Image Credit: Peter Forster
Do the kids love fish, dolphins, or sharks? Have they seen 'Finding Nemo' or 'Shark Tale' and want to see the real thing? My kids have always loved sea life, and so they are always keen to visit an aquarium, and therefore when the school holidays come around, one of our favourite days out is to go to an aquarium, even when we are on on our holiday.
Aquariums are more than just a great day out - many provide educational resources, and carry out important conservation work. Th UK has some absolutely amazing aquariums that you can visit all year round. Mostly they tend to be by the cost, but newer aquariums and marine centres have been built inland in London, Manchester and Birmingham.
If you want to visit an aquarium in the UK, here are some of the best ones you will find
The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is the UK's largest aquarium. It has a massive collection of sea life, including a display devoted to the UK's marine life as well The Great Barrier Reef and the Atlantic Ocean tank which contains a life size replica of a WW2 seaplane.
The National Marine Aquarium was the first aquarium in the United Kingdom to be set up, intending it for education, conservation as well as for marine research. It also has an art gallery, a maritime garden and an exciting programme of school holiday events.
London's only aquarium is the aptly named The London Aquarium is in Central London, right next to The London Eye. It is located inside the old County Hall building next to the Thames, which it shares with bonkers interactive attraction Shrek's Adventure.
This aquarium is huge, with a multi-sensory voyage of discovery through the rivers, lakes and oceans of the world. You can see octopuses, eels, sharks, piranhas, rays, jellyfish, clownfish, tangs and even some Gentoo penguins. Most stunning is the Ocean Tunnel and the Shark Walk, the closest you can get to these magnificent sea creatures without getting wet!
Exploris is Northern Ireland's only Aquarium is situated on the shores of a marine nature reserve and area of special scientific interest at Strangford Lough. See a sunken galleon, friendly sharks and a snappy crocodile, otters, turtles and tropical fish.
Along with a host of marine life to see there is also a seal sanctury, and displays of reptiles, snakes and crocodiles. They hold regular events at weekends and school holidays with craft activities and a chance to see divers feeding the sharks every sunday.
SEALiFE Brighton This sealife centre near the seafront in Brighton boasts the UK's first glass bottomed boat in an aquarium. You can touch starfish and crabs and watch feeding demonstrations every day. You will also see sharks, marine fish, octopuses, rays and much more.
The Lake District Coast Aquarium is on the quayside at Maryport, Cumbria. It has special displays on the marine life of the Irish Sea and Solway Estuary and does much to raise awareness of the area's marine heritage. Displays of freshwater fish include trout and carp as well as some lesser known species like the porcupine pufferfish, as well as lobsters, sharks and rays.
And if you really want to make a day of it they have a 14-hole Crazy Golf which you can play on for free with every aquarium entry ticket bought!
Image Credit: Francis Taylor
Want to see Sharks After Dark or walk through the UK's only 360° Ocean Tunnel? Than you need to visit SEALiFE Birmingham where you can also UK's First Sea Otters, as they settle into the Marine Mammal facility as well as Gentoo penguins, turtles, sharks, jellyfish, clownfish, and octopusses.
You can also see rays, seahorses and they also have selected dates where the aquarium opens early so that visitors can have a quiet experience for those with autism and other sensory needs.
St. Andrews Aquarium can be found close by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in Fife and is the only family run aquarium ins Scotland. It's displays include octopus, sharks, spiders, seals, poison dart frogs, crocodiles, penguins - with an Amazonian display including the deadly piranha.
They also have everything from British sharks to seahorses, lobsters to lionfish, poison dart frogs to piranhas, loveable seals…… and some fabulous meerkats and marmosets.
The amazing Lakes Aquarium in Lakeside, Newby Bridge, Cumbria is a unique freshwater aquarium featuring the UK's largest collection of freshwater fish. You can also learn about and even feed the otters, or see all the creepy crawlies in the rainforest exhibit. Then you can see what it is like to go underwater in Cumbria's Lake Windermere and experience the UK's native sealife.
This aquarium also has the world's very first Virtual Dive Bell where you can come face to face with all sorts of underwater creatures including a terrifying bull shark, a charging hippo and a fierce Nile crocodile – all without getting wet!
Situated on the stunning banks of Loch Lomond close to Loch Lomond Shores shopping and leisure complex, is SEALiFE Loch Lomond. Encounter the world's most incredible animals, including huge sharks, mysterious stingrays, playful otters, seahorses, thousands of tropical fish and much, much more.
There are also exhibit's dedicated to Scotland's native sealife and the othe creatures that can be found in their native waters.
The Oceanarium in Bournemouth has marine life from all over the globe - sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, dwarf crocodiles, jellyfish, clownfish and a very cute otter family. Plus penguins, chinese water dragons, iguanas and more
It has daily feeding demonstrations and talks plus a walk-through underwater tunnel. It also hosts a programme of events for kids and adults throughout the year.
Wander through Tynemouth Aquarium to meet species from all over the world, from the tropical waters of the Caribbean and the UK’s native shores. From rays and coral reef fish, to seals and tortoise there are plenty of amazing marine creatures to spot.
River Giants takes you away to a tropical rainforest and brings you face to face with some giant fish, and you can head along to daily shows and feeds to get an even closer look at these stunning creatures.
On Hunstanton's seafront you can find SEALiFE Hunstanton. As well as the Ocean Tunnel, highlights include Penguin Beach with 20 mischievous and adorable Humboldt penguins, a chance to see Inca Terns as they fly and dive above your head then venture to the outdoor zones and see Asian short-clawed otters splash about in the Otter River and then snack on their favourite treats - peanuts!
Plus visit the must-see Tropical Reef displays filled with Blue Regal Tangs, Clown Fish and much more.
Seaquarium in Rhyl is the largest aquarium in Wales and has an open seafront location and sits on the beautiful North Wales coastline. Featuring species from around the world on show in 9 different zones, plus an amazing outdoor Sea Lion Cove where you can meet our delightful harbour seals.
This state-of-the-art exhibit gives you a fantastic underwater tunnel where you can see sharks, rays, and witness the wonders of the ocean and other sea creatures within their natural habitats.
Unique to this location is the Fantastic Phobias - Face Your Fears exhibit, where you can see all sorts of eerie creatures from spiders and rats to insects and snakes.
SEALIFE Manchester is located in Trafford Palazzo, next to the Trafford Centre in Manchester. It features an Ocean Tunnel, Shark Shipwreck, The Lair of the Giant Crab, along with turtles, jellyfish, stingrays and visit Sea Ranger, where you can Journey back in time to the age of the dinosaurs to discover where fish came from.
Deep Sea World is situated beneath the world famous Forth Rail Bridge at North Queensferry in Fife and is Scotland's National Aquarium. In the world's longest underwater viewing tunnel you can walk along the bottom of the ocean as sharks glide inches above your head, or even go shark diving - all training is included so this is open to everyone.
There is a programme of talks and feeding events and they have a big educational programme and worked with the SSPCA to build a Seal Sanctuary at the centre, where you can see seals sunbathing or swimming in their own pool.
About eParenting: eParenting was started by Jacqui O'Brien in 2004. At the time her kids were 1 and 4 and kept her nice and busy. Now they are teenagers and still keeping her pretty busy!