Review | National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

National Marine Aquarium

Gemma and Jacob have always enjoyed visiting aquariums and Sea Life Centres, and discovering more about the ocean and the animals that live in and around it. Despite the fact that we only live an hour away from the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, we haven’t been for several years, and had never taken Max or Eliza, and as this last week has been pretty miserable weather wise, we decided it was a great day to visit. 

The aquarium is in the heart of Plymouth, but away from the main shopping centre. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the train station, or you can use the multi storey car park almost next to the aquarium. Parking is reasonably priced, and you can pay by card, cash or phone (perfect for someone like me who never has any cash).

There are 2 entry points – one for fast track passes and one for standard ticket holders. Be prepared for a small queue if you have the standard tickets, as it does get busy at times, but there is a covered area to wait in. Staff do check you in quickly and efficiently, so you can get on with your visit as soon as possible.

The aquarium is divided into sections, with the first tanks and displays based around the Plymouth estuary and British coastline. Everything is at child height, and for the youngest ones there are stools which you can carry around with you to boost them up for the best view.

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Each display has a set of information cards, telling you everything you ever wanted to know about the creatures within. As you proceed through the aquarium, you venture deeper into the ocean, with large tanks containing fish and sea creatures native to the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Barrier Reef. The large tanks are just mesmerising – there is so much to see, and you really feel like you are part of the environment.

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Throughout the day there are various shows and demonstrations. We were lucky enough to catch the shark tank divers. Three members of the aquarium team were diving with the sharks and Atlantic Ocean sealife, including Friday the giant sea turtle – a very popular attraction. It’s a great talk, and there are opportunities for the kids to get involved, learning about hand signals used by divers, and getting up close and personal with some traditional metal diving boots and helmets.

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As you walk between zones within the aquarium, the corridors are lined with additional attractions. Each wall contains tanks and displays, including these amazing jellyfish which had Eliza transfixed for a long while. There’s an opportunity to view the laboratory too, where biologists are up to all sorts, from breeding baby jellyfish to cultivating coral and managing water quality. This is also the area where a lot of marine conservation research takes place.

National Marine Aquarium

At the end of the aquarium there is a final opportunity to view the largest tank from another angle, with huge glass windows, peep holes for the kids and a pirate treasure area, as well as an interactive floor display. This leads through to the gift shop (don’t worry, there is a pocket money section so you won’t need to remortgage the house 😉 ) and from here you can also access the Waves Cafe, which has beautiful panoramic views over the harbour. I love that all the food  served here is ethical, local and sustainable in line with the conservation message, and all eggs are free range, milk is organic and all the fish is MSC certified.

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If your children are anything like mine and tend to race around the aquarium at the speed of light, don’t panic – you can simply circle around at the end and go back around more slowly. It’s not the sort of attraction where you can only do things once – in fact it’s set our perfectly with the Cafe being fairly central, allowing you to have a pit stop before heading off to the next zone, or grab a quick drink before a show that you want to catch. 

National Marine Aquarium

The National Marine Aquarium is a really wonderful family day out, and offers something for all ages. It is based in a lovely part of the world too, within walking distance of Plymouth Hoe, so you can really make a full day of it – there are some really good parks nearby, as well as the harbour, the lighthouse and even the outdoor swimming pool if the weather is favourable!

*We were provided with family tickets to visit and review the National Marine Aquarium, but all views and opinions are our own*

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13 Comments

  1. August 12, 2017 / 5:50 pm

    In spite of living less than two hours away from Plymouth, I have never been to the aquarium, perhaps I should make the effort to visit as it looks amazing

    • kate
      Author
      August 12, 2017 / 7:08 pm

      We only live just over an hour away, so I don’t know why we don’t visit more! Now we have been and know that all 4 children love it, we will definitely make another trip – there is lots of stuff to do in Plymouth, so we could make a real day of it.

  2. September 12, 2017 / 8:05 am

    We visited the Sea Life Centre at Lake Constance in the summer and it looks like it was a similar experience. I was really impressed with all the information we were given and how much learning is encouraged as you walk round. It wasn’t just a succession of fish tanks!

    #TriedTested
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  3. September 12, 2017 / 9:18 am

    Bit far from us but we do love an aquarium and this one looks great #triedtested

  4. September 12, 2017 / 11:30 am

    I don’t think we have ever been, considering it is only an hour away it looks like we really should! Love your photos. #triedtested

  5. September 12, 2017 / 12:26 pm

    This looks like a great day out and although a little far for us, somewhere i would consider going. Mia loves the Sea Life centre so i know she would like it here. I love the fact you can go round as many times as you want because Mia (like most kids!) tends to just run through the first time and misses loads of interesting things!

    #TriedTested

  6. September 12, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    This looks like a really fun day out….If I was closer to it I think we would be paying it a visit.
    It looks like you had a great time x #TriedTested
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  7. September 12, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    We’ve been to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth before and found it amazing especially looking in the floor to ceiling tanks! The restaurant is nice overlooking the harbour too! #TriedTested

  8. September 12, 2017 / 9:23 pm

    Shame this is quite a long way for us- it looks like a great day out, Luke would love to see the laboratory and the divers look brilliant. Love your photos. #TriedTested

  9. September 13, 2017 / 7:41 pm

    Love Love Love aquariums. We live right on the beach and Finlay is adores ngoing down to the rockpools. He loves anything aquatic, if we are ever up that way then we will be sure to visit!

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