Looking for the best aquariums in the UK?
Aquariums are one of the best places to take toddlers and young kids.
First up, they’re a true sensory experience — with the soft lighting, incredible colours of the fish, under-the-sea noises, and even the opportunity to touch and interact with some of the marine life! And when you tune in to some of the talks or feedings that are often on offer, it becomes really educational as well.
Another thing we love about aquarium days out for toddlers is that they’re not a full day activity — usually just a few hours at most. That’s the perfect time frame to fit around your toddler’s nap and feeding schedule. Hopefully you can avoid any tantrums due to boredom or overstimulation! 🤞
There are lots of aquariums in the UK, but we’ve highlighted a handful of our favourites — big and small — that we think are best suited to toddlers and young kids.
- Best Aquariums in the UK
- SEA LIFE Centre London Aquarium
- Oceanarium: The Bournemouth Aquarium
- The Deep
- Bristol Aquarium
- Lake District Coast Aquarium
- National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham
- Cornish Seal Sanctuary
- Blue Planet Aquarium
- SEA LIFE Brighton
- Deep Sea World
- SEA LIFE Weymouth Adventure Park
- National Marine Aquarium
- SeaQuarium Rhyl
- SEA LIFE Blackpool
Best Aquariums in the UK
SEA LIFE Centre London Aquarium
More commonly known as the London Aquarium, SEA LIFE Centre London occupies an iconic spot on London’s South Bank, next to the London Eye and almost opposite the Houses of Parliament. Right in the thick of things!
This is a big aquarium that’s home to a number of different zones and habitats, including the infamous Shark Walk, Atlantic Coasts Zone, Ray Lagoon, Ocean Tunnel and Open Oceans zone, Coral Kingdom, Shipwreck, Rainforest Adventure, Seahorse Kingdom, Polar Adventure, Conservation Cove, Ocean Invaders and more.
Your kids can get really up close and personal with a huge number of different marine animals including sharks, penguins, rays, jellyfish, seahorse, starfish, seadragons and so many more. They also host regular talks and feedings to really enhance the educational side of this day out.
Oceanarium: The Bournemouth Aquarium
Oceanarium is one of Bournemouth’s premier attractions for families with toddlers and occupies a prime position on its famous pier. As it’s mostly located inside, this is a great option for a rainy day.
There are some really interesting zones to explore here and plenty of animals to see, including the Blacktip Reef Shark, Moray Eeel, Red Bellied Piranha, Moon Jellyfish, African Dwarf Crocodile, Chinese Water Dragon and the Humboldt Penguin. In fact, there’s a huge colony of penguins living in Penguin Beach Encounter which is one of the most popular spots in the whole aquarium among young kids.
If your kids are really keen, you can even book into some of the animal experiences on offer, including penguin, turtle, stingray and reef shark feeding. The Oceanarium is very accessible for pushchairs and there’s a café and shop to explore too.
The Deep is a huge aquarium in Hull that’s home to over 3,500 creatures and a great spot to take the kids on a day out.
There are a whopping nine zones in The Deep, including the Kingdom of Ice, Amazon Flooded Forest, Deep Blue One and the intriguingly named ‘Slime’… Some of the more unique animals at home here include the Blue Poison Arrow Frog, Garter Snake, Green Sawfish, Grey Reef Shark, Loggerhead Sea Turtle and Nurse Shark.
There are plenty of facilities here thanks to the sheer size of The Deep, including a number of cafés. The Main Café is particularly great for its selection of children’s meals, availability of high chairs and the fact that they can cater for special dietary requirements.
Bristol has a slightly smaller aquarium than many of the attractions on this list but it’s nevertheless a great option for toddlers and still has over 40 displays to explore.
Some of the most exciting displays include the Underwater Tunnel, Sunken Ship, Bay of Rays and the Mighty Amazon. It’s also the only aquarium in the UK with its own botanical house, which you can see as part of the brilliant Urban Jungle display, complete with Terrapins, rare tropical orchids and some beautiful freshwater fish.
There’s a café and gift shop on site, and also the option to host a birthday party at the aquarium if you so desire! Talks and feeds are held regularly throughout the day so you should be able to catch some whatever time you arrive.
Lake District Coast Aquarium
Also known as the Maryport Aquarium (thanks to its location in Maryport), the Lake District Coast Aquarium is a great place to take toddlers and young kids if you’re up in the Lake District.
Ticket prices are really reasonable and there’s lots to do here besides the actual aquarium itself, including a 14-hole mini golf course and nautical themed adventure playground. There’s also a café with amazing views overlooking the harbour and out to Scotland! Check out the gift shop too for souvenirs.
When it comes to the actual aquarium, there are lots of brilliant displays to explore as well as daily fish feedings and talks from the resident aquarists. Some of the animals making their home in Maryport include sharks, rays, skates, octopus, giant pollock and many, many more.
National SEA LIFE Centre Birmingham
The National SEA LIFE Centre in Birmingham is undoubtedly one of the best and biggest aquariums in the UK. It’s home to over 2,000 creatures from all around the world and has over 60 displays.
Probably the biggest draw of this aquarium, is the incredible 360° Ocean Tunnel, which is the only of its kind in the entire UK. Some of the other zones which are sure to entice your toddler are the Penguin Ice Adventure, Tropical Ocean (featuring Shark Lagoon!), Clownfish Kingdom, Octopus Hideout and the brilliant Jelly Invaders.
You can find the National SEA LIFE Centre in Brindleyplace on the Water’s Edge, right in the heart of the city. There are plenty of cafés and restaurants nearby if you fancy making a day of it.
Cornish Seal Sanctuary
As you might guess from the name, the Cornish Seal Sanctuary isn’t technically an aquarium, but we think it’s worth including anyway (and it is owned by the SEA LIFE Trust, after all!) It can be found in the village of Gweek, not too far from Falmouth.
The sanctuary is a charity that rescues and rehabilitates around 70 grey seal pups per season from the Cornish coastline. As well as grey seals, it’s also home to common seals, Humboldt Penguins, Southern Sea Lions, beavers, ponies, goats and sheep.
Not only can you get up close and personal with these fantastic animals, but you can also watch them on their rehabilitation journey, learn their individual stories and understand how they can graduate to being released back into the wild!
Blue Planet Aquarium
The Blue Planet Aquarium can be found in Chester and is one of the best and biggest in the North West.
There are over 100 living displays in Blue Planet including the ever-popular Underwater Shark Tunnel, Coral Cave and Flooded Forest. If any of your kids are budding fishkeepers, they’re sure to love the Home of the Cichlids: Lake Malawi exhibition not to mention the brilliant daily dive shows in the Aquatheatre!
Toddlers and young kids will love the outdoor Pirate Playground and Pelican Cove once you’ve finished exploring the aquarium. There’s a large café on site too with plenty of kids and adult options.
SEA LIFE Brighton
Another SEA LIFE Centre, this one in Brighton is actually the world’s oldest operating aquarium! It’s right on Brighton Beach, opposite the pier, so is the perfect way to while away a few hours if you’re in the area.
There’s lots of really unique displays and exhibitions here — toddler especially love the Glass Bottom Boat experience which allows you to see the turtles and sharks below while a marine expert will teach you all about them. The Day & Night attraction is also really popular — a 750,000 litre display that shows you what happens in a coral reef over 24 hours. There’s even a bio-luminescent beach!
One of the great things about SEA LIFE Brighton is that they offer an excellent value ticket option for one adult and one preschooler up to 5 years old. It’s only available Monday to Friday during term time so is a great option if you’re looking to entertain your toddler for the day.
Deep Sea World
Deep Sea World, otherwise known as Scotland’s National Aquarium, is located in Queensferry, Fife. It’s a great option for taking a toddler and kids out while you’re in Scotland.
Their Underwater Safari exhibit is the longest underwater tunnel in the UK and is home to one of the largest collections of sharks in Europe. Some of the other displays include seals, piranhas, stingrays, amphibians and tropical fish. One of the most arresting and educational exhibitions is Krakatoa — a recreation of the huge eruption of Mount Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883.
There’s a gift shop and café on site for when you need to refuel, and lots of talks and feedings throughout the day for you to watch.
SEA LIFE Weymouth Adventure Park
A great day-out-with-the-kids option when you’re in Weymouth is definitely the SEA LIFE Adventure Park. You can find it in Lodmoor Country Park and it’s a great option for when you’re looking for a little more than just an aquarium — there’s also a water park and outdoor playground to get involved with!
As for the aquarium, they’ve got the fab Night & Day Ocean Experience just like SEA LIFE Brighton, as well as displays on Shipwreck, Rainforest, Harbourside, Tropical Lagoon and Turtle Sanctuary. Some of the creatures at home here include sharks, penguins, turtles, seals, rays, otters and much more.
The outdoor park is home to the much-loved Caribbean Cove Adventure water park, Castaway Bay splash zone and pool (bring your swimming costume!), wetlands conservation trail and sensory garden, which toddlers are sure to love.
National Marine Aquarium
The National Marine Aquarium can be found in Plymouth and holds the accolade of being the largest aquarium in the UK. There are over 4,000 animals at home here and, as it’s run by the Ocean Conservation Trust, there’s a huge amount of conservation work and research happening here too.
There are a huge number of displays within the 4 zones of the aquarium and it’s a true educational experience, starting from the marine life you can find around Plymouth Sound, eventually stretching all around the world and ending in the Great Barrier Reef. Both you and your toddler will learn a lot — make sure you check out the talks and feedings too!
Some of the animals on display here include the Smoothhound Shark, Wreckfish, Humphead Wrasse, Giant Grouper, Sand Tiger Sharks, Green Turtles, Jellyfish and many more.
The SeaQuarium Rhyl is located on the striking North Wales coastline with a open seafront, making for some stunning views. It’s a smaller aquarium than most of the others on this list and ticket prices are very reasonable.
There’s still plenty to do and see while you’re here, however, thanks to the 9 different zones and the incredible outdoor Seal Cove. Some of the marine life on display here include moon jellyfish, terrapins, spider crabs, clown fish, puffer fish, tangs, lionfish, sharks, moray eels, starfish, baby sharks, congeer eel, harbour seals and more.
‘Fantastic Phobias: Face Your Fears’ is another exhibit on display at SeaQuarium — it might not be suitable for toddlers, but older kids and adults are sure to get a kick out of some of the creepy crawlies on display!
SEA LIFE Blackpool
SEA LIFE Blackpool Aquarium occupies pride of place on Blackpool Promenade and is a great option for a rainy day. You can even buy combination tickets to SEA LIFE and other local attractions for significant savings.
SEA LIFE Blackpool is highly interactive and a great option to get your kids really engaged in marine life. There’s so much to explore here — from the rockpools to the Atlantic Depths display, to the brilliant Stingray Adventure, to the crazy fun Submarine Explorer ride. And, of course, there’s a fantastic Ocean Tunnel to explore as well.
If your kids are really interested in life as a marine explorer, make sure to sign them up to the Behind The Scenes Tour, led by an expert aquarist who’ll tell them all the ins and outs of caring for the brilliant animals who live here.
What is the best aquarium in the UK? Let us know your favourites!
Looking for alternatives? Make sure to check out our activities section for more ideas.