Water World: The best aquariums in the UK
We’ve reeled you in and now it’s time to deliver, as we reveal the best aquariums in the UK. Dive in to an underwater adventure to discover your favourite creatures of the deep, from fascinating fish and not-so-scary sharks, to turtles, jellyfish and loads more too!
With thousands of marvellous marine species to discover, plus the chance to learn all about special conservation projects to help protect them, it’s o-fish-ally a great family day out, whatever the weather!
So take a deep breath and get ready to take the plunge, with our guide to the UK’s best aquariums:
SEA LIFE Brighton, East Sussex
Take a visit to the world’s oldest operating aquarium (yes, really!), to discover over 1,500 sea creatures at SEA LIFE Brighton. Go on a rainforest adventure full of snapping jaws and leaping frogs, stop by the seahorse nursery, ‘sea stars’ in the new starfish display and keep your eyes peeled for Nemo and Dory as you uncover all the secrets of the reef.
Home to everything from turtles and jellyfish, to octopus, rays and even sharks, loads of exciting talks and feeding demonstrations bring the underwater action to life for the whole family.
SEA LIFE Brighton is currently undergoing some exciting refurbishment plans, so there will be even more to see soon - keep checking back to be the first to hear!
Best for: An unexpected interior… the Victorian Arcade is set under the original architecture from 1872 and looks amazing!
Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park, Dorset
Explore 7 acres of underwater adventures, as you dive into a day out at Weymouth SEA LIFE Adventure Park! With both indoor and outdoor zones there’s much more to this day out than meets the eye, from the Sensory Garden to the Caribbean Cove adventure playground, all available alongside the chance to see a host of sea life creatures.
Otters, turtles, rays, sharks and seals are just some of the animals you’ll see on your day out, alongside two penguin species! Whilst Penguin Beach is home to a cheeky colony of Humboldt penguins, Fairy Penguin Island is the latest addition, where you’ll find the world’s smallest penguin breed! Arriving all the way from Australia, these super cute creatures are the only ones of their kind in Europe - we’d say that’s well worth a visit alone!
Best for: The complete under the sea adventure, thanks to indoor and outdoor zones.
National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham, West Midlands
Birmingham may be one of the furthest UK cities from the sea, but the National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham sure makes up for it. With 60 displays of freshwater and marine life featuring over 2,000 creatures, 15 themed zones help you get up close to everything from jellyfish to sea dragons!
Step into an Antarctic adventure, as you meet a colony of Gentoo penguins in Penguin Ice Adventure, reach into the rockpool, become a jelly explorer and walk through the incredible 360° Ocean Tunnel whilst sharks and other creatures swim above your head. With loads of chances to find out about the Breed, Rescue, Protect programme too, it’s a great way for families to learn more about our ocean life.
Psst we hear there’s something brand new opening in spring 2019 too… watch this space for more information!
Best for: Events, with loads of seasonal and themed events taking place throughout the year.
- Bristol Aquarium, Bristol
Meet and greet 1,000s of aquatic creatures over 40 naturally themed displays at the Bristol Aquarium. Which is your kid’s favourite critter? They can take their pick between seahorses, puffer fish, piranhas - the list goes on! We suggest taking a trip to the Bay of Rays to see some of the swooping inhabitants or the underwater tunnel where sharks glide above your head. You could then take a casual vacation to the tropics down by the Coral Seas or battle your way through the Mighty Amazon where the wildest beasts are hidden in the water.
Best for: It’s the only aquarium in the UK that has an enormous botanical house - see and smell some of the world’s weirdest flowers and plants.
- Anglesey Sea Zoo, Llanfairpwllgwyngyll
Take a deep dive to the bottom of the Irish Sea at Anglesey Sea Zoo, where conger eels, catsharks and other curious creatures roam. The most memorable character here, however, is one you might not expect: the humble lobster takes centre stage with a specially designed lobster hatchery. It’s been built to help the UK’s dwindling population survive and ultimately thrive and is a great way to get kids interested in environmentalism. Even the smallest person can make a difference!
Best for: Getting to grips with the local wildlife. The lobster hatchery really shows tiny explorers that conservation can start at home.
- The Deep, Hull
Home to the UK’s only pair of Green sawfish, 3,500 other finned friends and an incredibly diverse mix of deep-sea beasties, The Deep is one of the biggest and best aquariums in the UK. It’s also pretty high tech with a walkthrough viewing tunnel, interactive stations and the Lagoon of Light where you’ll travel past sharks and rays. Don’t miss the Endless Ocean Exhibit, where you can ride the famous glass lift through 10m of, seemingly, open ocean. The view is honestly spectacular.
Best for: Kids can come for sleepover sessions where they actually get to snooze alongside sharks, rays and other species for a night. We hear it’s amazing.
- Living Coasts, Devon
The team at Living Coasts make sure every seafaring experience has something special about it; take the feeding sessions where archer fish can be found shooting their prey down with a powerful jet of water straight from their mouths. That’s certainly not something you see every day. Then there’s Penguin Beach which has been carefully designed to mimic their original African environment which, With a conservation programme and plenty to help mini marine biologists learn, this is a great example of what a UK aquarium should look like.
Best for: The Mysterious Mangroves. Home to four-eyed fish, venomous stingrays and other spooky beings you don’t see everyday.
- Lake District Coast Aquarium, Cumbria
With 75 displays showcasing fish, crustaceans and other marine creatures, there’s plenty to see at Lake District Coast Aquarium. Based around all the species found around the Cumbrian coastline, you’ll even find cascading waves to help mimic the animal’s usual environments - making for quite the spectacle for aquarium visitors too! There’s even a live stream of the shark and ray pool on the site so you can keep an eye on the action even after your visit.
Best for: Native species. All animals here are naturally found in Cumbria.
- Oceanarium, Bournemouth
Have you met Ziggy the green iguana? What about Bob the pig-nose turtle? Introduce yourself to the entire gang at the Oceanarium as well as 150 different species of fish. To guide you on your way, there’s an adventure quiz trail for families which will lead you from the creeps at crocodile rock to the suited and booted chaps at Penguin Cove, via the River Ganges. Where you end up is up to you, just be sure to stop off at the Kids’ Play Zone which has been specially designed with under 10s in mind. That means wobbly walkways and a ‘spring rocker’ penguin.
Best for: Its virtual underwater sharks experience where enormous plasma screens and audio-visual effects really make you feel like you’re swimming in the deep!
- Deep Sea World, Kingdom of Fife
Deep Sea World is Scotland’s national aquarium, so it’s only fitting that it makes the list of best aquariums in the UK. Found beneath the Forth Rail Bridge, this aquarium is home to over 2,000 creatures, taking you a journey through the planet’s rivers, lakes and oceans. Don’t miss Seal Harbour or the Underwater Safari - the longest underwater tunnel in the UK gives you an incredible view of loads of exciting creatures, from sharks to rays!
Best for: Seeing sharks, this aquarium is home to one of Europe’s largest collections of them!
Dive into one of our aquarium reviews - Blue Reef Aquarium, National Marine Aquarium or Bristol Aquarium - or by explore another aquarium in the UK, or three, using the links below. If you don’t we might just get a little… crabby!