Exploris Aquarium, Portaferry

Exploris Aquarium

Opening Hours:

April to August:

Mon - Fri
10am - 6pm
11am - 6pm
12noon - 6pm

September - March:

Mon - Fri
10am - 5pm
11am - 5pm
1pm - 5pm


Junior (16 & under)
Family (2 adults 3 child)
Family (1 adult 3 child)
60 yrs +, disabled & unemployed
Under Three


Exploris Aquarium
The Ropewalk Castle Street Portaferry, BT22 1NZ

(see map below)


+ 44 (0) 28 2



Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium, is ideally sited on the shores of a marine nature reserve and area of special scientific interest – Strangford Lough. A visit to Exploris enables the visitors to view and learn about the marine species that are indigenous to Strangford Lough and the coastline of the island. Marine communities are recreated to enable the visitor to gain a better understanding of the complex inter relationships between different species. The Seal Sanctuary affords the visitor the opportunity to view the process of rehabilitation of rescued seal pups from their arrival through to full health when they are re-introduced to the wild.

Aquarium PlanYour journey in the aquarium begins in Strangford Lough Hall: Strangford Lough being one of the most important marine sites in Europe. The lough has been aptly named when you consider that 350 million tonnes of water flows through the narrows with each tide. Environments from large boulders at the mouth of the lough, to mud flats at the top of the lough exist within a relatively short distance. The tanks in this room represent the different communities in this Marine Nature Reserve (MNR).

A narrow channel of water joins Strangford Lough to the Irish Sea. The waters in the Narrows can be treacherous, and run over rocky shores, out into the deeper waters of the open sea. In the coastal zone around the island many varied species exist using different environments for shelter and camouflage. From sandy harbours to kelp communities: rock pools to underwater cliffs, you will find animals that are given best protection by the area in which they choose to live.

Either in the cave beneath or from the bridge above, you can gaze into the largest tank in the aquarium. Holding 250 tonnes of sea water the open sea tank houses the animals that exist in deeper waters. This is where you will see commercially important species such as cod, turbot and halibut joined by a number of shark species, conger eels and many others. Throughout the year the visitors are given the opportunity to view divers feed the sharks and congers in this tank.

The Discovery Pools are located both in the Strangford Lough Hall and the Marine Discovery Lab. Throughout the day there are organised demonstrations at each Discovery Pool delivered by knowledgeable guides. This affords the visitor an opportunity to learn more about a variety of living animals at close hand. This entertaining and educational experience helps to break down inhibitions and develop an appreciation of nature for visitors of all ages.



Other County Down Attractions:

Audley's Tower
Exploris Aquarium
Scrabo Tower