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Animal Attractions

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Dorset’s picturesque plains aren’t just a wonderful draw for tourists throughout the year, they also make an idyllic permanent home for an array of animals. For holidaymakers that fancy a walk on the wild side, the working farms, bird reserves and conservation parks provide hours of entertainment.

Perfect for day trips out, a visit not only provides a great chance to learn more about creatures both great and small, but a welcome opportunity to enjoy the fresh air in a family friendly environment.

Monkey World – Wareham

An Ape-solute must with an inspiring team of keepers
>Nonkey World – Wareham

Home to 20 different species, this 65 acre park in Wareham is the largest primate rescue centre in the world and a fascinating day out for all the family.

Set up in 1987 to provide a safe place for neglected Spanish beach chimpanzees, today Monkey World looks after more than 250 primates, many of which have been kept in unnatural conditions or treated cruelly.

Take a tour around the various enclosures and see gibbons, marmosets, spider monkeys, orang-utans and chimpanzees in a safe and natural environment. Make sure you catch at least one of the daily keepers’ talks to learn more about the work the centre does and get an insight into these marvellous creatures. There’s also The Great Ape Play Area with slides, rope bridges and balance bars – perfect for children who like monkeying around!

>Nonkey World – Wareham

There’s a cafe and picnic area on site, and, if you can’t bear to leave at the end of the day, why not visit the information office where you can find out about adopting one of the residents!

Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park - Wimborne

Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park– Wimborne

For hands on experience of traditional farm life
Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park - Wimborne

There is something for everyone at this award-winning farm park in Wimborne. One of the few heavy horse centres in the UK, there’s plenty of opportunity to get close to a wide variety of animals, including pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, alpacas, sheep and snow dogs, as well as more than 20 rescued horses, donkeys and miniature ponies.

Regular talks and tours are held throughout the day, as well as interactive feeding sessions where guests are invited to help. There are even more opportunities to try your hand at tractor driving, Shetland pony grooming and learning how to drive a heavy horse and wagon!

The park also has a great selection of play areas from the Tiny Tots Play Barn to an undercover go-kart arena, where even big kids can play!

Abbotsbury Swannery – Abbotsbury, near Weymouth

The World’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans
>Abbotsbury Swannery– Abbotsbury, near Weymouth

Established by Benedictine Monks who farmed the swans to produce food for their lavish Dorset banquets, Abbotsbury Swannery is now considered a must-see attraction when visiting the region. The reed beds even made it into the magical world of Harry Potter, when they were used as the location of the Weasley’s house in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Visitors can explore the nature trail, nesting areas (expert Andy Farrer recommends the cygnet hatching) and observation platforms. Perhaps the most popular attraction is the twice daily hand feeding sessions, where more than 600 swans descend on the Fleet Lagoon – a real spectacle!

The Swannery also has a fantastic array of entertainment for children of all ages. Whether you decide to get lost in the largest willow maze in Dorset (swan shaped, of course!), take a tractor ride, tackle the bale mountain and slide, launch yourself in the swinging nests play area or test your driving skills on the pedal go-karts, it’s a great place to enjoy some fresh air!

>Abbotsbury Swannery– Abbotsbury, near Weymouth

The Swannery also has a fantastic array of entertainment for children of all ages. Whether you decide to get lost in the largest willow maze in Dorset (swan shaped, of course!), take a tractor ride, tackle the bale mountain and slide, launch yourself in the swinging nests play area or test your driving skills on the pedal go-karts, it’s a great place to enjoy some fresh air!

Farmer Palmer's - Poole

Farmer Palmer's - Poole

Perfect for the smaller members of the family
Farmer Palmer's - Poole

If you are holidaying with children under eight years old, Farmer Palmer’s is the ideal day out. Combining education with adventure, the park has both indoor and outdoor activities, and the team guarantee to send your child home ‘tired and happy’!

The focal point of the park is the Animal Barn, home to farmyard favourites and pets, with a daily schedule of events offering plenty of opportunities for hands on experiences.

There’s also soft play for very little children as well as tractor trailer rides, a woodland walk for wildlife spotting and, in holiday season, look out for Deer Safari and Pig Racing!

Arne RSPB Reserve – Wareham

A tranquil and inspiring location for wildlife spotting

Arne is a great place for young and old alike. The 1,392 hectares of lowland heath, famed for its rare Dorset Heath heather, has an abundance of wildlife all year round. The Dartford warblers are a particular favourite and as many as 22 species of colourful dragonflies have been spotted here in the summer months.

Overlooking Poole Harbour, the reserve is perfect for those wanting to improve their birdwatching skills. The centre provides an opportune spot to watch a variety of ducks and geese and, with seasonal nest cameras, you can get a real insight into some of Arne’s ‘star species’ including avocets, nightjars and little egrets. Birds of prey are also well represented with themed guided walks organised throughout the year to look for peregrines, ospreys, and marsh and hen harriers.

Children are well catered for at Arne. The ‘Bird Bingo’ game will ensure the whole family is kept entertained as you tick off sightings of insects, flowers, butterflies and birds. During school holidays, there are also organised activities such as building a bug hotel or nestbox. Owners of dogs are asked to keep them on a lead at all times.

Putlake Adventure Farm - Swanage

Putlake Adventure Farm - Swanage

A great all weather option for young families
Putlake Adventure Farm - Swanage

Offering the only soft play area in Swanage, Putlake Adventure Farm offers families with younger children a welcome day out, whatever the weather.

The three storey indoor playground has slides, scramble nets, tunnels, a ball pit, zip wire, bouncy castle, football area and a baby and toddler zone.

Move outside to the working farm and enjoy pony grooming, handling the rabbits and guinea pigs and even bottle feeding the lambs and goats. Loved by our expert Andy’s young daughter, there’s plenty of space to run around, surrounded by an impressive collection of animals including cows, alpacas, chipmunks, tortoises, chinchillas and Mitsy the Bengaleaze Owl!

If all that sounds exhausting, Putlake’s Tearoom will be a welcome break, with delicious cakes and ice creams as well as more substantial meals. There are also plenty of picnic areas and tables to relax whilst the children explore.

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