There are many advantages to living in Milton Keynes. Being one of the furthest places from the coast when you fancy a day out at the beach isn’t one of them. However if you don’t want to sit in the car for a couple of hours, or don’t want to spend much money then don’t worry, there are a number of brilliant FREE local places you can take the kids so they can feel the sand between their toes during the school holidays in 2017. This list includes parks, country parks, a shopping centre and a garden centre. We reckon all of them are worth visiting for a couple of hours out – or in some cases a whole day. They are technically free as there is no charge for entering them, but if you’re travelling by car then parking charges do apply at several of them. They’re either in Milton Keynes, Bedfordshire or Northamptonshire and the furthest is around 45 minutes away max from MK. Where applicable, do click on the blue writing where you can read a full review of our visit there and some of the most recent ones include YouTube videos. If you enjoy any of my articles and find them useful then do leave me a review on the Milton Keynes Kids Facebook Page and send me any photos of your visits to

1 Many people visit Parsons Road recreation ground for Leighton Buzzard splash park but it also has a brilliant beach. It’s quite big – big enough for young children to have a run around. There are no buckets and spades, so definitely take your own. There’s no shade on the beach itself so just be careful if it’s hot as the beach is exposed. Whilst there, you can of course enjoy the splash park and the play equipment. On a sunny day you can easily spend a few hours there. Do take towels, changes of clothes and a picnic blanket. There are some tables dotted around but you may need to sit on the grass on a busy day. The best postcode is LU7 1SD for Duncombe Drive car park which is just behind the splash park – charges apply. If you struggle to park there, then you may need to park in the town centre and walk over.

Leighton Buzzard Splash park beach

2 *** UPDATED **** THIS HAS NOW CLOSED The beach at Frosts Garden Centre in Willington in Bedfordshire is lovely for young children. The beach itself is under a blue cover which provides shade and there are buckets and spades already there to play with. It’s a good size, and if the children get bored then there are Little Tikes cars to drive and garden games to play with. There’s also crazy golf although an extra charge applies. You could probably spend a couple of hours there. There are picnic tables and a kiosk and restaurant if you need refreshments. The address is Sandy Rd, Willington, Bedford MK44 3QP. Only downside is that it’s only open until 13th August 2017.

Beach at Frosts Willington

3 Probably the biggest and best known beach locally, the Centre MK beach in Milton Keynes is back for 2017. You can visit between 21st July and 3rd September. It’s big, taking up a good amount of floor space outside John Lewis. It’s a great free option when the weather isn’t very good, but lots of other people tend to do the same so it can get busy.There are rides too including a helter skelter, small wheel, train and a crazy gold, but you pay for them. With several coffee shops nearby, there are plenty of options for refreshments, but you’ll be tempted to spend money. Parking charges apply. It’s the main shopping centre in MK but MK9 3GB will get you roughly to the centre if you’re travelling from outside of the area.

Centre MK beach

4 With its huge climbing frame, assault course and adventure trail Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire is a fab day out for children of a variety of ages. One of the biggest highlights is it’s sand and water area, and smaller climbing frames set in sand. Definitely take a bucket and spade, a change of clothes for the kids, towels and shoes that will dry quickly. It can get really busy on sunny days in the school holidays so don’t leave it until lunch to get there. NN9 6GY.

Stanwick Lakes

5 If it’s sand you’re after and don’t want to spend any money apart from on petrol, then your kids will love the parks in the Wixams in Bedfordshire. There are three of them, all with different equipment for a variety of ages including little wooden houses, a climbing wall, zip wire and climbing frames. You can walk from one to the next. Do take a picnic. If you need refreshments there is a Budgens there. It’s a residential area so be considerate when you park. Best postcode is MK42 6DA.

Wixams in Bedfordshire

6 Children fans of diggers? There’s a lovely sand pit at Emberton country park near Olney. Take a bucket and spade with you. My sons also like the stones and pulleys area. Lots to do there including a couple of big slides and other fun play equipment. We enjoy walking around the lake. Parking charges apply. Olney Road, Emberton, MK46 5FJ

Emberton Country Park

7 The park we have visited most frequently in Milton Keynes is the fab park in Broughton.It has some very cool climbing frames, sculptures and brightly coloured floor, but one of the biggest highlights is it’s sandpit. It’s big enough for babies and young toddlers to have a good dig. There’s also a wooden structure that children can climb up and then put the water down the chutes. The best postcode is MK10 7ER which takes you to Trafalgar Drive which is the road opposite the park.

Brooklands park in Milton Keynes

8 With its large sand and water play area, animal sculpture trail and small indoor soft play, Sywell Country Park in Northamptonshire is a great place to take young children.The best thing is it only costs £3 to park and you can easily spend a good few hours there. The sand and water play area – called the filter bed – includes a water pump, a climbing frame, a smaller pirate ship style climbing frame and lots of sand for digging. Do take a change of clothes for the sand and water area.

sywell country park

9 One of our favourite parks in Milton Keynes is the pirate park in Loughton and one of it’s best features is the sandpit. Definitely take a bucket and spade, there’s a good amount of sand in and around the wooden pirate ship. There’s also a big climbing frame there for older children and some other good play equipment. The address is Linceslade Grove, Milton Keynes, MK5 8DJ.

pirate park in Loughton

10 Russell Park in Bedford is great fun. There’s lots of sand and fab climbing frames for all ages. It’s next to the river and you can see the ducks. There’s a café and usually an ice-cream van. Free to park if you park on the road and walk up. We parked on George Street MK40 3SG and walked up.

russell park in Bedford

If you found this article useful then you may also like 10 of the best parks in Milton Keynes and 10 really cheap days out – there is some crossover but lots of other places your kids may enjoy too.

I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged six and four. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last four years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on the Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.

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