Step into the Wild at Cornwall’s Best Zoos

Written by: Eliot Prince

Keeping the whole family entertained during your holiday can be a real challenge, especially if you’ve exhausted the beaches, the weather isn’t up to much, or you have a budding zoologist hunting for wildlife.

Though the idyllic beaches and historic sites of Cornwall are undeniably exquisite, sometimes certain members of the family are left wanting a little more…

If so, don’t miss out on the epic selection of zoos dotted across Cornwall.

From barnyard animals to marine life, there’s something for every animal lover and family of all ages. 

The kids will go wild for these attractions (and hopefully let off some steam along the way). At the same time, you can also relax and enjoy the educational experiences on offer. 

Keep reading to find the best zoo in Cornwall for you to check out this holiday.

Newquay Zoo

Lion at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall

On the northern coast of Cornwall lies the beautiful town of Newquay, known primarily for its sandy beaches and waves that make for a great surfing experience.

However, it’s also home to Newquay Zoo, which boasts a range of exotic animals. You can visit this attraction come rain or shine, and the endless exploring you can do inside and out won’t disappoint.

There are a number of attractions to explore at Newquay Zoo. To start, strolling through the Secret Garden is a tranquil experience; a perfect break from all the wild excitement of the rest of the zoo.

The Gems of the Jungle free-flying bird exhibit allows you to immerse yourself within the habitat of some of the world’s rarest birds. Sit and listen to your favourite bird song, and watch in awe as magnificent creatures soar past you.

Try not to get too spooked when you enter The Tropical House, home to perhaps the creepiest and slimiest of all the animals in the zoo! You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into the Amazon Rainforest when you see the inhabitants inside. 

The Oriental Garden is another popular attraction where you can relax and reflect upon the excitement of the day. Here, you can enjoy traditionally-designed gardens dotted with various plant species from Japan and other parts of Asia.

If you’re lucky, you may even spot the Owston’s civet and Prevost’s squirrels flitting about the garden!

Some must-see highlights are the tortoises and the capybara. And who could forget the pied tamarin—an animal so tiny and cute that you might want to take home with you! It’s not every day that you get to see so many exotic animals in one place.

Pack a picnic to munch on the idyllic picnic lawn, or head over to the Lazy Lion Grill for some tasty snacks. 

Café Lemur is another excellent spot for dining with the whole family. If your kids are avid fans of ‘Madagascar’, they’ll be sure to go bananas over the theme…

Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary

Animals in a field at Porfell Wildlife Park

The Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary is the largest exotic animal sanctuary in Cornwall. 

It’s home to animals in need from around the world, providing them sanctuary from unfavourable circumstances such as neglect or illegal importation. 

Many of Porfell’s animals are elderly or otherwise “problem” animals, but Porfell loves them all the same! Their key objectives that make the sanctuary such a special place are conservation, entertainment, and education. 

Amid the enclosure of eland, zebra, and ostrich, you can check out authentic and traditional Maasai huts full of cultural materials and rich history.

This attraction was developed to provide a learning experience to visitors, and to teach the ways that the Maasai people respect their surrounding lands and animals. 

For a taste of prehistoric England, explore the Porfell Ancient Woodland Walk. This trail is scattered with native species of trees and shrubbery such as beech, oak, and ash. It is complete with wooden walkways and benches along the way so you can rest and take it all in. 

Another one of the must-see attractions is the meerkat crew; these guys know how to put on a show. The reptile enclosure which, although a little creepier, is a destination that you shouldn’t miss. 

For a treat that fulfils your wildest food fantasies, stop by the Savannah Tea Room. Here, you can munch on a delectable range of snacks– including prized local Cornish pasties. 

Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary

For a true slice of Cornish paradise, take your family to Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary.

Situated on Cornwall’s northern coast and only a short drive from the popular holiday destination of St. Ives, it is perfectly positioned for you to stop in on your journey along the sea. 

Bird lovers will be thrilled at the variety of feathered friends to be found at Paradise Park. From Humboldt penguins to hyacinth macaws and palm cockatoos—they all find sanctuary in this paradise. 

You can also enjoy the sight of parrots, pigeons, and pheasants in the Tropics Exhibit and Walk Through Aviary.

One of the best highlights of Paradise Park Wildlife Sanctuary is the Penguin Feeding. Twice a day, children are selected to come into the penguin enclosure and feed these birds some scrumptious fishies. 

Humboldt penguins, native to the coasts of Peru and Chile, are gentle little creatures that you will find to be surprisingly affectionate. 

On fine weather days, Zebedee, the Jungle Express Train, takes families on circuits starting at the picnic lawn and all the way through the exotic gardens. This quaint little engine was built in 1938, and is still chugging along for the enjoyment of kiddies and older enthusiasts alike. 

For children’s birthday parties and other events, the JungleBarn is the prime location. 

With a selection of rooms that are either jungle- or pirate-themed, your child and their friends will go wild in the exciting, spacious areas built especially for their enjoyment. Food boxes and party planners can also be included in the party package. 

If you’re looking for a fine spot to dine with the whole family, grab a cold pint of ale, and listen to some live local music, head on over to the Bird in Hand pub. 

Although the pub has existed since the seventies, the Victorian building that hosts it was built all the way back to the 1860s. Talk about history!

Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary

Monkey at Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary

Wild Futures’ mission is to protect primates. 

This sanctuary has earned an international reputation for its animal care, and it is part of a worldwide charity committed to saving non-human primates from neglect, abuse, and degradation of their habitats. 

Wild Futures is passionate about education and its importance to the sanctuary’s mission. It believes that education on issues like global warming and deforestation is key to positive development for non-human primates.

Educating young families in such a setting where they can engage face-to-face with monkeys and see how similar we really are is an important part of the process. 

Wild Futures Monkey Sanctuary welcomes 30,000 annual visitors through its gates to learn all about these animals and what they can do to help. 

After your visit, you may even wish to adopt a monkey

Now, don’t get too excited… By paying the adoption fee, you will receive a cuddly toy monkey and an adoption certificate, but you unfortunately won’t get to take a real-life capuchin home with you. 

However, you can get rightly excited about how your adoption fee will contribute to the primates’ futures.

This money goes towards ending the international primate pet trade, educating people on conservation and primate welfare, and helping Wild Futures keep doing what they do best. 

Cornish Seal Sanctuary

A Seal in a tank at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Grey seal pups are constantly washed up on their own along the shores of Cornwall. Once these pups are separated from their families, reunions are almost impossible. 

Pups are left to fend for themselves, which is an extremely difficult thing to do out in the wild.

That’s why the Cornish Seal Sanctuary has dedicated itself to the rescue and rehabilitation of these grey seal pups.

Each year, an average of 70 seal pups are taken into their care, and most are returned to their natural habitat when they reach full health again.

Others, however, are not so lucky. Some seals never return to full health, and must instead be given ongoing care. The Cornish Seal Sanctuary has taken on this task, ensuring that every marine animal is continuously supported. 

Inviting visitors to the sanctuary creates an opportunity for education and income to support their noble mission. Each visit contributes to their good work. 

Breakfast with the Seals is a popular, must-try experience. This gets you up close and personal with the seals’ morning feeding routine, where you’ll also learn more about them.

It’s not just seals that you’ll find at the Seal Sanctuary. You can also join the Beaver Tours: A 2–3 hour experience where you’ll witness the beavers at work on their dam. This is also a great opportunity to learn more about how important beavers are to woodland ecosystems.

Finally, you can also become a keeper for the day and spend it getting cosy with the coolest animals at the Sanctuary. Aside from experiencing what it’s like to work as a keeper, you’ll also learn more about the sanctuary’s mission and ongoing efforts.

Blue Reef Aquarium

A fish at the blue reef aquarium

The Blue Reef Aquarium is another Newquay treasure that is a must-see on your next Cornwall vacation. With 40 differently-themed habitats, you’ll never get tired of exploring all the possible sights.

Warm seas, cold seas, cornish waters, and tropical rivers are just a few of the different habitats that exist at the aquarium. Each one is perfectly engineered to comfortably home a range of diverse species together in perfect harmony. 

There is an astounding range of marine animals that inhabit the Blue Reef Aquarium, and you can get up close and personal by taking a stroll through their underwater tunnel.

Though it feels a little alarming having a blacktip reef shark coming straight for you, no need to fear—the glass is pretty sturdy, after all.

A definite highlight is meeting the giant Pacific octopus, so named because it is the largest member of the Octopodidae family. It’s a stunning sight to look at, with its vivid red and orange tones and rows upon rows of suction cups (all 2,240 of them!).

In a day, you can join in on a large variety of talks that will engage and educate you and your family on the different marine animals in residence, and the conservation of their natural habitats. 

You’ll also enjoy the chance to feed the fish and sharks, while learning more about their species and how they’re cared for! Looking for more ocean adventures then have a read of our guide to Sharks in Cornwall or the top rated Cornish Aquariums

Llama Land

Llama at Llama Land Cornwall

Llama Land, situated in the heart of the picturesque Cornwall countryside, has been in the hands of the Tripp family for over 100 years. Since 2001, it has become an adored destination for children and parents alike.

Llamas are funny and unique creatures that are also a great pleasure to relax and unwind with. Escape the hustle and bustle of the city to go and hang out with these laid-back animals!

The most popular activity at Llama Land is the Llama Walks where you’ll go on a trek with the llama of your choice.

Tom Tripp, the owner of the Llama Land, will guide you through his farm while providing fascinating information about the llamas, the local Cornish countryside, and farming life.

These wacky characters will entertain the kids while parents get to enjoy strolling across the grassy plains and taking in the idyllic countryside views.

After walking with a llama, make sure to head to the onsite cafe for traditional Cornish cream tea. Jam or cream first? I’ll leave that in your capable hands… 

Booking your visit to Llama Land is essential due to its massive popularity. Because the trail can get mucky, you should also wear trekking shoes to remain comfortable.

What is the Biggest Zoo in Cornwall?

The biggest Cornwall Zoo is Newquay Zoo, which is home to a huge range of animals such as big cats, lemurs, and red pandas. 

From the Tropical House to the Village Farm, there’s loads of space to explore and endless plants and animals to be explored!

Not only is it Cornwall’s biggest zoo, but it is also one of Cornwall’s biggest charities. 

However, it receives no government funding, so it relies solely on the support of visitors who are also passionate about animals and the protection of their futures. 

For this reason (as well as all the fun and learning to experience), don’t think twice about visiting Newquay Zoo. Not only will the kids thank you– but the animals will, too!