Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool Zoo

Have you been to Blackpool Zoo recently? It’s a great day out for all the family. Set over 32-acres and owned by Parques Reunidos, it’s home to more than 1,350 animals from all over the world.

Where is Blackpool Zoo?

Blackpool Zoo is around two and a half miles from the town centre, heading eastwards inland. That’s about a 10 minute drive, or if you fancy a walk you’d need at allow around an hour.

The address is: Blackpool Zoo, East Park Drive, Blackpool, FY3 8PP. Tel: 01253 830830 and website www.blackpoolzoo.org.uk

Google map showing location of Blackpool Zoo, near Stanley Park
Google map showing location of Blackpool Zoo, near Stanley Park. Click on the map to explore

East Park Drive runs between Stanley Park and the Zoo. Salisbury Woodlands borders the Zoo in the north and the Village Hotel at the South. Marton Mere Nature Reserve is the Zoo’s neighbour to the South East. Blackpool Victoria Hospital is also nearby, just North of Salisbury Woodlands and Blackpool Park Golf Club. It’s a very green and natural looking area of Blackpool with lots of mature trees – which is otherwise very urban.

How do you get there?

By car: If you’re a stranger in the area you might be better off following sat-nav if you drive to the Zoo! The route is though the town centre and it’s a busy area. Navigate one way streets and a maze of different routes and plan your journey with Google maps or your own route finder.

There are brown signs all the way to the Zoo. As you arrive at East Park Drive turn at the traffic lights where the big sign is. There’s a longish driveway through the woodland to the main entrance of the Zoo. There are some free parking bays here if you just want to go for a walk in the woods.

When you arrive at the Zoo by car there is a large surface car park next to the main entrance. There’s a parking charge of just £3.00 for the full day, but it’s reinvested back into animal care. Surfaced in tarmac, there’s parking for up to 400 vehicles including disabled spaces.

On foot: Use the map on your phone or plan a route beforehand. You’ll need to allow about an hour for your walk.

By bus: During the season from Easter until autumn, Service 22 links Blackpool Zoo with Stanley Park, Model Village & Blackpool Tower. It operates up to every 40 minutes. Check the Blackpool Transport website for the most up to date details.

What’s at Blackpool Zoo?

Animals – and lots of them! Over 1000 animals from all around the world call this corner of Lancashire their home. Here’s a few of them –

  • Birds – large and small – penguins, emu and parrots
  • Asian elephants
  • Lion and Tiger
  • Orangutan, Gorillas and monkeys
  • Donkeys, reindeer and zebra
  • Sea Lions
  • Camels and giraffes
  • Otters, meerkats and wolf!

When you arrive, the main entrance hall includes toilets, a cafe and the Zoo shop which is full of great merchandise. If you haven’t already booked online you’ll pay at the desk before entering the main Zoo area. Collect a site map to find your way around – and make sure you haven’t missed anything! It’s a complex and interesting site, full of twists and turns with a different face around every corner.

Each enclosure has information to explain what the animal is where it comes from and more about it. Keepers also give daily talks to explain more about a number of the animals which live at the zoo.

Facilities for People

Along with the toilets, cafe and shop in the main entrance hall, there are other facilities throughout the park. As you’d expect it’s disability friendly and accessible throughout – with ramps and landings instead of stairs.

Accessible ramped walkways at Blackpool Zoo
Accessible ramped walkways at Blackpool Zoo

A range of food, drink and ice creams is available from the Lake View Food Court at the centre of the attraction. There are other small food kiosks too which are open seasonally and at busy times. Other public toilet blocks are also available – there’s one adjacent to the food court.

Large and small kids of any age who love animals will want to make a bee-line for the Children’s Farm! Here you can get up close to a variety of friendly animals including sheep, goats, donkeys, rabbits and guinea pigs etc. There are even sinks and soap available to wash your hands afterwards.

You might also have noticed the Playbarn as you came through the car park. It’s a huge three-level space with giant slides, ball cannons, ball showers, multi-level play opportunities and a dedicated toddler area.

DID YOU KNOW? In 1998 the zoo’s 70 year old tortoise Darwin was confirmed as a Seychelles Giant. This makes him a superstar – not only is he the sold remaining inhabitant of the original zoo animals – he’s also very rare. Two were found in the Indian Ocean Islands in 1997 – until then they were thought to have been extinct since 1850. He’s also the only known European specimen.

Interesting things at Blackpool Zoo

As you can imagine, there are changes, developments, campaigns and innovations all the time at an attraction as big as this. Here’s just a few of the new and interesting things that have happened –

Campaigning for Sustainable Palm Oil

The wild orangutan population is rapidly declining due to deforestation caused by palm oil plantations. In 2023 Blackpool Zoo took a proactive stance in highlighting the detrimental effects of unsustainable palm oil production Its links to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and climate change. They compiled a list of practical steps you can take to support the orangutans and the environment. From making conscious purchasing decisions to spreading awareness on social media, every action counts. Help to drive change and safeguard the future of these magnificent creatures.

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New Pad for the Penguins!

In 2023 the Penguins at Blackpool Zoo got a posh new pad! Here’s a video of the work in progress, plus, of course, one or two digressions for other furry and feathered residents.

History of Blackpool Zoo

MANY THANKS to Nick Moore and his fascinating History of Blackpool for the historical information used in this article. You can read it here

In the 1770’s the farmland on which Blackpool Zoo now stands was known as Whinney Heys. On 17 August 1832 the complete estate was sold at auction on by then tenants Thomas Bamber and Richard Ward.

From Farmland to Flying

In 1929 Sir John Bickerstaffe had sold the land which he by now owned. The first Blackpool Municipal Aerodrome opened on 22 August 1929. With the site being used for flying, at first it had four grass landing strips on its 120 acres. One Blister hangar was designed to accommodate 120 light aircraft – four Bellman hangars were added later. For the first two years it was only used for private planes and excursion flights.

It was officially opened on 2 June 1931 by Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald. Scheduled flights began to Leeds/Bradford Airport. In 1932 the British Amphibious Aircraft Company began popular, 14 seater trips to the Isle of Man. Booked from their offices at 22 Birley Street the flights were 36 shillings for the 40 minute trip.

At this time the all-grass airfield was small – the longest possible landing run was 2,100 feet. The main runway ran from West to East and a second, smaller runway crossed it at right angles.

First Aerodrome, First Flight by a Woman

In 1931 a clubhouse and offices opened with tiered seating for spectators. With an arched roof above, a new top-floor control tower also opened on top. The final cost of this building work was £88,000. After two years of work to drain the ground it was now a fully operational and licensed aerodrome. The first Municipal Aerodrome in the country, it also had its own Customs Facilities.

On 2 June 1931, Amelia Earhart completed the first ever cross-Atlantic flight by a woman, landing in Ireland. The next day she was flown in a Paramount News aeroplane from Londonderry to Stanley Park Aerodrome. From there she was flown onto Hanworth Air Park in Middlesex.

Amelia Earhart

Stanley Park Aerodrome was used mainly for military purposes until the end of World War 2. But gradually, all use transferred to Squires Gate where facilities were better. All flying from Stanley Park ended in 1947 but it was used to scrap aircraft until at least 1952. The council also used the buildings to store Illuminations and deckchairs!

Becoming Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool Corporation bought the land in 1969 to build a Zoo and Safari Park. Soon after they sold it again, all except the 32 acres on which the zoo stands. Blackpool Park Golf Club and the Village Hotel occupy the land originally intended for the safari park.

In 1969 the Tower Zoo also closed to the public. The council decided the resort should retain its own zoological collection and the first plans were drawn for a prospective zoo on East Park Drive.

Blackpool Zoo was officially opened on 6 July 1972 by the hugely popular Johnny Morris. Star of TVs Animal Magic, he rode in procession in front of the Mayor’s car on Tower Circus elephant Katsula. 3543 people attended the event.

Originally the Zoo housed two Asian elephants, three white rhinos, two giraffe, sea lions, gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutan, lions, two giant tortoise and a free-flight bird hall. A far cry from the 1000+ which live there today. The menagerie at the Tower was finally removed in 1973 and all the animals moved to the new Blackpool Zoo.

Remnants of Stanley Park Aerodrome

The airport Control Tower was first used for offices and an education classroom then a children’s nursery. Three of the original hangars still remained, used for food storage quarantine and site maintenance – this one demolished in January 2017.

The lucky elephants moved out of their old hangar-home into the new Project Elephant Base Camp, opened on 24 March 2018.

Old Stanley Park Aerodrome Buildings at Blackpool Zoo
Remember the Old Stanley Park Aerodrome Buildings at Blackpool Zoo?

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