Colchester Zoo review

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
User rating
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In a nutshell

A large and well-presented zoo with plenty of animals to see, and something for children of all ages to enjoy
Fun for kids
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Fun for parents
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Worth the money
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Facilities
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Family friendliness
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Pros: Large zoo with more animals than you will manage to see, elephant and giraffe feeding, multiple playgrounds suitable for all different ages, plenty of eateries
Cons: Some facilities dated, no easy access to fill up water bottles, expensive day out

When we visited:

On a hot and sunny day in July

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What age is Colchester Zoo suitable for?

Best for: Children aged 2-12 years old

Still good fun for:  Babies and toddlers, children aged 13+

How much does it cost?

Prices vary depending on the time of year and school holidays so check the website beforehand

  • Gate prices from: Adults £23.99, children £16.99, under 3s free
  • Online prices from: Adults £21.59, children £15.29, under 3s free

Are there discounts or cheap tickets available for Colchester Zoo?

Prices are cheaper if you book in advance and you can use Tesco Clubcard points or often find other deals on-line to help with the cost. Look out for deals on Picniq and discount sites such as Groupon. Buy E-tickets online in advance to visit between 28 August and 9 September 2018 and get £5 off per person.

Is it good value?

It’s not a cheap day out but the prices are in line with other zoos, and you get a full day out for the money you pay. It’s also nice to know your contribution is playing a role in conservation. Some of the profits from the zoo go towards the zoo’s charity ‘Action for the Wild’ assisting with conservation projects all over the globe, and funding their own private nature reserve Umphafa in South Africa.

Any extra charges once I’m there?

There is plenty to do included in your price of admission, including some really special experiences (more later) and you don’t need to spend money on any extras if you don’t want to. However, for an extra-special experience you can pay an additional fee for experiences such as ‘Wild Encounters’.

How long would you spend at Colchester Zoo?

The zoo opens at 9.30am, and if you all have the stamina there is plenty to see to fill the whole day. In fact, you may not even have managed to see everything by closing time at 18.30. I feel it was worth an early start and a long car ride and made for a wonderful family day out with our budding zoologists.

What does Colchester Zoo offer for families?

Colchester Zoo is set in 60 acres of park lands and lakes near Colchester, and is home to over 260 species of animal. They are proud to be TripAdvisor’s number 2 UK zoo experience. You can learn more about many of the animals during the free and fascinating daily encounters led by the zoo staff. There is something to enjoy for people of all ages from babies to grandparents (our 9 month old was obsessed with the fish!)

  • The real highlight of the day for us was the elephant and giraffe feeding. This was a truly awesome experience and there was no additional charge
  • All the animal talks we saw were brilliant, and watching the animal feeding was a fantastic experience (especially the tigers and hyenas)
  • Our 5 year old really loved getting to hold a giant spiny stick insect and a giant African land snail
  • The train ride and lemur tour was an excellent family activity, as it gave you a different view of some of the enclosures and the driver was very friendly and knowledgeable
  • They also stop off and take you into the lemur enclosure. When we were there it was a very hot day so all the lemurs were in hiding. However, our guide was determined that he would find us a lemur and he did!


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Is it easy to navigate around Colchester Zoo?

Yes. You are given a map on arrival and the trails are well marked with frequent ‘you are here’ maps dotted around the park. The park is so jam-packed with things to see and do that it’s easy to get off track and lose your way, but also just as easy to get your bearings back and get back on track.

What else is there to see and do apart from animals?

Dotted throughout the park there are a number of playparks catering to children of almost any age, offering great opportunities for parents to sit down and take a break (coffee, ice-cream and snacks are generally close by). There is also an indoor soft play area.

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Is it a good rainy day option?

Yes. If the British weather attempts to dampen your enthusiasm, then follow the zoo’s special ‘Duck under cover’ route. After that, dry off the indoor discovery centre and soft play.

Was Colchester Zoo pushchair friendly?

The zoo is spread over quite a large area and therefore a pushchair and or carrier would be useful for little legs. However, they also provided the option to rent small carts (single or two seated) if you don’t bring something with you and change your mind on the day. We took a buggy around with us and it was easy. But there are quite a few slopes to go up and down and a few of the indoor areas did not allow buggies. However, with the exception of a couple of optional raised viewing areas, where there were steps you were warned and alternate routes were provided which we found very helpful. They even provide an ‘easier route’ which avoids the steepest hills and steps.

What you need to know before you go

  • It is definitely worth booking your tickets in advance as it can be cheaper
  • Plan ahead! We looked through the very good website with our kids to ensure we knew the highlights that we absolutely had to see
  • Use the website to choose your must-see daily encounters, and plan your route accordingly, as they can be quite spread out

How busy does it get?

The zoo was by far the busiest during the earlier part of the day and the crowds seemed to ease as the day went on. Certain events were particularly busy. For example, the train, which we highly recommend, had huge queues in the early afternoon. We decide to try again later and headed back at around 4pm. At that point we had the train nearly to ourselves. Likewise, the last giraffe and elephant feedings were much quieter than the earlier ones. It is worth arriving early for the feeding sessions as the queues start building in advance and can be quite large by the time the feeding begins. If you are willing to wait, the staff do their best to let everyone have a go and the elephant doesn’t seem to mind.

What are the food and drink facilities like at Colchester Zoo?

From restaurants to a wrap bar and a sausage hut, there is a wide range of food options of varying types scattered throughout the park. You should find something for most tastes and budgets. Options include an exclusively vegetarian eatery which had some delicious looking options.

Can you take a picnic?

There are plenty of places to sit and eat outside, both open and undercover, and even an indoor picnic area if the weather should turn against you. There is even a place close to the exit which offers takeaway so you don’t have to cook when you get home, which I thought was a nice idea.

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What are the toilets like?

The toilets and baby changing facilities were plentiful and well sign posted, however some were nicer than others and on the final toilet stop on an (admittedly busy) day the toilet cleanliness left a lot to be desired. Also of note was that the male toilets near one of the playparks only had a urinal, and that left my husband stuck when he took our 3 year old for a wee!

How well does Colchester Zoo cater for disabled visitors?

  • There are a few slopes, steps and optional raised viewing areas but alternative routes were provided
  • Look out for the ‘easier route’ which avoids the steepest hills and steps for those with pushchairs or limited mobility
  • There are a limited number of wheelchairs (£5) and scooters (£25) available to hire
  • For more information see Colchester Zoo’s accessibility page

Opening dates and times:

Colchester Zoo is open every day from 9.30am except Christmas Day. Closing times vary according to season, ranging from 4.30pm to 6.30pm

Best time to visit:

Colchester Zoo is busiest all day Friday – Sunday. It’s quietest on Mondays after 1pm and all day on Tuesday

How to get to Colchester Zoo:

Colchester Zoo is located just south of Colchester, between Chelmsford and Ipswich

  • We drove and it was an easy drive with clear signposting once you got closer and ample free parking
  • The postcode for your SatNav is CO3 0SL
  • Take the A1124 exit (Junction 26) off the main A12 following the brown elephant signs and using the new Stanway Western Bypass
  • There is also a bus service which serves the zoo

Do you have to pay for parking?

Car parking is free and disabled car parking spaces are available close to the zoo entrance for Blue Badge holders

Worth a long car journey?

During our 2-hour drive I had my doubts whether it could be worth it, especially as we drove past at least one other zoo. However not long after arriving I had totally changed my tune and would happily do it again.

Which hotels or holiday accommodation are near Colchester Zoo?

  • Colchester Zoo is a 10-minute drive south of Colchester, where you can find plenty of hotels with family rooms, including:
  • Holiday Inn Express Colchester has double rooms with a sofa bed for younger guests, and is an 18-minute drive from the zoo
  • The Baye House guesthouse has family and triple rooms less than 15 minutes away, with a woodland play area for children
  • For a home-away-from-home feel, look for deals on HomeAway.co.uk and Sykes Cottages
  • Find family-friendly hotel deals near Colchester Zoo on Booking.com

Nearby attractions for a longer day out:

Head into nearby Colchester to explore the impressive Colchester Castle, or let the kids burn off some energy at the soft play centre, Jungle Adventure. If you’re staying in the area, Southend on Sea’s Adventure Island is a 1-hour drive

MFM verdict

We had a great day out and the kids were happy and entertained all day long. It’s one of our favourite zoo experiences we have had and I’d thoroughly recommend it, no matter the age and makeup of your family. I am sure we will be going again.

Visit Colchester Zoo’s website

See more reviews of Colchester Zoo on TripAdvisor

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Who are we?

We are a family of 5 with 3 children aged 5, 3 and 9 months