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Dinosaur Isle (Sandown)
Member Name: JJJJ
Dinosaur Isle (Sandown)
Advantages: Interesting Animatronic Displays
Disadvantages: Is smaller inside than you would imagine
What Will I Find in the Museum?
I would describe Dinosaur Isle as an interactive place to visit, which will no doubt keep younger kids entertained. As well as displaying over a thousand fossils (many of which have been put together to form large dinosaur skeletons), there are full size animatronic dinosaurs which utilise subtle movement and sounds. These giant beasts are probably the best thing about the place from a child's perspective, and help demonstrate to kids how massive dinosaurs really were. Although they look impressive, a few of the models were in need of minor repairs on my last trip, as their skin was slightly torn in some places, and quite crudely patched up.
A few months ago I visited with my three-year-old nephew, and he seemed to be thoroughly entertained - however, if fossils don't interest the younger ones, there are jigsaw puzzles, a reading area, and a place where you can take crayon rubbings of dinosaur pictures. There's even a dinosaur smell box, which allows you to take a whiff of all manner of dinosaur related aromas (some of the smells were particularly nasty, but ultimately very kid-friendly). My nephew seemed to be most interested with the sandpit areas where children can take brushes and uncover casts of dinosaur bones which are buried underneath the sand - to be honest, I wanted a go myself, but it would have looked a little odd if I had!
The small reading area has a number of dinosaur books - although many of these were a bit tatty on my last visit (understandable really, considering the amount of children that probably pass through the place), and could have done with replacing. Similarly, a few pieces were missing from the wooden and foam jigsaw puzzles, which we found a bit annoying considering the fact that both were in prominent positions and formed part of a display.
Ambient dinosaur sounds add extra atmosphere when walking around the museum, and the general layout is really good. An excellent interactive electronic microscope is one of the first gadgets you'll come across, and it is surprisingly good fun operating the amazing zoom with an easy to use interactive panel. Although the building is really big from the outside, there isn't quite as much inside as you would perhaps expect. That's not to say that what's in there isn't interesting, it's just that it won't take you too long to see everything. I think in terms of value for money the £5 adult entry fee is just about right - any more and it would perhaps be too pricey.
Like many museums and attractions, Dinosaur Isle features a gift shop containing loads (and I means loads) of dinosaur related gifts. As you would expect, a good percentage of the stuff which the shop sells is quite tacky, but there are actually some fossil-based items of interest to be found, and a range of professional geology books to choose from.
Where Did the Fossils Come From?
Most of the fossils at the museum are the finds of mid-19th century naturalists (no, not naturists... that would be an altogether different experience...), many of which have been taken from the cliffs in the local area. Although there are around 1,000 fossils in the museum, the entire collection consists of over 30,000 geological specimens, which goes to show the importance of the Isle of Wight as a fossil-hunters paradise. Apart from the specimens displayed in Dinosaur Isle, reserve geological collections are stored in the Museum Service central store at Cothey Bottom, Ryde, and are available for study by appointment.
Parking, Opening Hours & Disabled Access
Dinosaur Isle has a small car park located just outside (sixteen car spaces and three designated disabled bays), and if this fills up, there is a much larger one close by. Parking charges operate from 1st April to 31st October (including bank holidays), seven days a week from 10am to 6pm - although if you have a low emissions vehicle you're eligible for up to 8 hours free parking. In terms of the disabled access, there are ramps leading up to the building, and all the internal floors are flat. This makes pushing either a wheelchair or a pushchair around the premises very easy, and there are disabled toilets with baby changing facilities.
Dinosaur Isle is an interesting and accessible museum which kids will undoubtedly enjoy. Adults will perhaps be less impressed, as although there are interesting areas, the whole experience seems to be geared more to younger visitors. That said, the majority of the displays are well put together, and the animatronic technology helps create a cool ambience - therefore I would certainly recommend giving the place a visit - besides, if you don't enjoy your outing you can always take a trip to the beach which is only a few metres away.
The museum is open at the following times:
April - September: 10am - 6pm
October: 10am - 5pm
November - March: 10am - 4 pm
Child (aged 3 to 15): £3.00
Child (Under 3): Free
Family Group: (Two Adults and Two Children): £14.50
Student / Pensioner: £4.00
Summary: Decent Dinosaur Museum
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