Whether you’re fanatical about fish, potty about penguins or crazy for crabs, there’s no shortage of marine life to discover in the UK, particularly in the south west of England.
From SeaLife centres where you can get up close and personal with a wide variety of creatures to trips where you’ll get the chance to spot species in their natural habitats, there are plenty of places on the south west’s coastline to see marine life.
Grab your other half, your family or your friends and get ready to dive into the magical and mysterious world of sea life, all within easy reach of the South Western Railway network.
You’re never too old to enjoy a day out at an aquarium, and there’s no better place for getting to see your favourite fish and amphibians up close. Here are some of the best aquariums in the south west:
Get ready for an underwater adventure through the Great Barrier Reef, the Ganges, the Amazon and more at the Oceanarium in Bournemouth. Discover sea life from around the world without having to set foot on a plane, from turtles and otters to stingrays and reef sharks!
Get the train to Bournemouth, then it’s just a 20-minute walk or a 10-minute journey on the number 4 bus to get to the aquarium.
Sea Life Centre Weymouth
For another chance to discover species from around the world, head to the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth. Walk with the world’s smallest penguins and journey through the Ocean Tunnel to experience the 24-hour wonder of a coral reef and discover what changes from day to night. And on top of all that, you can even enjoy a round of mini golf!
The nearest station is Weymouth, and from here it’s a 25-minute walk or 15 minutes on the number 4 bus.
Chessington Sea Life
From seahorses and starfish to piranhas and sharks, immerse yourself in the underwater wonderland that is Chessington Sea Life. The Sea Life centre is part of Chessington World of Adventures Resort, so make a full day or weekend of it with a visit to the zoo and the theme park at the same time. When you travel by train with a National Rail train ticket, you can get 2FOR1 entry too.
To get here, catch the train to Chessington South, then it’s just a 10-minute walk to the resort.
There’s nothing quite as nostalgic as grabbing a bucket, rolling up your trousers and exploring the rock pools that emerge on the British coastline when the tide goes out. Here are some of the best spots for rock pooling in the south west:
St. Helen’s Duver, Isle of Wight
Catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight and head to St Helen’s Duver at Node's Point for the very best rock pooling opportunity. The limestone crevices here provide shelter for whelks, limpets and periwinkles, and you’ll often find barnacles too. Keep your eyes peeled for crabs that like to hide among the rocks, and turn over seaweed to find little fish. Just make sure that whatever you move, you put back in place to avoid disturbing living things.
Take the train to Portsmouth & Southsea station, then board the Hovercraft to Ryde. From here it’s just 10 minutes on the number 8 bus.
Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset
Dorset has plenty of rocky shores to choose from for your rock pooling adventure, and one of the best is Kimmeridge Bay. The bay is in a marine Special Area of Conservation, and when the tide is out there are loads of rockpools to explore and an abundance of sea life to discover. There’s also a visitor centre which organises rockpool rambles and eco-friendly crabbing, and there’s even a small aquarium!
The nearest station is Wareham (Dorset), and then it’s a 10-minute taxi ride to Kimmeridge Bay.
Sandsfoot Castle Beach, Weymouth
The beach at Sandsfoot Castle Beach (also known as Southlands Beach or Castle Cove) lies within Portland Harbour and is well known among locals as the go-to spot for rock pooling. Kids will love rummaging around the rock pools for weird and wonderful creatures, and adults just might enjoy themselves too!
The nearest station is Weymouth, which is a five-minute ride away on the number 1 bus.
You might associate dolphins with faraway seas, but it is in fact possible to spot them in our very own shores. The south west is one of the best places to spot dolphins in the UK, and here are some of the best ways to go about it:
Snapper Charters, Weymouth
All aboard the Snapper fishing boat to see the sights of the Jurassic Coast. Whilst you’re on your way through the waters of Portland, keep an eye out for Dave, the affectionately named Dorset dolphin who is known to frequent the waters here!
Catch the train to Weymouth, then it’s a 15-minute walk to Weymouth Harbour where the Snapper is moored.
Chesil Beach, Weymouth
If you prefer to stay on dry land for dolphin watching, then head to the prime viewing location of Chesil Beach and keep your eyes peeled for Risso dolphins, which are often sighted here.
Weymouth is the nearest station, and then it’s a 15-minute taxi ride to get to Chesil Beach.
Lyme Bay, Devon
White-beaked dolphins are often spotted performing acrobatics and showing an interest in boats n Lyme Bay. You may be lucky enough to spot them from the coast, or you can take a boat trip with Lyme Bay Boat Trips in the hope of spotting them further out. Keep an eye out for seals too.
The nearest station is Axminster, which is a 15-minute taxi ride away.
Take a stroll around some of the famous coastal landscapes of the south west, and keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of marine life. What’s more, there a wide range of benefits when it comes to coastal walks!
South West Coastal Path
The South West Coastal Path stretches 630 miles (1014 km) from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. At various points along the way, there’s the opportunity to see grey seals, common seals, harbour porpoise and even some species of shark.
You can start your coastal walk from various locations, but take the train to Weymouth to access the East Devon and Dorset coasts. Hop on and off the X53 Jurassic Coast bus, which provides easy links with the Coast Path at a number of locations.
Ready to get out and see some marine life? Book your train tickets with South Western Railway to begin your underwater adventure. Explore our flexible range of ticket types to find the best one for your journey, and save even more with a Railcard.