London Wetlands Centre, Barnes review

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

A real oasis on the edge of London with loads of brilliantly interactive activities for children, both indoors and outdoors
Fun for kids
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Fun for parents
4.0 out of 5 rating 4.0
Worth the money
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Facilities
4.5 out of 5 rating 4.5
Family friendliness
5.0 out of 5 rating 5.0
Pros: Beautiful wetlands and landscape; great playgrounds, games and activities, loads to see and do; educational, fun and interactive
Cons: Having to walk through the gift shop on the way out; not the cheapest day out ever

When we visited:

We visited on a slightly grey August day in 2018 and were anxious that the occasional drizzle and lack of blue skies might hamper our fun. It didn’t remotely. There were so many fun activities and things to see and do we forgot all about the weather and the sun even came out in the end too.

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What age and family is WWT London Wetland Centre best for?

  • Best for: Children of all ages

How much does it cost in 2018?

  • Adults: £14 (or £12.72 without Giftaid) for adults
  • Children: £8.40 (4-16 year olds)
  • Family Ticket: £38.25 (for two adults and two 4-16 year olds) – which obviously works out best value for a family of 4

This isn’t a cheap day out by any means but neither is it the most expensive attraction around.

You’ll also easily get a full day’s worth of fun here. If you do want to keep costs down however, it’s definitely worth bringing your own picnic.

I also did my best to whisk my little girl through the gift shop as quickly as possible for obvious reasons.

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How long will we spend at WWT London Wetland Centre?

Wherever you’re coming from, it’s definitely worth starting as early as possible to get the most of a full day out here.

If your children are anything like my little girl, they won’t want to leave. This is somewhere that could definitely withstand repeated visits too.

We spent nearly an entire day there but the Wetlands are so huge, there’d easily be plenty more to explore if we came again.

What’s it like for families?

I knew very little about London Wetland Centre before we arrived. I certainly had no idea that it was so huge and so beautiful.

It was a fun day out from the start. You begin by walking through a rainforest-style indoor simulation of a wetland, coral reef and underwater seascape.

This then opens out into an indoor games area with water jets and interactive games and we could happily have spent much more time there before even beginning to discover the wetlands themselves.

My 5-year-old little girl Georgie absolutely loved our day out here and couldn’t wait to tell family and friends about it afterwards.

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What to bring:

Obviously bring all the stuff you would do anyway: wipes, water etc but it’s also making sure both you and your kids are wearing comfortable walking shoes and probably a waterproof jacket just in case, as you’ll all be doing lots of walking and spending most of your time outdoors. 

Extra snacks are also a good idea as you’ll probably be out and about for longish stretches of time.

If your kids are likely to enjoy the water fountains, do also bring swimwear if you’re visiting in summer – or at the very least a change of clothes as they’ll almost certainly get soaked, unless you do as we did and borrow the grown-ups’ umbrellas.

What to watch out for:

Be sure to pick up one of the free maps near the main entrance or at the activities desk as it’s not always that easy to get your bearings and find the next activity if you’ve booked one. Even with the map it’s quite easy to get lost and end up walking around in circles.

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What are the food and drink facilities like at WWT London Wetland Centre?

The Kingfisher Kitchen Café

There’s one main café – the Kingfisher Kitchen Café near the main entrance which has kids meals including some hot dishes, like ‘mini’ mac ’n’ cheese (£4.95), half a baked potato (£4.50) and a quarter of stone-baked cheese and tomato pizza (£4.95).

For grown-ups, there’s fish & chips, sausage & mash etc, and some decent veggie options, like roasted aubergine and chickpea Balti, all for £8.50 – £9. There’s also a selection of paninis (£5.35).

If you find yourself flagging later in the day and need a caffeine pick me up, there’s a kiosk for coffees, teas etc, likewise near the main entrance (Americanos/lattes etc £2.70 for a regular or £3.10 for a large.)

Can you take a picnic?

Yes. In fact, even though there’s a good selection of food on offer at the Kingfisher Kitchen Café and there’s a lakeside terrace, the picnic areas are in some of the prettiest parts of the Wetland.

There are also one or two seating areas which are covered, in case of sudden showers.

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What are the toilets like?

Clean and well-maintained and they’ve also got child-friendly low-level wash basins.

They’re near the main entrance and courtyard though so obviously best for younger children to make use of them before you head out into the wetlands. 

Is there pushchair/wheelchair/special needs access?

Yes –  the WWT prides itself on this

  • There is level access (for pushchairs or wheelchairs) throughout the site and lifts within the Observatory building
  • There are also 12 Blue Badge spaces in the car park
  • Wheelchairs are available for loan and there are also 3 mobility scooters available for hire with a suggested voluntary donation of £5. (Do call ahead to book)
  • Trained assistance dogs are also welcome

What to do before you go to WWT London Wetland Centre:

I showed Georgie the website before we went but it seemed to rather undersell the attraction. She was bored by an introductory video from Joanna Lumley (great for adults but rather on the dull side for 5 year olds). That said, she got much more excited once she saw pictures of the landscape, the otters and details of the activities we were going to do, like scavenger hunts and den building.

Do also check the website to find out what activities are scheduled for the day you’ll be visiting as although these are free and can be booked on arrival, it’s better if you book ahead, especially at weekends or at busy times in the holidays.

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Opening dates and times:

WWT London Wetland Centre is open 7 days a week all year, apart from Christmas Day.

Opening hours from 1 March to 31 October: 9.30am – 5.30pm.

Opening hours from 1 November 1 – 28/29 February: 9.30 to 4.30pm.

Worth a long car journey?

This is a brilliant day out for anyone living in or around London or visiting. 

It’s probably not worth a long journey though purely on the basis that you’re most likely coming either from somewhere with plenty of countryside or if you’re coming from another city, you may well have another wetlands closer to home.

Tips for getting to WWT London Wetland Centre:

By tube/train:

Hammersmith Tube is about 10 minutes away by bus and Barnes railway station about 5 minutes away. 

The website tells you that Barnes station is 25 minutes from Waterloo or 10 minutes from Clapham Junction.

What it doesn’t mention is that trains also stop at Vauxhall (overground but it’s about two minutes’ walk from there to Vauxhall tube). This is very handy to know if you’re coming from North London and are near the Victoria line.

By car:

Alternatively if you’re driving, the Centre is just off the main A306 which goes from the South Circular at Roehampton to Hammersmith.

Once you get to Barnes itself, there are brown signs directing you to the centre and there’s free visitor parking, although this can get full on busier days.

MFM verdict:

This is a fantastic day out for anyone living within easy reach of London.

Children of all ages will love the interactive games, activities and playgrounds as well as being around nature and adults will enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

My little girl and I went to several impressive attractions over the summer holidays but she said this was definitely her favourite.

Her favourite parts were the playground which had water fountains and two indoor games, one of which involved shooting water jets whilst the other was entitled ‘Shoot your poo’.

Anyone reading this with children who share a fascination with all things of this ilk will imagine just how entertaining this is likely to be.

But it wasn’t just about fun either. There were posters alongside it explaining that the ‘poo’ was actually about the system of ‘filtering’ and cleaning of water in the wetland and the importance of this in nature.

So even if this might go over the heads of smaller children, older ones would almost certainly take more of this in too.

Georgie also really enjoyed the free outdoor activities we did there including the scavenger hunt, and building her own den – complete with large sticks and tarpaulin and bird watching. 

Some of the older children seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about being shown how to recognise different species of birds and use the binoculars to see them and identify them.

There was also a climbing wall which older children would love too, as well as a giant snakes and ladders board on the ground which my little girl and her cousin had great fun hopping along.

Visit the London Wetlands Centre website

See more reviews on Trip Advisor

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Intro to me:

I visited with my 5-year-old daughter Georgie, her cousin Luca (also 5) and his mum on a greyish Thursday in August