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The best things to do in Windermere

We spent a full day exploring the bustling Windermere area of the Lake District. It’s the most popular place to visit and is home to the largest lake in the entire region. Whether you’re planning an action packed weekend getaway with your partner or a relaxing 5-day stay with your family – you’ll never be stuck for things to do! From cruises in the summer sun, to adventure days for the kids (and grown ups too!), there’s a lot to see and do here.

After spending time exploring everything that this beautiful area of the lakes has to offer, we’ve pulled together a list of the top things to do in Windermere! As it’s a popular place to visit, it can get quite busy, especially during the summer months and school holidays. Be sure to plan ahead of time and find inspiration on exactly what to do when you get there. 😊

Water sports ON Lake Windermere

Things to do in Windermere - Shows kids kayaking on the lake

Water sports is fun for the whole family and can be enjoyed at any time of the year; although, it’s much more enjoyable in the summer sun! Rent a boat for 30 minutes or an hour and put your rowing skills into action as you cruise along the beautiful lake. It’s the best place to capture the stunning scenery of Lake Windermere. If you are water babies, you can opt for more adventurous water sports activities such as kayaking and sailing. There are various hiring companies that offer these kinds of activities, so be sure to browse around for the best deal!

Visit the town of Bowness-on-Windermere

Overhead shot of Bowness marina

Whilst it’s good to have an action-packed holiday, we often forget to take a moment to take in the beauty of what the place has to offer. One of the simplest, yet best things to do in Windermere is to take a stroll along the lake and admire the scenery. The pretty but touristic town of Bowness is exactly the place to do that! You’ll find an abundance of freshly made ice cream stores. Treat yourself and your family to a naughty treat on a hot summer’s day.

After your walk, you can stop by for a spot of lunch for fish ‘n’ chips. There are numerous places by the pier for you to choose from. Bowness is home to a picturesque marina, a variety of pubs, cafes and restaurants and is the go-to place for lake activities.

Take a Lake cruise

Best Things to do in Windermere - Lake Cruise - Swift

Speaking of lake activities, one of the best ways to soak in the views of Windermere and its surroundings, is taking a lake cruise. Hop on a 40-minute cruise from Bowness. You’ll then proceed to take in all those amazing mountain views, breath in fresh air and have a guided tour of the history of Windermere.

We recommend booking in advance with Windermere Lake Cruises to beat the crowds. Depending on your Lake District itinerary, you can also visit other popular areas via boat. Browse the different itineraries on offer and choose a tour that suits you best. They range from short 30-minute cruises to half day adventures.


Lake District Visitor's Centre from above

If you’re looking for a place to visit that has plenty to offer for families, plus some relaxion (for the parents), then Brockhole-on-Windermere is a must place to visit! Brockhole is an outdoor nature and adventure park run by the National Trust. It’s situated between Windermere Town and Ambleside and you’ll no doubt pass by on your drive around the lake.

On a sunny day, you can pack a picnic and set up camp on the grass. Brockhole is a child’s dream of adventure. It has a treetop trek and ziplining park, an electric off-road driving road experience, archery, mini golf, laser clay shooting and so much more. No wonder it’s on our list of top things to do in Windermere! You can buy tickets for the various activities on the day of arrival.

Stop by the world of Beatrix Potter

Windermere attractions - Beatrix Potter experience

We all remember the tales of Peter Rabbit and Flopsy. These legendary tales will be forever loved. And what better way to go back in time than visiting the world of Beatrix Potter attraction? It’s a vibrant exhibition that brings to life her enchanting stories. The attraction features all of the well-known characters, an outdoor garden, café and gift shop.

It’s a truly remarkable place for adults to relive their childhood memories, and for young children who read these wonderful tales at school to this very day. You can purchase tickets either online, or on arrival. We recommend booking online before you arrive as it’s often cheaper.

Visit Beatrix Potter’s home at Hill Top

Beatrix Potter's home at Hill Top
Image courtesy of Diamond Geezer Flickr

For all the keen writers and future authors out there that are looking for inspiration from one of the worlds most famous children’s novelists of all time, you must visit the home of Beatrix Potter. Visit Hill Top, where she found the inspiration to write more than half of her books. It’s one of the must see places during your time in Windermere. You’ll be transported back in time, bringing a lot of memories whilst you hop on to a journey of Beatrix’s life. Grab your notepad and pen and jot down some ideas for inspiration for your next novel!

Wray Castle

Best Things to do in Windermere - Wray Castle scenery

Wray Castle is owned by The National Trust and now serves as a cool visitor’s attraction. It was in fact a private house that was built for a retired Liverpool surgeon. Consequently, it doesn’t share the same fierce history of other English castles. It was also known for Beatrice Potter to spend some time in the castle during her days in Windermere. During your visit to Wray Castle, you can wander the castle’s hall and rooms, have a bit of fun with some dress up and explore the newest addition to the castle, The Peter Rabbit Adventure. The grounds around the castle are also well worth exploring. You’ll have views of the mountains from afar and can see some friendly sheep too!

Aquarium of the Lakes

Tropical fish at Aquarium of the Lakes

If you have young children, they are bound to get a bit restless after the hours of hiking and walking around the streets of Windermere. Why not break the outdoor adventures and visit The Aquarium of the Lakes? Located to the south of Windermere in Newby Bridge, you’ll discover over 30 displays of fascinating creatures, from aquatic fish to creepy crawly insects. Its quite a small aquarium and will take you around an hour to see all of the wildlife. The aquarium often holds fun events for the kids, so be sure to keep an eye on the events calendar on the website. Stop off at the gift shop before you depart and treat your little ones to a cuddly toy!

Stroll through Fell Foot Park

Windermere attractions - Nature trail at Fell Foot Park
Image courtesy of Lakes Cottage Holidays on Flickr

For all you keen walkers out there, Windermere is home to gorgeous walking routes that are moderate and aren’t too challenging. Fell Foot Park is a typical late Victorian garden. It’s now under the ownership of the National Trust and is simply a wonderful place to walk around, soak up the sun and have a picnic.

Wherever you look, there are breath-taking views of the mountains, and of course, Windermere lake. You also won’t need to worry about your children getting bored, as they offer outdoor water activities such as rowing and swimming. There’s also the Discovery Cottage, where they’ll be busy playing interactive games. Stop by the small tea room to treat yourself to a refreshing drink, or an ice cream!

Enjoy afternoon tea at Storrs Hall

Afternoon tea treats

All the walking around and sightseeing can sure be hard work, so why not treat yourself and your family to a spot of afternoon tea in the best hotel in The Lake District? Nothing beats a freshly made scone with a cup of traditional English tea, overlooking some incredible views of the lake. Storrs Hall is set right on the shoreline of Lake Windermere. You don’t need to stay the night to enjoy what this hotel has to offer. A few hours sitting outside on the hotels terrace with a scone in hand is what it’s all about! It can get busy, especially in the warmer months of the year, so be sure to make a reservation in advance!

Trek across Orrest Head

Things to do in Windermere - View from Orrest Head

If you want to burn off some calories from last night’s steak, or just simply want to get out in the open air and admire the scenic views, then we recommend a small hike across Orrest Head. It will take you around 1 hour 30 minutes to walk to the top. Here you’ll encounter some amazing views of the southern lake. The views themselves are exactly why it’s one of the best things to see and do in Windermere. The walk is for beginners and for those who just want a leisurely, non-taxing stroll. There aren’t really any steep sections of the walk, so you’ll be able to bring your children along too! Don’t forget to pack some water especially during the summer, as it can get really warm.

Experience the beautiful scenery at Rydal Water

Lake scenery at Rydal Water

Whilst many people visit Windermere for its epic lake, we often forget about the smaller streams and lakes in the area. Whilst they might not be as vast as Lake Windermere, they are definitely worth visiting. William Wordsworth was a famous poet of the 1700s and his favourite viewpoint was actually at the top of Rydal water, otherwise known as ‘Wordsworth Seat.’ Take a pleasant walk around Rydal water and pass Rydal Cave to take some snaps.

Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway

Best Things to do in Windermere - Steam Railway

We all deserve to give our legs a little rest from a long day of walking around Lake Windermere. Steam trains were popular back in the day and people can now hop on board for an ultimate steam-rail experience. One of the best things to do in Lake Windermere is to take a ride on a steam train from Haverthwaite station to Lakeside Pier. This journey will take you approximately 25 minutes each way. It cost ~£5.25 for a single journey for adults, or ~£3 for children that are 3-15 years old. It makes a wonderful day out for the whole family, whilst you sit back, relax and look outside the window. There’s a small café on board so you can treat yourself to something tasty on your journey.

Windermere Jetty Museum

Shows Windermere Jetty Museum pier

If you’re a bit of a geek and enjoy finding out about the history of boats, then the Windermere Jetty Museum is a must for things to do in Windermere. The museum is a newly opened attraction that first welcomed the public in 2019. It used to be an older steamboat museum and has since been transformed. The museum showcases its most important collection of boats. In the main exhibition gallery, you’ll see steam launches, sailing yachts, motorboats and speed boats. All of this might be a bit boring for the kids, but they also host many family activities and trails.

How to get to Windermere:

  • If you’re travelling from the South of England, it may take you up to 7 hours to get to Windermere, so make sure you stop off several times on the way. Most visitors catch a train directly to Penrith and then catch the local bus on to Windermere. You’ll also find coach trips from most major UK cities.
  • For those that live in the Midlands or the North of England, it will take you a few hours to get there by car. If you’d prefer to travel by train, head to Penrith station as mentioned above.
  • If you’d prefer to visit Windermere as part of a guided tour, check out Mountain Goat Tours. They have excellent reviews and will organise your entire itinerary.

How to get around in Windermere:

  • The easiest and most convenient way to get around in Windermere is by car. It gives you the flexibility of visiting many different places, without having to worry about when the next bus is due to arrive.
  • There are local buses that stop at all the main towns and tourist attractions. View the latest schedules, fares and routes on the official website here.
  • If you want to be a real tourist and have everything organised for you, book a private bus tour with a tour guide. Check out Mountain Goat Tours.

Our top tips for visiting Windermere:

  • We recommend traveling to Windermere by car or renting one on arrival. It’s easier to see the top attractions and reach those off the beaten track.
  • Depending on the time of year you’re visiting Windermere, it can get really busy. Therefore, finding a car parking space may be challenging. We recommend visiting places earlier on in the day (before lunch) to avoid wasting time finding a space.
  • If you’re visiting the Lake District for a few days during the busier summer months or on bank holidays, we recommend visiting on a weekday for less crowds. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days no matter the destination.
  • If you plan on renting a boat or going on a boat tour, book in advance online. It’s often cheaper with discounts and you can skip the queues.
  • On a similar note, Bowness-on-Windermere is the busiest town no matter the day. Aim to arrive early morning and keep the other attractions for later in the day.
  • The best way to see the lake is to actually head out on it. A boat trip is a must for anyone visiting Windermere and is highly recommended.
  • As there’s so much to do in a day trip, we recommend planning out a route and completing the attractions in order of the map. It’ll save you time and will make your lives easier. Plan a Google Maps route on your phone before arriving.
  • Avoid the car park queues by using mobile apps to pay for parking. Almost all of the car parks we stopped at (and there were a lot!) accepted PayByPhone or other mobile payment apps. It takes two minutes to sign up and pay!
  • Being such a popular area, hotels in Windermere can be quite expensive. Stay a 30-minute or so drive away and visit for the day or opt for a lower cost B&B/guesthouse to save money.

So there you have it, our list of top things to do in Windermere. You are guaranteed to fall in love with this beautiful region, set in the heart of The Lake District. It’s a place for the entire family and you’ll never be stuck for things to do. Be sure to check out our guide on ‘The best places to visit in The Lake District’ if you’re planning a long stay and explore other lakes, walks and attractions.  

By Ricky

Author bio:

An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.


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