Bournemouth Oceanarium is a compact, quirky space in a prime location next to Bournemouth Pier. We arrived early on a sunny day and were greeted by a quiet lobby with more staff than visitors. The building lets in lots of light and little noise and walking around the displays was a tranquil experience. The green Iguana looked content sleeping under his light, the Piranha’s swam about lazily, the Asian Otters were playful and Bob, the pig-nosed turtle was lazily swimming around his tank.
The animal enclosures are smaller to what I’m used to, but their residents seemed happy and well taken care of. The crowds arrived and gathered for the 11 am otter feeding and talk. As we were squeezed in and pressed up against the glass with small children swarming in to see and chatter loud enough to drown out the informative talk, the atmosphere felt sensational rather than educational. It was a bit disappointing.
We usually go against the flow at most attractions. We arrive early, wander around during meal times and take a break during peak hours. It was a winning strategy at Bournemouth Oceanarium. Sunny, eighteen-degree weather outside curbed the size of the crowd and over the lunch hours, it was quiet again. We spent some time on the beach during the afternoon rush and popped back in later in the day. It was easy to come and go as often we wanted to and during the quieter times, Bournemouth Oceanarium was a pleasure to visit.
Retailer: The Oceanarium
Price: ± £8.25 (child) – £12.25 (adult). Free entry for under 3’s.
Discounts available for families, groups, disabled visitors, carers, students and seniors. On-line tickets are discounted for advanced booking.
About Parques Reunidos
Parques Reunidos was founded in 1967 in Madrid, Spain and has grown into a global operator of regional leisure parks and animal attractions. “[W]e operate a well-diversified portfolio of 61 different attraction parks, animal parks, water parks, family entertainment centres and other attractions which received a total of approximately 20 million visitors in the financial year ended 30 September 2016. We have a presence on 3 continents and in 14 countries including Europe, the Americas (USA and Argentina), Middle East (Dubai) and Asia (Vietnam).”*
The Oceanarium has multiple ecosystems set-up as individual displays. It is a small aquarium, but space has been utilised very well. The displays include an underwater tunnel, otter oasis, penguin microcosm and a large number of interesting animal personalities.
Bottlenecks form at hotspots with dense crowds obstructing the one-way flow through the aquarium and the displays are more immersive during quiet periods. We’d recommend visiting on a sunny day outside of peak season when the crowds flock to the beach instead of indoors.
Environment & People
It’s a cost-effective attraction to visit, particularly when tickets are purchased on-line 2+ days in advance for the maximum discount. It’s on par with a weekend Cinema ticket. It isn’t an all-day attraction, but it’s easy to come and go. We found it very convenient to have a wander through at various times of the day, focusing on different parts of the Oceanarium each time.
Season: Open year round except Christmas Day.
Access: Good access throughout. Some steps, but alternative access routes available.
Location: Pier Approach, West Beach, Bournemouth, BH2 5AA
Secure on-line booking: Yes
Opening: 10 am- 11 am
Closing: 5 – 6 pm (last admission one hour before closing)
Timed restrictions: During peak times, entry is restricted and queues are likely.
Map: PDF map can be found here.
Public transport access: Excellent
Parking: No on-site parking. Public car parks nearby as well as on-street disabled parking bays.
Nearby: Bournemouth Pier, West Beach
* Access: Accessible venue.
* Dress code: Casual. Parts of the Aquarium is open-air, make sure to bring wet/cold weather clothing.
Bournemouth Aquarium is worth a visit on a bright, sunny day in Bournemouth. At busier times, its compact footprint works against it and it feels a lot more like the walk-through attraction it is than a leisurely place to hang out. For a large part of our visit, there were very few people. We had a hot drink on the balcony overlooking the Pier and only one other table in the cafe was occupied. The play area was devoid of children and the wide walkways allowed for easy access.
Steps to stand on were strategically placed for shorter patrons and we spent a long time at each exhibit, quietly watching the animals nearby. At these times, Bournemouth’s Oceanarium was a joy to visit. Recommended.
The review is based on a visit to Bournemouth Oceanarium in February 2017. This article was first published on 12 March 2017.