Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park – Review for families

Dinosaurs, Egyptians and a whole load of animals - is it a theme park? A children's zoo? We have all the info in our family days out guide

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What is it?

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It’s a cross between your average kids zoo and a non-life threatening version of Jurassic Park. Find it in Combe Martin – near Ilfracombe, North Devon. The Sat Nav post code is EX34 0NG.

Best for:

Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8

Ok for:

Babies, but only if you’ve got a comfortable baby carrier with you as it’s hard to get a buggy around. Some 9 – 12 year olds will enjoy the park, but please bear in mind that the park is really aimed at younger children. Consider your child’s interests before deciding to visit.

Cost

£££ – On the gate, it’s approximately £14 for adults and £11 per child. You can save around £1.50 per ticket if you book online in advance. In lieu of a family ticket, parties of 4 persons or more paying on the gate get £1 per person off.

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What’s on offer

The wildlife side of the park is home to some interesting and unusual animals – cute favourites including otters , raccoons, penguins and meerkats but also different species of bird, wolf, lion, reptile and primate. There are also some wallabies and sea lions! Whilst ZSL London Zoo and Paignton Zoo are known for their exotic collections of giraffes and elephants – this park is a manageable size and you’ll find a great selection of animals here.

Feeding sessions, handlings, talks and shows (as part of your ticket price) are available regularly throughout each day. Some shows are repeated to ensure all visitors get a piece of the action! Check the timetable on the website to help plan your desired visiting time.

If you want your family to really get stuck into the action, why not take part in one of the special experience packages they offer? You and your child could feed a lion for just £30, meet and greet the sea lions for £25 or if you fancy a unique experience (and the only one in the UK) go swimming with the sea lions for just under £100. Fortunately, that includes entry to the park, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. Children who are obsessed with animals and see themselves as future zookeepers can get a head start with the various ‘shadow a keeper’ days available. They include free entry to the park, too.

Once your experience with the animals is over; prepare to come face to face with some animatronic dinosaurs, including the Velociraptor, Megalosaurus, Dilophosaurus and the huge, hydraulics powered Tyranosaurus Rex. Little ones will probably want to take a spin on the Dino Express train ride and check out the Dinosaur Museum to learn all about these fascinating extinct creatures.

Extra attractions include ‘Bug World’ (a museum about bugs) and Tomb of the Pharoahs (an Egyptiam-themed attraction). There are numerous cafes (that have facilities to heat baby milk/food), a gift shop and toilets on site. Baby-changing facilities can be found in both male and female toilets. Accessible toilets are also available.

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Highlights

Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park is obviously designed with children in mind. It’s part zoo, part theme park, part dino adventure.

As for the animals, they all seem to be happy, well looked after and the park appears to be clean – which is always a priority for animal-loving families. The feedings, handlings and talks by staff members are absolutely the highlights of this area of the park, so make sure you check that timetable and don’t miss out on the animals your little ones would most like to learn about and meet. The sea lion shows are always a big hit with visitors of all ages!

It is true that very young children will be delighted by the animatronic dinosaurs, as TripAdvisor users with children under 5 noted that their children pretty much thought they were real! Children and parents who are devoted dinosaur enthusiasts may not be so impressed and would probably prefer the animatronic dinos in the big London attractions – like Ripley’s! Believe It or Not and the Natural History Museum.

Generally, the staff are nice, informative and helpful. TripAdvisor families seem to think that the food in the café is good, at a decent price. All in all, it’s a great day out for families with young children.

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What to watch out for

If you want to book online and save some money, make sure you do it at least 48 hours before you plan to visit!

Things that are banned from this park include dogs (as some animals are free-roaming) and chewing gum. You’re also banned from littering so to protect the animals.

Don’t feed the animals anything unsuitable as you could make them ill and don’t let your child (or yourselves, for that matter) cross the barriers or touch any animals without supervision as many of the animals/birds in this park are wild. They will probably bite.

It’s not the world’s most ideal park for buggy users or families with members who have walking difficulties as some areas are quite steep. If you do decide to take one, you will really struggle around some sections.

The children taking part in the ‘shadow a keeper’ experience must be accompanied by an adult. It’s only £40 for the experience for 7 – 11 year olds, but any older children will cost more.

The Dino express train ride is a water attraction so prepare to get a bit wet. Either that or take a raincoat!

The Tomb of the Pharoahs can be a little frightening for some young or sensitive children. Use your discretion to decide whether you want to visit this part of the park.

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MFM tips:

Make sure you and the children are wearing sturdy, yet comfortable, walking shoes as the park can get quite steep.

If you’re staying in Ilfracombe, another great nearby family attraction is Watermouth Castle.

If you want to get the most out of your visit to North Devon, why not give one of these popular family attractions a try:

Lynton & Lynmouth Cliff Railway
Woolacombe Beach
Tunnels Beaches
Buckland Abbey
Clovelly Village
Quince Honey Farm
The BIG Sheep

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What the owners say

“Set in over 28 acres of spectacular, sub tropical gardens within the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park,has been giving great enjoyment to its customers for 27 years.

The Park is an independently family run business that relies solely on the income from its customers to look after its animals, maintain the beauty of the park and make improvements every year. Our aim is to give our customers a wonderful experience, surrounded by natural beauty, gorgeous animals, dinosaurs and lots of fun and enjoyment.”

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Visit the Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park website

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