Drusillas Park in East Sussex is a small zoo aimed at fairly young kids (aged 2-10) and is quite simply THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH OF YOU ARE NEARLY THREE YEARS OLD. We headed there last week as had an unexpected weekday available as a family and in my endeavor to try and write more about things to do in and around Brighton and Sussex, wanted to share with you why we’re fans.
Where is it?
It’s only 30 minutes on a good day from Brighton up the A27 in between Newhaven and Eastbourne. We’ve been there a couple of days already this year as can do the journey and fit in the animals and rides in one morning (as it opens at 10am), stay for lunch and head back while our eldest sleeps it all off in the back of the car. Those local may already be familiar with Middle Farm and it’s not too far down the road from there.
How Much Does it Cost?
An off-peak ticket for a family of four will cost you £64.00 if you book online and for the love of money, do book online as it will save you cash. I am toying with buying an annual membership as you do see something different with the animals each time you visit and there’s themed day and events throughout the year like the upcoming Drusilla Christmas events where you can meet huskies and reindeer as well as Santa. Annual membership costs £68 per person, per year which seems like a no-brainer really.
What Animals Does it Have?
Firstly it has meerkats and owls (DOES IT NEED ANYTHING ELSE??) At present, these are my eldest daughter’s two favourite animals. Drusilla’s have gone to a lot of effort to enable the meerkats to be enjoyed up close and personal with a little viewing pod placed in the middle of the “prairie”. The meerkats are super friendly and inquisitive and will come and investigate the visitors which is delightful to see and for those kids that have the attention span to stand and watch it’s a real treat to be faced with one.
At the front gate, you should pick up the Animal Spotter book that the park has created to allow kids to stamp their pages as they see each of the key animals at the park. This time we convinced our girl to give it a try and it brought her visit to life as normally she wouldn’t have been too bothered about any other animals but this time was actively looking for them with the help of the map and her little book and when she found each of the stamping stations as we walked around the zoo would VERY enthusiastically stamp the pages (apologies to Drusillas if you noticed a dry run of stamp ink after last Friday…)
The zoo takes you first through the monkey section where you can see marmoset, capuchin and colobus monkeys before hitting up the meerkats. You’ll then be able to see macaques and squirrel monkeys interspersed with the servals. As cat people, we love looking at the servals and as the biggest cat in the zoo, they look pretty happy and content with the space they have. The enclosure is all glass which makes you feel you’re almost in there with them and our little one could spot them quite easily.
Being able to see the bats and sloths up close in their own enclosure is really something and our daughter’s face was set to amazed to see the sloth up close earlier this year. She also held her nose and said “phewie” when we were looking at the bats. They do have a certain pungent odour…
Other highlights for us included the flamingos (or “mingos as our daughter calls them) and the otters who make the cutest little noises!
…But Wait, There’s More Stuff!
At the end of the zoo bit, Drusilla’s have placed a massive play area and (more importantly) a coffee shop for parents. I was able to have a sit and feed our new baby, who had been clung in her carrier like a little lemar for the visit so far but wanted a little attention, so eldest and daddy hit up the Go Bananas playground, which is very quiet and at 11am on a Friday morning in term time! The cafe has a soft play area in it too in case it’s raining. It was pretty quiet the day we last went but in the summer it’s a super fun area and great place to eat your sarnies. There’s also a cute train (which has reduced service on non-peak days as we discovered) which will take you round half the park. Lots of fun!
If you’re nearly three and a girl then it’s the Hello Kitty area that really will light your fire and our one remembered it from last time, asking about going on “the car” as we went round the whole park. Again, last week the rides are reduced due to being off peak but we managed to have a go back on “the car” and Daddy looked thrilled to be going 1 mph in a kitten-themed cabriolet sports mobile.
When you arrive, there’s a freaking STARBUCKS ON SITE. Don’t forget to coffee-up at the start of your visit or else you’ll get tired of reading out all of the animals to your curious minded offspring who insists on asking “Whassat Mum?” fifteen hundred times and by the time you hit soft play you’ll want to make a cosy bed in the ballpit. Caffeine Is your friend and Drusillas know this and I bloody love them for this.
Save cash and bring your own lunch when it’s nice out as you can sit outside and enjoy the ambience of screaming and very excited children (those used to soft play will be hardened to this). However do treat yourself to the Explorer’s Cafe like we did last week as the food is really kid-friendly and quite reasonable to buy lunch for a family (we spent £15 for three of us).
Visit in the afternoon if you want to see the good feeding shows as there’s not many prior to 11am (which is our prime time to visit the animals as it’s quiet).
That’s all folks – thanks for reading! Have you been to Drusilla’s yourself? What do you think if it there? Would love to know your own top tips. I’ve never been a massive zoo person as I’m quite sad to see the behavior and state of many animals (even London Zoo),but Drusillas seem to have got it right and by focusing on educating children and keeping the vibe small (the best small zoo in the country apparently) the animals seem happy and content as far as I can tell.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary family ticket for this review’s visit however I have happily paid for the family to visit the park already this year and will be back again as it’s pretty good value if you get the annual membership.