I don’t think I have ever met anyone who doesn’t like penguins, so from the word go I think they were on to a winner here. Living Coasts turns 10 this year and having visited many times it has been good to see how it has expanded what it offers to visitors. The penguins are still the stars, but over time the number of displays has increased and it now offers kids and adults plenty to see and do, and has become more of an all weather venue with more located inside.
When we turned up on Friday afternoon with 3 pre-schoolers my sister and I were expecting them to spend ages watching the penguins. We arrived just in time for feeding and a talk on the resident penguins (African and Macaroni penguins) I love the fact the penguins are allowed to wander around freely among visitors and its lovely that the children can get so close. It also makes for great photo opportunities, but alas I have a camera issue and lost most of the photos I took on the day including all the penguin shots. However while sis and I were enjoying watching and listening the girls were keen to press on.
Our progress was only slowed when they spotted a particularly brave Inca Tern who perched near them. The site is enclosed by a huge net which keeps the birds in and allows them to largely go where they want within the 1 acre site. Along with all the beautiful flowers growing it’s an attractive place to be. We quickly moved through the auks, including the comical tufted puffins, to my favourite area, the Wader Estuary. The birds are beautiful and I have seen many of them at a distance on the Exe estuary so getting a close-up is amazing. The girls loved the tiny avocet chicks, and it was interesting to watch how the protective parents dealt with other inhabitants.
While the otters were hiding the fur seals were keen to put on a bit of a show for us, playing above the water and then coming down to look through the glass at us once we were indoors. It is the indoor area that from memory has developed the most over the years. There are now a whole host of displays including Octopus Odyssey, Local Coasts and the Mysterious Mangroves. The layout seems well considered and accessible. On this point, although you wind you way up and around then down again, it is fairly good for wheelchair and buggy access.
Ironically, or perhaps typically, the girls were far more interested in the outdoor water play area than any of the wildlife. As it was a glorious afternoon we were content to let them splash about while we enjoyed the sun. There is also an indoor sandpit and a play area with plenty for little ones to look at and do. We managed to get them to relax, colouring for a little while before they clocked the small soft play fish.
Living Coasts isn’t huge and we were only there for 2 hours, but could have made it last a lot longer. If you wanted to fill a day its location next to the harbour in Torquay is a bit of a bonus as it’s nice to take a walk along the seafront, have a look at the shops and enjoy a coffee. They do have an on-site cafe and the obligatory gift shop though if you don’t want to head off the site, which is next door to a car park.
We love Living Coasts and it’s great that they also run events like the monthly Waddles and Toddles. The profits they make fund their conservation work and education is a clear focus as you walk around the site, so as well as a fun trip there is a more serious side to Living Coasts.
You can find out more about the attractions and their work here.