Rope Walk, Coxside, Plymouth, Devon PL4 0LF. Telephone: 01752 600301
Facsimile: 01752 600593 „
As A Plymouth resident with a young child this is somewhere we do find ourselves on rainy days. That isn't necessarily a recommendation though.
There are some lovely exhibits and it can be very interesting. It is constantly being developed and is completely different from when it opened, and I do find that on each visit there is something new to see. However little ones don't appreciate this and you will find your children whizz through. Stopping only to play in the sand, too look in the rock pool and then to see the Sharks for about two minutes!
The next stop after a twenty minute look round is the very expensive shop or the very expensive café with limited food. It is probably best to take a packed lunch, go out and eat on by the water and then to go back in. The tickets last all day so this is quite a good idea, as it is a little pricey and this is the way to get your money's worth. There is a little outside space about half way round so you could eat out there, as there are a couple of picnic benches.
My little girl loves it here, but really even at six, doesn't really take it in. As a little one I used to take her to show her the colours and shapes, there is a spectacular large tank that is so peaceful and relaxing, and a joy to look at. I think as she gets a little older it will be something she spends more time taking in.
Recently there has been an indoor play area put in, so children can play whilst you are in the café; however to me this defeats the object of a family day out to the aquarium.
You can have children's parties here; I would think it would be something a little bit different, although it is not something I have ever chosen, due to the commercial aspect.
The toilets are plentiful and clean and the changing facilities are adequate. There are lifts so that it is easily navigated by pushchair or buggy.
The aquarium is very interesting, and if you go along you will have a nice time, but....if you take your children you will be disappointed at missing out on reading all the information, but who wants to go for a family day out without the children? I'll just have to keep going and hope that eventually I will have read it all!!
NATIONAL MARINE AQUARIUM PLYMOUTH-WELL WORTH A VISIT
We (my Wife,8 year old Daughter and I), recently made a visit,to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth,which is at Coxside right on the Waterfront.We purchased our tickets online,which saved us a few quid and also paid for 4D Cinema tickets (more about that later).
Because we pre-booked,we didn't have to queue,although it wasn't too busy.For the next two and a half hours we were amazed by the various aquariums which ranged from open tanks with Rays,to coral reef displays,and a huge Atlantic tank,where divers can be seen feeding the multitude of Cod,Bass,Wrasse,Skates and Sharks.
A recent exhibit in another huge tank,is a model of a Supermarine Walrus Flying Boat which crashed during the war.This is really good as the plane has some quite large Sharks swimming around it.
The 4D Cinema experience,which costs extra,is really worth a visit.You sit in a small cinema,which has about 25 high back seats,and wear the special glasses.The animated film tells a story of 2 sea Turtles and the problems they face from their predators,both natural and Human.Beware-you will get wet,as the seats rock occasionally,and you get sprayed with water several times !
We really enjoyed the 4D Cinema,and was the icing on the cake during our hugely enjoyable visit.
If you visit Plymouth,take time out to visit the National Marine Aquarium,you won't regret it.
I visited Plymouth twice with my 1st wife and the 2nd coincided with the opening of the National Marine Aquarium in 1998.
Whether through choice or luck our visit was a few months after it opened yet the queues were the width of the inclined walkway leading to the ticket desk on the first floor and stretched several yards out the main doors.
It is an imposing building set next to Sutton Harbour and the yacht haven with a moving bridge acting like a lock allowing ships in and out of the harbour and is built into one of the council's many car parks with a covered walkway leading towards the fishing harbour where trawlers still bring in their catch - and minutes away from the Premier Inn (that I've also reviewed).
It's strange but I've taken both my wives and now my partner to the Aquarium and on each occassion they have had some fascinating displays. On one of these occassions it felt like the tropics as we made our way to the 3rd floor for the start of the exhibition with a display designed to show a typical rainforest environment.
Of the many displays very few have changed and the enormous fish tank with giant fish including cod has stayed virtually untouched in 10 years. True there is now an exhibition including deep sea submersable vehicles, but even the giant turtle still swims quite happily around in its tank.
Many zoos and aquarium these days are set to breeding programmes and they keep many endangered species - this is no exception at Plymouth.
My last visit was 31st August 2008 and of all the fish tanks in the building there were 3 that we spent most time - a tank with a number of flat fish, one with the giant turtle and yes you've guessed it the one with the massive tank which we spent nearly an hour watching. For those that know a little about the aquarium you may be aware of the remote controlled shark that is in the tank - however, I cannot recall seeing this at any point. My only disappointment was missing the feeding.
Current prices are £11.00 adults, £6.50 children but there are a range of other tickets available, so it would be well worth looking at their website for prices (link below). In addition to the various tanks, there is also a small play area for younger children next to the cafe and a shop.
I have to confess that despite being extremely popular at the time it opened there were not massive crowds in August - especially when you consider it was still the Summer holidays and should still be its busiest period. To many it is probably a place you visit once and know you've done it.
I have given it a 4* rating as to me the displays are very good, but it is probably a little over priced. However, if you are in the Plymouth area it is certainly a place to spend a few hours.
Some General Information
National Marine Aquarium
Rope Walk, PLYMOUTH, Devon PL4 0LF 01752 600301
Charges - £11 for adults
Children under 5 - free
5 - 16s - £6.50
Students/pensioners - £9
Family (2 adults + 2 children) - £30
They are also currently offering an annual family membership for £40 which is a bargain if your family want to visit more than once.
Also 20% discount if you book online. Additional discounts for groups of 10+
Open daily 10 am to 5 pm in winter and 10 am to 6 pm in summer
Things to see
70 sharks from ten different species
8 species of seahorses in the weird creatures zone
a loggerhead turtle
What to see
There are six main zones, Eplorocea, The Shallows, The Atlantic Reef, Meditteranean Sea, Weird Creatures and Coral Seas. There is also a Discovery Zone where children can take part in some activities.
All the areas are interesting but the most impressive, in my opinion, is the Atlantic Reef. It is huge and a good place to take a seat and just try to take it all in.
I find that children like the sharks best, I don't know what it is but children definitely find them fascinating and just a bit scary..........
Younger children will love visiting the West Creatures exhibition where the seahorses are fascinating and they can see real live Clown Fish (as in Disney's Finding Nemo)
At the end of all this a little sit down with refreshments in the cafeteria is most welcome.
To be fair this won't keep the family busy for a full day but combined with a shopping trip it gives you a great day out.
I have visited the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth several times, and thoroughly enjoyed myslef every time. The entrance fees are reasonably priced as the Aquarium are a non profit organisation and all the money goes back into the running and maintenance of the Aquarium.
One thing that is not reasonably priced however, is the car park. With a charge of around £12 for the day, you would be better off parking a bit further up the road and save yourself a few quid!
There are several exhibits within the Aquarium, each based on a different sea, or area. The exhibits house many, many breeds of fish and other such sealife, and are so interesting to look at. There is also an activity section where children and adults alike can get involved. There is also a small cafe with a childrens play area to rest and unwind if the excitement is all getting a bit much.
I have been to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth several times since it opened. My first visit was a long time ago with my Mum, when the aquarium had not long been opened. She took me there several times when I was younger. I also went on trips with schools to this aquarium.
Yesterday it was my nephews 1st birthday and as there are lots of younger children in our extended family, we went down to Plymouth to see the aquarium. It wasn't that busy which I'm guessing was due to it being a Sunday. We didn't have to queue at all although on previous occasions I have waited a long time to get in. The prices have increased significantly since I last visited - it now costs £11.00 for adults, £6.50 for 5-16s, £9.00 for seniors/students, and those under 4 go free. A family ticket (for four people) costs £30.00. A point worth noting is that prices are reduced if your group is larger than 10. Another useful point is that to avoid queuing you can book tickets online and enter the aquarium via the gift shop, saving a lot of time. I would definitely advise this on Saturdays and public holidays.
We arrived at 10.30am which might also explain why it wasn't busy. They have changed where you have to go to buy your tickets now as well which is more convenient than waiting outside in a queue. The kids were all excited so it was great to go straight in.
The National Marine Aquarium was set up primarily for education and research so it is popular with schools. All the tanks and exhibits are surrounded by interesting information about the species on show. Although you couldn't possibly take in all the information, you might just learn a few interesting facts. I was very puzzled when I found out that lobsters are naturally blue!
Despite the aquarium being used for research, it is still a great tourist attraction for families. Young children love seeing all the weird and wonderful creatures, in particular the sharks! The 50 exhibits containing sea creatures are sure to keep kids and adults occupied for some time.
The aquarium is now divided up in to 6 zones which we set about exploring. There are maps located throughout the aquarium so it isn't too difficult to find your way around and it's unlikely that you will miss any of the big attractions. The zones are called: Explorocean, The Shallows, Atlantic Reef, Mediterranean Sea, Weird Creatures and Coral Seas. We went around them all in turn.
This zone revolves around science and it boasts 2 floors of interactive activities. There wasn't really anything to interest young children though and after a quick look around we continued on into the aquarium. There are no live exhibits in this zone so it might not interest everyone. What is offered here is most suited to young adults/teenagers who are very interested in marine life and science. There is a large tank in the centre of the zone containing an assault course where Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) are raced underwater by members of the audience chosen by small games. We didn't see this however when I went on a trip with college they made us sit through this and I must say I wasn't particularly impressed. I feel this zone lets down the aquarium and could have been much better.
I thought this zone was good. It has been made very child friendly with a long tank low to the ground so that children can look directly at the fish and other marine species. There is a large rock pool in this zone which contains sting rays, starfish and other interesting species. Children seemed to love this as they get up so close with the creatures. You are so close you could stick your hand in the rock pool although it probably wouldn't be appreciated by the fish or the manager! There is a huge octopus in this zone which was fascinating but the tank seemed far too small. Overall it is a great zone which contains the species found on Plymouth's coastline.
The Atlantic Reef is very impressive. The tank is rectangular and absolutely huge. As you approach the dark area illuminated by the vast tank, it resembles being in a cinema. With the tank as the screen, you can be entertained for hours. There are lots of seats around here so you can sit down and relax for a while watching all the fish swimming around. The tank is full of species found in the Atlantic Ocean and there are a lot of different fish to observe in the tank. The aquarium does talks in here regularly and you can learn a lot more about the different species. This zone is brilliant! The glass was really clean and the water so clear that you could observe the fish easily. There is a ridge in front of the tank so children can stand up higher to watch the fish.
This is the biggest tank in the whole of Britain, housing sharks amongst many other species. It is more commonly termed the 'shark tank' and is perhaps the attraction that draws so many people to the aquarium. The largest sharks in the aquarium are found in the 'Mediterranean Sea'. They are Sand Tigers and they swim very close to the glass so you can get a good look at them. I was slightly disappointed though as although it is the largest tank, unlike the 'Atlantic Reef' the areas where you can observe aren't that large. You can only see parts of the tank and the shape of the tank can be very annoying. There is a tunnel where you can see the fish and sharks swim overhead but the glass seemed very dirty on the inside so the view wasn't that great. This was really disappointing but kids are normally impressed by the sharks and it is certainly worth viewing. A good clean of the inside of the tank would make this much better!
This zone lacked a great main attraction other than the star of Disney's Finding Nemo, the Orange and White Clown fish. Whilst the adults seemed to find this zone a bit dull, some children seemed more fascinated in these orange and white Nemo clones than they did in the shark tank. The zone is OK and the seahorses are interesting but I can't think of anything that would make you want to spend much time there.
This zone contains Black Tip Reef Sharks but they are quite small and are definitely not the star attraction of the zone. There is a huge Loggerhead turtle that takes centre stage. This is really impressive and relaxing and the turtle is simply amazing to watch.
There is also a Discovery Zone where children are entertained with crafts and other acitivites. These are set sessions so it is best to find out beforehand if you are interested. We didn't take part in any of this so I can't comment on what it is like.
To exit the aquarium you have to pass through the aquarium although most people with children have trouble simply passing through. It is full of toys and novelty gifts which appeal to kids an we spent far too much in here to cheer up the kids who were tired after walking around the aquarium all morning.
There is a restaurant with seating overlooking the water. The setting and view is nice but the food isn't great. I would advise taking a packed lunch instead if you are going with the children as there are nice gardens as part of the aquarium with picnic benches. There is an adjoining sandpit which will keep the kids entertained if you want a rest. It is really lovely when the weather is nice.
Plymouth Aquarium now has a new 4-D cinema which is definitely worth the extra £2.00 each. It shows an underwater film and I'll warn you that you will get a bit wet. 2 of the kids we took were really scared and cried but afterwards they said they enjoyed it. Definitely watch the film as it added something to the day and pleases the children who seem to tire after a long time viewing the exhibits.
There is a carpark nearby but it £7.40 for all day seemed rather a lot. Perhaps using one further out and walking would be cheaper.
Overall it was a great day out and is certainly worth the trip. We took children with an age range from 1 to 10 and the 4-7 year olds seemed to enjoy it the most. I recommend this but it won't take up a whole day. It is perhaps best combined with swimming or iceskating at the nearby Plymouth Pavillions and perhaps a stop off at the big Toys'R'Us store which joins on to the Pavillions!
I can remember fairly vividly the opening of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth in the late-1990s, as there was so much publicity it really was difficult to avoid, unless one lived in a hole. Or perhaps the sea.
My first visit was as a youthful, intrigued pre-teen aged twelve on a school trip. Upon entering the sheer glass facade I immediately noticed the huge queue that had accumulated, even by such an early juncture in the morning. This, I have since learnt, is a fairly standard feature of the site, although not one listed in any publicity material. Indeed, the wait has been known to take up to 45 minutes, which can involve standing outside, exposed to the fabled elements one has direct access to whilst stood on Plymouth's waterfront. Although this has been alleviated somewhat in recent years, it is worth arriving early to avoid it.
Once inside, one could arguably have expected more for the obligatory £8.75 adult admission fee. In fact, the first stage of the exploration features a large room that, somewhat intriguingly, contains very few fish. This is known as "Dartmoor" and, whilst technically accurate, one wonders quite why so much space was used for so few animals. There is, however, a large waterfall in this section, which does a fairly good job of setting the atmosphere.
Next up comes a smaller room containing a great deal more fish than most of the other rooms. However, in accordance wth the already dubious animal:space ratio employed in rather esoteric fashion by the attraction, this space comprises a very small area. The cluster of people in this room seems to fluctuate during the day, but overall one can consider that they have done well if they are able to attain a good view of all the tanks.
Beyond this, the visitor heads into the shoreline zone, a fairly open-plan affair consisting of an excellent centrepiece where the casual bserver is afforded a very close-up, intimate acquaintance with the creatures. It is possible, by request, to physically make contact with the animals, and is a worthwhile experience if one has younger children in tow.
Following this is a rather long walk through darkened corridors (these between-room walks comprise a great deal of the travelling time) is an exceptionally majestic fish tank with a large viewing area situated directly in front of it. Again, children seem to enjoy this feature, and with good reason: the fish are colourful, approachable and well displayed. However, after all is said and done there are (at my estimate) less than 50 creatures in this giant construction, many of them quite small.
Beyond this lies the tropical zone with a layout akin to that of a pet shop: fish in small tanks displayed with name beneath. Finally, one arroves at the shark tank. This is a well-promoteed feature by the attraction but it is quite hard to comprehend why. The sharks are few in number and have obviously acculturated their behaviour from years of being constant figures of entertainment. Do not expect scenes from Jaws when feeding time commences, either. As creatures, they are beautiful, but as attractions they do not really fit the bill.
In conclusion, this is worth a visit if fish are of interest, but if one is considering a visit simply on the basis of it being the most famous attraction in the city, then they are best advised seeking out the numerous other gems that the area has to offer. Also, even a good stretching-out of the facilities will not take the visitor past the 90 minute mark: it is not a ful day out.
UPDATE - QUICK TIP We went again to this yesterday. This time I was 8 months pregnant and didn't relish the thought of having to queue. We rang the aquarium and enquired about pre-booking tickets. Apparently they don't do this but if you go to the Tourist Information on the Barbican you can purchase tickets there and then just walk straight in - good idea. We went to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth fairly soon after it opened. As it was new it wasn't listed in the telephone book, so I rang directory enquiries for the number to check that it was open. I was connected to a answermachine message which told me the opening times and prices. Foolishly though, we went on a Bank Holiday and it was absolutely heaving. We parked in a nearby multi-storey car park and set off with our son in his buggy. When we got there we were queuing around the side of the building, by the time you got to the front door you still had a ½ hour wait. By the time we got to the cash desk we were amazed to see that only one was in use, no wonder the queue was so long! After paying we took the lift to start the tour. Josh couldn't see very well sat in the buggy so we carried him and pushed the buggy around. I found it quite easy to move the buggy around most of the aquarium, although it was so packed at the sea horse display that I didn't bother going in. It would have been nice to have a "buggy park" so that we could leave it somewhere safe. However, I can't really fault the aquariums themselves. Lots of them had little runners beside them for the kids to climb up on and get a better look - excellent idea. They also had a darkened room with a huge tank which stretched from floor to ceiling, which was just magnificent, the effect was stunning. The shark tanks are the most hyped in the place, but I was a little disappointed with them, they weren't as big as I'd thought and had lots of cover s
o you only got glimpses of the sharks. As for amenities, I was so into the fish that I didn't really notice. However I did come across toilets at the "darkened" room and was very impressed with the baby changing room, small but clean. It was expensive to gain entry (about £6.75 for adults, though under fours are free), but we were there a good couple of hours and the kids will absolutely love it (as well as the obligitory gift shop on the way out!). Just get there early to hopefully avoid queues.