What is it?
Find it in Plymouth, Devon. Follow the fish symbols on the brown tourist signs across the city to get there. The Sat Nav postcode is PL4 0DX.
Babies / Toddlers & Preschool / 5 – 8
9 -12 /12 +
££ – Standard admission sees an adult costing £13.75 and a child under 15 costing £9.75. A family of four (2 adults, 2 children) costs £41.
What’s on offer
Over four areas, explore Plymouth, Britain’s and indeed the worlds amazing history and variety of sea life – starting with an exhibit about the aquarium’s back garden.
The British Coast section includes the central Eddystone Reef exhibit, which explores the diversity of life underwater. Go searching in the Blue Planet section to find unusual creatures like seahorses and octopi, but the most exciting part of this is the Great Barrier Reef, where you can meet Snorkel the Loggerhead Turtle. Round things off in the Atlantic Ocean – just be careful your little one isn’t afraid of jellyfish.
There are thousands of species of sea life, including exotic fish and rare sharks. Talks and shows on throughout the day, such as the ‘interactive’ dive show daily at 2pm. We’re not entirely sure what this means, but we are pretty sure you don’t have to dive to be part of it.
Aside from the traditional aquarium exhibitions, there are some specific children’s areas designed to help them explore their creativity and get excited about sea life, where they can create things to take him and even see the sharks from a special cave. There’s a soft play for younger children, too and during holidays a creative centre is open where free arts and crafts activities are on offer.
The aquarium is well equipped to handle families with young children. Not only do children under 4 go free, the aquarium is fully pushchair accessible with lifts to most exhibits. The website makes a point to welcome nursing mothers throughout the building, but also offers the opportunity for privacy should one wish.
Facilities also include a gift shop and a café where children are catered for. However, families who wish to bring their own food are welcome to sit in the aquarium’s Maritime Gardens, where there are numerous picnic benches overlooking a gorgeous bay called the Plymouth Sound.
This is a top rainy day attraction, perfect for when families need to hide away from the typical Devon weather. It has also been touted the best aquarium in the UK with the largest selection of sea life – which many TripAdvisor users have been quick to agree.
The staff members are really helpful and friendly and the aquarium definitely earns its stripes as a child-friendly family attraction. It’s not aimed at adults, but parents will probably find something to be interested in.
It’s really good for young children should be impressed with the range of sea life on display. The hammerhead sharks are particularly interest, but we think most little ones will love Snorkel the Turtle! The passageway of stingrays is also pretty cool.
What to watch out for
– It’s expensive – however, if you buy a Day Plus Pass, by gift aiding your purchase, your ticket will be valid for 12 months of free entry after your purchase. Check the website for full details of ticket options.
– Be careful you aren’t gift aiding your ticket purchase unless you feel comfortable doing so. Ask a member of staff if you feel unsure.
– Some of the wall displays may feel a bit old fashioned or outdated. Fortunately, the tanks and talks by staff make up for this and they contain relevant information regardless.
– This aquarium may not be engaging for children over 9, as it really is geared towards younger children.
– It can be a bit manic on rainy days and during peak periods; especially on a weekend or when school trips are visiting. You’ll just have to play it by ear, but it’s a big aquarium and shouldn’ be too problematic. Remember most school trips will usually be gone by 2pm!
– You exit through the gift shop. Quick – shield their eyes!
– You don’t need a whole day here. Plan for anywhere between an hour and a half day to see what the aquarium has in store – how long you spend is dependent on how interested your child is in sea life and how long their attention span is!
– The café and play area are best visited when the aquarium is quiet. Take along packed lunches to save some money!
What the owners say
“The National Marine Aquarium is a registered chairity committed to promoting a sympathetic understanding of the sea through programmes of education, conservation and research. With a mission to Drive Marine Conservation Through Engagement, the National Marine Aquarium operates the largest public aquarium in the UK and is the lead partner in Just Add H2O, a programme for schools that aims to bring the Marine Curriculum alive.”
Visit the official National Marine Aquarium website
More family attractions in South Devon…
South Devon Railway
Woodlands Leisure Park
Crealy’s Great Adventure Park
Miniature Pony Centre
Babbacombe Miniature Village