In September I took my 2 year old twin boys on their first holiday, along with my younger brother. We took them to Weymouth as it is a place I have been going to for years with my mum and dad so knew it would be a place they would they enjoy. We didn't have many planned activities lined up as I knew the beach and a bucket and spade would last them hours however I did want to take them to the sealife centre.
The Sealife Centre in Weymouth is literally 5 minutes away from the main beach, in between there and Bowleaze Cove. You can walk it if you like but for young children it is a fair stretch. You can however get a bus there, or even drive as there is a car park right aside it - which as you can imagine costs a bit. Also next to it you have a Pub, a Pirate Crazy Golf Course, Public Toilets, Holiday Inn, so it's very close to a lot of things.
It's actual address is;
SEA LIFE Weymouth
Lodmoor Country Park,
Weymouth Sealife Centre is quite expensive however Tesco Clubcard are often sending out 2 for 1 vouchers or Children go Free vouchers which are worth looking out for if you are planning on going there. A child (aged 3-14 years) costs around £15 on the day and adults cost £17.50, however you can buy the tickets online and get them a little cheaper. So you do have the option of pre booking your tickets or buying on the day. You also have the option of buying combi tickets so you can use the crazy golf and the sealife centre and you also have the option to buy annual passes if it is going to be a regular visit perhaps.
The Sealife Centre, in my opinion, is a fairly small attraction yet has quite a bit to do. If it is just adults going they would possiby be more interested in the feeding shows that are held and the talks about the different animals. Very young children may become bored quite easily, until you reach the rides of course! When you enter the Sealife Centre you are provided with a map of the area so you can find your way around.
The inside tanks include Stingrays, Seahorses, Turtles, Sharks, Marine and Tropical fish amongst others. There are also a few outside attractions which include penguins, seals and crabs. You can spend as much time as you like in each area, unless of course there is a talk about to take place in which you can either stay and learn some more or go and enjoy another area. I think younger children would probably not appreciate the talks as much as adults and would probably get bored. The twins really enjoyed the Stingrays as it is like a big swimming pool, of which you can see inside through the glass, the Stingrays came up to the glass and even popped up out of the water. You can also walk up the steps and onto the viewing area above the pool so you can have a bit of a birds eye view so to speak of all the stingrays below. These were a huge fascination for the twins as of course they are not your typical fish and when they came up the glass and stayed there the twins thought it was hilarious that they were kissing the walls lol. The Sharks were also another interesting find for the twins, in lovely tanks amongst amazingly brightly coloured fish swimming freely, my two have always loved fish. The Seals unless out of the water were a bit difficult to see as the water appeared to be near enough the same colour as the seals which was a bit of a shame, however there is the option of walking underneath the seal pool so you can see them swimming up above you. The Penguins, which is always my favourite, are enjoyable to watch, you can either see them swimming in their pool or congregating around their rocks and in their sand. As you walk around the Penguin area there are windows for you to again watch and admire them which is fun, especially as they seem to be a childs height. When you visit the crab area there is the opportunity to hold one if a member of staff is there talking you through them in the crab pool.
All of these attractions are lovely, not the biggest, but then I don't think they hold that many animals compared to a Zoo really. As an adult you can really appreciate the different animals and their surroundings, as a child they can enjoy the swimming, funky coloured things which make them giggle now and then. These animal attractions are more for adults though in my opinion.
As you walk around though, your children will no doubt notice the adventure playground, otherwise known as a park, for them to climb and clamber and really wear themselves out. If it is a nice, sunny day there is also a pool, ankle deep, for children to play in with waterfalls and other wonderful water features.
There is a cafe for refreshments, which is always handy if you fancy a drink or a bite to eat, or tired children needing a quick pick me up.
There is also a few 'fair' rides which I was quite pleased to see were free, apart from the obvious put your pounds in the slot rides that you do need to pay for. There is a small room of amusements, a few benches to sit on and the rest is big, colourful rides perfect for the children. There were height limits, of course, on each ride but on some there was a second height limit so children could also go on with adults so they didn't have to lose out on all the rides. There was even a crocodile log flume, which looked lovely for children, but my two were too small, and my brother too tall lol.
Overall the Sealife Centre in Weymouth is a lovely attraction, but it is extortionately priced as you can imagine, including the wonderful gift shop that you have to walk through to leave the site. It has a lot crammed into a small place, and it does get especially busy in the summer. Food and drink prices are high to so maybe worth thinking about taking your own food and refreshments or even waiting and seeing what the pub is like over the road when you leave. It is good to be able to see all these wonderful fish and animals but depending on the age of your child and their interest, it may not hold their attention for that long really. Luckily the rides that are available are free, so they should be though for the price you pay to get in. If ever you are visiting Weymouth I would say it is worth a visit as it is an enjoyable few hours and something different, but I would also say look out for vouchers and special offers first to save you a few bob!
I have visited the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth many times, courtesy of freebie vouchers in the local Dorset Echo. It's a fairly small attraction but they do manage to pack a lot in. Most of the tanks are inside, so it's still fine for a rainy day - there are one or two outdoor parts, mainly the otters (which really, really do smell so be warned and stay downwind!) and the penguins.
There are various areas split into "themes" - one room for stingrays (which don't always look in the best condition but I don't think this is due to the centre as all the other fish look great and healthy), sea horses, marine fish, tropical fish, seals, turtles and sharks (dog fish). They also breed the sea horses which is fascinating to see.
On the same site is also a pirate themed mini golf course, and a cafe.
Pros: lots of different fish to see, some weird and wonderful, quite a lot is packed in to a smallish area, so no long walks to get from place to place. Lots of other animals too, such as penguins and otters.
Cons: Some of the tanks appear to be quite small, and everything is expensive - the car park is extortionate and the entry fees and food prices are quite high, too. Bring a packed lunch.
Weymouth also does get very busy in the summer so although the centre is very easy to find it is on a busy road so be prepared for traffic jams.
Because weymouth is only 19 miles away,it was a nice treat to take the kids to Sealife park there.
The carpark when entering was a nice size,and so it also made the sealife park look big too.Once paying and walking out onto sealife grounds,I was quite amazed to actually see how small it looked.But it still looked good as there was a mix of indoor and outdoor activities.So off we went on our tour.
The first thing we came to,was the tank full of Turtles.They were great,it had a underwater tank for great views.Watching them swim near us was a great experience for the kids. After this we saw a great oudoor water slide with a pool and some water jets.Nice for the summer,but obviously not on colder seasons.
Moving on we explored a great rainforest,with river and mists,felt very magical.
We then saw a tank full of seahorses,my kids just loved these and I must admit,I was totally captivated by them.
Then we moved onto having a look at the Penguins.The view on these were great as you had an underwater view aswell as watching them out of water.
Just across from the penguins were the otters.very funny animals to watch.They are very cheeky.
We then went into what was called "The Shark Lagoon" They have been set up home here if they had outlived or outgrown their previous homes, among them are black-tipped reef, leopard and nurse sharks. Very exciting seeing them so close up.
There is such great learning here to for adults aswell as children.All written up on the walls as you walk past.
I have learned that an octopus has not only got eight legs but three hearts and a brain the size of a dog's.And that a starfish can actually regrow a leg if one gets accidentally damaged,also that there are as many as thirteen different sharks commonly found in British waters.This was a great way to get to know more about sealife.
Sealife also does a quiz trail on your journey around the grounds,which was so much fun to do with your children.
I was very suprised that sealife had so many sea creatures for how small it looked to me,so was very deceiving and a pleasant suprise.So many different fish aswell as mamals.
New to sealife park is an adventure island,full of rides and a driftwood maze.So aswell as sea creatures to look at,the kids have play fun too.There is food and drink,but the downfall is that there is not much variety.
On your way out,which is walk through the gift shop,you are able to have a photo taken with your family by a photographer there.We have a lovely picture to remember our trip by.
I recommend sealife in weymouth to anyone.
But there is one drawback...You have to pay for the carpark,which is a little inconvenient when it is apart of sealife and you are paying to get in there.
(The prices are not too bad)
Adult - £15.95 (15yrs+)
Child - £11.50 (3-14yrs)
Under 3's - Free
Concession - £13.95 (Senior/Student)
Disabled Adult - £13.95
Disabled Child - £9.50
I'm sure everyone has received a two for one voucher this summer for many British Attractions. We decided to use ours by going to the Weymouth Sea life Centre. It's situated almost on the sea front in Weymouth.
Getting there isn't difficult as it's well signposted, however there seems to be a big increase in traffic going through the centre of Weymouth in recent months, so prepare for delays if you're travelling there in peak periods.
There is a large car park attached to the Sea life centre, however this is a council run car park and charges apply. We paid £4.40 for four hours which we found was just enough time to go round the park and have lunch etc.
Admission prices are averagely priced compared to other days out. Adults are £15.95 and children over 3 years are £11.95. Using our BOGOF voucher, we got an adult free rather than the cheaper option of taking the child's price off as we were a family of three paying. I thought this was good; however the staff were doing the "hard sell" with guidebooks at £4 a pop.
The park is laid out in a big circle and you won't miss anything, with a leaflet guiding you to all the attractions, as well as a feeding times list if you want to see the animals being fed. Each attraction is numbered so if you start at number 1 you won't go wrong.
We found the biggest down point to the way some of the attractions were set out was the viewing room. If you had a pushchair, and our party had two, we couldn't all stop together to look at the animals, as there was literally walking room for two people. This was a bit off putting, however in the outside attractions it was a lot better.
Timing seeing the animals being fed, you will probably have to visit attractions in a different order to one to ten, as you'll miss feeding times. It's also a good idea to get to the attraction 15 minutes early to avoid the crowds that gather quite quickly. This is advisable especially if you have children and they want to see.
Weymouth Sea life Centre is home to a lot of animals including penguins, otters, and lots of different fish, sharks, turtles, seals, crabs, and a few creepy crawlies of the sea too.
They also host a large picnic area with a few rides and stall dotted around to get any last bits of money from you. We arrived at lunch time and managed to find a picnic table to eat on during the peak time, and there were plenty of bins around too. Just watch for the wasps.
It's advisable to take a picnic, as the prices in the main restaurant and the extra stalls serving hot dogs, ice creams etc can be quite high. From a £10 note we got 2 hot dogs and 3 ice creams. This is fine on a day out like it was, but I would be miffed at paying that normally.
The keepers give a brief talk when feeding the animals and sometimes let the public throw food in as well which is nice. We didn't get to do this but saw other people doing it. They all appear very professional and know what they are talking about.
At each area there are also briefs about each animal, including a bit of their history, how they came to be at the park, their names etc.
The keepers let themselves down when they kept trying to push adopting an animal at any opportunity they got. I appreciate they're trying to raise the funds for the upkeep of the park, but I felt it was a bit too much.
Weymouth has got a couple of really nice touches to the park to make it a good day out. In good weather you can make the most of the outside large paddling pool, and water fountain area. There are water jets all over a medium sized area for children to run through and get wet. If you've been to the park previously, on your next visit you'll definitely remember to take the kids swimming costumes if it's nice weather.
For kids they are given a scratch card with questions on. There are the standard questions dotted around the park, and if they get them all right at the end, when handing them in to the gift shop you will receive 10% off your purchase.
The gift shop itself though isn't very big and doesn't have anything too exciting to grab you (phew) unlike some other parks I have visited. The prices are of course over priced for what you get, but that's part of the day out.
In good weather you'll have a great day, but beware on rainy days as a lot of this park is outside, and it could go towards ruining the day.
Right at the start I think it neccessary to mention that this review specifically relates to the BRIGHTON SEA-LIFE centre. This is one of a large chain owned by the Merlin Entertainments Group of Pool Dorset. In this country you will find other SEA LIFE Centres located in; Hunstanton (a Sanctuary), Bray, Blackpool, Great Yarmouth, Weymouth, Birmingham (National Sea Life Centre), Scarborough and the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek - Cornwall. There are others also in Europe - for further details I would suggest visiting their web site.
Please accept my sincerest apologies for this one hitting the stands after the children returned to school, but, hey, half term is just around the corner! For our own personal enjoyment of this particular attraction, that is just the way we like it - quiet!
Do not be fooled, I have nothing against children, indeed on my very first visit to the Dolphinarium as it was then, I was one myself! On that occasion I had the pleasure of seeing the dolphins sing 'happy birthday' to some delighted child - apart from that now long distant memory, I remember nothing of the place from the late 1960's primary school trip.
We live in a different age now, performing dolphins being about as politically non-PC as you can get! Sorry, I am aware that for some of you that was an offensive remark, it was not intended that way, I just wanted to highlight by use of (dubious) humour, just how much times have changed since my childhood. In terms of nature conservancy we now live in far more enlightened times, an age where in many respects education has taken over from entertainment, the dear old Aquarium or "Dolphinarium" as many of we Brightonions still refer to it, illustrates this even more poignantly than places such as London Zoo.
The historic Brighton Aquarium, situated at the very most southern termination of the A23, London to Brighton road, opposite Brighton Pier, is now part of the National Sea Life network.
After a gap of over 35 years, I have made two return visits during the summer of 2005.
Klaudia, my wife's 11 year old sister, had been longing to visit the Sea Life Centre each time that she came to Brighton from Poland during the summer holidays over the last three years. Along with the majority of the locals here, I was of the mindset that this was an expensive attraction to visit and frankly without the beautiful dolphins, gone since 1990, could not imagine that there would be that much to see for the £10.95 adult admission charge.
Yes, you did read that correctly: £10.95!
Well thanks to Donnattello's restaurant handing us a two for the price of one Sea Life Centre voucher at Easter (thanks Mr D. - glowing review of your establishment to follow!) and Klaudia's imminent arrival, coinciding with her 11th Birthday, we planned the Saturday Birthday treat.
Myself, being too mean to pay even half price admission for Mrs R and I, as well as paying to park the car, we parked in Brighton Marina's free car park and walked along the beach (passing the nudists on the way) to the pier - on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the summer. Upon our arrival at the Sea Life Centre just before midday, not only was there a queue of individuals waiting to pay for admission, but also several groups of foreign students being admitted through the pre-booked party gate. We waited for about ten minutes in the queue to get in.
It never ceases to amaze me just how much a day out - especially with kids in tow - costs these days. For the three of us, two adults plus a child and the guide book, my credit card took a hit for £21.95, the child's ticket had cost £7.00.
Even with Mr D's BOGOF voucher I was still reeling from the cost of it, particularly the world's most expensive guide book - 6 sheets of paper (24 pages) for £4.00. I thought that I had been handed a "freebie" and returned to the cash desk to ask for the guide book, only to be told "you've got it in your hand"! Of those 24 pages only 4 of them are specific to the Brighton Sea Life Centre, the poor layout map being two of those, the whole layout of the thing is along the lines of a cheap comic. A more savvy consumer than me would have returned the "Souvenir Guide", as it is grandly entitled, and asked for his money back!
Seathing is not the best way to approach any particular attraction, and parallels with the Windsor Castle experience are inevitable here. Only there is a big difference once inside the Victorian aquarium building, unlike at Windsor, the atmosphere, the history, the sheer ambiance of the place all combine to work their magic and were capable, after about ten minutes, of completely reversing my mood.
The site itself is much larger inside than it appears from the outside, being arranged on multiple levels, which unfortunately means that this is one place that I could not recommend at all for the less able bodied amongst us. Also unlike at Windsor, we were not surrounded in people moaning about the admission charges - as soon as you get inside and see that first, grand aquarium hall the entry fee is forgotten.
You are going to have to forgive my woeful lack of knowledge in the marine biology department; there is far too wide a variety of fish, sea creatures and beautiful coral here to describe it all. What I am going to attempt to do is give you a brief walk through tour.
The main aquarium hall, which is 224ft (68 metres) long, is an architectural masterpiece in itself, being almost entirely original from its August 1872 opening date. The Aquarium complex was designed by a man with the wonderful name of Eugenius Birch - known, I hope, to all Brightonians as the designer of the late lamented West Pier. It cost the princely sum of £130,000 to build!
Welcome then, to the oldest operating aquarium in the world!
In the grand hall there is plenty to admire, its arched and domed ceiling and the ornate Victorian ironwork supporting the tanks themselves, cleverly lit from behind, combine to create the unique, maybe slightly creepy atmosphere, indeed there have been many reported ghost sightings in the local paper, the most recent at Easter time by a young female Polish cleaner there! A local priest was brought in to exorcise the hall apparently. Not believing in ghosts my theory is that alone in this vast eerie space the fish play tricks with the shadows ..but who knows, maybe it is best to keep an open mind on such subjects.
RICHADA well of subject as usual! Klaudia wants to see the fish, lots of them, and she is not disappointed! We start off with large carp, as you may have read not my favourite Christmas dish and hardly an endangered species either, however they are of impressive size and it is rare to get such a close up look at them - apart from on a Polish Christmas plate of course! A huge conger eel half fills one tank. A tank full of piranha fish, of course with the obligatory phoney human skeleton. All have children rushing to 'ah' and 'aw' over. Down the centre of this hall are smaller tanks of various interesting shapes on raised plinths containing smaller fish and examples of local rock pool dwellers, star fish, crabs and the like.
According to the guide book the hall is segregated into themed areas; e.g. sandy sea bed, old harbour, summer visitors and colder climates. This is almost impossible to assimilate actually inside the hall. Each tank does have a descriptive panel next to it which is helpful in identifying the various occupants of those tanks.
In the centre of the hall is a children's play activity centre where the staff carry out face painting and clay modelling etc. A large open topped tank opposite contains many large flat fish, stingrays - all of which appear to have happy faces, as indeed do the visitors to this place!
Lion fish, sea horses, you will see them all in abundance here, very attractively displayed and contained too. In one corner of this vast hall as you enter a dark corridor "The World of the Sea Horse" there is a completely gratuitous display on the Titanic disaster - by far the poorest that I have seen anywhere. In this particular attraction it is entirely out of context and should be moved onto the pier across the road.
More tanks of assorted shapes and sizes, some containing cold water fish - the water being chilled. Here you will find rubber window squeegees to wipe away the condensation from the glass, enabling you to see into the tank - the children love playing with the wipers!
At the end of this corridor you enter a strange area supposed to be representing Captain Nemo's undersea vessel 'Nautilus' - again seemingly superfluous in this setting, before ascending a flight of stairs to a reception area. There are usually Sea Life Centre staff, or independent campaigners on hand, with various marine life related petitions to sign. It is also possible to obtain from them information on feeding times.
The first time that you descend the stairs the other side into the main auditorium area I will guarantee you one of those classic audible "WoW!" moments. From the top of these stairs is the most dramatic view of this, the largest such tank in the country, home to two giant turtles, a whole shoal of small black tip shark, plus tens of thousands of very colourful smaller fish. Mid-afternoon is usually feeding time, during our two visits we have seen the sharks fed at 4.30 and (twice) the turtles at 3.30pm. They do not eat every day, the smaller turtle is a vegetarian breed, whilst the larger is a carnivore - being fed on a mixed sea food diet.
Feeding time is the highlight of any visit here due to the staff member giving a talk on the various species in the tank whilst she tosses in the food. On our first visit, the young lady giving the talk was French and unfortunately difficult to understand. On our return visit several weeks later a very well informed young lady by the name of Bryony did a fascinating talk on the turtles to a packed house.
Marine music, clever, colourful lighting and a very attractive, if artificial coral reef - the turtles would eat the real thing - complete this, surely one of the most spectacular sights in Brighton.
Another of Brighton Sea Life boasts is that running underneath this tank is one of the longest under water glass walkways in the country. On that first visit, with Klaudia, we spent ages standing there just watching the turtles swimming above our heads, whilst all around us we were surrounded in sharks and smaller fish.
There may be other places in the country where you are able to do this, but I have not, and therefore, for me at least, this is a unique experience.
Leaving the marine tunnel you enter a small area dedicated to octopi, regrettably on our second visit the large octopus was missing from his tank - he is well worth seeing so it was a good job that he was at home the first time that we called. From here you re-emerge into the main Aquarium hall.
As you leave the main hall through the exit doors, next to where you initially entered it, there are on your right hand side good, clean, toilets. Through the doors in front of you and you are into a fairly large shop. On sale here is a wide variety of mostly marine related children's toys and gifts, all at reasonable prices - I found little to appeal to a more adult market though.
The exit from the shop is made via a small café, with a children's soft play area off to the right hand side. The cakes, sandwiches and biscuits on display looked of reasonable quality and were not over-priced. There is the option of eating al-fresco with tables and chairs provided on the terrace outside. The generally terribly busy atmosphere, plus it being the "exit corridor" from the Sea Life centre would put me off of having a relaxing cuppa here though.
Indeed on that first visit, having walked the sea front and spent a couple of hours in the Aquarium, Klaudia and I were hungry. The entrance fee does entitle you to an all day pass - the back of your hand being stamped as you enter with your ticket initially. We took an hour out for lunch - guess where? Donnattelo of course! Here we were presented with another half price ticket, expiring on 31st August - hence our return visit.
On our first visit, due to the lighting conditions and glass tanks, Mrs R. had struggled with our baby Sony digital camera and it's flash to take good photographs. I had remarked upon our first visit that this would be a much better environment for the video camera, which does not rely on flash and is a lot less fussy about lighting conditions. We had therefore intended our second visit as more of a photographic sortie than anything else, but we found ourselves enjoying the Brighton Sea Life centre all the more until ..
Mrs R. wearing a very attractive pair of rubber soled leather flip-flops slipped and had a nasty fall in the main Aquarium hall on the way out. The floor is black and white checked lino and was that afternoon "sweating" badly due to the very humid atmosphere inside the old building. She even saw a wet floor sign on the floor prior to slipping, but the surface was like ice - I had leather soled shoes on and could barely walk on it. Yes, there are notices on the walls and in the entrance warning you to beware of slippery floors and that the Sea Life organisation bares no responsibility for injury to person or property. At the prices they are charging, surely they could afford, and the technology IS available, to provide a non-slip surface on the floors. Leaving a slippery, wet, lino floor, with or without disclaimers is simply asking for trouble.
My wife left the Brighton Sea Life centre on the second occasion with a painful and badly bruised knee, a completely destroyed flip flop and a filthy dirty (the floor was not even clean!) pair of trousers. It could have been worse - she could have had a broken neck.
Whilst this leads me to advise you to wear more sensible footwear (this building IS immediately adjacent to the beach, half of the visitors are wearing flip flops here), and dark clothing, there is rust everywhere inside the building - I had it on my trousers without falling over - I find this situation almost as intolerable as the idea of seeing performing dolphins here. After all as a company director I bear, by law, responsibility for the health and safety of our employees. I am not allowed to shirk this responsibility by claiming that I operate from in a historically listed building, nor by posting disclaimer notices on the factory walls, additionally the general public are not admitted to our premises anyway.
Despite that, we have to say that we really enjoyed the Brighton Sea Life Centre, but now have serious reservations about returning there. If we were to return we would go completely off season, there would be far less pushing and shoving and we would make absolutely sure that we were wearing more appropriate footwear and clothing.
The Brighton Sea Life Centre is undoubtedly an asset to the city and breathes continued life into these wonderful old historic buildings. The trouble is that they are in obvious need of some upgrading to become a serious visitor attraction in the 21st Century.
Currently one could only regard this venue as any sort of value for money with a special offer ticket.
Brighton Sea Life Centre is open every day, except Christmas day.
March to September (inclusive) from 10.00 to 17.00
October to February (inclusive) from 10.00 to 16.00
I do like to be beside the sea.... - Advantages: See creatures you may not have ever seen, Friendly informative staff, Great for kids - a must do! - Disadvantages: Not everyone's cup of tea, All inside- choose a rainy day!, Not something you'd frequently visit?