Zoo Bournemouth: 11 Best Places to See Animals Locally

By Charlotte Craig. Last updated on 28 April 2021 at 12:13pm.

Children’s Farms and Animal Parks near Bournemouth and Poole

Zoo Bournemouth: being in Dorset, you’d expect Bournemouth and Poole to have a few excellent zoos, children’s farms and animal parks nearby; and you won’t be disappointed. These options are all worth a visit if you have children interested in animals and energy to burn. We start with the closer places and work outwards.

1. Farmer Palmers Farm Park, Organford, Poole

A very popular family destination and with good reason – Farmer Palmers is one of the best children’s farms locally. It is extremely well-run with many animals, a large café, an extensive soft play area, playgrounds and rides. It is open all year round and has three large covered barns and two more indoor play areas, so a good option in winter or wet weather.

Read our posts on fun things to do indoors and top soft plays for more information on wet weather activities.

2. Putlake Adventure Farm, Swanage

Zoo Bournemouth: Putlake Adventure Farm, Swanage
Putlake Adventure Farm, Swanage

A traditional farm with a large three floor softplay and country café, and situated in the glorious rolling Purbeck hills, a visit to Putlake children’s farm can feel like stepping back in time. There is lots to keep kids occupied come rain or shine, and it is open at weekends during winter also.

3. Kingston Maurward Animal Park & Gardens, Dorchester

Set in the grounds of an agricultural college, there are lots of animals to see, horitcultural gardens to explore and a small café too. The focus here is much more on the animals than kids playgrounds etc. which adds to the charm of the place, and is mostly outside.

4. Liberty’s Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre, Ringwood

Liberty’s has a large collection of birds of prey, reptiles and other creepy crawlies to discover. There are daily flying demonstrations to see the birds in action, and during the summer reptile shows too, so the kids can really learn all about the animals. The centre has an all-weather flying area as well as an outdoor arena, so rain won’t stop play, and café too.

5. Monkey World near Wareham

Zoo Bournemouth: Monkey World near Wareham
Monkey World near Wareham

Monkey World is an ape rescue centre and looks after many varieties of monkeys which previously may have been subject to animal testing, private pets or victims of the illegal wildlife trade. Thankfully, these animals are now cared for here and you can learn about them at the many enclosures. The baby orang-utans are a particular highlight. The centre has a large café with softplay and monkeys next door to watch, and a large play area for children to visit.

6. Dorset Heavy Horse Farm Park, Verwood

Another place which feels set in the past, this time about 100 years, as you ride around vintage fair ground rides, or go on a Victorian swing boat, eat in the log cabin and of course meet the beautiful horses that give this unique place its name. A delightful park full of character and charm, making a memorable visit.

7. New Forest Reptile Centre, Lyndhurst

Run by the Forestry Commission and volunteers, this simple reptile centre comprises of 4 ‘pods’ (large open-top cylinders) that you can peer in and try to spot the reptiles inside. The enthusiatic team are on hand to tell you where to look and about the animals too. It is free to visit and all open-air apart from an infomation hut. There are some picnic benches nearby and it is a great starting point for a New Forest walk.

8. Weymouth Sea Life Adventure Park, Weymouth

Zoo Bournemouth: Weymouth Sealife Centre
Weymouth Sealife Centre

This sealife centre is spread out across about 14 separate buildings and exhibits, which enables you to focus on each different area individually. For kids, it has an excellent splash park and very large playground too, so suits all ages and there is lots to see and do. There is a busy restaurant and café and lots of places to eat a picnic.

9. New Forest Wildlife Park, Ashurst

Getting a bit further away now, but this park is a great day out and worth the journey. You can see wolves, wallabys, lots of otters, bison, amazingly small harvest mice and much more. They have a great café, an extensive outdoor playground and one for smaller children with a sandpit too.

10. Margaret Green Animal Rescue Centre, Wareham

This lovely local rescue centre is free is visit and home to a variety of animals including cats, rabbits, donkeys, goats, horses and pigs. There is a tea and gift shop but you are also welcome to take a picnic. They also have activity days, dog shows and even a county fayre.

11. Marwell Zoo, Marwell

You can see a lot has been invested in Marwell recently, there are lots of new buildings and areas housing giraffes, a covered tropical house and a new shop, café and play area too. It feels like a completely new enormous luxury zoo set in beautiful grounds and is a brilliant day out. An excellent place to finish our recommedations – do visit!

That’s the end of our list, thank you for reading. Do you know of any ‘Zoo Bournemouth’ children’s farms or animal parks we have missed or information we could add? Feel free to get in touch and let us know.

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