What is geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt using GPS devices. No wonder kids adore it. Here's what you need to know and where to go geocaching in London.
What is geocaching exactly?
Think of it as a modern-day treasure hunt for the digital generation. You need a handheld GPS device, like your phone, which guides you to discover 'caches' - waterproof treasure boxes hidden in forest trails, on rocky beaches (even underwater!), on the peaks of windy mountains, National Trust sites and castles. And you can even go geocaching in the middle of central London.
Geocaching appeals to the sense of adventure in all of us, and for kids, there's the added reward of hunting for something - and finding a physical object to inspect. Most caches contain a log book inside so you can leave a message, and there are often trinkets inside the cache as well. Your child's precious treasures (small toys, stones, a broken bracelet or key ring) that they stuff in their pockets are ideal here: if they take something out of the cache, they should replace it with one of their own trinkets or items. Sometimes, you'll find a 'trackable', which you log online using its code (you can track the object online to find out where its mission takes it), and some caches are micros (filled with a bit of paper and pencil) or nanos (small and magnetic).
In addition to a GPS device or smartphone, you'll need the app (head to the Geocaching site to set up an account and download it for free), then type in the coordinates of your chosen cache and start hunting. Wear comfy shoes and bring a couple of pens or pencils to make notes in the log book before putting it back in its place. You can also report your findings on Open Cache UK to share the experience with others.
What are the benefits of geocaching?
Credit: Groundspeak-Inc (dba-Geocaching)
Geocaching has quickly caught on with families because it's free, easy (it doesn't require any special equipment), can be done pretty much anywhere you are and is a great way to instil a sense of curiosity and adventure in your child. Siblings and friends can work together to find caches, encouraging team work and communication skills, while caching is also a great remedy for getting kids out of the house and exploring the great outdoors, keeping them fit and healthy.
Caching teaches kids about new places and encourages them to think in new ways, plus the universally understood "take something, leave something" policy is a great opportunity for a lesson on the benefits of sharing and not getting overattached to worldly possessions. Harry Potter fans will like that there are 'muggles' in the geocaching world - a muggle is anyone who isn't on a cache and might discover that they are, of course! Geocaching is also a wonderful way to discover things about your surroundings - and quickly get comfortable in new places: once you've crawled under a bench or stuck your hand in a stone wall in Amsterdam to find your next cache, you won't feel like a tourist anymore. Trust us.
Where can I do this in London?
There are 8,444 geocaches around Hammersmith alone, so finding cache locations near you won't be a problem. While some of the top-rated London ones, like The Winchester Geese, sound amazing, getting embroiled in a conversation about the history of ladies of the night with your five-year-old is probably a bit much for a first geocaching experience. Here are a few easy geocaches to try with the fam in London:
- Natural History Museum cache
- Science Museum cache
- Wimbledon Common cache
- Kew Gardens virtual cache
- Last Delivery London (near Museum of London)