15 of the Best and Biggest Zoos in the UK
A day out to the zoo is a UK family favourite, and luckily, we’re spoilt for choice, with safari parks, zoos and conservation parks dotted all over. So how do you choose the best zoo in the UK? It’s a tricky one but below we’ve listed 15 of the highest rated zoos, which all put a big focus on conservation and education, with your ticket price helping to support ongoing efforts.
From pigmy goats to tigers and elephants, you’re sure to see something new during a visit to any of these zoos and wildlife parks. Here are our recommendations of the best zoos in the UK and nearby campsites.
1. Newquay Zoo, Cornwall
The only place in Cornwall you can see a lion, Newquay Zoo is home to wild and wonderful animals from across the world. There are over 1,000 animals to see, including lemurs, sloths, primates, otters and a wide range of birds. Located in the vibrant seaside town of Newquay, there’s plenty of other attractions to visit including of course the beautiful Cornwall beaches.
Where to stay: Newquay Zoo is just an 11-minute drive from our Tregurrian Club Site.
2. Chester Zoo, Cheshire
Two million people visit Chester Zoo each year to see over 35,000 animals from all corners of the globe. Bears, elephants, orangutans, cheetahs and buffalo are some of the large animals you’ll see during your visit. Chester Zoo also boasts beautiful botanical gardens. The Enrichment Garden grows plants for the animals at the zoo, and the Bee Garden gives bumbling bees plenty of their favourite flowers and nesting places and the Cacti National Plant Collection is jam-packed with over 1,500 prickly, flowering species to see.
Where to stay: Chester Zoo is a 24-minute drive from our Delamere Forest Club Site.
3. Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire
Twycross Zoo, in Atherstone, puts conservation at the forefront of everything they do. You’ll find out more about how Twycross are doing their bit to support wildlife as you move around the zoo visiting the carnivores, primates and mammals of all sizes. This is the only zoo where you can see all types of great ape, and there are over 125 species of bigger animals to see from amur leopards to alpacas and agile gibbons.
Where to stay: Twycross Zoo is a 23-minute drive from our Drayton Manor Club Site.
4. Dartmoor Zoo, Plymouth
Dartmoor Zoo is the animal park the film “We Bought A Zoo” is centred on. The family-run zoo not only has a great story behind it but makes for a fantastic day out. From tigers and tapirs to owls and otters, Dartmoor Zoo has an eclectic collection of animals to explore. Don’t miss daily feeding times and talks from the keepers to find out about the different animals and to ask any questions.
Where to stay: Dartmoor Zoo is a 26-minute drive from our California Cross Club Site.
5. Peak Wildlife Park, Leek
For those camping in the Peak District, Peak Wildlife Park makes a great family-friendly day out. Unique animal walkthroughs allow you to take a stroll with the resident penguins, lemurs and wallabies, feeding them as you go. Zebra, meerkats, pigs, deer and rabbits are just a few of the other animals you’ll get to meet during your visit. There are delicious food options available to help you refuel as well as indoor and outdoor play areas to help kids burn off any extra steam before you head back to your campsite.
Where to stay: Peak Wildlife Park is a 7-minute drive from our Alton, The Star Club Site.
6. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Devon
You’re in for a wild time during a visit to Paignton Zoo. Indoor and outdoor play areas, a nature trail and Jungle Express Train, are fun ways for kids to enjoy the zoo and see animals in their enclosures. You’ll see all kinds of mammals, birds and reptiles at Paignton Zoo from tiny exotic frogs to black rhinoceros. Monkeys, parrots, cheetahs and crocodiles are all waiting for you to visit them at one of the top attractions in Devon.
Where to stay: Paignton Zoo is a 39-minute drive from our Slapton Sands Club Site.
7. Isle of Wight Zoo, Sandown
Head to the beautiful Sandown Beach to visit the Isle of Wight Zoo, well known for rescuing big cats. The zoo is built within the grounds of an old Victorian fort which makes for a unique setting, ideal for exploring the coast before or after your visit. Lions, tigers, lemurs and racoons are some of the mammals that call the zoo home. There are also farm animals, bees, birds, reptiles and many more to see during your visit.
8. Marwell Zoo, Winchester
Marwell Zoo in the heart of Hampshire is without a doubt one of the best zoos in the UK. The park covers 140 acres, so it’s recommended you set aside half a day to visit the animals. There are 100s of different species to see at Marwell Zoo including giraffes, leopards, hippos and capybara. You’ll certainly work up an appetite during your visit to make use of the cafes on offer or take along your own picnic to enjoy.
Where to stay: Marwell Zoo is a 44-minute drive from our Verwood Club Site.
9. Howlettes Wild Animal Park, Canterbury
See the largest herd of African elephants in the UK, beautiful western lowland gorillas and so many more wonderful animals at Howlettes Wild Animal Park. With over 450 animals, many of which are endangered in the wild, this is one of the best family attractions in Kent.
Where to stay: Howlettes Wild Animal Park is an 8-minute drive from our Canterbury Club Site.
10. Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh
Visit the UK’s only giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. As well as Yang Guang and Tian Tian, there are koalas, tigers, penguins, monkeys and many more animals to meet. Edinburgh Zoo puts a big focus on education with regular feedings and talks throughout the day. Walk among wallabies at Wallaby Outback, meet three types of penguin at Penguins Rock and see chimpanzees in the Budongo Trail. When you’ve had your fill of animals, there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and kiosks around the zoo as well as picnic and play areas.
Where to stay: Edinburgh Zoo us a 46-minute drive from our Dunbar Club Site.
11. Chessington World of Adventures' Zoo, Greater London
There are over 1,000 animals in the zoo and SEA LIFE centre at Chessington World of Adventures. Head to The Trail of the Kings to see gorillas and lions, try to avoid the splashes in Sea Lion Bay and look out for towering giraffes in Zufari: Ride into Africa! In the SEA LIFE centre, you’ll be able to see sharks in the ocean tunnel, turtles from the Amazon and all manner of sea creatures in The Reef. For member-exclusive discounts at Chessington World of Adventure Resorts, head to our attraction offers.
Where to stay: Chessington World of Adventures' Zoo is a 23-minute drive from our Walton on Thames Club Site.
12. Cotswolds Wildlife Park, Oxfordshire
Get up close to fascinating animals at the Cotswold Wildlife Park. Explore the Giraffe Walkway to see eye to eye with the tallest inhabitants at the zoo, visit some of the fiercest, the lions and see some of the smallest in the amphibian collection. Once you’ve seen all of the animals take some time to explore the well-tended to gardens, they’re truly a beautiful way to end a visit to the park.
Where to stay: Cotswolds Wildlife Park is a 20-minute drive from our Chipping Norton Club Site.
13. Colchester Zoo, Essex
Meet an array of weird and wonderful animals at Colchester Zoo. Set in 60 acres of stunning parkland and lakes, the zoo is home to up to over 160 rare species, including sun bears, rhinos, giraffes, penguins and flamingos. One of Essex’s most popular attractions, this is the perfect day-out for all the family to enjoy.
Where to stay: Colchester Zoo is a 50-minute drive from Kelvedon Hatch Club Site.
14. London Zoo, The Regent's Park
The oldest zoo in England, London Zoo is in the heart of London and operated by ZSL, a charity known for its devotion to on-going wildlife conservation work. The zoo spans 36 acres in the very scenic Regent’s Park and is home to around 16,000 animals. Learn fascinating facts about different species from expert zoo-keepers and knowledgeable volunteers. Meet an array of animals from all across the world, including giant pandas, tigers, monkeys, giraffes and so much more. Walking around a zoo can be thirsty work which is why London Zoo has a collection of restaurants and cafés offering food and drinks, or for those sunnier days take a trip to the ice-cream kiosk.
Where to stay: London Zoo is a 54-minute drive from Hertford Club Site.
15. Whipsnade Zoo, Bedfordshire
Covering 600 acres of ground in the glorious Bedfordshire countryside, Whipsnade is home to the biggest zoo in the UK and is one of Europe’s largest wildlife conservation parks. Whipsnade Zoo is owned by ZSL and known for its conservation work and striving to protect endangered species. Housing 10,000 animals, Whipsnade Zoo has an extensive range of species to see, including a herd of African elephants to red pandas. The zoo has plenty of areas to enjoy a bite to eat or a refreshing beverage. The zoo’s ‘Base Camp Restaurant’ offers tasty food including vegan and veggie options and meals for kids.
Where to stay: Whipsnade Zoo is around an hours drive from St Neots Club Site.
For more inspiration and attractions to visit during your next camping trip, view our holiday advice section.