Whilst we were staying at Soar Mill Cove, we had the opportunity to pay a family visit to the National Marine Aquarium. Having been scared of aquariums when I was a youngster (long story), I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about going – but I needn’t have been. The aquarium is beautiful, there is plenty of space and nothing is ‘in your face’ so to speak. Plus, I quickly realised that had I long grown out of my fear!
About the National Marine Aquarium
The Aquarium opened in 1998 and is the largest in the UK. It is a registered charity which is committed to promoting an understanding of the sea through education, conservation and research programmes. By paying to visit the aquarium, you are helping to protect the marine environment.
Getting to the National Marine Aquarium
Getting to the NMA is pretty straight forward. It is based in Sutton Harbour in Plymouth, next to the Barbican and fish market. Set on reclaimed land, there is a car park adjacent to the aquarium and, if you have a disabled badge, there are spaces right outside the front of the building. The walkway up to the door is all ramps so it is easy for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
Inside the National Marine Aquarium
There are 4 main areas inside the aquarium, 3 of which have very large viewing tanks.
The first area you encounter is Plymouth Sound. This consists of 17 tanks – including a rock pool and a wave tank – and around 80 species of fish and invertebrates. The first thing that struck me was the ability for everyone to get up close and really see the sea life. Rex was in his pushchair and was at eye level giving him the ability to see the creatures right in front of him. He was fascinated. Grace too was excited to be able to look around and get up close.
This feeling continued as we made our way around the aquarium. The next area was the Eddystone Reef. A platform took us around so that we could firstly look down on the zone and then, making our way down the ramp, we could get up close to the viewing area.
Just before you move into the Atlantic Ocean section, there are the ocean drifters. This display features moon jellyfish and the coloured white-spotted jellyfish. Both of which were fascinating to watch.
It was at this display that we decided to have a seat and listen to a talk from one of the members of staff. This particularly part of the aquarium holds the deepest tank in the UK and is the largest single with over 2million litres of water. It holds a variety of different sea life including Sand Tiger Sharks, Nurse Sharks, the only Spotted Eagle Rays in Europe, Sting Rays, Cow Nose Rays and Barracuda. We also caught site of Friday the Green Turtle. I think that this was probably my favourite area.
This section was a series of individual tanks holding lots of familiar fish. There were a lot of shouts of ‘Nemo’ and ‘Dory’ from many of the children in this area! So you can imagine that there were clown fish as well as lionfish, live coral, seahorses, a giant pacific octopus and cardinal fish. One of the staff members was next to the octopus tanks giving us some really interesting information. For example, did you know that the octopus has the intelligence of a 3 year old child?
Great Barrier Reef
This was the final area on our visit. As with the Atlantic Ocean section, there was plenty of room to sit and for Rex to crawl around. This the second largest tank in the aquarium at 700,000 litres. It is also very colourful. There are over 70 species of fish in this tank and they include Samson the grouper, Cooper the Humphead Wrasse, and three Zebra Sharks.
The staff at the National Marine Aquarium
I have to say that the staff are friendly and full of enthusiasm. Particular mention for Fraser who seemed to be talking to many of the children about what they were seeing and giving them some great facts and figures. I was suitably impressed at both their approach and their knowledge.
Family Friendly Things to Note
The aquarium has a great soft play area for kids together with a cafe (who didn’t charge extortionate prices!). It is pushchair-friendly with plenty of lifts and ramps and there are toilets dotted throughout the aquarium with baby changing facilities.
As with many attractions, you have to go through the shop to exit but, I am pleased to report that there are plenty of different items for sale to suit all pockets.
Our final thoughts
Prices are £16.95 for adults and £12.95 for children, aged 3 to 15. You can also buy a family ticket for £53.50 (2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children). Prices are slightly cheaper if you choose an advance pass for a specific day.
The Aquarium is a beautiful place to visit and suits families of all ages – Rex was just as entertained at almost one year old as Grace was at eleven. They recommend spending at least 3 hours there. We found that it took us around 2 – probably because we didn’t read all of the information available to us!
Disclosure: Thank you so much to the National Marine Aquarium for providing us with tickets in return for this honest review. Please note that all words, images and opinions have been formed by the owner of this blog. They have not been influenced in any way. Please do not reproduce any of the content or images on this post without prior agreement from Verily Victoria Vocalises.
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