Colchester zoo, tigers

We Visited: Colchester Zoo


As a family, we are always on the lookout for fun and educational activities for our kids. Colchester Zoo, just south of Colchester in Essex, is a great combination of these two elements and and it’s packed with beautiful, unusual and rare species – more than 160 of them in over 60 acres of parkland and lakes. This zoo provides a full day out and it’s one of our top places to visit. This is a review from when we visited in June 2023.

Animals up close

Colchester zoo lemurs

Colchester Zoo is one of the best zoos in the country and it celebrated its 60th anniversary in June 2023. The zoo has lots of animals to visit including big cats, primates, birds and fish, so we were excited to return again. During our visit, we started off by walking around the animals which were all very active that day and our little one was mesmerised. The train now stops directly at the lemur enclosure so we got off there and they were very lively and you get the up-close experience – we saw them climb on the backpack of the person in front of us! The train ride itself was also a big hit and as well as lemurs we also got to see the wolves and flamingos during the ride.

The zoo has over 160 species so we were able to see many animals during our day out, including giraffes and elephants. It was fascinating to see the animals in their natural habitat and learn about their behaviors. One of the highlights of our visit was feeding nectar to the birds. If you want to, there is also the opportunity to book giraffe and elephant feeding, which we will definitely do on our next visit. It’s a great way to get up close to the animals and learn more about them.

Other highlights

Colchester zoo playground

The playgrounds were also a lot of fun for the kids, so much fun that at 5pm as the park was closing we were still playing. There are various playgrounds to stop off and play in, and there is even an indoor soft play area – we didn’t make it there this time so it’s on the list for the next visit.

After the excitement of seeing and interacting with the animals at the zoo, going to the playground was a great way to end the day. We left with children that were both happy and exhausted from all the activities.


The layout of the park is well thought through. Colchester Zoo has plenty of toilets and food/drink places dotted around, so you are never far from anything you need. There are also plenty of areas to sit if you are organised enough to take a picnic, that will be us – one day. Fortunately if you don’t come with your own picnic there is a lot on offer to buy, we took advantage of the food and drink places and had a lovely lunch enjoyed by the adults & kids.

There is a large gift shop as you exit, with a whole range of fun things for the children. We were leaving as the park closed so they opened another gate which bypassed the gift shop. Worth noting that for those who have an annual pass, you get a discount in both the food and gift shop. Additionally, there is a big car park which is free to park. It’s a great way to get there and not worry about the cost of parking.


Colchester zoo playground

Colchester Zoo provides a fantastic family day out. It is a great opportunity for children to learn about animals and their habitats in a fun and enjoyable way. The zoo is constantly updating and adding new exhibits, so there is always something new to see and do. We even spotted a fenced-off area that looks like it is going to be dinosaur-related, which caused lots of excitement with our group.

As a family, we highly recommend Colchester Zoo and will definitely be back to visit again soon – we are thinking about buying the annual pass which is good value if you do regular visits especially as it offers additional discounts once you are inside. We can’t wait to go back soon and see what new things the zoo has to offer.

Colchester Zoo Website

How to get there:

By Car:

  • From the M25: About 40 minutes from Junction 28 of the M25 to reach the A12
  • From -Southend: About 1 hour’s journey, 40 miles using A127 and A130 to reach the A12
  • Sat nav code: CO3 0SL

By Train:

Colchester Main Train Station can be reached from Liverpool Street services from London within in an hour or is easily reached along the Lowestoft or Norwich networks to Ipswich and then on to Colchester. Colchester Zoo is just 10 minutes by taxi or can be reached by bus.

By Bus:

All bus services to Colchester Bus Station regularly connect with the number 75 for Maldon or Tiptree and Colchester Zoo.

We travelled by car and from Chelmsford it’s a 35 minute drive.

This experience is best suited to: Adults & children of all ages

For more ideas for family days out take a look at the Visit Essex website.