We take our children to explore this big zoo in the south of England

What is it?

Marwell Zoo is a 140-acre zoo with more than 1,200 animals from 135 species. It opened in 1972 and is owned by conservation charity Marwell Wildlife.

Where is it?

It is in Owslebury, just eight miles from Winchester in Hampshire, signposted from the M3 and M27.

It is also 10 miles from Southampton, 16 miles from the New Forest, 19 miles from Portsmouth and 40 miles from Bournemouth.

What did we think?

This is a lovely zoo with great staff interaction and talks. It is really spread out over a large area so if you have young children and are wondering whether to take a buggy or pushchair, don’t hesitate – it is a lot of walking for little legs.


*There is a good view of the animals, including giraffes, penguins, tigers, meerkat, rhinos and snow leopards.

The train at Marwell Zoo

The train at Marwell Zoo

*The train is fun but don’t miss it, there is only one station near the entrance, next to the gift shop. Expect a long wait to get going while they sort out tickets etc as the system isn’t a fast one but feels authentic with a proper ticket inspector.

*There is also a free land train which stops at several points.

*The hippo –  you don’t get to see these as often as other animals so it is exciting to see one here.

*Staff are friendly with lots of useful information to impart as you move around the sections.

*My son loved interactive screens in places like the Tropical House.

*There are great adventure play areas for the children – in fact we found it hard to get them away from these to see the animals

Children play in a play area at Marwell Zoo

A play area at Marwell Zoo

*As it is spacious, a busy August day when we visited didn’t feel too crowded.

* Most of the animals seem to be in nice big enclosures.

Our top tips 

*Buy tickets online to save time

*The land train is free and stops at different destinations to give tired legs a rest. The little rail train only stops at one station near the entrance. It is £2.50 for a 15-minute ride and fun.

*Take a picnic if you can. There are loads of picnic areas but the queue at the cafe we visited was long.

*The information cabin has all the times for the animal talks.

A rhino drinks at Marwell Zoo

Marwell Zoo information

Food: There are cafes, kiosks and picnic areas.

Opening hours: Open daily from 10am apart from Christmas day and Boxing day.

Cost: Children aged two and under are free. Peak times including a donation – child £17, adults £21, family £72. Includes optional donation.

Best for: All ages.

Time needed: At least four or five hours, preferably a whole day or until children get too tired.

Access and restrictions: Accessibility good. One free carer admitted with each guest with accessibility needs. Some free wheelchairs available to hire.

Address: Marwell Zoo, Thompson’s Lane, Colden Common, Winchester, SO21 1JH.

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(Main picture credit: ©2018 Marwell Wildlife)

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