This is a relatively compact attraction that punches well above its weight. Almost every kind of ocean habitat is recreated at the Blue Reef Aquarium, with the star turn being the giant tank with underwater tunnel where you’ll have reef sharks and rays swimming around and above you. If you’ve come on a rainy day, the coral reef and angelfish are guaranteed to lift your mood.
Pretty tropical fish are all very well, but it’s the big, menacing creatures that kids seem to love. The giant pacific octopus, venomous lionfish and huge jellyfish with long trails of poisonous tentacles are nicely gruesome and do the trick. The Blue Reef Nursery is a good counterpoint to the biting, stinging crew – baby seahorses have ‘aahh’ factor in spades. Blue Reef has a great reputation for conservation and runs some very successful breeding programmes for endangered sea wildlife, both those native to Cornish waters and more exotic species.
While there’s plenty of information throughout the aquarium, it’s the hourly feeding sessions that really bring it to life as the staff talk in depth about the animals and answer questions. Most afternoons feature a shark talk that dispels the myths about these predators and reveals the truth about shark attacks – and all while you watch the resident sharks ripping their afternoon feed to shreds.
The Blue Reef Aquarium is open every day all through the year; it’s a great out-of-season choice when the forecast has ruled out a picnic on the beach. A half-day should be enough to see everything at the aquarium, so you might think about combining a visit here with a couple of hours at Waterworld, just the other side of Newquay and another good wet weather option. Waterworld has a fun pool with slides, flumes, water cannon and erupting volcano and is heated to over 30 degrees. If the sun’s out, a trip on the Lappa Valley Steam Railway, just south of Newquay, is great for younger children, plus there’s a boating lake, nature trails and crazy golf at the Lappa Valley venue.
Blue Reef Aquarium
Towan Promenade, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1DU, Tel. 01637 878134
Trenance Leisure Park, Trenance Road, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 2LZ, Tel. 01637 853828
Lappa Valley Steam Railway
St Newlyn East, Newquay, Cornwall, TR8 5LX, Tel. 01872 510317