Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle

Chester Zoo is somewhere I've always wanted to visit. I've heard so many good things and it was number one on my list of places to visit last October Half Term. I booked tickets and monorail tickets in advance which set us back just over £100 for the 5 of us. Not the cheapest of days out so I crossed my fingers that it was worth it.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle

Chester Zoo - Where We Stayed

It is possible to drive to Chester Zoo and back in one day from the North East (it should take 3.5-4 hours depending on traffic) but as it's quite a big place, we really wanted to make the most of our visit so decided to stay over the night before. I booked Premier Inn Chester Central North (affiliate link) which was a bargain at £32 per room. I decided to book this Premier Inn due to it's proximity to the zoo (a couple of miles), the bargain cost, the fact that it offered free on-site parking and that there was a bus stop right outside of the hotel door which took you into the city centre. We did have grand plans to visit Chester for dinner but after our drive (and the fact that a new Doctor Who episode was premiering at 7pm that night which in our family, cannot be missed), we decided to just eat in the adjoining pub.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Premier Inn Chester North

I was really impressed with the Premier Inn rooms - we always have to book two rooms now but they were HUGE and we could have easily all slept together. The adjoining pub wasn't so great and I'd give this a miss if we were to stay there again. Our evening meal wasn't of a high standard and the service was lacking/slow. We paid £19 for breakfast the following day which was an absolute shambles with very poor quality food, items running out and not being re-stocked, items missing, poor-quality just wasn't a pleasant experience. I've booked countless Premier Inn breakfasts over the years and although not the best hotel breakfasts, I've always found them to be good value for money but they seem to have made too many cutbacks recently and this is no longer the case. I think this breakfast may have been my last ever Premier Inn breakfast and in future, I will probably always book elsewhere which is a shame as they are so convenient. There are a couple of restaurants and pubs close-by and a huge Morrisons across the road if you're looking for alternative places to eat which aren't in the city centre. I'd definitely recommend this hotel if you're on a budget but would suggest taking breakfast to eat in your room and finding somewhere else to eat.

Chester Zoo - Arrival Tips

Chester Zoo officially opens at 10am but a few friends had recommended we get there early as you can see the elephants while you're waiting and be one of the first in the zoo. We got there for around 9:45am and managed to get a really good parking spot right by the zoo entrance and managed to say hello to the elephants and then be one of the first in the zoo so it turned out really well for us. I was also advised to head straight to the islands area as soon as we were inside and jump on the boat trip first. This was such a good tip as when we got there, there was zero queue for the boats at all and we were straight on. Later on in the day, the queue for a boat was over an hour long. I'd definitely recommend you follow this tip.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - elephants

Chester Zoo - The Islands Boat Trip

The Islands Boat trips are included with your zoo admission and definitely worth doing. You climb aboard a canoe-type boat (don't worry you don't need to row) and drift along the lagoon around the various islands. It's nice and peaceful and we felt like proper explorers. I'll be honest, we didn't see too many animals on our trip but we were super lucky to spot a tiger who was hidden from view from the main path but super clear from the water.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - The Islands Boat Ride

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - The Islands Boat Ride

Chester Zoo - The Orangutans

Orangutans are our absolute favourite animals and there are lots of them at Chester Zoo. Their enclosure is huge and we spent around 30 minutes just watching them fool around. They really know how to entertain the crowds. We watched them swing from the trees and the babies play and roll around plus countless crazy expressions.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Orangutan sunbathing

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Orangutan enclosure

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Orangutans eating fruit

Chester Zoo - Butterfly House

Chester Zoo is home to its own Butterfly House. If you've never walked through one before, they're always fantastic. Hundreds of butterflies of all colours fly around you and it's a great learning experience as kids can see cacoons up close and learn about life cycles too.

Chester Zoo - Fruit Bat Forest

I'm not going to lie, I was so scared about this. I HATE walking through bat caves but they're one of Heidi's favourite animals so I decided to be brave and just go with it. As you enter the cave, you can see and hear bats but it's not too intense. I reminded myself that bats are fantastic navigators, will be able to see us and won't fly straight in our face. It was pretty cool seeing them hanging from the beams above our heads. About halfway around the walk, there is an actual cave to walk through and there are SO many bats flying around. I was so scared about this and swear one touched me on more than one occasion and I crouched behind Steve and clung onto him the whole time. The kids thought this was hilarious and were much braver than I was. There are bat experts on hand to chat to and you can get pretty close too. This experience wasn't for me but like I say, the kids really enjoyed it.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Bat forest entrance

Chester Zoo - Elephants and Rhinos

There were baby Elephants and Rhinos at the zoo during our visit and I could honestly sit and watch them all day. They are super playful and interesting to watch. Like all of the enclosures here, the animals have loads of space and are really well cared for.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Baby elephant

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Elephants

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Baby Rhino

Chester Zoo - Big Cats and Bears

There are lots of big cats and bears to see at Chester Zoo but they are pretty tricky to photograph due to all the security fencing that's in place. We were lucky enough to hear a lion properly roar for the first time and it was incredible. I wouldn't want to get in their way that's for sure.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Sunny Bear

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Cheetah

Chester Zoo - Monkeys and Apes

The cheeky chimps were putting on a performance for the cameras who were filming footage for the Secret Life of the Zoo while we were there. I think chimps are so similar to humans in their interactions and I was chuffed we got to see a couple of babies too.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Chimp enclosure

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Chimp family

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Chimp climbing

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Chimp baby

Chester Zoo - Reptile House

Sadly the reptile house suffered damage in a fire last year. I cried my eyes out when I heard the news. So tragic and heartbreaking for all involved :-( We really enjoyed this habitat - Heidi is particularly keen to learn about reptiles and was super excited to see so many up close here. I have heard that the rescued animals have been re-homed elsewhere in the zoo now.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle - Giant Tortoise

Chester Zoo - Madagascar Play Area

If the kids need to burn off some energy, there's a fab outdoor play area which is suitable for all ages next to a cafe. There are lots of picnic tables at Chester Zoo and food outlets serving snacks and hot drinks. My three loved pretending to be Lemurs swinging from the ropes.

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle  - Outdoor Madagascar Play Area

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle  - Outdoor Madagascar Play Area

Chester Zoo - Final thoughts 

I've only given you a quick overview of what you can expect to see and do at Chester Zoo. There is honestly SO much to do here. I'd say a full day is needed to get the most out of it and if you're quick, you can whizz around most of it in around 5 hours.

The zoo is pretty flat and I would say pushchair/wheelchair friendly in most parts. I noticed a few alternative routes signposted around the zoo that were specifically accessible.

Chester Zoo is expensive, there's no getting away from that. However, I honestly think it's the best Zoo in the UK. It feels in a completely different league to Edinburgh Zoo and there is so much more to see at Chester. I'd also say Chester Zoo was even better than Longleat as there was no queuing and we could all see all of the animals without any problems. Chester Zoo has it's own monorail to get around but I'd probably skip this if I'm honest. We bought monorail tickets in advance but it was out of action on the day we visited (we were refunded) and I think if we'd have used the monorail, we'd have missed quite a lot of the zoo out. I'd recommend wearing comfy shoes as you'll cover a lot of steps.

If you watch The Secret Life of the Zoo, you will know how caring the keepers are and how much important conservation work the zoo carries out. Chester Zoo is a global charity specialising in conservation and science. They work in over 30 countries around the world and specialise in biodiversity and ecological monitoring, conservation breeding and management, human-wildlife conflict, livelihoods and sustainable development, visitor and community engagement and wildlife health and wellbeing.  As the world is changing, sometimes I feel conflicted about taking my children to zoos (something we wouldn't think twice about in the 80s). There's no denying, there are some bad examples of zoos out there. I really feel like Chester Zoo is leading the way as to how zoos should model themselves, the animals and conservation really are at the heart of everything they do and I'm happy to support them.

Each time somebody pays to visit the zoo, they're able to help more animals which can only be a good thing. I know the role zoos play in our society can divide opinions but I am very happy to endorse Chester Zoo and the work they do - I think they're fab.

Chester Zoo is pricey but one of those days which I think does offer really good value for money. You can spend a full day here, there's plenty to see and do both inside and out (there's even a wet weather trail to follow if it rains) and we all left feeling educated, tired and happy.

You can find out more and book tickets here:

NB - We paid for our own day out. 

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle  - giraffes

Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle

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Tips for Visiting Chester Zoo from Newcastle



  1. I've heard so many great things too! We once made it there when we were nearby for a wedding but I couldn't quite convince Simon to go ... next time I'm going to show him this post to convince him. It looks so so good!

    I was about to ask if there were any giraffes (my favourite animals!) but then I spotted a photo of them at the end!

    1. You definitely need a plan. You could definitely tie in a night with one of you Manchester trips x

  2. Loving those orangutangs, and funnily I love the sound of the bats but my hubby would hate that. Will have to try and visit some day, it looks fab.

  3. I love the sound of that boat trip, it must be nice for a sit down to rest your feet after a long walk around the zoo too :)

    Stevie x

  4. I have never been to Chester Zoo before, it sounds like a great family day out. My little two would love seeing all the animals, I don't think I would be keen on the bats either x

    1. Honestly a billion times better than Edinburgh - worth the extra drive x

  5. I'm not normally a fan of zoos, and we always think very carefully before visiting them. But Chester Zoo is definitely on our list as I know they do such fantastic conservation work and it's a great way for kids to learn about the wider planet. I'm pleased to hear that the enclosures are big. And as a side note on the Premier Inn - what a BARGAIN!


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