Oscar’s first trip to The National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth

On a recent trip to our childhood home town of Plymouth, we decided to try and have some family days out. We knew we wanted to spend some time on the Moors (and who wouldn’t) but we felt it was time for Oscar to try an ‘attraction’ again and so thought we’d give the National Marine Aquarium a go.

Oscar’s history with ‘attractions’ has been rather limited to be fair. We’ve stuck to large outdoor spaces, such as Zoos and parks and even then at potentially quiet times and with mixed results. His Autism means he doesn’t always access the attraction in the way other children might. And that’s fine, but it sometimes begs the question why pay out for him to just run around, when he can do that at the local park for free? Anyway, his speech and understanding are changing so much at the moment, that we thought it would be a good time to give him the opportunity to try an indoor attraction for a change. And as his current favourite book is ‘Barry the Fish with Fingers’, we thought the aquarium would be a good one to get him on board with.

The morning of the visit, we drew him a very basic visual timetable explaining that we were going in Daddy’s car, to see the fish at the ‘Aquarium’ and then we’d have some sweets and a juice box. Not sure why I added the bit on the end but a motivator felt like a good idea and I assumed the cafe in the aquarium would have something we could grab.

We knew the aquarium was likely to be busy; on a Saturday, the Saturday of Easter Weekend, a rainy Saturday of Easter Weekend!!! We planned to get there first thing, but getting ready took longer than anticipated and we arrived within 50 minutes of it opening. While Ben parked the car, I walked Oscar over the bridge to the entrance. We looked at the fish artwork and sculpture together and he was having great fun pointing things out. Then we got to the entrance. While I knew the place would be busy it didn’t even occur to me how big the queues would be. Why we hadn’t thought to book fast track tickets online (which you can do and which save you from queuing at all!) I don’t know, but I took one look at that queue and knew it wasn’t for my guy. We headed back to the car, having seen the ‘fish’ (artwork) and hoped that was enough.

Oscar insisted this sculptre outside the aquairum was a 'Dragon Fish' and that it was breathing fire! Photo by Patricia Richards-Skensved

Oscar insisted this sculpture outside the aquarium was a ‘Dragon Fish’ and that it was breathing fire! Photo by Patricia Richards-Skensved

He was fine with this change, and he had great fun playing with his cousin at my mum’s instead. Only then, over lunch, he started to ask: ‘Quarium?’ I was blown away to be honest. You never can tell how much is going in and yet it would seem the answer is ‘a whole lot’. We knew then we were going to have to go back. So we decided to head up there towards the end of the day. We got there around 3.45pm to find no queue to speak of and headed in. As Ben was paying they locked the entrance behind us. Phew, we timed that just right then!

And then we set off following the signs. Oscar held our hands, he walked, he waited when he needed to, he shocked us both! Then he came to the tanks and instead of running past, giving them a cursory glance he really stopped and looked. The tanks in the NMA are all so accessible to little ones and Oscar loved that he could get right up close and personal with the fish. He even commented on their colour and size and several times swore he saw ‘Barry’ (of the ‘fish with fingers’ fame 😉 ) . He went back and forth between a couple of his favourite areas, but for the most part he progressed between the zones when we asked without any fuss.

Walking with Daddy

Walking with Daddy

All the high tanks have steps up to them or are accessible from the floor.

All the high tanks have steps up to them or are accessible from the floor.

Look there's Barry!

Look there’s Barry!


He loved the overhead/undefoot tanks. He was entranced!

Awright Ray!

Awright Ray!



He even interacted with other children visitors and when we came to the main tank viewing room, Ben and I sat down and Oscar quickly found another little boy to chase, and be chased by. It was quiet enough that nobody minded and it left him red faced, but happy.

Photo From Expedia

The National Marine Aquarium’s 2 million litre water tank. And a space to run around! Photo from Expedia

Would we go back? Absolutely, and I would absolutely go at the end of the day again, something I’d never considered before. It was quieter sure, but it was also just enough to time for him to enjoy it and not get bored. It also gave him a natural cut off point, i.e. we had to leave at 5 because they were closing. That worked really well and he was able to have a quick look round the gift shop at the end (he got a book by a local author) and head back to the car, happy as a sand boy. The only issue we had was parking. The aquarium doesn’t have its own car park and the nearest ones are a short walk away. This might be fine for some children, but Oscar often struggles to walk safely along busy roads and this was a deep concern. As it was Ben dropped us off by the Mayflower steps and was then able to (luckily) park on the seafront a minute away. But had this not been the case this could have derailed the visit before we’d started!

If you’re in the area we would highly recommend it. And if you have a child with Autism, I learnt that the aquarium will be holding a ‘quiet session‘ on 2nd April to mark World Autism Day. This might be a great way to introduce your child to the attraction. The aquarium have produced a great visual support document for those attending (available on the website), something that might be useful for any visit to be honest! My only advice would be to check out the parking situation prior to attending.

At the end of the day thought, we couldn’t get over how good the experience had been. I was so proud of my little guy and so pleased that the prep we did paid off. It can take quite a lot of gumption to throw yourself headlong into a situation that could be incredibly stressful. As it was the National Marine Aquarium made it easy for us and we’d like to thank them.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, we stopped in at Tesco on the way home and bought him sweets and a juice box.



Thank you to the National Marine Aquarium for a great day out. This was not a paid review, rather it’s just an account of our day out as a family and we paid for our tickets ourselves. Although had I remembered Oscar’s DLA letter, I could have got in for free as his carer. Next time!







  1. So glad you had a lovely day out. Sounds like it was good for all of you. This aquarium features in my favourite episode of Mr Tumble (isn’t it bad that *I* have a favourite?) And now I want to go even more. 🙂

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Hahaha yes it is a bit funny you have a favourite episode of Mr Tumble, but I highly recommend a trip to Plymouth. You can see the aquarium but also the Mayflower steps and lots of other history. Oh and the sea. You can’t beat the sea!

  2. Hurray that is brilliant hun. What an amazing time you are having lately with hair cuts and days out. I am so happy for you. Such fantastic progress. I think you were right to leave when you saw the queue and going at the end of the day is such a great idea. My big lad has always loved the aquarium too. he would sit of ages under the overhead tank just looking and he liked to press his face right up against the jellyfish tank. I’d love to get him a jellyfish tank at home, I think it’s the colours. Looks like a great place and it’s so nice to here they are holding a quiet session too.

    • We love the Barry the fish with fingers book too and read it last night. It made me think of you and this post. Oscar is making such progress! TY for linking up with #FamilyFun ?

      • mrssavageangel says:

        Ahhh that’s so sweet – he loves that book. And he got another one by the same author for his birthday called Norman and his Silly Shell! Thank you for hosting!

    • mrssavageangel says:

      I think you’re right – the colours and the light in an aquarium is really soothing. Also the pace and which the fish swim is nice and slow. I logve it so I can only imagine what it does for O. We took him to look at the fish at the pet shop when we got home and he loved it almost as much. If only we had space for a tank!

  3. My gang love the aquarium as a day out, we to go their first or last thing. We use or visual timetables for every little thing

    • mrssavageangel says:

      It’s something we’ve only just started doing and it’s working a treat. He loves the aquarium. I wish we had one closer to where we live!

  4. Sounds like you had a top day out! Good to hear they were doing a special autism day for awareness. 🙂 #SpectrumSunday

  5. Ahhh it sounds like a lovely day out. I always find my son tends to surprise us with how well he reacts to trips out to places like that. Sometimes the big changes go by and he’s a gem, other days one tiny detail can result in a huge upset. Oh well – we cherish the days like these and just keep swimming #SpectrumSunday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      ? too right. Is response can be unpredictable but that means we keep trying things. Always go into it expecting the best and prepping for the worst.

  6. Well done on a successful trip. D is always fascinated watching fish swimming around and it must make for a very calming atmosphere. Nice to know they were doing a session for WAAD too and we love “Barry the fish with fingers here”!
    Thanks for linking up with #SSAmazingAchievements

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Thank you so much. I think you’re right – the lighting is very soothing and the fish don’t ask anything of him. Barry would appear to be a favourite with a lot of people!

  7. So glad it was a successful day out – our girl loves fish too! Going later in the day to miss the crowds is a great idea 🙂 #spectrumsunday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Thanks I’d definitely do it again. We’d love to have an aquarium at home, but we just don’t have the space. Maybe one day!

  8. I’m so glad this visit went well. We went to an aquarium last summer and it was too busy for Ethan. We ended up rushing round to keep him away from too many people. The end of the day sounds like a perfect time to go. Never give up on days out as they do surprise you, even with all the planning needed x #SSAmazingAchievements

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Thank you. Yes our last visit was a disaster. To be fair Oscar was a lot younger when we visited the one in Southsea. But it just didn’t work at all. Too dark I think. This wasn’t anything like that. But yes I agree the end of the day worked brilliantly. I think had we gone earlier, even if it hadn’t be busy, it might have been hard to get him to leave. I think you’re right – days out are so important, even if you don’t know how its going to go. xx

  9. I LOVE the Aquarium at Plymouth and so do the boys 🙂 we haven’t been for ages, but think we might soon after you reminding me how good it is 🙂 I’m glad you got to go back and he loved it.

    Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix

    Stevie x

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Ahh thanks honey – yes he loved it and actually we thought it was pretty great too – haven’t been in years! You should definitely make the trip next time you’re heading that way!

  10. Another success for you hun! Fantastic! I completely get what you mean about paying for things that they just show no interest in. Last year we went to the zoo… which basically means paid 50 to feed elephants, as that was the only thing that grabbed his attention. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely, hope you join me again this week xx

    • mrssavageangel says:

      It’s hard to know what’s going to work or not isn’t it. But we keep trying, in case this is the one ?

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