Blackpool Sea Life Centre review

I do love an aquarium right on the seafront – so our first stop when we arrived in Blackpool had to be Blackpool Sea Life Centre, a shell’s throw from the waves.

My daughter walks through the ocean tunnel at Sea Life Blackpool - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids
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An early obsession with Octonauts means my daughter and I have been working our way round most of the country’s aquariums, including more than a few Sea Life Centres, so I was intrigued to see how this one would compare.

As you might expect, there’s plenty that’s familiar if you’re already a fan, but a few great individual touches that really stood out for my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review.

Once you step inside, the 2,500 creatures inside are housed in 10 different themed zones at Sea Life Blackpool, stretching across 12 different rooms and areas, with everything from rockpools to rays.

And there’s a chance to discover some of the local marine life at the Blackpool Sea Life Centre as well as more exotic creatures found on coral reefs, in rainforests and elsewhere around the world.

My daughter looks out onto the beach at Blackpool and one of the three piers during a holiday discovering some of the best things to do in Blackpool with kids

Having come straight from the beach, where we’d tucked into fish and chips with a sunny view of the Irish Sea, it was great to discover a little more about some of the creatures which might well have been swimming away under the waves nearby.

First of all, there’s a chance to get hands on – quite literally, with the touch rockpools in the first room, containing everything from anemones to the fabulously named sea squirt.

My daughter looks at the interactive touch rockpools at Sea Life Blackpool - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids

Staff are on hand to advise and make sure the inhabitants of the rockpools are safe – some areas were closed off temporarily to give everyone inside a break – but it’s always one of the most fun things if you’re visiting the aquarium with a toddler or younger kids.

And for all ages, there were a series of quirky facts to discover as you looked – everything from starfish having eyes on the end of their arms to the discovery that mussels move along using their beards.

My daughter's hand holds out the treasure trail for kids at Sea Life Blackpool with the rockpools seen behind - my review of Blackpool Sea Life Centre with kids

There was also a free treasure hunt trail to follow when we visited, helping Captain Careless to find all his booty, with eight separate items to spot across the aquarium – without sharing too many spoilers, the first one is at the rockpools, so you can get ticking straight away.

Perfect for encouraging kids to peer into every different corner of the aquarium to see if they could find the mislaid treasure – if you’ve got little ones who can’t wait to dash on to see what’s next and next and next, it’s a handy way to slow them down a little too.

Then two areas dedicated to the native shoreline and quayside, where we spotted a tank of lobsters – did you know the collective noun is a ‘risk’ of lobsters? Looking at those claws, I can see why.

Only a tentacle of two of the octopus was visible, but elsewhere shoals of fish swarmed through diver’s helmets, sudden flashes of silvery pollock, graceful flatfish and a few gurning pop-eyed companions,

My daughter sites on the edge of the shark and ray tank in a curved window looking at the fish - my review of Blackpool Sea Life Centre with kids

Leaving the British Isles behind, we headed to Stingray Adventure and the Shark Window – I love watching stingrays, as there’s always one who seems equally fascinated by the humans watching as vice versa.

And there’s always a well camouflaged ray or two lying motionless on the bottom of the tank, maybe with just an eye or two visible, which then unexpectedly glides up into the water and makes you realise just how good they are at hiding.

Sea Life Blackpool is home to the UK’s first national juvenile ray nursery, part of a breeding programme designed to protect Britain’s own native rays, many of which are endangered, so as well as getting a sight of a baby cownose ray or the eye-catching blue-spotted ray, it’s amazing to see evidence of conservation in action.

Close-up view of a small ray in the ray tank, which looks almost like it's smiling, at Blackpool aquarium - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids

As you walk through, there’s a constant underlying emphasis on how visitors can help protect the seas too.

Information boards had details of how at risk the particular fish are, and what dangers are affecting them, but another highlighted the fact that Blackpool Sea Life Centre collected over 100kg of rubbish from Blackpool beach in 2022 – a good reminder for all ages to bag or bin their waste rather than letting it be pulled out to sea by the tide.

Keep an eye out for beach cleans organised by Blackpool Sea Life Centre if you do want to join in and help protect the coast

One of the things I loved at Sea Life Blackpool was just how many different ways they’d created to see the different fish and sea creatures – as well as paths leading above and below the water line, there were some more unusual viewpoints as well.

My daughter peers into a porthole of glass marked fish eye, one of the unusual viewpoints at Sea Life Blackpool - my review of Blackpool Sea Life Centre with kids

We were encouraged to enjoy a fish eye view, peering through porthole-sized windows, curved to help you see the marine life in a very different way.

Elsewhere, there was a chance for kids to crawl into the side of the tank and stand up inside a bubble of glass, almost as if they were wearing a diver’s helmet, as the fish swam around their heads – you couldn’t get much closer without grabbing a scuba mask.

My daughter's head in a glass bubble within a tank and some of the sea creatures seen towards the back - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids

Perfect for some memorable moments, such as when my daughter turned round and came unexpectedly face to face with a fish peering in at her.

Other tanks had magnifying pads to let you see more of the details or seats alongside the windows into the tanks so you could gaze at the constantly changing display, like a natural TV screen – but far more fascinating.

There were interactive displays dotted around as well: you could feel anything from a shark’s tooth and stingray’s barb to turtle flippers as you explore, and even discover how Moray Eels’ two sets of jaws work, turning a handle to activate an eel skeleton and see the second set emerge from behind the first.

Nature really is weirdly wonderful!

Not to mention a few little local touches, including the Kissing Arch, where legend has it that if women kissed their menfolk under the arch before they set off to sea, they’d be protected from harm. Did it work? I gave my daughter a quick kiss just to be on the safe side!

The variety of wonderful creatures was impressive too – you won’t find penguins, seals or otters at Blackpool Sea Life Centre but you certainly won’t come out feeling short-changed.

The giant 5ft green moray eel (called Matilda) was easily one of the most memorable, curving her long sludgy green body out of a treasure chest, as we tried to work out just where her long sinuous coils began and ended.

From the tiniest seahorses and brightly coloured reef fish up to a huge tank of sharks, we also passed beautifully lethal lionfish, unicorn fish with their odd noses, tiny bickering clownfish half-hidden in the fronds of their anemone, colourful tropical fish which seemed almost to dance through the tanks.

Jellyfish floated mesmerisingly up and down, fluttering their frills, with the chance to change the colour of the lights in the tank for an added disco feel.

Tiny garden eels swayed in time with each other, barely bigger than my little finger, unlike the gigantic spotted eel we spotted later on.

In the rainforest zone, neon-bright poison dart frogs hopped from leaf to leaf, while nearby piranhas stared back at us, cold-eyed and mean (or maybe that’s just because I know how needle-sharp their vicious teeth are from a trip long ago to the Amazon!)

All leading us to one of the aquarium highlights, the ocean tunnel. Blackpool’s is shorter than other Sea Life Centres in the UK, but there was still plenty to spot – a guitarfish draped lazily over the tunnel entrance, a turtle gliding patiently through the water above part of an old submarine.

Normally that’s where the visit ends, bringing you out into the cafe and gift shop, but Blackpool Sea Life Centre had one more unexpected room to discover before you leave – the Four Corners of the World.

Home to four man-made wrecks which have been taken over by sea creatures, it’s a really fun way to finish.

In one corner giant octopus tentacles stretched out around a wooden treasure chest, perfect for a fun family photo, or you could pose as one of the terracotta warriors next to a tank containing submerged stone figures, before marvelling at the huge leopard eel.

My daughter sits on a wooden treasure chest with fake octopus tentacles snaking out of a display - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids

Another pays tribute to some of the wrecks found off the Fylde Coast nearby, including Nelson’s former flagship, HMS Foudroyant, which was wrecked in a hurricane-force storm in 1897 – look out for the gorgeous colourful mandarin fish here.

Even that isn’t quite the final sight, with a small stage by the cafe for some added activities.

Two performers on the stage after the main aquarium visit at Sea Life Blackpool - my Blackpool Sea Life Centre review with kids

Keep an eye out for staff as you wander around too, always ready to stop and answer questions – including my daughter’s own burning query as to whether fish sleep – as well as running regular talks.

One of the bonuses of visiting the aquarium is getting to see all this without getting wet… but if you do want to do more than just look, you can even snorkel with the sharks and feed turtles, as some of the VIP experiences.

Feet and bodies of two people in a cage lowered into the shark tank as one of the VIP experiences at Sea Life Blackpool - my review of Blackpool Sea Life Centre with kids

We ended up spending two hours there without booking any of the extras (including time to stop and buy a fluffy humpback whale for my daughter’s collection from the shop!)

Perfect if you’re escaping bad weather of Blackpool in the rain with kids, but just as good when the sun shines – emerging back onto the beach for a paddle, I was imagining lobsters, octopus and fish galore just beyond the horizon.

Sea Life Centre Blackpool: Need to know

Prebooking is currently required, with timeslots for entry (including for Merlin annual pass holders) and a discount if you book for Sea Life Blackpool in advance, plus there’s currently 30% off weekday visits (excluding school holidays) until mid October.

You can also get combined tickets for other Merlin attractions in Blackpool, such as Sea Life plus one other attraction, including Madame Tussauds, The Blackpool Tower Ballroom or The Blackpool Tower Circus.

There’s also the Blackpool Pick’n’Mix pass with 1, 2 and 7-day entrance into the 8 Blackpool attractions, including Sea Life Blackpool, as well as the Blackpool Tower Eye, Ballroom, Circus, Blackpool Dungeon and Madame Tussauds, priced from £35.

Check out what we thought of a visit to Madame Tussauds Blackpool in my review

My daughter looks at a black tipped reef shark in one of the tanks at Sea Life Blackpool - my pick of the best things to do in Blackpool for kids

Check here for opening times. You can also book tickets to Quiet at the Aquarium on the first Sunday of the month, with more limited numbers and a quieter atmosphere designed for those with autism and other sensory requirements.

Sea Life Blackpool has toilets which you can access half-way around the aquarium or at the end of your visit, as well as a cafe just before the exit. The attraction is cashless, so do ensure you have another means of payment.

You can take pushchairs and buggies everywhere in Blackpool Sea Life Centre or there’s also a buggy park if you prefer to leave it while you’re inside.

View of some of the soft play and play areas, plus Gruffalo statue, at Gruffalo Clubhouse in Blackpool - my Gruffalo Clubhouse review

Peter Rabbit: Explore and Play Blackpool and the Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse are both right next door to Sea Life Blackpool if you’re looking for more ideas of things to do in Blackpool with toddlers and younger kids.

For more things to do in Blackpool with kids, including the new Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse attraction and my Blackpool Zoo review, check out my other posts

Disclosure: Paid collaboration with Merlin Entertainments – all opinions about our visit to Blackpool Sea Life Centre are my own (and my daughter’s). This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Images copyright MummyTravels


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