. There are sixteen stops including Millenium Square and the SS. Great Britain.

A yellow ferry boat in Bristol harbour
The Bristol ferry boats offer a regular service round the harbour

The Mathew

John Cabot left from Bristol in 1497 when he discovered Newfoundland in America. A replica of his ship can often be found in the harbour and if you are lucky you may be able to book a trip round the harbour.

The Mathew

A replica of the Mathew, the boat which took John Cabot to America.
The Mathew giving people a tour round the harbour.

The SS Great Britain

The SS Great Britain which was the largest ship built in Bristol and designed by Brunel was brought back from the Falkland Islands and restored. Older children would enjoy climbing over the decks and there is also a museum. Younger children can dress up in Victorian costumes and walk down the dock yard from which thousand of people emigrated to America or Australia.

SS Great Britain


We the Curious

A short distance away is we the curious a hands on science centre where children can experiment while learning about science.   They have two floors of interactive exhibits, a planetarium, a café and a gift shop. Children can have fun with robots, giant bubbles, building bricks and optical illusions. Outside there are two large paddling pools which are very popular on sunny summer days. I think it is a good choice if you have children of different ages or genders.

We the Curious

The suspension bridge

Clifton suspension bridge has become the symbol of Bristol. It is a short walk from the harbourside and you can walk across free of charge. There is a small toll for cars.

People looking at the suspension bridge

Castle Park

If you want a free activity, Castle Park is a large green area by the river Avon. As its name suggests it was the site of a medieval castle but very little remains. On fine days you will see office workers eating their sandwiches and sunbathing. It does not have any play equipment at present but there is a footbridge to the nearby Galleries shopping centre which has a large toy shop on the third floor if you want to buy a ball.

Brandon Hill and the Cabot tower

If you go up Park street and turn right you will reach Brandon Hill. A large park with a good play area overlooking the harbour and a wildlife area. There are always hungry squirrels waiting to be fed. The Cabot tower which was erected to celebrate the voyage of John Cabot can be climbed and there are wonderful views from the top.

The red sandstone Cabot tower on Brandon Hill
The Cabot tower

Bristol Museum and Art gallery.

Bristol museum is a short walk further up Park Street. It is free but they welcome donations. They have activities for children of all ages including toddlers and you have a chance to see art ranging from Banksy to Dutch masters.

Other activities on the harbourside which did not make my top seven include Bristol aquarium. Fish mad children will enjoy it but be warned it is very expensive and M shed which has been turned into an industrial museum. It is free but does not have many child friendly activities.

I hope you enjoy your time in Bristol. If you want to venture further, Weston Super Mare is a popular seaside resort though  the tide goes out a long way. If your children like animals Bristol Zoo has a lot of small animals. Elephants and Lions can be seen at Noah’s ark zoo farm and wolves and giraffes at Wildplace.

Trip advisor has a lot more suggestions for activities for families in and around Bristol What to do in Bristol

If you would like a tour with a local you might wish to check this site.

Book a customised local tour


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This post will be added to a link party for blogging grandparents. I would love to get your comments. I do read them all.

Author: Anne Fraser

Hi, I am Anne, I am a retired nurse from Bristol in South West England. I am married with five grown up children, four boys and a girl , a grandson and a cat. I like History, travel and reading. I hope to connect with other people with similar interests.

11 thoughts on “7 things to do with children near Bristol harbour”

  1. I haven’t visited Bristol in an age didn’t realise there was so much for the kids to do round there I love the sound of the science centre!

  2. Bristol is only just under an hour away from my by train, I really would like to take another day trip there this year. I’ve still not been to the suspension bridge, but I like that you can get a bus from the station or town to take you up into Clifton. I’ve also walked past the science centre numerous times but have never been in; I know this is a post for things to do with your children, but as big children I think us adults may still enjoy that because I’d quite like to check it out! xx

    1. I once went for a party there when it was known as the exploratory and was by Temple Meads station. I even got a prize from Richard Gregory the founder. Great fun.

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