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Family Fun around Sutton Harbour and the Barbican

Whether you are local to the area or visiting on your holiday, Sutton Harbour and the Barbican are a part of the rich tapestry of Plymouth’s magnificent waterfront and have something for everyone – particularly families. 

Here are just a few of the many family friendly things to do around the historic waterfront of Britain’s Ocean City.

ON A DRY DAY

Follow the Sutton Harbour Heritage Trail and complete the brass rubbings as you go. (Just bring a few sheets of A4 paper and some crayons; you’ll see the plaques all around the harbour). The Sutton Harbour Group partnered with Plymouth City Council on the creation of a new app to support the walking trail. In fact, the Sutton Harbour Heritage Trail is one of 3 partner trails available to download via the free app for visitors to Plymouth, so they can discover more about the fascinating history of Sutton Harbour during a one-mile circular walk around the harbourside. The Plymouth Trails app features three core trails including a key trail created for Mayflower 400 UK, supported by Mayflower Trail place markers sited along the Barbican and Sutton Harbour, offering an interactive journey through Plymouth as it was in 1620. There are also trails for Plymouth City Centre and Plymouth Hoe, so people can explore more of the city’s rich heritage as they enjoy guided walks around Britain’s Ocean City.

Go seal and dolphin spotting while you admire the view – Sammy the Seal is often found swimming around the lock bridge, and especially as the tide comes in there is often a dolphin or porpoise to be seen.

Fly kites on Plymouth Hoe; it’s a superb open space, great for a picnic or café stop – and perfect for kite flying on the grass near the lighthouse.

Talking of lighthouses – you can’t miss Smeaton’s Tower! It stood ten miles out to sea on the Eddystone Reef, and was brought back stone by stone when it was replaced. Climb to the top if you dare and see how the keepers lived! Now standing at 72 foot high, it offers striking, elevated views of Plymouth Sound and the city from its lantern room. This room, along with the rest of the lighthouse, has been carefully restored to its original glory.

Take one of the many boat trips across to Kingsand and Cawsand, on the Cornish side of Plymouth Sound. Fantastic views, a lovely beach, great pubs – it was once the smuggling capital of Devon and in fact a part of Devon itself!

Marvel at peace and quiet of the Elizabethan Garden behind New Street, which was ‘new’ when Drake was a lad! Built in a vacant space after WW2 from ancient stones, it echoes the beauty of Tudor gardens, and is a perfect spot for a picnic with the children.

Hire bikes from Rockets and Rascals and explore the Barbican and along the Hoe to Millbay – further to the Royal William Yard if you like! Easy and fairly level, with great views and lots of cafes.

From Sutton Harbour head by bike or foot on The National Trust Estate at Saltram following the Plym Valley Trail. This leads along the same route as the South West Coast Path across Sutton Harbour lock bridge, and then out along old roads and railway tracks into the Georgian estate.

Cross by the small Cremyll ferry from Stonehouse to Mount Edgcumbe House and Country Park. The grounds are superb, and you can walk as far as time and desire allow you along the coast toward Kingsand. Picnic on the lawns, and admire the views back across the River Tamar toward the historic Naval dockyards.

Follow a part of the South West Coast Path, which passes right through Plymouth and Sutton Harbour, Westward to Cremyll and into Cornwall, or Eastward around to Bovisand and Wembury. You can always catch a bus back! The scenery is breathtaking, watch out for plenty of ups and downs on the path!

Cross by water taxi to Mountbatten and the old RAF seaplane base. You might book a course at the water sports centre, or just enjoy the stroll and the view.

In the summer, don’t miss the Tinside Lido – step back in time and swim in the Art Deco pool beside the sea.

ON A RAINY DAY

Head over to Clay Art in Southside Street and create your very own piece of art.

Visit the UK’s National Marine Aquarium and wonder at the the underlife of the sea.

Plymouth is steeped in history – take a look at the Mayflower Museum above the Tourist Information Centre beside the Harbour and learn of Plymouth’s early links with America.

The Barbican Leisure Park a short walk from the lock bridge (all signposted) has a multi screen cinema, bowling alley and restaurants to enjoy.

If shopping is your thing, the Barbican and Sutton Harbour are surrounded by small shops and galleries – and the city centre with its covered Mall, Drake’s Circus, is ten minute’s walk away. 

Jackas Bakery in Southside Street is England’s oldest working bakery and makes the great bread and pastries, with great coffee. Eat in – or takeaway!

On the subject of food, Cap’n Jaspers. If you know it, you’ll need no further explanation – but their al-fresco quayside burgers and hot dogs are simply enormous and can fill the largest tummy.

Have you been to Elizabethan House? The harbour was once surrounded by these old Tudor buildings; this preserved example is a fascinating depiction of a bygone era. It now offers self-guided tours instead – which makes it easier with the kids in tow!

What have we missed from this guide? We’d love to hear from you with your own suggestions – and we can then add them to this guide. Comment in our social media ages, DM us or email via our contact page.

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