“ Address: Hayley Townsend / Scalby Mills / Scarborough / North Yorkshire / YO12 6RP / England „
When we went to Scarborough recently we decided to pay a trip to the Sea Life centre. I had been before a couple of times when I was a kid, but couldn't really remember a whole lot about it. When we were checking the website prior to our visit, I noticed that the London aquarium is also part of the Sea Life group. I must admit having visited the London aquarium a couple of years back and left feeling somewhat disappointed with my visit, I was a little sceptical as to how much we'd enjoy this visit to the Scarborough centre.
The Sea Life centre is situated close to Scarborough's North Bay and in fact as you look out over the bay, it's instantly noticeable due to its distinctive shape of several white triangular roofs. We travelled by car, and found it easy to get to. If you drive into Scarborough and head for the North Bay, it is well signposted. I must admit, we cheated a bit and simply entered the postcode into the sat nav...should you want to follow suit, the postcode is YO12 6RP.
If you want to travel by bus, according to the leaflet I have here, you will need to take the service '3A', which I assume you can take directly from Scarborough town centre.
Once there, we found that the building had a large car park, and despite the fact we went reasonably close to opening time on a weekday, it was already starting to fill up. My boyfriend was really annoyed that it was pay and display, and felt that we were being ripped off, especially as it cost £4 (I *think* that was for the whole day though). I have to say, parking is quite expensive in Scarborough in general, and over the three days we were there we ended up spending nearly £25 just on parking. We only found out just prior to leaving that there is a park and ride service, which may be worth checking out should you plan to visit the area by car ... http://www.scarboroughparkandride.co.uk/
As we entered the Sea Life Centre, we were met with a brightly lit reception desk and to the left was a very impressive looking waterfall, which cascaded down into a tank full of fish. We managed to time it just so that we arrived at the same time as a party of school children, so we had to wait a little while to buy our tickets, but that wasn't really too much of a hardship.
The man on reception was friendly and once we had paid we were given a leaflet, which featured a map, as well as the times and locations of various talks that are held throughout the day.
Once past the waterfall, you head into darkened rooms, full of lit up aquariums, housing an array of amazing sea life. The tanks were all clean and the sea life all appeared to be well looked after. Each tank does have sign posts telling you what the creatures are, however some of these were quite small and didn't have as much information as I would have expected. Not only that, but I noticed some were quite high up, so no use for children.
Every creature you could imagine is here, and as you walk around, the creatures seem to get more spectacular by the minute... from small fish as you enter through to spectacular rays, octopuses, turtles and sharks. Especially impressive, is the jellyfish section. This area is completely dark and you can watch the jelly fish as they glow in the dark which is quite mesmerising.
After you head through the first section of tanks, you come to an outdoor area, where the otters are housed. When we looked at the leaflet we had been given when we paid, we realised that it was only around 5 minutes until the 'otter talk and feed' so we hung around. A lady with a microphone came out, and gave a talk on the otters. I must admit, I was surprised at how interesting it was (I wasn't really expecting to enjoy it), and the lady giving the talk seemed very knowledgeable. After the talk two men came out to train and feed the otters. It was quite interesting watching them do 'tricks' as I'd never realised otters were so intelligent. The feeding however was a bit much, as they are fed on one day old chicks (dead ones I should add) , and as soon as I saw these chicks still had their yellow fur, I decided it was time for us to move on, as I just couldn't watch! They do warn you this will happen in fairness, so if you're squeamish or have little kids who might be upset by it, you can leave sharpish!
The next thing you come to are the penguins. The sides of the tank they live in is glass, and they are quite interesting to watch. There was also a 'penguin talk and feed', but this was not until a whole hour after the otter talk, so we didn't stick around for that.
Just past the penguin area, is a place where you could play mini golf. I believe this is a new feature to the Sea Life Centre, but despite the number of children around, we didn't see anyone playing it. It also wasn't very clear where you went to get golf clubs and balls from, and I think that since they promote it so heavily in their leaflets, it could do with being better sign posted.
Moving on, you will then come to the seal rescue centre. This was something I hadn't even realised the Sea Life Centre did, but they have a sort of seal hospital, if you like, where they nurse and care for injured seals. There is also a 'seal pool' just around the corner, and again, we stopped to listen to the talk that was being given, followed by watching the seals being fed.
The next part of the Sea Life Centre is one of my favourite things and one of the few things I can remember from previous visits....the tunnel! This is basically a glass tunnel which you can walk through, watching the sea life swim around above you. It really is quite amazing to watch, and I loved it just as much this time as I did the first time around.
At this point, you are pretty much reaching the end of the visit (although there's nothing to stop you going around twice should you wish). There is a small area with turtles upstairs, as well as a café. We didn't stop here, so I can't comment on food or prices unfortunately. As you go downstairs, you pretty much come out at the gift shop, which is pretty much like any other gift shop...a place where you can buy a tacky, fish-related memento of your visit!
Before your visit, it is well worth looking to see if you can find a discount voucher online. There are frequently '2 for 1' offers on tickets which can reduce the cost of your visit substantially. We found one such offer, on CokeZone, just by doing a google search.
I have also noticed that if you book your tickets online prior to visiting, you can also make a small saving. Visit http://www.visitsealife.com/Scarborough/
Prices (as of June 2011) are:
Child (age 3-14) :£11.40
Family of four (2 adults, 2 children): £46.80
I do think that this is quite expensive, considering that looking around takes about four hours max (unless you want to go around a few times) which is why it is so worthwhile looking out for special offers.
I actually really enjoyed my trip to the Sea Life Centre, and I would be happy to go again. The assortment of creatures is fascinating, and the talks which I wasn't sure I would enjoy were interesting. The only downside (other than the high prices), is that that I feel it would benefit from more information about the creatures on the walls (and moving them down in some cases so youngsters can read them too), and the mini golf area needs to be better signposted. Other than that, I would recommend it as being a great family day out for anyone visiting the Scarborough area.
The Sealife Centre in Scarborough is one of the town's most popular tourist attractions despite an admission price of £14 per adult. I visit Scarborough several times every year and had so far been put off by both the charges and the length of the queues at the door. I finally paid a visit to the Sealife Centre on Saturday 18th July 2009, swayed by half price admission tickets and a cloud full of rain.
We arrived quite early, around 9.30am and the queues weren't too bad but despite this the check in process seemed to be frustrating slow and it still took us the best part of an hour to finally get inside. Once inside the doorway the reason for the delay became obvious, there were just two tills and no organised queue to either of them, so people were pushing in front of us and it was all rather chaotic. When we finally reached one of the tills we discovered that the credit card machine at that till wasn't working. All those wanting to pay by plastic were then dashing over towards to the other till, fortunately I was paying by good old-fashioned cash and so I wasn't delayed any further.
After the very annoying start to my trip we were finally inside the building and beyond the reception so we followed the signs pointing us towards the aquarium. Before you reach the aquarium part there is a large area behind the reception area that contains a gift shop and restaurant above it as well as toilets that are equipped for disabled visitors and a baby changing area. If you follow the correct route around the centre your journey will however bring you back to this same point so we didn't linger too long here and headed straight towards the aquariums
The lights inside the aquarium are very dim so as not to disturb the animals although there are lights inside the tanks so it is easy to see inside. There is no flash photography allowed in this area and the corridors are quite narrow so you have to shuffle along at the same pace as the people in front of you. There is plenty to look at with tanks of fish on either side of the corridor and in places above your head too but I couldn't help feeling that the design of this area was a little bit claustrophobic. There are information signs at the side of the tanks telling the visitor about the species inside and with my initial moans quickly put aside I did find this part very interesting. There will be a few more negative comments about this place later but for the moment I will try to keep things positive.
The tanks are not just filled with fish although these do form the biggest part of the collection and there are species from all over the world including exotic brightly coloured ones and unusual ones that are half fish/half amphibian and climb out of the water onto the rocks. It is true that the brightly coloured fish swimming around the coral probably attract the biggest crowds but I found all of them interesting. My favourite section within the aquarium was that dedicated to jellyfish. It is not often that you can get so up close to these creatures that you can look inside their transparent bodies. Some of the jellyfish species were very strange and they come in all shapes and sizes. As they swim up to the glass it almost seems like you could touch them.
At the end of the corridors that cut through the aquariums you eventually find yourself in a large outdoor area. We had checked the times for the otter talk and feeding and the seal talk and feeding, which were at 11am and 12 midday respectively. It was only a few minutes before 11 so we rushed towards the otter holt but discovered that the area where the talk was about to take place was so small that we couldn't get anyway near it. We certainly couldn't see any otters and the young lad giving the talk didn't have a microphone and on top of this he seemed to be very nervous and sounded like he was reading from a script. We managed to just about hear every other word but we didn't glimpse the otters. We did however hear the announcement that the otters were not actually going to be fed today until 3pm which was followed by a series of loud grunts and groans. We stood around for about 20 minutes and as the people began to drift away after the talk had ended we finally caught a glimpse of one of the others.
The outside area contains two large pools. The one closest to the otter holt is the penguin pool and the other one is full of seals, connecting the two is the seal hospital, where the sick and injured seals are kept and to get from one pool to the other you have to walk through this.
There was no denying that the penguins were very cute and since they were so used to being stared at every day they were more than happy to pose for the camera. However we had only been enjoying the penguins for a few minutes when we realised that it was nearly midday and time for the seal talk. Remembering the fiasco of the otter talk we dashed through the seal hospital, in which there didn't seem to be a single animal around, and into the seal arena. The seal talk was much more organised and surrounding the pool that were lots of rows of elevated seats so we all got a seat and a decent view. The girl that did the talk did have a microphone, she wasn't nervous and allowed people to ask lots of questions, which she answered professionally and in a way that made us believe she knew these seals intimately. Not everything was perfect though as we soon found out that due to a problem with the water pumps the water level was too shallow to feed the seals and so they wouldn't be fed until around 2pm when the water levels had risen sufficiently. We also learned that the seal hospital was currently empty but I guess that no sick animals is a good things, although I did quite fancy seeing some bandaged up seals.
After the seals all that remained was the turtle sanctuary, which is brand new for 2009. With or without the turtle sanctuary to look forward to I was beginning to feel that this place did not offer value for money. Even with half price tickets I felt dissatisfied and pitied those that had paid the full admission price.
The turtle sanctuary was, as you'd expect full of turtles. There were huge adult ones, tiny baby ones and even turtle eggs incubating in heaters. This was another of my favourite areas but it was quite small so there wasn't a great deal to see.
Beyond the turtle sanctuary we found ourselves back in the gift shop and after a quick giggle at some of the extortionate prices we decided to check out the café. Unfortunately this seems to only be able to be accessed by a set of stairs and as we had a pushchair and a 4 month old baby with us we decided to give it a miss. Perhaps that was just as well as we overheard a couple as we were leaving saying that the prices in the café were the most expensive they had ever seen.
On a plus side I enjoyed looking at the animals and the kids loved it but within 2 hours we had seen everything so I can't say that this place represents very good value for money. They obviously play an important role in conservation and the seal hospitals cares for injured seals prior to releasing them back into the wild, whilst the turtle sanctuary cares for lots of abandoned pets so there are obviously some positive things to say and the toilets were spotlessly clean too. I was obviously very disappointed overall and would not recommend it to others unless they decide to have a free admission day. I was also surprised to find that the café seemed to be out of bounds for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs.
The Sealife Centre at Scarborough is part of the Sealife Europe group, which has aquariums at 11 locations in the UK, 8 in Germany and a further 9 elsewhere. Some of the animals at Scarborough had arrived here via their other sites.
It is open daily throughout the year (except Christmas Day) from 10am until 4.30pm (last admission 3.30pm). Admission prices are:
Family Ticket (2 adults and 2 children): £39.95
Telephone - 01723 373414
There were 5 in our party 3 adults and 2 under 2's, we got our tickets from the haven site we were staying on as it was only £7.50 per adult and under 2's free.
We found it to be awkward to find as we got to scarborough and couldnt see any signs anywhere, we ended up asking a bus driver where it was.
When we got there it was very busy but it was August, and i'm not sure that the kids actually saw much as it was very crowded and they were in pushchairs.
The site isn't very wheelchair/pushchair friendly as we made it around to the seals and it was either go down lots of steps or try and backtrack through the crowds and possibly miss things out.
The cafe upstairs is very expensive and i wouldn't reccomend getting a childrens meal - it is on a very small plate.
Scarborough Sea Life Centre is well worth a visit - we had a 2 for 1 offer from Tesco's and I have recently seen a similar offer on a particular brand of tea bags. I often seen voucher of a similar nature in The Mirror Newspaper and have seen The Sun advertising vouchers of this nature too.
It costs £12.95 per adult, £11.95 for concessions, under 5''s go free, and children have a cheaper rate, which I do not remember as it wasn't applicable to our group. (Prices were for October 2008).
We had to pay for 3 hours parking, which was about £3.50. I found this to be quite high, if you only planned to stay at the centre for a few hours. However there is plenty to see and do at the centre and you could easily stay all day. As we'd planned to go somewhere else on this day, it did turn out to be a little expensive and so we were glad we'd got the 2 for 1 offer.
Things to do:
When you get inside there are lots of exhibits of fish, sea horses and sharks. There is plenty to do for children - as they have a sheet they give out and you have to answer questions as you go round the centre. These have multiple answers and you have to guess the correct one.
In addition, they often have talks about star fish or crabs in the rock pool area and you get the chance to hold some of these items, if you are lucky.
What animals can I see:
They also have penguins, seals and otters, which if you arrive at the right time you can see the handlers feeding them and they give you a talk about each particular breed. We were lucky enough to see the otters and seals being fed. Some of these talks are repeated during the day as some of the animals need feeding twice during the daytime.
We missed the penguins talk as it wasn't for another 1/2 hour and we were getting cold and one member of our group was getting bored - because we'd promised him he could go to somewhere he'd prefer and he was champing at the bit to get there!
The centre has an excellent cafe facility, which unfortunately is upstairs and when accessed at the end of the tour is up 2 flights of stairs. Michelle and I managed to carry Mark's push chair up (with him in it), but there is a stair lift for wheelchair users from the shop, which you need to get assistance with. The staff in the shop or at reception will be able to help with this.
I was impressed with the food and drink available from this cafe - as I am on a wheat free diet I can not usually find anything I can eat but they had a fantastic range of flapjack and other items I could choose from. Prices were pretty reasonable too.
The Sealife centre is not near the shops at Scarborough so you'd either need to take your own food and eat it outside or use the cafe. There was a small hut near the icecream cabin, where you could sit and eat too.
The toilets (downstairs near reception) had pictures of otters, seals, etc on them and were extremely clean. I thought the pictures idea was brilliant in the ladies, but don't know what pictures were in the mens.
I was also impressed that there seemed to be wheelchair routes around the centre. For wheelchair users to get to the cafe just go out of the sea life area into the shop and ask for assistance to use the stair lift.
~How to Find It~
The Sea Life centre is located at Scalby Mills in Scarborough and can be found by following the signs for North Bay Leisure Parks or Sea Life. There's plentiful parking outside, with a pay and display car park which overlooks the seafront. This cost us £3 for four hours.
It's a good place to visit whatever the weather, as it is mostly indoors. There are outdoor areas with picnic benches, where you can visit the otters, seals and penguins, which can be avoided if it's a rainy day.
It's open daily from 10 am to 4.30pm, with last admissions at 3.30. Admission prices at the gate are £14.00 for adults, £10.00 for children and £12.00 for concessions. However, you can save £5 per ticket by booking online, so it's worth planning in advance. We bought tickets at a good discount by booking at our caravan site reception, where we paid £8.50 for an adult ticket, and £25.00 for a family ticket for two adults and two children, which was quite a big saving.
~What's In There~
On entering the first things we came to were the shop and toilets, and stairs that go up to the café. Then we entered the aquarium passageways which we followed, viewing jellyfish, octopus, crabs, rays, sharks, turtles, fish and seahorses. The rays are amazingly graceful, and surprisingly nosey, as they kept coming up to the window as if to deliberately look back at us. There's also an underwater tunnel to walk through and a huge tank full of very big fish and an enormous turtle. Our three year old granddaughters spotted a fish like Nemo and went around shouting 'I found Nemo!' So now we know where Nemo is. Phew, thank goodness for that!
They were also very impressed with the jellyfish area, which is lit up with ultraviolet light to show up the jellyfish. They do look beautiful, and the girls were mesmerized, but part of the excitement for them was the fact that their clothes were glowing as well! Another highlight was the demonstration tank where a member of staff was taking out small crabs for the children to touch. One of the girls was quite enthusiastic about stroking the crabs, but the other one found the whole experience a bit too freaky and ran off shouting 'I don't like it!' Can't say I blame her, as I didn't want to touch them either. There is antibacterial gel available for hand cleaning afterwards.
There's also an interactive educational area for children with machines where they can press buttons that light up to show what creatures eat, or turn a dial to see a sea creature swim faster than a man. It's not very exciting. The real highlight of this area is the badge making table. Children can draw a picture and one of the staff will press it into a machine and make it into a badge, all of which is included in the admission price. My granddaughters really enjoyed making theirs and proudly wore their badges all day.
Whilst walking around the lower level you can step outside to the seal, otter and penguin areas. There are eye level tanks for the seals where you can watch them swimming past and also a seated area for feeding times. One mistake we made was not looking at the feeding schedule as soon as we walked in, and we missed the seals feeding time, which was disappointing. We did manage to catch the otter feeding though and all the children were entranced by the two cute little otters. There's an event every half an hour, such as turtle talks, seal, otter or penguin talks/feeding, and it's worth planning your tour around these so that you really get your money's worth.
For older children there's a pirate attraction with panning for gold at £2 extra in another building outside. There's also an ice cream stand with picnic benches. The downside with the ice cream stand is that it also serves people from the beach outside the grounds, so you can end up waiting a long time to be served.
Upstairs, it's possible to look down on the turtle tanks and listen to the talks about turtles. This isn't very exciting for younger children so we missed it out. There are also smaller turtles to look at in tanks upstairs.
This leads through into the café area, with a soft play zone for younger children. There are tables arranged quite near the play zone where we could easily keep an eye on children while having a much needed cup of coffee. The café sells a range of things such as cakes, soft drinks, chips and beefburgers, spicy chicken on a roll, tuna, chicken or egg and mayonnaise sandwiches, and also children's meal boxes. The meals weren't great value at around £6-£7 for basic burger and fries, and the portions weren't exactly generous, but the quality was acceptable, and I had a nice slice of Victoria sponge cake.
The café leads straight downstairs back to the toilets, shop and reception. The shop sells a nice range of sea creature toys and the girls found some wobbly jellyfish which they were delighted with and only cost £1.22 each.
As a treat for the children it was quite a worthwhile day out for the price we paid. We were there around three hours which is quite long enough with two toddlers, but you could easily stay longer if you attended all the talks and feeding sessions. Compared to The Deep at Hull, it's not so glossy or modernistic looking, and there aren't so many big creatures. It's also not so geared towards education. There's a somewhat tatty look about it in places, especially the café, soft play zone and educational area, but the café and toilets were quite clean looking and respectable. However, if you're on holiday around the Scarborough area it's definitely worth a visit, especially if you can book discounted tickets in advance.
Come see the strange, beautiful and fascinating creatures that live beyond the deep blue!