Zoos and wildlife parks

feeding giraffe 

Take a walk on the wild side at your local zoo, wildlife park, farm or aquarium. Our Local editors have selected the best places to get up close to your favourite animals. Cameras at the ready!


South West



Dartmoor Zoo PlymouthDartmoor Zoo

Since a major refurbishment in 2007, Dartmoor Zoo has featured in the Hollywood movie We Bought A Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson. Set in 33 acres of beautiful woodland, this unique, family-owned zoo has a great collection of animals, including the largest collection of big cats in the south of England.


Monkey World WarehamMonkey World

Monkey World, the internationally-acclaimed rescue centre, is home to more than 250 rescued and endangered monkeys and apes. Combining fun with conservation, half-hourly talks explain all about man's closest living relative. See the stars of TV's Monkey Life, then monkey around in the south's largest play area.


Paignton Zoo TorbayPaignton Zoo

With more animals than any other park in the South West, Paignton Zoo makes a great day out. Among the more than 2,000 creatures to see, there are elephants, giraffes, lions, gorillas, cheetahs and crocodiles, plus cheeky meerkats, colourful snakes and mischievous monkeys. There are also indoor play areas, the Jungle Express train and six habitats that mimic the animals' natural environment.


Paradise Park HayleParadise Park

At Paradise Park you'll meet lots of colourful birds, including rare and beautiful parrots, flamingos, toucans and red-billed Cornish choughs. As well as the more than 650 birds, there's lots more wildlife too, including red pandas (with two new cubs), otters and some furry friends in the Fun Farm such as donkeys, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and more.


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North West




Blackpool Zoo BlackpoolBlackpool Zoo

Blackpool Zoo offers a fun day out, packed with loads of animals to see, fascinating talks and feeds to attend and lots of fun activities to do. The Active Oceans area houses a 400-seater arena to watch the sea lion display and see the UK's only group of Magellanic penguins. You can also visit the Amazonia exhibit, see lions and tigers, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, lemurs, wallabies and dinosaurs (but unfortunately the dinosaures aren't real!)


Bowland Wild Boar Park LongridgeBowland Wild Boar Park

Hold chicks, feed lambs and come face to face with wild boars! There is a hay playbarn, playground, an indoor sandpit and the opportunity to ride tractors both life and toddler-sized). The on-site eco lodge is open for visitors to see how much electricity is produced by Bowland's wind turbine and two solar panels, as well as learning about how you can help to recycle and do your bit to save the planet.


Chestnut Conservation and Wildlife Park High PeakChestnut Park otter

This otter and owl specialist wildlife park has plenty of its star animals to see. There are also deer, wildcats, foxes and bugs. Special holiday events include keeper talks to learn about the fascinating animals and keeper experience days for those who want to get more involved. 


Knowsley Safari Park MerseysideKnowsley giraffe

To get even closer to your favourite animals at Knowsley, special encounter experiences are available with the giraffes, birds of prey, baboons, lions, meerkats, rhinos and sea lions. The 'Safari Drive' is a great drive-through attraction, but does mean you need your own transport to enjoy this section of the safari park.

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North East




Eshott Heugh Animal Park MorpethEshott Heugh animal park

Eshott Heugh is a small family-run park situated in the picturesque heart of Northumberland. There are raccoons, pygmy goats, hens, donkeys, goats, pigs, ponies, meerkats and more to see. If you really fall for the animals, you can adopt one, which helps to make sure they have the best life possible. Adoption gets you one day's free entry to the park, a certificate and cuddly toy, and your name is put on the official boad outside the relevant animal enclosure. 

Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens NewcastleKirkley hall zoological gardens

Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens is a lovely place to visit with children to see a wide range of different animals, including emus, wallabies, marmosets, pygmy goats, chipmunks, lemurs and meerkats. There are also activities and a play area, forest trails, garden walks, a picnic area and tea room available.


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East of England




Africa Alive! LowestoftAfrica alive

This walking family safari through 80 acres of parkland allows you to discover giraffes, rhinos, cheetahs, hyenas and hundreds more African animals and birds. There is also a Lemur Encounters area, the Activities and Discovery centre, the Wildzone indoor adventure play area, and a guided tour around the park.


Colchester Zoo StanwayColchester Zoo

With more than 270 species to see, set in 60 acres of beautiful parkland and lakes, Colchester Zoo is well worth a visit. One of the latest new enclosures is Bears of the Rising Sun, which houses two sun bears, Jo Jo and Srey Ya. You can also come face to face with Komodo Dragons, see white rhino, giraffes, ostrich and kudu roaming together at Kingdom of the Wild and walk underwater through the 24m tunnel at the Playa Patagonia sea lion pool.


Hamerton Zoo HamertonHamerton Zoo

Hamerton Zoo is home to big cats, wolves, lemurs, monkeys, wallabies, camels, anteaters, birds, reptiles and many other species. There are also two play areas, a picnic and garden area and a Stroll-a-Safari, which allows you to get up close to domestic animals and feed some of them. 


Thrigby Hall Wildlife Park Great YarmouthThrigby Hall

Progressive zoos like Thrigby Hall Wildlife Gardens are fast becoming a last refuge for many endangered species. The wild tigers of Sumatra are now down to a few hundred, which is a fraction of their former numbers. A strong supporter of The World Zoo Conservation Strategy, Thrigby's collection of animals was the first to be signed over in its entirety to the Joint Management of Species Programme. Come and visit the big cats, primates, red pandas, reptiles and small mammals.


Tropical Wings Zoo South Woodham FerrersTropical Wings Zoo

Get a tropical feel on any day of the year at the Tropical Wings Zoo. The tropical house has an interactive daily encounter programme of keeper talks and animal feeds where you can feed a wallaby, brush a goat, take a closer look at the lemurs or hold a bug. The most recent exhibit is the exotic Capybara in their new enclosure. There are also indoor and outdoor play areas, plus Tractorland and Diggerland rides.


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National SeaLife Centre BirminghamNational SeaLife Centre

Birmingham's Sealife Centre has recently greeted some new arrivals - a colony of penguins! Visitors can come face to face with the Gentoo Penguins and adventure in the rarely-seen Antarctic landscape. You can also see sharks, rays, sea otters, and handle creatures familiar to British rock pools, such as crabs, sea urchins and starfish.


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Chessington Zoo ChessingtonChessington Zoo

Chessington Zoo boasts more than 1,000 exotic animals, including lions, tigers, gorillas, monkeys, penguins and sea lions. There's also the theme park, sea life centre and daily shows that allow you to get up close to the animals for photo ops.


Hackney City Farm Hackney Hackney City farm

For more than 20 years, Hackney City Farm has been giving its community the opportunity to get up close to a range of farmyard animals; see, smell and plant vegetables, and learn new skills to live a healthier, happier life with a lower environmental impact.


The Wilderness Deer Park GreenwichWilderness Deer Park Greenwich

Greenwich is the oldest of London's deer parks and has been home to Red and Fallow deer since it was enclosed. Not just home to deer, the Wilderness is a sanctuary for other wildlife too, including birds, bats, foxes and mice. 


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South East




Beale Park Lower BasildonBeale Park

Since it was founded in 1956, Beale Park has grown into a much-loved attraction and boasts one of the most impressive peacock collections in Europe. As well as peacocks, wildlife on show include owls, tropical birds, meercats, racoons, lemurs, monkeys, alpacas and deers. There are also play areas and cruises along the River Thames, which borders the park, and Beale Park's very own mini diesel railway.


Birdworld FarnhamBirdworld

More than just birds, the 26-acre park at Birdworld is also home to the Jenny Wren Farm and Underwater World aquarium, and is attached to the Forest Lodge Garden Centre. Daily events include keeper talks and feeds and two daily shows: the Outdoor Flying Display and the Heron Theatre Show. Enjoy meeting some of the smaller cuddly residents in the farm at Animal Handling and join the expert bird Keepers for the Owl Prowl feeding tour.


Blue Reef Aquarium SouthseaBlue Reef Aquarium

At the award-winning Blue Reef Aquarium you can enjoy close encounters with graceful sharks and rays and stroll among a colourful coral reef in an underwater tunnel. Meet the family of adorable otters in their riverside home and come face to face with some of the world's most amazing amphibians, from deadly poison dart frogs to curious iguanas.


The Hawk Conservancy Trust AndoverHawk conservancy trust

Set in 22 acres of woodland and wildflower meadow, there are more than 150 birds of prey at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, from the tiny Pygmy Owl to the impressive Steller's Sea Eagles. Many of these birds are involved in daily flying demonstrations, while others are part of important breeding or environmental enrichment projects. The Trust is also home to the only public Great Bustard aviary in the United Kingdom, where you can take a rare opportunity to see the world's heaviest flying bird up close.


New Forest Wildlife Park AshurstNew Forest lynx

Experienced keepers here give talks throughout the day to tell visitors all about the animals and give feeding demonstrations. Look out for Hobbit the young barn owl, as well as hedgehogs, mice and ferrets. 


Wildwood Trust Herne BayWildwood wolf

Wildwood offers a great opportunity to see British wildlife past and present. Set in 40 acres of ancient woodland, it holds more than 200 British animals in natural enclosures. See wolves, deer, badgers, owls, wild horses, elk, lynx, beavers, wild cats, bison, reindeer and many more. Wildwood also boasts Kent's tallest vertical drop slide, a zip wire, wild fort, twisting tube slide and tree-top towers in its adventure park.


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Barshaw Park PaisleyBarshaw donkeys

Barshaw Park has a delightful nature corner with a range of animals, from guinea pigs and rabbits to sheep and exotic birds. The park recently welcomed two new donkeys, one-year-old Buddie and two-year-old Paisley. Barshaw also has a model traffic area, play parks (including equipment for children with additional needs) and a walled garden.

Last updated: over 1 year ago