While we look forward to spring and summer arriving in the next few months, it can be difficult to find fun things to do with the family during the wet and cold seasons. Luckily, Sutton Harbour has a fantastic range of venues offering something for everyone along its cobbled streets, including the UK’s largest aquarium, the National Marine Aquarium.
With over 4,000 sea creatures, the National Marine Aquarium is a world class attraction and is located at the entrance to Plymouth’s historic harbour, neighbouring the seafood restaurant Rockfish. The aquarium has been entertaining and educating visitors on the ocean and the creatures who live there since it opened over 20 years ago.
Britain’s Ocean City has in fact had an aquarium since 1888, based at the British Marine Biological Association. In the late 1990s, a bigger attraction was built on the eastern side of Sutton Harbour to house a larger variety of marine life and be the first aquarium in the UK to be set up as a charity. Dedicated to education and conservation, this charity later evolved into the Ocean Conservation Trust.
The National Marine Aquarium is the perfect place to visit for a family day out all-year-round with impressive exhibits and an exciting calendar of events. Learn more about the world’s ocean and its creatures while supporting the conservation of ocean habitats when you visit the NMA.
Exploring the aquarium
You can visit the National Marine Aquarium at any point in the year with different ticket types available. Whether you purchase a saver, standard or peak ticket, they all come with a complimentary pass so you can revisit for free for 12 months.
If you’re a resident in Plymouth or the surrounding areas, you can also benefit from the aquarium’s local pass which offers residents with a PL postcode unlimited access for a year at a reduced rate.
Once you have your ticket, it’s time for the fun to begin. When exploring the aquarium, you’ll find lots of exciting exhibits swimming with sea creatures including sharks, turtles and jellyfish. Your journey through the aquarium will start in Plymouth Sound, making your way through the world’s ocean before ending up at the Great Barrier Reef.
If you get peckish after all the exploring, the aquarium has picnic areas, an outdoor snack shack and the Waves Café, which serves a range of hot food, sandwiches and a variety of drinks. You can even mark your visit by taking home a souvenir from the Ocean Gift Shop which stocks a range of ocean-themed toys and gifts.
The National Marine Aquarium hosts a variety of events throughout the year, from special dinners to educational excursions. While the aquarium’s events calendar has been impacted by the ongoing pandemic, many of our favourite immersive ocean-themed events are now once again taking place each month, as well as the introduction of virtual tours.
You can enjoy a spectacularly special dining experience in front of the National Marine Aquarium’s stunning exhibits, with after-hours access to explore the attraction at its Dine at the Aquarium events. These are hosted throughout the year and tend to sell out quickly, with special nights added for occasions such as Valentine’s Day.
The NMA also hosts Quiet at the Aquarium evenings for individuals and families with sensory needs to enjoy the aquarium without the usual noise and distractions. Yoga at the Aquarium is another popular event which takes place on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
There’s a whole range of clubs and activities run by the National Marine Aquarium for people of all ages including the toddler club, Scouts, Guides and Brownies sessions plus public ocean clean-ups.
The National Marine Aquarium is home to the Ocean Conservation Trust, a global charity working to connect people with the ocean and protect the hundreds of species living under the sea, and their habitat.
Over 20 years ago, a group of marine scientists, researchers and educators came together to create the Ocean Conservation Trust with a vision to restore and protect the ocean, ‘centred around people and positive action’.
Throughout its lifetime, the charity has delivered global ocean conservation projects, restored habitats and connected millions of people with the ocean. The Ocean Conservation Trust is currently encouraging people to #ThinkOcean – thinking about our impact and making choices with the ocean in mind.
To keep up to date with National Marine Aquarium news and events, follow the NMA and Sutton Harbour on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.