“ Address: South Quay / Maryport / Cumbria / CA15 8AB / England „
During our visit to the Lake District we were also going to use the trip to visit family in Aspatria, however as my cousin works during the day, we decided to spend the afternoon at the Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport before going round for dinner in the evening. The Coast Aquarium is one of two Aquariums located in and around the Lake District with the Lake District Aquarium located on Windermere and this one located on the west coast of Cumbria. As entrance to this Aquarium was also included on our Lake District pass it felt like the ideal way to spend a day.
The Aquarium itself is located in the Harbour and is signposted from the A596, which is one of the main roads from Carlisle to Workington. It is located on the South Quay of the Harbour with a pay and display car park right outside the door. The centre of Maryport is also only a couple of minutes' walk away, meaning there is plenty of parking within easy access of the Aquarium. It takes roughly half an hour to get to Maryport from Carlisle and we also spent a similar amount of time in the car coming from our campsite near Keswick.
As with a lot of the attractions we visited on this trip, our entrance to the Lake District Coast Aquarium was covered on our Lake District Pass. Had it not been included then we would have been looking at paying £7 each. Had we also had children then it would have cost an additional £4.50 per child, with any under 3 getting free entry. The Aquarium also does a family ticket, which lets in 2 adults and 2 children for £22, saving a very small £1 in total. The prices seemed a little high given the size of the building, but I felt that judgement would be best served after our visit.
We didn't visit the Aquarium until the afternoon but it is open from 10am to 6pm everyday and had our visit been earlier, the ticket allows you to re-enter the Aquarium up until 5pm each day. It is open all year round with the exception of Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Something Smells A Bit Fishy
You enter the Aquarium to the left of the reception desk through a pair of double doors and the scent of the aquarium hits you almost straight away. It also appears to be a lot darker than many of the Aquariums we have visited. Once inside and after your eyes adjust to the lighting it is quite similar to a lot of Aquariums with the walls painted dark blue and the floors a black rubber mat following through the various tanks in the walls through to an exit.
The first thing that struck me however was the way the tanks and displays in-between had been done. The idea behind the layout is to give you an idea of the habitat and species living right outside the door in the Solway. There are no real glamorous varieties of fish in here, simply the types of fish you would expect to see around the Lake District coast. Now I've been to and enjoyed a lot of Aquariums, however I found this idea to be far better. The displays talked about the disintegration of the coast line and what is being done to protect the area.
It made the whole exhibition seem a lot more real. Alongside the standard tanks there were exhibits such as the Harbour Wall display, which showed exactly how the fish in the harbour dealt with the waves and also which species you would expect to see out there. The display used the simulation of a giant wave machine to send a wave of water crashing into the end wall and letting you see how the fish reacted. We were also fortunate enough to see some of the fish and a squid being fed by one of the keepers. He gave a brief talk and seemed very knowledgeable about the different fish in each tank.
The exhibits and tanks therefore offered something I had previously felt had been missing from other Aquariums. It takes the time to educate visitors on the wildlife and habitats within the local area and I felt this was a really good thing. The Aquarium itself could maybe have been bigger as the paths around the inside were quite narrow, but thankfully it was quite empty. The information and displays actually make the Aquarium worth the entrance fee and I'd happily visit again to help support the local conservation efforts.
Once you've looked around the Aquarium there are a number of other facilities you can make use of to spend a bit more time and money at the centre. It has the obligatory gift shop selling everything from rubbers and fridge magnets to cuddly toys and pirate swords. There is also a decent sized café with a decent menu at reasonable prices. As we were heading to my cousins for dinner we opted against getting anything here, however it looked very clean and the food smelt nice.
In addition for the kids there is a crazy golf course, costing £2.75 for adults and £1.95 for children. It was raining the day of our visit and since this was outside we decided to give it a miss. It seems almost traditional now, that no matter where you go to an Aquarium it seems to always have a crazy golf course attached.
A Decent Afternoon Out
We spent a total of an hour and half at the Lake District Coast Aquarium, which given the size of it and the fact there weren't many other visitors that day is a real testament to the amount and quality of information and displays within. It made for an interesting afternoon out and would certainly work out as value for money if you are interested in the local area. I really thought that the Aquarium was clean, tidy, informative and generally well run and for that reason I would have no hesitation in recommending it as a worthwhile half day out should you be in this area for a holiday.
It appears I am the second person to review this wonderful attraction in my local area. I am pretty sure in twelve years of existence that some other DooYoo members have visited the (Maryport) Lake District Coast Aquarium.
The aquarium was set up to show off a display of local marine and freshwater life and is situated on the harbour fronts of Maryport. The perfect location for such an exhibition.
The aquarium prides themselves as being one of the best places to see the varied marine life of the Irish Sea and house a large variety of fish, starfish, lobsters etc. in no less than fifty deeply informative displays
Unlike many attractions, your admission tickets allows you to re-enter the display area all day meaning you are able to come back at certain times of the day to watch the regular fish feeding demonstrations and talks.
As well as there being an aquarium here, there are a number of other things that you are able to do. There is a cafe within the building which is open to the general public. Unlike other cafes which offer good food at "good prices", the aquarium cafe offers good food at affordable prices.
The gift shop is also open to the general public and offers a range of products to suit all ages. From cute soft toys to home furnishing, from educational books to fun fishy story books, the gift shop has it.
Outside of the building children and adults alike can enjoy a relaxing round of mini golf, play on the adventure playground, or be a pirate and control a radio boat!
The Lake District Coast Aquarium in Maryport really is a brilliant day out no matter what age you are. Children love to look at the fish and starfish, and parents love to see their children enjoying and learning at the same time.
I'm always on the lookout for days out in my local area, that aren't going to break the bank. I have 2 children with an 8 year age gap, so finding something that appeals to both has become increasingly difficult! The Lake District Coast Aquarium has become a favourite attraction, and one we have visited annually for the last 4 years.
Situated on the West Cumbrian Coast, the Solway Estuary and with the Lake district just a stones throw away, Maryport is home to the Lake District Coast Aquarium.
The aquarium, now 12 years old, houses a wide and varied exhibition of river and marine life from the local area and is easily accessible from Keswick, Penrith, and Carlisle by car, train or bus. There is pay parking right outside, and a large car park 2 minutes walk away.
The aquarium is open daily from 10 am until 5pm and only closes Christmas and Boxing Day. Admission costs a very reasonable £5.75 for adults and £3.75 for children (under 4's free). Various Family ticket combinations are available providing an extra discount, and the aquarium also offers a family ticket concession which admits 1 adult and 2 or 3 children. Being a single parent I really appreciate this, finding it's rare that single adult family tickets are offered at tourist attractions meaning quite often, I end up paying more for myself and 2 children than a family with 2 adults and 2 children. Another thing I really like about admission to the aquarium is that your ticket is valid all day, and you are free to leave and re-enter as often as you like. This is especially useful if you have missed one of the scheduled talks and would like to come back for it.
Going into the aquarium, it's quite dark and takes a few moments for your eyes to adjust. It's worth noting that flash photography is strictly against the rules as it upsets the fish. I won't describe every display, but keep it to the more notable.
The first displays you come to are the fresh water fish and Solway Estuary displays, which are made to be quite realistic, giving the fish a somewhat more natural environment, with cascading water emulating a mountain water fall, and the tides and whirlpools of the estuary being recreated.
Moving on we come to the crashing wave display which is home to the sea bass. This is always a big hit with the kids, as periodically a huge wave will tumble down the stretch of the display, splashing over the edges. Throughout the day there is a talk and feed display here. I have to say, while sea bass don't look the most interesting of fish, the lady doing the talk and feed made it very engaging, especially for children, involving them in the talk.
Then on to another of the kids favourite...the rock pools. Home to starfish and anemones this is an interactive area, and gentle touching is allowed. I think it's probably a good time to remind parents that a dry change of clothes maybe a good idea when visiting this aquarium!
Next to the rock pools is the highlight of the visit, the ray pool. again you are allowed to gently stroke the rays, and in fact they quite like the attention, happily coming up to the edges of their pool to an outstretched hand. Alongside the rays swim some small sharks, which terrified my daughter despite being told from a friendly guide that they won't bite! It's a really nice area here, with a platform for kids to stand on and stroke the rays, and a bridge over the top of the pool to give you a different view of the fish.
Another really impressive display is the ship wreck display, and home to some more exotic breeds. This is a pretty realistic ship wreck, themed around Fletcher Christian, leader of the mutiny on HMS Bounty. Christian was actually born in Dearham, the neighbouring village to Maryport. this is quite a spooky display, with some large weird and wonderful fish swimming around in ink black waters.
The aquarium is actually a lot bigger than it first appears. In Between the attractions I have mentioned there are many other displays of both marine and river life. A 'World of Seahorses' display opened just a few weeks ago, which we sadly missed and look forward to catching on our next visit.
It's really very clean and well kept inside the aquarium and you can see great pain has been undertook to ensure the fish have a natural as possible environment. There's a great wealth of visual information, but there are plenty of guides on hand to answer any questions as well as the scheduled talk and feed sessions.
One downside I have found to the aquarium is that the passages between the displays are quite narrow, and can be difficult to navigate when busy. I found it particularly difficult while my daughter was still in a pushchair, I would recommend leaving a buggy in the car if you can get away with it. The aquarium do claim to be wheelchair accessible, but again I would suggest avoiding peak times.
You exit the aquarium in the gift shop, surprise surprise. I have to say though, that as far as gift shops go, this one is very good, with novelty toys from 99p, and a nice selection of local crafts.
There is also a large cafe, which I can say looked very clean and pleasant, but we have never used (we always opt for fish and chips from a chippie, overlooking the harbour...delish!) It offers hot and cold meals and beverages. The toilet facilities are more than adequate and exceptionally clean.
As well as the aquarium there's an outdoor play area, again themed around a ship wreck. This is a huge play area, with a fantastic range of play equipment for both older and younger children, it even has a zip rope! It's rare that I find a play area that caters to both my 4 year old and 12 year old, so I really appreciate this one. It's free to all visitors, even if your not going into the aquarium. There is also crazy golf and a small boating pond with motorised boats. Both of these have a small fee.
Overall, we really enjoy our regular visit to this aquarium and I would recommend it to locals and tourists alike. While you'd struggle to make a whole day of it, it's a fantastic 3 or 4 hours spent, and a very reasonable price. I'd recommend spending half your day here, having some of the most delicious fish and chips sitting by the Maryport harbour, then heading off to Allonby, a beautiful coastal town, with gorgeous beaches and an homemade ice cream shop to die for!
You can find out more about the Aquarium, directions and local attractions at www.lakedistrict-coastaquarium.co.uk
Come see some of the varied marine life of the Irish Sea. Offering a huge variety of fish and invertebrates (starfish, lobsters, etc) in 50 carefully themed and informative displays.