We started our summer holidays with a trip to Paignton Zoo in South Devon. It’s Devon’s largest zoo and one of its very best Devon days out with kids, especially if yours are animal fans.

Paignton Zoo is set in 80 acres of botanical garden and is home to more than 300 species – that’s 2,500 animals in total, including many that are endangered in the wild and others that are part of conservation projects.

In 2021, Paignton Zoo will reopen on 12 April.

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Looking for a really wild day out in the South West? Visit Paignton Zoo in South Devon to meet lions, lemus, rhinos & rheas. Here's all you need to know before you visit #DevonwithKids #zoo #Paignton #Devon #SouthWest #conservation #UK #England #daysout #thingstodo #wildlife #animals

Why visit Paignton Zoo?

There’s such a lovely feel about this zoo in Devon. The animals’ enclosures are set within an amazing, shady landscape where they have plenty of room to roam.

Gorilla in leafy enclosure with climbing frame
Baboons on baboon rock enclosure at Paignton Zoo in South Devon

Keepers give excellent talks about the wildlife they look after here. Check the map you are given on your way in for talk times throughout the day.

Please note: that keeper talks have been suspended for the time being.

There’s also lots of play areas for children to stretch their legs in-between meeting the animals. This, along with other family-friendly facilities, makes it one of our top recommendations for things to do in Devon with toddlers.

Hang out play area at zoo
Hangout adventure playground

Paignton Zoo is also part of the conservation charity, the Wild Planet Trust, which has one of the largest and most productive zoo-based research departments in the UK. It also runs Newquay Zoo in Cornwall and 20 conservation projects in the UK, Africa and Asia.

Find out about other Devon zoos and wildlife days out.

Paignton Zoo animals

If you’re wondering if Paignton Zoo has giraffes, tigers or gorillas, the good news is yes it does.

Child looking at tigers at Paignton Zoo

Here’s some more of the many Paignton Zoo animals you can visit during your day:

  • flamingos
  • crocodiles
  • reptiles
  • tropical birds
  • owls
  • red pandas
  • giant tortoise
  • gibbons
  • spider monkeys
  • orang-utans
  • baboons
  • rhinos
  • meerkats
  • cheetahs
  • lions
  • tigers
  • kangaroos
Black rhino in zoo enclosure
Giraffe eating outside at zoo

Sadly their elephant, Duchess, died in 2019. They also lost their male lion, Lucifer, early in 2020. The lionesses are still at the zoo.

Something it is worth saying is that it may not be possible to see all animals every visit. Having visited a number of times, we know that you are likely to see more animals in their outdoor enclosures on warm days. The zoo recommends visiting the big cats in the afternoon for a better chance of seeing them.

Viewing areas outside lion enclosure
Lion viewing area

Everyone loves penguins but you won’t find them at Paignton Zoo. If you want to see penguins you’ll find them at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, which is also run by Wild Planet Trust.

Sadly Living Coasts in Torquay, which was also part of the Trust and home to penguins in Devon (as well as sea lions, seals and other marine life) was forced to close because of lack of income during lockdown.

Find other things to do in Paignton and in nearby Torquay in Devon.

Other things to do at Paignton Zoo

Kids can also play on the playgrounds dotted around the zoo, meet and pet farm animals at The Ranch, ride the Jungle Express Train (additional charge) and see a bird show between April and September. And don’t miss a wobbly wander across the bridge in Lemur Wood.

Wobbling bridge in Lemur Wood at Paignton Zoo

Please check before you visit as some of these additional activities may not be possible during visits to Paignton Zoo in 2021.

Visiting Paignton Zoo after lockdown

We visited Paignton Zoo a few weeks after it reopened following the easing of lockdown. So, what’s different at Paignton Zoo during COVID-19?

Hand sanitiser outside enclosure
  • It’s essential to book the day and arrival time for your visit as numbers are being carefully controlled. This applies to members and non-members
  • There’s staff at the car park entrance checking you have a booking  
  • There are one way systems, signage and social distancing floor markings all over the zoo. Just follow the paw prints
  • Visitors must wear face masks in the gift shop and when ordering food in the restaurant
  • Some animal houses and indoor play areas are closed
  • Outdoor play areas are open with numbers restricted on smaller play equipment
  • All toilets are being deep cleaned hourly
  • There are hand sanitiser dispensers everywhere
  • Screens are up at cafes and in the zoo shop to protect customers and staff.
  • Cafes are doing takeaway only and contactless payments are encouraged.
Small play area in zoo
Small play equipment has limited numbers

Cafes and toilets

The main restaurant at Paignton Zoo is not far from the entrance. This services hot and cold food in a canteen. There is indoor and outdoor seating. There are snack shacks located around the zoo. These sell drinks, ice creams and a limited selection of hot and cold snacks.

You can also eat your own picnic at benches located around the zoo. You cannot take food into some areas like the Lemur Wood where animals roam freely as you walk through.

There are toilets and baby changing facilities close to all the eateries except for the ice cream stall at the furthest end of the zoo near the giraffes.

How accessible is Paignton Zoo?

Paignton Zoo is one of our recommended accessible places to visit in Devon. Viewing areas and indoor enclosures are accessible, and there are disabled toilets.

The zoo is set in a valley so there are some hills. You can pick up an accessible route map at reception.

Is Paignton Zoo dog-friendly?

Please be aware that Paignton Zoo does not allow dogs and there are no kennels on site. Do not leave dogs in your car as there is no shaded parking.

Find dog-friendly Devon attractions.

Paignton Zoo map

Here is where you will find the Paignton Zoo map. Be aware that it is not to scale and doesn’t show how hilly the site is in places.

It is possible to navigate the zoo with a pushchair but bring your strong arms for heaves up hills.

Where is Paignton Zoo in South Devon?

Here’s where to find Paignton Zoo in South Devon:

The zoo has a large car park that is free to use during your visit. Walk down hill through the car park to find the zoo entrance.

Looking for more things to do around the English Riviera? Read my guide to things to do in Torquay.

Paignton Zoo opening times 

Paignton Zoo has reopened following lockdown and is open all year round. Its doors open at 10am and close at 6pm. Last admission is 4pm.

Please book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Paignton Zoo prices 

Children in front of black rhino

Ticket prices are £18.55 for adults, £15.30 for children (aged three to 15), and £17.35 for senior citizens. There’s also a family ticket. The zoo welcomes a voluntary additional donation per ticket to help with its conservation work. You can find the prices including a small donation on the zoo website.

Tickets must be pre-booked in 2021. Here’s where to buy tickets for Paignton Zoo.

Looking for more ways to entertain your children in Paignton? Here’s my guide to things to do in this town on the English Riviera.

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Looking for a really wild day out in the South West? Visit Paignton Zoo in South Devon to meet lions, lemus, rhinos & rheas. Here's all you need to know before you visit #DevonwithKids #zoo #Paignton #Devon #SouthWest #conservation #UK #England #daysout #thingstodo #wildlife #animals