Belfast Zoo: To Visit or Not to Visit? This is the Question!
If you are coming from far away, and this is your first visit to Northern Ireland, then Belfast Zoo will probably not be on your main “to do” list.
However, if you have plenty of time, or if you simply have small children and want to take them to a place of interest even if not packed with history, then give the zoo some serious consideration. You might end up loving the place. It is, after all, one of the better known Belfast attractions, one of more loved of Belfast tours.
The zoo is surprisingly easy and quick to get to. For your GPS navigation system, the address is:Antrim Road, Belfast,BT36 7PN.
If you are coming from the south county Down, then you can whiz through Belfast on the M1/A12/M2 in no time, provided you pre-plan your trip to avoid the rush hour traffic.
If you are coming from the east it is even easier on the M3/M2 motorways.
If you are coming from the west, you don't even have to go through Belfast, the zoo is on the north-west side of the city and is well signposted.
If you are in Belfast and you want to go by bus,from the City Centre you can ride Metro buses no.s 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e, 1f, (1g) and 2a all stop at the Zoo.
The Single fare is £2.50 for adults, £1.25 for children. The stop you want is called Bellvue Stop.
It doesn't harm to tell the driver you are going to the zoo. Bus drivers can be very friendly and obliging. Don't forget to say "Thank you, driver!" when you get off. I find it charming!
We visited the Belfast zoo several times, the most recent one being on a lovely spring day with a group of homeschoolers, thus taking advantage of the group rates. Rule number one is bring good walking shoes, water and plenty of extra energy. Most zoos require some walking but the Belfast one is unusual in that it is built on the side of a cliff, Cave Hill, so not only will you be walking, but you will be hiking up and down steep paths.
If you have toddlers or babies do bring a pushchair (stroller, buggy, pram,whatever you call it). If you have an older toddler who is normally past the stroller age, well, do bring a stroller nonetheless. You will need it. Otherwise, you would be kicking yourself. Or rather, dragging yourself upwards heavily laden with your precious cargo.
Allow Plenty of Time
The zoo is fair sized so allow plenty of time, at least half a day, or better still, make it a day trip. Children love the outdoor and if there are several in the group as was the case with us, they will want to see every animal and mimic them and linger longer.
The Bird Park
The Bird Park is one of the areas that has recently been refurbished. It contains a number of rare and even some endangered species. You will love the bright and vibrant colors and the constant chirping.
The Rainforest House is a walk through exhibition of tropical life. The temperature is kept constantly at 27 C and humidity is high. A nice place to walk through if you begin to feel cold.
The part I enjoyed the most was the Bear enclosure towards the top of the hill and zoo. The enclosure is spacious and contains a large artificial pool in which the bears love to swim. On a hot day, you may feel like jumping in as well, but thankfully there are large glass panels preventing would be swimmers from taking a swim with the bears (though the Andean bears are usually quite harmless).
Make sure to jot down the animal feeding times and be there for the spectacle. The feeding of the sea lions, monkeys and the penguins are the most laugh-enticing.
Playground and picnic area
The Lake Side is near the entrance of the Belfast zoo though we left it for last to sit and relax after a long day. There is a lake walk, one of the most popular attractions. Walk it and look out for the pink flamingos and other exotic birds that roam around. There is a very handy play area and picnic tables to sit and relax or have something to eat.
We chose to stop here last after the tiring walk around the zoo. It is extremely relaxing and the children loved running around in the spacious grounds. If you are lucky, you might see the lemurs walking around . They are friendly and will let you come to within a few meters/yards before they move away. In our case, they came as we were about to leave, and we had to change our plans. The children were so excited to see them that they followed them tirelessly around.
Food and Drink
There are three cafes that serve food and drink, one, Mountain Tea House, strategically located at the top of the zoo. By the time you get there you will want a drink and you will want to sit down, rest and enjoy the view. You can also bring your own food and eat at the picnic tables at the Lake Side.
We did enjoy our visits. With older children you can take a self-guided educational tour, so we plan to do that in the future. In the meantime, the breeding time in spring where you can see all the baby animals, seems to be a good time to visit.
Did you know that in 2009 Belfast Zoo will celebrate its 75th birthday?
Belfast Zoo is home to more than 1,200 animals and 140 different species.
Opening times of Belfast Zoo
Winter (October 1 to March 31)
10am to 4pm
Last admission is 2.30pm
Animal houses close at 3.30pm.
The Zoovenir Shop closes at 3pm and the Ark Café closes at 3.30pm. The Mountain Tea House and the confectionery kiosk are closed from October to March.
Summer (April 1 to September 30)
10am to 7pm
Last admission is 5pm,
Animal houses close at 6pm.
The Zoovenir Shop, Ark Café, Mountain Tea House and confectionery kiosk all close at 5.30pm.