Ards and North Down is brimming with events, activities and attractions to stir all the senses in every season of the year. 

There are countless things to do, in every corner, town and village; new things to discover and old favourites to come back to time and time again. The fun and memories they hold are precious , like days spent at Pickie Funpark in Bangor or riding the Strangford Ferry to Portaferry to visit the sea life in Exploris Aquarium. Our gateway is only minutes from Belfast, we’re easy to get to by car or public transport.

Nestled between sea and land, our place is the perfect spot to spend a day, or a few days, a cheeky weekend away, or for making the most of school breaks; we can provide a package to suit all travellers. The colours of the land may change, and the air is cooler but you can still enjoy the coastal fun and make the most of the outdoors.

Map location within Northern Ireland

Family Fun

Families love it here for the abundance of fun – and it doesn’t have to cost a lot! The little ones (and the big ones) are sure to enjoy painting their own piece of pottery to take home at Eden Pottery near Millisle, animal lovers can go horse riding, and a trip to The Ark Open Farm, in Newtwonards is always a treat! For the little adrenaline seekers, try out the go karting at Eddie Irvine Sports.

Our two leisure facilities, in Bangor and Newtownards, offer fun both on and off the water, from the slides and wave pool of the Leisure waters to the Aqua Challenge in Bangor Aurora Aquatic and Leisure Complex, to children's splash pool area and soft play and Ards Blair Mayne Wellbeing and Leisure Complex.

A couple of must-see attractions for families are Pickie Funpark in Bangor and Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry…

At Pickie Funpark, pedal a giant Pickie Swan around the lagoon, share a round of Adventure Mini Golf, enjoy the playground or climb aboard the Pickie Puffer for a railway journey around the colourful landscape. 
Tip – look out for seasonal events like the Hallowe’en Pumpkin Patch and Pickie Christmas.

Exploris Aquarium, Northern Ireland’s only aquarium and seal rehabilitation centre, gives visitors a diver’s view of marine life from around the world. The aquarium is home to friendly sharks, desert reptiles, a turtle zone and Humboldt Penguins, who all look forward to your visit!
Tip – Get a more personal experience by booking A Night at the Aquarium, a tour followed by a delicious three course meal. These events run throughout the year, check out availability on the website.

A collage of four images representing family fun in the borough

Explore the woods and the seaside of Crawfordsburn Country Park. Look out for little sculpted creatures dotted around the trails, from the troll to the hare, plus there is a geo-park for the little ones to explore.
Tip – Venture into the forest to the beautiful waterfall which makes for a great photo backdrop.

Kids really enjoy the exhibitions and displays of North Down Museum (admission free). Whilst there, grab an Explorers Pack and go mini beast hunting round leafy Castle Park.
Tip - Afterwards, we recommend you take the short stroll from the park to see the beautiful fountain in Bangor Castle Walled Garden, now open all year round.

A trip to Ards and North Down would not be complete without a trip to the Ulster Folk Museum and Ulster Transport Museum in Cultra.
Tip - Be sure to visit the Ballycultra sweetie shop in the Folk Museum before you leave!

The list of family fun could go on and on!

A collage of four images representing family fun in the borough

Your getaway awaits…

Escape from the stresses of daily life by making the most of your weekends and taking the opportunity to relax and recharge. And what better way to have a much-needed digital detox than to pack a bag, grab your walking boots and get ready for a wonderful weekend break?

You don’t have to go far to enjoy fresh open spaces and the calming ambience of nature. Indeed, located less than an hour’s drive from Belfast, Ards and North Down is packed with peaceful places just waiting to be explored.

We have a selection of itineraries that can help you do that which take you on a journey through the Ards Peninsula Way and idyllic Strangford Lough, from our ‘Rural Retreat’, to ‘Family Time on Strangford Lough’, ‘Follow the Tide’ and ‘Treasure Time around the Lough’ these itineraries are packed with highlights, helping you make the most of your time here.
Find out more about these routes

Throughout our place, you will discover picturesque towns and villages, top attractions and stunning coastal walks. Steeped in ancient heritage, dotted with cosy cafes and sublime eateries, gifts shops and galleries, with secret gardens to scenic coastal walks and country parks, Ards and North Down has lots of hidden gems. Our towns and villages all offer that something different. You will be spoilt for choice!
Tip - Look out for our local weekly and monthly markets in the borough serving up local made handcrafted gifts, and quality artisan food and drink

Rural Ards and North Down

We are dog friendly

For a trip with the family's four-legged friends, Ards and North Down is well established as one of the most dog-friendly locations in Northern Ireland, with so many beautiful walking spots and more and more restaurants, cafes and attractions opening their doors to welcome your dogs, there is no reason to leave them behind on your autumn getaway here.
Tip – Read our Dog Friendly blog articles for a handy list of go-to locations

Creative spirit

A region brimming with creativity, with more makers per head than anywhere else in Northern Ireland. Awaken your creative spirit with a visit to our galleries, workshops and studios dotted across the landscape, where their unique skills are shared and crafts and artworks are showcased for sale.

Meet the makers, hear their stories, or why not take a class?

Food and drink

Savour the tastes of our region with the finest and freshest ingredients found at our traditional markets, artisan food shops and dishes across the region’s award-winning restaurants.

See how fine gins and whiskeys are produced at Echlinville and Copeland distilleries.

Ards and North Down is the ideal location to escape, relax and have fun.

Find out more about the uniqueness of this place, Why Ards and North Down must be on your list of places to visit.

Sustainable tourism

Ards and North Down is a beautiful and unique place to be discovered - our tourism providers are leading the way for sustainable tourism in Northern Ireland.

The AND Sustainable Giants is a passionate group of tourism providers committed to sustainable and green tourism practices. These local people care deeply about this place, and constantly strive to operate in ways that reduce negative impact on the environment. Find out more about our AND Sustainable Giants,

Value breaks

Choose from great value short breaks in our area to escape and unwind in this beautiful water’s edge location.

Wherever you choose to stay, the welcome will be warm and embracing.

Simply relax and slow down the pace as you indulge in a rural escape together.

Book your great value break now at

Keep up to date

Sign up to our ezine to hear about short breaks ideas, unique experiences, events and seasonal special offers - Visit Ards and North Down ezine sign up.

As always, be aware of what current local COVID-19 restrictions are in place and please follow public health guidance. For information visit, nidirect and the Public Health Agency website.

To avoid disappointment, when planning to visit an attraction in the area please continue to check individual provider websites before you leave the house to confirm if they are open, closed or if pre-booking is required.

Ballycopeland Windmill
a photograph looking up at a windmill with a blue sky in the background

Late 18th-century tower mill in use until 1915 and still in working order. Take a virtual tour and discover this unique building.

Nendrum Monastic Site
Churches & Sacred Sites
Nendrum monastic site on a clear sunny day

Nendrum is thought to have been set up by St Machaoi in the 5th Century and also has links to St Patrick in later sources. The monastery consists of 3 round dry stone walled enclosures, one within the other.

St Cooey's Wells
Churches & Sacred Sites
A photo of the alter at St Cooey's wells

The church at St Cooey’s Wells is thought to date from the 7th century but only the foundation stones now remain. The Washing, Eye and Drinking wells in this peaceful, wooded dell are reputed to have healing powers.

Bangor Castle Walled Garden
a photograph of a water fountain in the bangor walled garden surrounded by metal arches and colourful flowers

It is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. Varieties of flowers, plants, fruit and vegetables mix with sculptures and a unique fountain with a tongue twister! We are thrilled that the Walled Garden is now open all year round (except on particular holidays). Please see opening hours.

Ward Park
Public Park
Photo of the brightly coloured bandstand where live music takes place in the summer months

A perfect park in the centre of Bangor. An ideal spot to enjoy the local wildlife and feed the ducks.

Scrabo Country Park
Country / Royal Park
Image of the NIEA signpost entitled Scrabo County Park, caring for the environment with Scrabo Tower in background

This charming park is situated around the upper slopes and top of Scrabo Hill, near the area of Newtownards. When visitors come and explore, they will be able to view the panoramic sights of Strangford Lough as well as the surrounding countryside.