Reviewed by Erica Bourn
We visited Scarborough SEA LIFE sanctuary recently, along with my 7 year old son and 22 month old twins. Given the age gap it can be a challenge to find activities that they will all enjoy, but SEA LIFE certainly didn’t disappoint on that front.
We arrived by car. The attraction was well signposted from central Scarborough, situated in the North Bay area of the town, (those preferring not to drive can take a bus or miniature railway). The car park in front of the centre is council run, and additional charges apply, (we paid £2 for a two hour visit), but worth noting that free parking is available on the road heading down to the centre, just a short stroll away.
Staff at the reception were very polite, professional and enthusiastic, which was replicated by all those we met during our visit. Along with our admission tickets we were given a centre map, timetable for talks and feeds and a “Dive Log Book” for the children – a series of questions/challenges for them to undertake as they went around the attraction, and collecting stamps when completed. This activity really engaged my eldest son and kept him interested throughout – on completion your child gets a small reward when you present the completed booklet at the end although, to be fair, the participation was enough for him.
SEA LIFE is not as modern, or perhaps polished in appearance, as Yorkshire’s other big aquarium The Deep, but this did not limit my children’s enjoyment factor. The little ones were easily able to see the large tanks, perhaps in part to it being not quite as busy, and were fascinated by their inhabitants. They loved the Jellyfish Discovery particularly, which highlighted the grace and beauty of these creatures, housed in colour changing tubular tanks.
There is very much an emphasis on interactive where possible and conservation which runs throughout the centre. You could get small tubs of fish to feed the rays, touch the starfish in the rock-pool area and keepers talks were informative and pitched well for their audience. There was also colouring activities partway round, which was a nice touch for the littler two, along with some stickers – always a winner.
It was raining heavily on and off on the day we visited but were still able to enjoy the outside section of the sanctuary where Penguins, Otters and Seals reside. The centre also help rehabilitate injured and sick seals found on Yorkshire’s coastline, and the ‘hospital’ had one resident on our visit which the children loved to see although also gave an important message to them about helping protect our wildlife. We didn’t partake, but there was also a Pirate Adventure Mini Golf outside for visitors to enjoy, although this is at an additional charge, or combined entry ticket.
After making our way through the Ocean Tunnel, you come out in an area dedicated to beautiful turtles. This then leads on to the restaurant and small soft play area, the latter of which was a definite hit with our younger two. I can’t comment on the quality/price of the food as we had eaten prior to our visit, but the area appeared clean and understand is 5 star hygiene rated.
We had an enjoyable few hours at the centre, which could be extended a bit if you partake in all of the activities such as the adventure golf and all of the talks, (rain was a factor for us during our visit), but am not sure it makes for a full day out, though certainly a full half day activity.
In terms of pricing, the centre is part of the Merlin Annual Pass, so holders can enter for free. In the absence of this, you are better to plan your visit in advance as this can have a significant impact on prices, through either advance bookings or getting a discount voucher which are available on different promotions. On the door prices for age 3 and over are £16.20 per person, or £13.20 with groups of 2-6, rising to £20.70 and £17.70 respectively for the combined mini golf ticket. Booking 24 hours in advance is well worth it saving you 30% on these prices, or 40% on the combined ticket. Not a cheap day out it is fair to say, but it is appreciated that these attractions are undoubtedly expensive to maintain and keep their inhabitants fed and well cared for.
For enjoyment factor overall we had a great afternoon, and would give a rating of 4 out of 5.
For more information or to book tickets visit www.visitsealife.com/scarborough
Scarborough SEA LIFE, Scalby Mills, Scarborough, Yorkshire, YO12 6RP | 01723 373414