Oceanarium, the Bournemouth Aquarium – review and tips

Oceanarium, the Bournemouth Aquarium – review and tips

What is it?

Oceanarium is an aquarium in Bournemouth featuring a shark tunnel, penguin enclosure and cafe plus hundreds of types of fish, birds and mammals.

Where is it?

Oceanarium is in a prime location right on Bournemouth beach next to the town’s main pier. You can step straight off the sand and into the aquarium.

What did we think?

A compact aquarium in a great location and perfect when you need a bit of time indoors if the weather is bad or too hot. It is a bit narrow in places so may be a bit of a squash at busy times. We weren’t overly impressed with the café, it was a bit chaotic, but perhaps we were there at a bad time.

Looking at a fish in a tank at Oceanarium aquarium in Bournemouth


*The Great Barrier Reef – an underwater tunnel you can view from above and then head down the stairs and walk through to see sharks and turtles.

*Kids play zone – this little bonus hidden in the far corner of the site is a small indoor play area and a kiosk selling ice creams. Mainly for children aged two to eight, the equipment gives parents a chance to sit down while their offspring burn off some energy.

*Penguin beach encounter – this is a dry weather activity ideally as it is mostly outdoors although there is a small viewing area undercover. You can see the penguins above ground and view them underwater downstairs in the aquarium.

Our top tips

*The most popular talks are on the hour with shark feeding time at 2pm when we visited, so try and visit then if you can.

*The site emptied at about 3pm when we visited so if you want a bit more space to explore then leave your visit until later in the day.

*If you eat in the Offshore Cafe, be aware that to use the toilet you have to key in a code from your receipt to get in and the keys are hard to press. The cafe was very busy and chaotic when we visited.

Exterior GV of Oceanarium the Aquarium in Bournemouth

Oceanarium, the Bournemouth Aquarium information


*Offshore Cafe serving sandwiches, jacket potatoes and simple children’s meals like cheese on toast plus cakes, snacks, fruit and drinks.

*Bay View Terrace cafe, with views of Bournemouth beach (closed in the winter).

*There’s also an ice cream kiosk at the play area.

Opening hours: open daily from 10am

Cost: Adult £12.50, child £8.50, under 3s free. Family ticket for four £29.95.

Best for: Ages three to eight

Time needed: one hour plus

Access and restrictions: There are lifts available for the two floors. It is narrow in places so wheelchair users would struggle at busy periods although the site is accessible.

Address: Oceanarium, Pier Approach, West Beach, Bournemouth, BH2 5AA.

For a full review of our trip to Bournemouth, click here and see our video below!


We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We take our children on a fairy tale family holiday staying at a castle in Anglesey, Wales

We review Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey and explore the surrounding area, beaches and attractions with our young children

It is not every day you wake up in a castle.

And the spectacular sight from our ridiculously comfortable bed through a large picture window means getting up is not appealing.

We are in Anglesey and our view takes in the waters of the Menai Strait, framed by majestic Snowdonia.

Other families we know holiday in Anglesey yet we had never been so we had decided to visit the beautiful island off north Wales for a half-term break.

Chateau Rhianfa

Chateau Rhianfa is more decadent than your average venue with its grand decor and tiered gardens sweeping down to the water (click here for our full review of Chateau Rhianfa).

Fans of ITV’s Cold Feet will recognise it as it recently featured in an episode for the wedding of Spanish nanny Ramona.

It was built in the mid-1800s in the style of a French Renaissance chateau as an aristocratic country retreat.

This fairy tale venue is impressive from the outside and fascinating on the inside.

The lounge area at Chateau Rhianfa

Inside Chateau Rhianfa

Our children loved exploring the grand drawing and music rooms and were excited to discover cosy cubby holes in turrets.

And we were all happy to find an atmospheric wine cave among the rabbit warren of spaces.

The hotel rooms and suites are lavishly finished.

Inside a hotel room at Chateau Rhianfa

A hotel room

The Gate Lodge

Or you can stay in equally beautiful self-catering accommodation in the grounds.

We were in the Gate Lodge, a two-storey cottage with arched entrance and miniature turrets, where attendants of visitors to the chateau would once have stayed.

It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/diner and lounge area.

The exterior of the Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

The Gate Lodge self-catering accommodation

With the space and the large grounds to enjoy, I could have stayed there all day. But there was an island to explore and two children eager to get going.

Surrounding area

We were spoilt for choice for beaches and our favourite was Newborough, a wide sweeping bay backed by sand dunes and woodland walks.

We also liked Lligwys Beach near Moelfre – quiet and good for rockpooling – and the more rugged and windy Rhosneigr which was home to kitesurfers and kayakers.

Our daughter never tired of throwing stones into the water and our son loved hunting for crabs among the rock pools and paddling in the sea.

And we discovered exactly how crashing waves worked through clever replications at Anglesey Sea Zoo.

Everything in this aquarium is found around the British coast, and we found out plenty thanks to the friendly staff as they fed the fish and lobsters.

You can enjoy a feed too at the well-priced cafe and outside there’s a playground, bouncy slide, crazy golf and more.


Back at our castle, trying the food is a must as it has previously won Hotel Restaurant of the Year (Welsh Food Awards).

We had a delicious breakfast on our last morning and also risked our young children in the quiet and refined dining room for an evening meal.

Thankfully they behaved. Or at least, nobody was looking when they didn’t.

It was a small, thoughtfully put together menu. There were no separate options for children. But the chefs were happy to adapt one of the dishes to suit them. And my steak was the best I have ever tasted.

The food lived up to expectations, as did the venue, as did Anglesey itself.

We are one more family won over by its charms.

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Chateau Rhianfa on the Menai Strait

Have you been to Anglesey? Where do you recommend for children?

RELATED CONTENT: We review Chateau Rhianfa castle accommodation in Anglesey, Wales

(We stayed as guests of Chateau Rhianfa. All views are our own).