A family break in Bristol is made all the more enjoyable when you take advantage of car hire. There are countless attractions that make a great day out just outside the city, perfect for kids and grown-ups alike.
Natural wonders, the country’s National Arboretum, grand historic houses, exotic zoos in the countryside - all these and more are a short drive away. So whatever the age and interests of your family members, you’ll find an adventure or two to suit you in this round-up of some of the very best family-friendly destinations.
Take a trip underground in the Mendip Hills to explore the epic cave system at Cheddar Gorge, the largest gorge in the UK. The drive from Bristol to here is just under 20 miles and takes around 40 minutes.
As well as wandering through the show caves and marvelling at the stalactites, there is a museum telling the story of how our prehistoric ancestors once lived and a lookout tower to climb, with tremendous views waiting at the top. What’s more, data scientists officially declared the winding road through the gorge as one of the UK’s most pleasant to drive.
Driving distance from Bristol: 40 mins / 20 miles
Not far from Cheddar Gorge is Wookey Hole, another famous cave system with magnificent caverns and formations, which is also about a 40-minute drive away through the Mendip countryside. Yet again, there’s more to a day out here than the cave tours - check out circus shows, Dinosaur Valley, a 4D cinema, indoor play areas, pirate adventure golf and more. Watch out for the Wookey Witch, who roams the caves during school holidays.
Driving distance from Bristol: 48 mins / 19.2 miles
The country’s National Arboretum is in the Cotswolds, close to the historic wool town of Tetbury. With a driving distance of about 24 miles, you can get to Westonbirt in as little as 40 minutes from Bristol.
What awaits on arrival is over 2 500 species and 15 000 individual trees. National collections, champion trees, signature trees, native trees and more are all rooted here. Unsurprisingly, autumn is a favourite time of year to visit, when fiery oranges and reds tinge the leaves. But year-round, Westonbirt is a wondrous place for a stroll and there are often seasonal family-friendly events running.
Driving distance from Bristol: 37 mins / 24.1 miles
This National Trust property is in Wraxall, which is just west of Bristol in the Somerset countryside. Taking no more than 25 minutes to reach by car, the Grade I listed Victorian gothic revival house and grand estate showcases the family life and history of the Gibbs. Check the events calendar too, as there’s often theatre, markets and exhibitions happening.
On sunny days, the 5 to 10-minute long drive over to Prior’s Wood Nature Reserve is a great place to get outdoors. Once part of the estate, here you can find ancient woodland that buzzes with wildlife and pops with colour in spring when the bluebells appear.
Driving distance from Bristol: 25 mins / 7.5 miles
Just down the road from Tyntesfield is Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm - ideal if you want to squeeze in two attractions in one day, or if choosing between the two when you have just the one hire car is causing family arguments.
Spread over 100 acres, the inhabitants range from big zoo animals like lions, giraffes, elephants and rhinos to reptiles, meerkats, pygmy goats and much more. Make it extra memorable by booking one of the animal experiences, where you get close up encounters and a behind-the-scenes look at life as a keeper.
Driving distance from Tyntesfield: 6 mins / 1.6 miles
Another one for wildlife lovers is the Wild Place Project, based on the edge of the city just off the M5, a 20-minute drive from the centre. This is a conservation-focused zoo, with areas dedicated to different habitats and lots of interactive activities, including a Barefoot Trail where you’re encouraged to kick off your shoes and embrace the mud.
Wild Place Project has recently made headlines by opening the UK’s largest bear exhibit. Called Bear Wood, the enclosure recreates ancient woodland in a time before bears were extinct in this country. Grey wolves, lynx and wolverines, all of which were originally native UK animals, also live side by side with the bears.
Driving distance from Bristol: 21 mins / 11.7 miles
Fleet Air Arm Museum is forty miles south of Bristol, near Yeovil in Somerset, and the journey there by car is around 1 hour 10 minutes. Whether you know your stuff about aerospace history or not, you’re certain to find something that fascinates you among the exhibits and activities, most of which are centred around naval aviation.
Of the incredible aircraft on show, a highlight is a chance to step on board the first British built Concorde, as is the HMS Royal Ark experience where you get to ‘fly’ a helicopter from a replica flight deck.
Driving distance from Bristol: 1 hour 10 mins / 40 miles