Cork is the second largest city in Ireland, while the county boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery including fabulous beaches. Enjoy history, culture, great food, and a whole host of unique family-friendly activities and places to visit to keep you busy.
In our Guide to Cork for Families, we’ve picked dozens of interesting and exciting things to do in Cork City and County as a family, whether you’re planning a weekend break, looking to fill a rainy day, explore in the sunshine, or just try something new.
Our Guide to Cork for Families
Family-Friendly Things to Do in Cork
Fota Wildlife Park in Carrigtwohill is an award-winning park and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Munster. Here you can come face to face with animals and birds from around the globe as you wander through the beautiful 70 acre park. Fota is home to many of the world’s most highly endangered species such as the Lion Tailed Macaque, Rothschild Giraffe, European Bison and Scimitar Horned Oryx. See a Kangaroo hop in front of you or get close to a Ring-tailed Lemur! Kids can explore and learn throughout the day. Children under three go free.
Visit the Donkey Sanctuary, Ireland near Mallow and enjoy a stroll around the paddocks and get the chance to see some of the lovely donkeys that are being cared for here. Knockardbane Farm is their open farm outside of Liscarroll village and it is home to 140 donkeys and mules that kids can meet! There is also a lovely gift shop and a picnic area on site. Entry is free but you can make a donation towards running costs.
Nano Nagle Place is an unexpected oasis in the centre of bustling Cork City, a place that celebrates Nano Nagle’s vision of empowerment through education, community inclusion and spiritual engagement for a contemporary world. The complex houses a museum, heritage rooms, gardens, deli, design and gift shop, and a Cork focussed book shop in the museum.
Blarney Castle is one of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, probably due to the fact that it is the home of the Blarney Stone. Legend has it if you kiss the stone you will never again be lost for words! Built nearly 600 years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, who is said to have supplied 4,000 men from Munster to supplement the forces of Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Legend has it that the latter king gave half of the Stone of Scone to McCarthy in gratitude, what is now the Blarney Stone.
Experience Ireland’s only cable car, and the only cable car that traverses open seawater in all of Europe! Dursey Island Cable Car stretches from Bullaghboy in West Cork to Dursey Island and is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Look out for the dolphins and whales which are regular visitors to the waters, as well as a wide range of different types of seabirds and butterflies. There is a coffee dock open at the cable car landing area during the summer months.
Free Things to Do in Cork
The Lewis Glucksman Gallery is located on the campus of UCC which is only a 10 minute walk from the city centre along Western Road, and it is open to the public all year round. The Glucksman is an award-winning building that includes display spaces, lecture facilities, a riverside restaurant and gallery shop. Free family art workshops are held on Sunday afternoons.
Go fairy spotting at Dromkeen Woods near the village of Innishannon where you’ll find 20 fairy houses, each with their own brightly-painted front door tucked at the base of a tree. Kids will enjoy the short forest walk spotting the doors, it takes about 30-45 minutes. You’ll also find a Fairy Trail within Rineen Woods at Union Hall in Cork with several tiny ‘fairy’ houses, some people believe that this is where the tooth fairy lives, and they excitedly leave their letters here. Or visit one of the other brilliant places to find magical fairy trails in Ireland.
Head out for a family walk, here are some ideas:
- Cultural walks such as through the stone corridor in UCC where you will find Ogham stones dating from 300-600AD
- A stroll around Crosshaven or one of the many other seaside towns to watch the boats
- A hike in the Galtees
- Get closer to nature with some of our favourite nature walks for the family in Cork
The Lough in Cork is a lovely shallow freshwater lake with numerous species of wildlife. It’s a Public Wildlife Refuge and one of Ireland’s oldest protected areas. As well as experiencing nature, you can also take advantage of their many walking paths. They have grassy areas for picnics if the weather is nice, and a playground for the kids.
Spend an afternoon at one of Cork’s beaches with your buckets and spades. There are 12 Blue Flag beaches in Cork:
- Garrylucas, White Strand
- Inchydoney East Beach
- Inchydoney West Beach
- Owenahincha, Little Island Strand
- Redbarn Beach
- Warren, Cregane Strand
- Youghal, Claycastle
- Youghal, Front Strand Beach
Outdoor Activities in Cork
Gougane Barra National Park, one of Ireland’s National Parks, is a great option for a day out in Cork and is a beautiful destination in any season. There are walking and cycling trails and if the weather is nice, there is also a picnic area. Be sure to pay a visit to St Finbarr’s Oratory or Small Church on the lake island, it has beautiful old stations of the cross and lovely stained glass windows.
Glengarriff Nature Reserve offers a selection of trails. Take the gentle riverside route or, for the more adventurous, the steeper climb to enjoy the vistas from Lady Bantry’s Lookout.
Glenbower Woods, Killeagh is set off on the road. You can head into the forest or go down the myriad of footpaths to enjoy the serenity of the trees and river. Fun wooden bridges to cross and several little huts along the way in which to rest!
A fun family cycling route in Cork is along the old railway line from Passage to Blackrock Castle. This trail is used for an annual Family Fun Cycle and is suitable for young and old.
A favourite playground/park in Cork is Fitzgerald Park. Bring a picnic, let off steam at the playground and there are several child-friendly places of interest to visit within walking distance should the skies decide to open! For example, Cork Museum, the Stone Corridor in UCC, the Lewis Glucksman Gallery and the Lifetime Lab at Old Cork Waterworks.
Ballyhass Lakes in North County Cork and Rosscarbery Lagoon offer water based adventures with aqua parks, water sports and more.
Are you searching for what’s on for families in Ireland? Enjoy hours of family fun with our monthly round up of exciting events and things to do!
Family-Friendly Museums & Galleries in Cork
Fota House and Gardens in Cork offers visitors a look at how life was lived in the past, whether as a servant or as a member of the gentry. When you tour the house you get to see behind the scenes to the bedrooms and a Victorian nursery. Then visit the service wing, where you can see the working conditions of all the servants. “Where is Mrs Kevin’s Cat?!” is a family tour through the House with a dedicated guide, solving the mystery of where the housekeeper’s cat has got to. It’s a great way for children to enjoy learning about the house and the people who lived here.
Situated in Fitzgerald Park within walking distance of the city centre, visit Cork Public Museum to gain an insight into the city’s rich history. There are archaeological exhibits that trace over 7,000 years of human settlement in Cork, as well as interactive exhibits telling the stories of prominent Cork men and women in history. Entry is free.
Go behind bars for a few hours with a visit to Cork City Gaol. The amazing castle-like building, which once housed 19th century prisoners, gives visitors an insight into prison life with an array of interactive and sensory exhibitions bringing it all to life. And don’t miss the incredibly life-like wax figures showing what life was like in the 19th and early 20th century in Cork. As a bonus your entry ticket also gives you access to the radio museum where you can learn more about the birth of Marconi.
Lifetime Lab at Old Cork Waterworks is a multi award-winning visitor centre offering a fascinating insight into industrial heritage and environmental issues. Visitors can journey through Victorian architecture and explore the age of steam, investigate the modern and interactive exhibitions, and even transform into environmental detectives discovering how daily choices impact our world. The experience is suitable for all ages. Make sure to allow time for the great themed playground and garden with scenic views overlooking the River Lee.
At the Model Railway Village in Clonakilty, kids will have a great time checking out the miniaturised old West Cork Railway Line as it was in the 1940s. Walking into the model village, you really step back in time and you can see how life was for the people of Cork long ago. Relax and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in their cafe or visit their unique gift shop, which is located in an authentic train carriage. Children under 2 go free.
Titanic Experience in Cobh tells the story of the legendary ship and her connection to Cobh. Situated in the original offices of The White Star Line, you get to retrace the footsteps of the 123 Queenstown Passengers who boarded Titanic from Cobh, starting with a boarding card at check-in at the White Star Line Ticket office. After check-in, experience life on board through the innovative audiovisual technology and replica set designs, and discover the facts surrounding the tragic sinking of Titanic.
Dedicated to visual arts, both historic and contemporary, Crawford Art Gallery is the National Cultural Institution and regional art museum in Munster. Admission is free and they host regular exhibitions, education programmes and family events including art classes for children, summer courses and every Sunday there is something on for the whole family.
Rainy Day Activities in Cork
Airtastic Entertainment Centre, Little Island hosts a bowling alley, mini golf, amusements, as well as an inflata and ninja park.
Leisureplex Cork offers fun family entertainment centre with bowling, quasar and more.
Check out a book, attend a class, discover a new skill or just avail of the peace and quiet – the library offers so much for the whole family. Discover and visit these local Cork libraries for FREE family events and plenty more.
Awesome Walls at Eden Hall, Cork is one of the largest and most modern indoor climbing centres in Europe, suitable for 6 to 16 year olds. Enjoy 2 hours of rock climbing with an experienced instructor and meet new friends.
Learn about history and science through the interactive exhibits at Blackrock Castle Observatory. Kids can explore the dungeon and hear the cannon fire, visit the planetarium, explore the formation of the Universe and how life developed on Earth, send an email to space and much more.
Family-Friendly Hotels & Accommodation in Cork
The Quality Hotel in Youghal is located beside the beach, has a swimming pool, a kid’s club, playground and other fun activities for families. It offers a variety of accommodation options, including apartments.
At the Clonakilty Park Hotel kids are well catered for with play zones for different ages, crèche, 3-screen cinema, pirate ship playground, and 20m pool with separate toddler pool. They offer family rooms with every combination of beds, apartments and holiday homes. All rooms have the family essentials, including a fridge, kettle, TV/DVD player.
Kids can be kids at The Maritime Hotel in Bantry, Cork. This family-friendly hotel has everything to ensure your kids are entertained while you also can have the relaxing break you deserve. They offer one- and two-bedroom suites ideal for family breaks.
The Castlemartyr Resort in Cork offer luxury breaks in deluxe rooms, suites and self catering homes. All the family can enjoy the swimming pool, pony & trap rides around the resort, croquet, golf and spend time exploring the 200 acre grounds or enjoying the local beaches and activities. During school holidays there is a kids club and while you enjoy a treat at the Spa, your children will be looked after.
Check out more of our favourite family-friendly hotels and accommodation in Ireland – from luxury breaks and hotels with kids clubs to self-catering choices and family camping and glamping.
Family-Friendly Restaurants in Cork
There are so many great restaurants in Cork to choose from, but the issue for parents is often to find one which will comfortably cater for the whole family.
Here are some that have been recommended by Mykidstime parents:
- Market Lane, Cork – Scrumptious traditional meals for kids like shepherd’s pie, etc. Offers baby bowls for smaller appetites. Promises “all homemade food — no frozen rubbish!”
- Scoozis Restaurant, Cork – Fantastic, good value, homemade cuisine with spaghetti bolognese, pizza, baby bowls and more.
- Milano – There are two branches, one in Cork City on Oliver Plunkett Street and one at Mahon Point Shopping Centre, with Piccolo set menu for kids offering 3 courses and a Bambinoccino.
- Bakestone Cafe & Pantry – There are two branches, one located at Fota Retail Park and the other at Fota House.
- Granvilles Restaurant, Macroom – Family-friendly steak and seafood restaurant. Colouring for kids and good value.
- The Fig and Olive, Clonakilty – Apart from having great food for kids and adults, they have a big kids play area in their garden.
- Salines, Midleton – Has a toy room that you can see from your seats. The staff are lovely.
- The Boat Yard on the way to Cobh – Fabulous outdoor eating, from burgers to pancakes.
- Ramen – Two branches in Midleton and Ballincollig. Very reasonable, and kids love getting the chance to make their own ice cream cones.
- Tradehouse, Ballincollig – Good quality food with a nice children’s menu.
Get set for a real treat with tiers of delicious bite-sized goodies to enjoy at these fantastic places for kids’ afternoon tea in Ireland – they are definitely worth a visit!
Things to Do in Cork for Older Kids and Teens
Awesome Walls in Cork is an indoor climbing centre, suitable for 6 to 16 year olds. Two-hour climbing sessions with an instructor, as well as parties, can be booked.
Ballyhass Adventure Centre has locations in Mallow and Coachford offering a range of activities, including an inflatable water park, kayak rental and expeditions, SUP, wakeboarding, ziplines, high nets course, archery, axe throwing, and more!
National Kart Centre at Marina Commercial Park and Adventure Park at Kartworld at Watergrasshill both offer go karting tracks for racing fun for teens and tweens.
Zipit Forest Adventures offers up to 4 hours of tree-top, fun-filled, thrilling experiences in a healthy, outdoor setting. At their location in Farran Park, 20 minutes from Cork City, you can climb poles and climbing walls, swing into cargo nets, balance on a rope bridge, hurtle down a zipwire.
Hit up the summer tubing park at Smuggler’s Cove, with 4 tracks varying from 50m to 100m, where you can experience a real thrill. The biggest track is the Tubby Jump, which is a steep run where the rider is propelled into the air before landing onto a giant freestyle ski bag! But that’s not all that’s on offer – there’s also a huge maize maze, crazy golf, a timber maze, and a golf range.
Feeling creative? What about a spot of pottery, glass fusing, jewellery-making or mosaic-making? Kinsale Pottery and Arts Centre provides arts and crafts courses for adults, teens and children that are suitable for beginners and enthusiasts. The pottery includes electric and raku kilns, stoneware and earthenware clays, and your can try the different styles of throwing, hand-building and all varieties of glazing.
If looking at, rather than making art is more up your teen’s street, then The Glucksman holds exhibitions and workshops as well as tours.
Need a retail blitz? There are lots of shops to choose from in Cork, or you can make your way to one of the shopping centres in Cork, including:
- Merchants Quay Shopping Centre, Cork
- Mahon Point Shopping Centre, Cork
- Wilton Shopping Centre, County Cork
- Douglas Court Shopping Centre, Cork
- Market Square, Mallow, County Cork
- Castle West Shopping Centre, Ballincollig, County Cork
- Market Green Shopping Centre, Retail Park and Plaza, Midleton, County Cork
- Riverview Shopping Centre and Bandon Shopping Centre, Bandon, County Cork
- Blarney Shopping Centre, County Cork
Sam Maguire’s name is well known from the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) All-Ireland Senior Football trophy, and now you can take the Sam Maguire Passport Trail on a journey to find out about the man behind the famous cup.
In one of the most unique family activity trails, you will travel around seven locations in Sam Maguire’s hometown of Dunmanway in West Cork, taking part in challenges and puzzles in his home, school, town and church. Collect a stamp at each location, and when your passport is completed you can apply to attend a Sam Maguire celebration. The passport costs €2 and all locations are free to visit as you discover the facts about Sam’s life.
Does your family have a favourite place in Cork that you love to visit? We want to hear about it!
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