16 things to do on the Isles of Scilly with kids
One of the biggest joys of the Isles of Scilly is relaxing. This is the kind of place where you slow down naturally, and enjoy the simple pleasures – walking, building a sandcastle, eating and drinking by the sea.
So when you’re planning a holiday, don’t even think about trying to pack every day full of activities. But at the same time, don’t miss out on the chance to explore. There are five inhabited islands, each with their own personality, and boats running between them all.
Where you make the balance is up to you – but for some inspiration, here are 16 things to do in the Isles of Scilly with kids.
Quiet roads, even on St Mary’s, and gorgeous scenery make it perfect for hiring bikes. There are two companies on the biggest island, St Mary’s Bike Hire or Book-A-Bike, which have trailers for younger kids as well as tagalong options.
Or a golf cart
The islands may be small but there are plenty of hills – if you don’t fancy towing a trailer, try hiring a golf buggy instead.
Take a boat to another island
It couldn’t be easier to explore – the Boatmen’s Association boats run every day from the quay at St Mary’s to St Martins, St Agnes, Bryher, Tresco and uninhabited Sampson. Queue up, buy a ticket and hop on board. The times change slightly depending on weather, tides and which island you’re visiting, but there’s usually two to three departures a day. Make sure you check where the boat picks up, as it’s not always the same spot.
See three islands in one day
A day out with Calypso Boat Trips is a great way to start a trip, helping to give a taste of three islands and get your bearings for the holiday. Starting with St Agnes in the morning, you’ll have time for a stroll and a bit of sandcastle making, then Tresco for lunch and to explore the Abbey Gardens and an afternoon on the beach (or tea) at Bryher.
This is one you do need to book as there’s a maximum of 12 on board. Here’s what we saw in a day trip to three islands…
The Sea Quest Glass Bottom Boat is another great day out – starting with a trip to the Eastern Isles to spot seals. So many seals you’ll quickly lose count as they swim, sun themselves and squabble on the rocks – as we discovered on our trip.
The glass bottom is useful to keep kids entertained, although you’re more likely to see seaweed than fish. Then (unless you choose to return to St Mary’s), you get the rest of the day on another island, with the choice depending on weather and tides. There’s also Island Sea Safaris in faster RIB boats for older kids.
Swim with seals
If you want to get closer than a boat, families with older kids (eight and up) can snorkel with them on trips from St Martin’s with Scilly Seal Snorkelling. Fortunately wet suits are provided! Expect curious seals checking out your fins…
Go to the beach
You are never far from a beach on any of the islands. And while there are recommended coves, you’ll find pristine sand and gorgeous turquoise water around practically every corner. To pick a few, Pentle Bay on Tresco has been called so safe that no lifeguard is needed, while wild Hell Bay on Bryher looks out to the Atlantic. On the other side of the island, Church Quay beach is calm and great for paddling.
The Bar on St Agnes is perfect for sandcastles, or head south to Beady Pool on Wingletang Bay. On St Martin’s, Higher Town bay is quieter while Lower Town bay is spectacularly beautiful. And on St Mary’s, Porthmellon is fantastic for beachcombing, Porthcressa for shells and wide open sands and Pelistry for sheer loveliness.
Follow a treasure trail
If you’re staying at Tregarthen’s Hotel, as we did, their treasure trails are a great way to see the island – there are two for St Mary’s, one which you can do in just over an hour, mostly buggy-friendly. Perfect for spotting the little details you might otherwise miss. Stop in, have a drink and pick one up if you’re not staying.
Wander a subtropical garden
The fantastic climate of the islands means you get impressive plants as well – little Carreg Dhu Gardens on St Mary’s is a lovely taste or the magnificent Tresco Abbey Gardens includes shipwrecked figureheads, a shell grotto, sprawling gardens and – if you’re sharp-eyed – the rare Scilly Shrew.
You can get around St Mary’s, the biggest island in five to seven hours – allow more with younger children, or try a shorter loop, but there are fantastic cliffside paths, nature trails and quiet roads to wander around. Here’s where our walk took us…
On a rocky promontory between Bryher and Tresco, it’s one of the few surviving Cromwellian fortifications in Britain, built in 1651. King Charle’s castle nearby up the hill is in ruins meanwhile…
For rainy days
The islands have some of the best weather in the UK, but if you’re unlucky enough to get rain there’s an indoor soft play area called Kings of the Castle in Old Town on St Mary’s, including an area for under twos (and coffee and cake).
Discover some history
Another good option for wet and windy days is the museum on St Mary’s, with information about the island’s history, including collections from shipwrecks, Romano-British artefacts, stuffed birds, local art and much more.
Go and play
St Marys has two play parks, including a pirate ship at The Garrison as well as another by Porthcressa if you want more adventurous climbing frames by the sea.
Eat ice cream in a maze
On St Agnes there’s a stone maze, thought to be from the Viking era. Helpfully, it’s near Troytown Farm where you can meet the cows behind their homemade ice cream.
Drink some local wine
Not one but two vineyards to explore (one for nap time perhaps?). Holy Vale Wines is in the heart of St Mary’s on the Nature Trail with tastings, or on St Martin’s the Vineyard is open Tuesday to Thursday during the summer.
Need more tempting? Here are 39 reasons to visit the Isles of Scilly with kids…
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