The Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC is a quality family activity that is interactive, educational and fun! Get up close and personal with the Salish sea creatures of Vancouver Island.
When I first started my online research of the Ocean Discover Centre in Sidney I found a large world class aquarium that blew my mind!
I had no idea we had an aquarium on Vancouver Island as big as Sea World! I saw a whole outdoor aquarium park with stingrays, a snorkelling area where you could get in the tank, barrier reef exhibits, SHARKS, and a Dugong!
Could it be too good to be true?
Yes, it could.
I quickly realized I was looking at an aquarium in Sidney, Australia… still in the same genre of fun family activities, still on an amazing Island, but wrong country.
Is the Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC worth visiting?
This seems to be a popular question among Islanders and travellers alike lately. It’s time for the Traveling Islanders to weigh in on that very question.
Top 6 Reasons The Ocean Discovery Centre Stands Out
1. Surprise Entrance!
This caught me completely off guard and I loved it! The outside of the building is definitely unassuming as it’s the ground level of a hotel/condo.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect upon entering the front doors, but I can tell you with certainty that they nailed the first impression with a creative and fun entrance.
The stage was set perfectly for our family experience.
Let’s just say I thought the aquarium was on the ground level… but after entering the submarine elevator hatch and descending to the ocean floor a few leagues under the sea, I quickly realized I was wrong… or was I?
The kids absolutely loved this part of the aquarium and begged Gretta and I to take the submarine elevator one more time before we left.
2. Touch Tank
This was one of my favourite things about the Ocean Discovery Centre. At the far end of the aquarium area, we entered a large room overlooking the ocean and an open water tank that is every kids’ dream come true.
You get to poke and prod live sea creatures and no one yells at you!
Under careful supervision we got to see what some of these live sea creatures felt like and how they responded to human touch. Very cool!
Gretta’s and the kids’ reactions were priceless. We are going to hold onto some special memories from that hands-on experience as tightly as that sea anaename’s tentacles were wrapped around Gretta’s finger.
3. Local Marine Life Focus
Octopus photo credit: Vadym Graifer
We spend a lot of time looking out over the ocean that surrounds Vancouver Island, but you only get to see the surface of what’s out there… literally. I loved how the Ocean Discover Centre really makes learning fun for both kids and adults in many different ways.
The Ocean Discovery Centre does a fantastic job of bringing the sea and all the fascinating and diverse sea creatures right to you. The area of focus is the Salish sea which encompasses 110,000 square kilometres from mountaintop to ocean.
It’s an international inland sea with the Straight of Georgia, in British Columbia, and Puget Sound, in Washington, joined to the open Pacfic Ocean by Juan de Fuca Straight.
Interesting Fact: The giant Pacific octopus has three hearts! There is one heart for each gill and one for the body. This is to compensate for poor circulation.
4. Variety Of Tanks
Small tanks, open tanks, and floor to sealing tanks with everything in between.
There’s a good diversity of tank sizes, but my favourite was the floor to ceiling tanks. I wish I could bring the one with the jellyfish home with me so I could put it in my living room. That would entertain the kids for hours, and probably our Golden Retriever, Mango, too.
I could always get one of these Wall-Mounted Aquariums!
The kids especially loved the tank where you could pretend to be a sea creature and get right in nice and close in a bubble tank.
5. Knowledgable Staff & Volunteers
Once the submarine elevator opened we were greeted by a very kind older gentleman who gave us one of the nicest welcomes we have ever received to an Island activity.
After his overview of the Salish Sea, the kids were hooked right away. This same gentleman even came and checked on us at different points throughout our time.
It was the same way all the way throughout the Ocean Discovery Centre with any staff member we met. One staff member made sure we didn’t miss the feeding of the fish, and another noticed that the bubble tank was a little dirty and once it was cleaned let us know to come back.
We were impressed with their knowledge and care for guests. If these staff are any indication to the others who work at the Ocean Discovery Centre, then you will be in good hands.
6. Overall Feel Of The Ocean Discovery Centre Aquarium. Is It Worth A Trip?
Friendly, High-Quality, Interactive, Educational, and a wonderful family experience. We are so glad we went and would recommend this activity to others.
If you enjoy seeing and learning about local marine life in the area you live in or traveling to, then you are sure to enjoy your experience. However, our number one recommendation is to make sure you set the right expectations.
If you have ever been to a boutique hotel, this would be the equivalent of a boutique aquarium. Yes, that means it is a smaller aquarium, and thus the name “Ocean Discover Centre”. The name is communicating that you shouldn’t expect a traditional, mammoth, large-city aquarium. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just different.
To give you an idea on the size, you should plan on a 1-3 hour visit depending on the age of your kids and whether you like to go through activities quickly or take your time learning lots along the way.
We personally took about 3 hours and really soaked it all in and went back through a second time.
#1 rule with the Ocean Discovery Centre is don’t rush. Instead, savour the experiences.
How about you? What’s your favourite aquarium in the world? Start the ball rolling with a comment below!
Ocean Discovery Centre
We should mention that the Ocean Discovery Centre is a registered charity/ non-profit. So your admission money is going to a good educational cause.
Adults 18+: $15
Youth 7-17: $8
Child 3-6: $5 (includes FREE annual pass)
Under 3: Free
Hours of Operation
Daily from 10am until 4:30 pm (last admission at 4 pm)
Directions to the Ocean Discovery Centre in Sidney, BC (30 minutes from Victoria on Vancouver Island)
While our experience at Ocean Discovery Centre was complimentary, you can rest assured that our thoughts, opinions, and findings are our own as always.
It looks like a great spot for a fun family day out and easy to get to from Victoria -
It's a great spot indeed, Katie! -g -
Having been to Sidney myself I'm impressed that this little town has such a lovely aquarium. Especially one where it seems so much thought has been put into the design of it to encourage interaction and learning for the kids.. I love the entrance, the jellyfish tank and the bubble tank. Your story of researching the one in Australia made me giggle. -
It's a cute little town for sure and there's much to do here. I'd like to check out more. They did a GREAT job with this place! There's something cool for all ages. -g -
Love the idea of the touch tanks, I would be fascinated by that, especially if the creatures were wrapping themselves around your fingers! I think its great how the staff were so attentive and appeared to take pride in the place and their jobs - Glad you had a great time! -
The touch tanks were one of my personal highlights for sure. The sea creatures were really neat and it was a great experience to share with my son. The staff/volunteers were great too. Their love for sea life showed in how they treated us and interacted with us. It was fantastic. -g -
I love that family picture! Big or small, I love visiting aquariums on our family trips. We are looking forward to visiting one of the best (Monterey CA) next month! -
Pretty cool picture, eh? I can't wait to hear about your experience in CA next month. I'm sure you'll love it! -g -