Welcome to Cornwall, a beautiful county that promises the best wildlife wonders in the world!
If you’re looking to embark on a thrilling adventure filled with fascinating creatures and immersive experiences, you’re in for a treat. Cornwall boasts a collection of exceptional zoos and aquariums that will captivate animal lovers of all ages.
From awe-inspiring marine life to exotic land-dwelling species, these destinations offer a glimpse into the incredible diversity of our planet’s inhabitants. Plus, many of the zoos and aquariums in Cornwall follow strict ethical guidelines to protect endangered animals and provide them with the best environment.
So, whether you’re seeking a whole family outing or a solo expedition, Cornwall’s best zoos and aquariums are here to fulfil your wildest animal encounters.
Best Zoos & Aquariums In Cornwall
1. Newquay Zoo, Newquay
Newquay Zoo is the largest zoo in Cornwall, boasting an impressive array of exotic animals, including red pandas. It is also one of Cornwall’s biggest charities working for the welfare of rare and endangered species, yet it receives no government aid.
As such, it relies solely on visitor support to continue its mission of animal care and protection. So, if you were to visit just one zoo in Cornwall, we highly recommend this one for its motto. Not to forget, the zoo has a lot to offer so that all the family members can have a good time here.
Nestled in the picturesque town of Newquay, known for its stunning beaches and lush tropical gardens, this zoo offers endless exploration opportunities. Take a solitary stroll by the tranquil Secret Garden, or immerse yourself in the Gems of the Jungle bird exhibit, where the world’s rarest birds serenade you while soaring overhead.
Or, you could explore The Oriental Garden and its Asian plant species, occasionally graced by the presence of Owston’s civets and Prevost’s squirrels. Alternatively, you could head over to the eerie Tropical House that resembles the Amazon Rainforest or the Village Farm to witness adorable pygmy goats and chickens.
And to call it a day, you can either set a picnic on the scenic lawn or indulge in tasty snacks at the Lazy Lion Grill. But if you want to go all out for a delightful dining experience, consider Café Lemur, inspired by the film “Madagascar.”
2. Porfell Wildlife Park And Sanctuary, Liskeard
The largest exotic animal sanctuary in Cornwall is the Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary. It provides a safe haven for exotic animals from all over the world, rescuing them from unfavourable circumstances.
Porfell’s focus on conservation, education, and environment makes it a truly special place. You can explore the enclosures of ostriches, zebras, and elands, but don’t miss the authentic Maasai huts, showcasing their culture and history.
The wildlife park also offers the Porfell Ancient Woodland Walk, a trail immersed in native trees like oak, beech, and ash. So, make sure you take a moment to enjoy the wooden walkways and benches.
Further, we recommend venturing into the slightly eerie reptile enclosure and witnessing the entertaining meerkat crew. You could even try sitting next to some lovely lemurs and feeding them under the zookeeper’s supervision.
And to satisfy your hunger, head to the Savannah Tea Room and indulge in its range of delectable snacks, including famous Cornish pasties.
3. Blue Reef Aquarium, Newquay
Make sure you include the Blue Reef Aquarium on your Cornwall vacation itinerary. With 40 distinct habitats to explore, there’s always something new to discover. From warm seas to cold seas, Cornish waters to tropical rivers, the engineering of the aquarium creates harmonious environments for a diverse range of species.
So, take a stroll through the underwater tunnel for an up-close encounter with a mesmerising array of marine animals. But don’t get startled by the blacktip reef shark approaching – it’s still behind the glass (which is quite sturdy)! Or, you could meet the giant Pacific octopus – notice those vibrant tentacles? All of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences are not just great for the gram but will also help you understand the resident marine animals and their conservation. And if you’re lucky, you may even have the opportunity to feed the fish and sharks while learning about their care.
4. Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Sea Life Trust, Gweek
Along the shores of Cornwall, grey seal pups often find themselves stranded and separated from their families, making reunions nearly impossible. Left to navigate the challenges of survival alone, these pups face a daunting task in the wild. That’s where the Cornish Seal Sanctuary steps in, dedicating itself to rescuing and rehabilitating these young grey seals.
Every year, around 70 seal pups are taken under its care, with most being released back into their natural habitat once they have fully recovered. However, not all the animals are able to regain full health and require continuous support.
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary takes on this responsibility, ensuring that every marine animal receives professional care. By welcoming visitors to the sanctuary, they create an opportunity for education and generate income to support their noble mission.
One activity we’d highly recommend is “Breakfast with the Seals,” wherein you can get up close and personal with the seals during their morning feeding routine!
5. Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary, Hayle
Experience a true slice of Cornish paradise with your family at Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary. Situated along Cornwall’s northern coast, it’s conveniently located near the popular destination of St. Ives, making it an ideal stop along your coastal journey.
Bird enthusiasts will especially be delighted by the diverse array of feathered friends that call Paradise Park home. From palm cockatoos to hyacinth macaws, this sanctuary houses a wide range of bird species.
You will also be able to witness some playful otters in the vicinity, which is a plus after Cornwall’s popular otter sanctuary, Tamar Otter & Wildlife Centre, shut down.
Go ahead and explore the Tropics Exhibit and Walk Through Aviary, where you can admire parrots, pigeons, and pheasants. Thereafter, let the kids take part in Penguin Feeding so they can interact with the affectionate Humboldt penguins and feed them delicious fish.
On sunny days, the Jungle Express Train, Zebedee, takes families on scenic circuits through the exotic gardens, starting from the picnic lawn. We also recommend the JungleBarn indoor play centre and its exciting themed rooms if you want to throw a birthday bash for your little ones.
But if you’re looking for a family-friendly dining experience with live local music, the historic Bird in Hand pub is the perfect spot to enjoy a refreshing pint of ale.
6. Screech Owl Sanctuary & Animal Park, St Columb Major
The Screech Owl Sanctuary, situated in mid-Cornwall near Newquay, is a visitor attraction that is privately owned by a family. Established in 1990, the sanctuary is dedicated to promoting the environment and appreciating it as a home to a diverse array of owls and other creatures like meerkats and lemurs.
Here, visitors can participate in various activities, like interacting with animals (for an additional fee), witnessing owl flying, and more. Plus, the recently renovated tea room offers a large variety of light snacks and lunches. We also like how there is a children’s play area within the sanctuary that adds to the overall convenience.
7. Fowey Aquarium, Fowey
Located in the historic town of Fowey, the Fowey Aquarium was initially constructed in 1952 and still preserves many of its original tanks. As such, it provides a habitat for a remarkable assortment of marine animals. It is also one of the few dog-friendly zoos in the county.
To ensure a thriving environment, the aquarium receives fresh seawater daily during high tide. While this benefits the arrival of fascinating creatures like tube worms and sea squirts, it can occasionally affect water clarity.
We recommend the touch pool for children, as they have the opportunity to interact with creatures, such as crabs and starfish under the careful guidance of experts. Besides, you must check out each tank carefully to spot intriguing creatures like Conger Eels in the depths of wrecks or crabs and lobsters lurking in corners.
Doing so presents an excellent opportunity to introduce kids to the captivating species inhabiting the waters of the United Kingdom. Most of the fish here are obtained from local fishermen, and efforts are made to source fish food from local suppliers as well.
8. The Cornish Maize Maze And Fun Farm, Saltash
If you are looking for the perfect place to enjoy some quality time and fun activities with your family, the Cornish Maize Maze and Fun Farm is your best bet!
Spanning across a vast 450-acre farm, this destination offers a range of attractions amidst the picturesque countryside, along with entertaining games and activities suitable for all the family members. But the main highlight is the maze itself, with new themes every year and three miles of intricate paths. Maybe you can compete with your family members and see who reaches the exit first!
Once you’ve conquered the maze, there are plenty of other on-site facilities to check out. The farm boasts enclosures where you can encounter and interact with various charming farm animals.
For the little ones, there is a designated play area where they can release their energy on trampolines and in a sandpit. And don’t miss the gigantic bale tower, adding to the excitement level!
Lastly, take a relaxing break at the on-site café or enjoy a picnic in the designated picnic area.
9. Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary, Looe
Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary, Looe, has been providing a safe and nurturing environment for 40 monkeys since 1964. Originally established as a cooperative to care for rescued woolly monkeys, the monkey sanctuary has been dedicated to their well-being ever since.
Visitors can meet the mischievous primates, many of whom have had difficult beginnings, and learn about the extensive efforts undertaken to care for them. But note that certain areas are restricted to ensure that vulnerable monkeys can recover away from large crowds.
During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to observe various monkey species, including Barbary macaques, capuchin monkeys, etc. In addition, there are other wildlife attractions, such as wildlife gardens housing more than 285 wildflower species, a wildlife room showcasing 23 butterfly species, and more.
Moreover, you can participate in the Magical Animal Adventure by adopting a monkey. By doing so, you are doing your bit to protect primates and support the conservation work carried out by this remarkable sanctuary. As an adopter, you will receive a photo of your adopted monkey, a personalised adoption certificate, and the option to receive a monkey toy!
10. The Flicka Foundation Donkey Sanctuary, Penryn
The establishment of The Flicka Foundation Donkey Sanctuary dates back to 1995, prompted by the discovery of an abandoned pony named Flicka in an industrial state. The pony’s rescue served as the inspiration for the charity’s founder, Mary Berryman, leading to the creation of the sanctuary.
Since Flicka’s arrival, many other animals, including rabbits, have found a home in this foundation. These animals have endured various forms of suffering and neglect, but the dedicated volunteers of the charity work tirelessly to provide them with the quality of life they deserve.
Throughout the year, this donkey sanctuary warmly welcomes the public and allows them to observe and closely interact with their favourite animal. During the summer, the donkeys and horses freely roam across the paddocks, creating a picturesque setting for a leisurely stroll. As winter arrives, the animals spend a significant portion of their time in the cosy barns.
After admiring the lovely animals, head to the Tray Bray’k tea room, which offers delicious tidbits from 11 am to 4 pm. Then, you can check out the Gift Cabin and purchase donkey-themed souvenirs for friends and family.
To Sum Up
As you can see, Cornwall boasts an impressive selection of zoos and aquariums that guarantee unforgettable experiences for the whole family. From Newquay Zoo housing a number of endangered animals, to Blue Reef Aquarium and its surreal marine life – you will experience a unique blend of education and entertainment.
So, whether you’re seeking close encounters with wildlife or a day of family fun, Cornwall’s zoos and aquariums have it all.
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