Erin stood near the map at Colchester Zoo

The O'Hallorans

The OHallorans

We’re made up of Lyndsey, John and Erin, who all love a new adventure. We try to get away as much as possible, especially during school holidays and variety is a must for us. That means staying anywhere from a luxury hotel to a hostel and it’s not often we go to the same place twice. 

If you’re planning a trip to Colchester as a family, put Colchester Zoo at the top of your list of places to go. From big cats to tiny bugs, there’s something great to see for everyone.

Address and contact information

Colchester Zoo
Maldon Road


Parking at Colchester Zoo

Colchester Zoo has a large, free car park for customers. There is disabled car parking spaces are available close to the zoo entrance. 

Opening times

Colchester Zoo opens at 9:30am every day, except for on Christmas Day. Closing times vary depending on the time of year but are usually somewhere between 3:30pm and 5:30pm. Up to date times can be found on Colchester Zoo’s website.

Giraffes at Colchester Zoo

Admission prices

*Prices are correct for visits between March and September 2024

Adult (16 – 59yrs)£28.50£24.23£25.65£27.08
Child (3 – 15yrs)£21.00£17.85£18.90£19.95
Senior (60+)£27.00£22.95£24.30£25.65

Discovering Colchester Zoo

Let me start by saying that Colchester Zoo is huge. It might be the biggest zoo I’ve ever been to. It’s a good idea to download the official app before your the day of your visit. Here, you can have a good look at the map and get to grips where everything is. You can see where the different enclosures are, what times the fantastic daily encounters are and plan your action-packed day.

The Colchester Zoo app will also help you during your visit and help you to have the most enjoyable day. 

Sleepy fennec fox at Colchester Zoo

A fun day with the animals

Of course, when you visit a zoo you want to know what animals there are to see. Colchester Zoo is home to so many different species of animals, ranging from tiny bugs to huge African elephants. You’ll also find a range of domestic animals such as guinea pigs to endangered species like red pandas.

You can find some information about some of the enclosures below, and the animals that live there:

  • Chimpanzee Lookout – chimpanzees and a African slender-snouted crocodile
  • Familiar Friends – donkeys, alpacas and llamas, goats, sheep and wallabies 
  • Iguana Forest – reptiles, including iguanas and turtles
  • Lion Rock
  • Suricata Sands – meerkats
  • Rivers Edge – red pandas, green anacondas, Pileated gibbons, lion-tailed macaque, Asian short-clawed otters, wreathed hornbills and emerald tree monitors
  • World of Wings – Andean condor, great grey owl, king vulture

No matter where we went, the different habitats looked amazing and they were so big. There are plenty of undercover viewing areas in a variety of enclosures, meaning it won’t matter if the weather isn’t great for your visit. The fantastic undercover areas also mean that you can view the animals from different places and you might see different things this way. 

Although I won’t go into detail about all of the animals that we saw at the zoo, I will say how much we loved the variety. Everyone has different favourites so it’s nice that you can go from seeking out an elephants trunk through the trees to watching a tongue of a giraffe trying to get the highest leaf the eat. You also have the chance to see some of the big cats, touch a cockroach or hunt down the Patagonian Sea lions!

Row of 3 tortoises at Colchester Zoo

Walkthrough enclosures

There’s nothing better than getting up close to the animals, without having to pay for the price of an experience. Colchester Zoo has a few enclosures that you can walk through, where the animals are free to roam around. The walkthrough enclosures include:

  • Goats and sheep at Colensco Village (Feed for an additional fee)
  • Lorikeets at Australian Rainbows (Feed for an additional fee)
  • Wallaby Walkthrough
  • Lemurs at Lost Madagascar

We made a point of visiting Australian Rainbows as it was something we all really wanted to do. Inside is a tropical walkthrough aviary, where rainbow lorikeets fly around freely. You can buy little pots of nectar for £1 to feed the birds as you walk around.

Mother and daughter in the Australian Rainbow exhibit at Colchester Zoo. The mother has a lorikeet sat on top of her head.

As the birds are free to do what they want, they might land on your arm or even your head. There’s a one way system inside so everyone is moving in the same direction. It’s important to stay calm if the birds come over to you, but if you don’t want one on you, they can be encouraged to move gently.

This experience was the highlight of our day and we are so glad we went. A little warning though, the birds can only have so much nectar in a day so sales might be stopped later in the day.

Madagascar road train

Be sure to make time to stop and take a ride on the Lost Madagascar Express Road Train. Rides are free and the last train is an hour before the zoo closes. This is a great way to have a little break and view the park in a different way. The Lost Madagascar Express Road Train makes a stop at the lemur enclosure, where you can get off and learn a bit more about the animals.

Lost Madagascar Express Road Train

Play areas

Although zoos are a lot of fun, walking around and looking at animals can get exhausting for children. Take some time out to visit one of the zoo’s many adventure play areas. There’s a mix between outdoor play areas and Jungle Tumble, the indoor soft play complex. You can book a free timed entry slot to Jungle Tumble when you buy your ticket but the outdoor play areas are free to enter whenever you like.

Kids' Safari play area at Colchester Zoo

Food and drink

Food and drink outlets

Something I think Colchester Zoo did particularly well was the food*. We didn’t have a plan for lunch and decided to just find something when we got hungry. As we walked around the zoo we noticed so many different places to eat. As well as some more general looking cafes, there were some that specialised in only a few things. Some examples can be seen below:

  • Chip n’ Mix Stop – chips, chicken and fish goujons
  • Southern Kitchen – southern fried chicken and burger meals
  • The Gourmet Sausage – German bratwurst and English sausages as well as chips
  • Wrap and Roll – Freshly made wraps and salads
  • Penguini’s Restaurant – Family favourites such as jacket potatoes, pizza and sandwiches

Whatever you fancy, there are plenty of places to grab some food. If you need vegetarian or vegan food, check the app for dining options.

We had lunch from Chip n’ Mix Stop, ordered 2x cheesy chips, 1x chicken goujons and a children’s chicken meal. This came to around £15 and the food was delicious. The prices were really reasonable for a zoo and we’d happily eat there again.

Children's chicken goujons and chips, a tray of chicken goujons and 2 trays of cheesy chips on a green food tray.

*Some food and drink places may only be open on weekends and school holidays

Picnic areas

Another option is to take food with you and have a picnic. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables dotted around the zoo so find the perfect place to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch.


Whether you’re going to the zoo with children, or on your own, it’s always good to know where to toilets are. Colchester Zoo has toilets everywhere! It seems that no matter where we turned, toilets were just around the corner. Some are bigger than others so you can expect to queue during busy periods.

Erin stroking a goat at Colchester Zoo

How long should you plan to spend at Colchester Zoo?

On our visit, which was our first, we arrived for opening at 9:30am and left close to 5:30pm. This was the longest we could have stayed for on that particular day. The zoo is huge and it would be very difficult to see it all in one day.

Would we go back?

We had best day at Colchester Zoo. Even though we were there from opening until nearly closing time, we didn’t see everything. We would love to go back again, and maybe book in for one of the animal experiences while we’re there.

Discover more to do in Colchester

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