Macduff Aquarium

Written by Chris Thornton | 10th of May 2023
Macduff Aquarium

Macduff Aquarium is a very popular tourist attraction in the town of Macduff, Aberdeenshire. Located on the Moray Firth Coast, the aquarium offers an insight into the North Sea's diverse marine life and teaches about these species' important role in the ecosystem.

We often take the short trip over from Buckie with our three kids, who are enthralled by what the aquarium has to offer. This trip to the aquarium was on a mild day in mid-February, unusually warm for this time of year; we brought a picnic and ate it at the tables located directly outside of the facility.

Getting to the aquarium is a treat in itself, passing the busy Macduff Harbour and the interesting shops that line it. On the left, we spotted a boat name "Andromeda" actively being worked on.

Macduff shipyards near the aquarium.
Ship at Macduff Shipyards.

Pulling into the car park, the aquarium is an interesting-looking, sixteen-sided circular building with a mock reef rising up from the central space.

Upon our visit, we noticed one of the fifty "Light The North" lighthouse art installations directly outside the main entrance.

Car park at Macduff Aquarium

The car park at the aquarium is quite spacious, offering around thirty car spaces, four disabled spaces and two bus bays for visitors. Two electric car charge points are available on the west side of the car park, just on the left as you enter. There is no fee to park at the aquarium.

Aerial view of Macduff Aquarium car park.
Macduff Aquarium car park from the air (Photo John Luckwell).

Admission prices and opening times

Adult: £8.10
Child aged 3-4: £3.25
(under 3s are free, max 2 per adult)

Child aged 5-15: £4.90
Senior: £6.70

Family Ticket: £23.50 (2 adults, 2 children)

We purchased a family ticket and a single children's ticket at the cost of £28.40. Fairly expensive, but the aquarium is more than worth the money.

The receptionist supplied us with a double-sided A4 sheet with information on the aquarium, including a floor plan with a description of all the different zones. On the flip side is a "fish finders" chart where you can identify different species and cross them off as you go; great for the kids!

Fish finder leaflet.
The fish finder leaflet.

Opening Hours:

Winter (1st of November to 31st March 2023).
Saturday - Wednesday: 11 am - 4 pm.
Closed: Thursday and Friday.

Summer (1st of April to 31st October 2023).
Monday - Friday: 10 am - 5 pm.
Saturday and Sunday: 11 am - 5 pm.

Location bouy.
A bouy in the car park, originally housing a bell to give an audible warning to sailors.

Moray Firth Habitats

After purchasing our tickets from the enthusiastic staff, we made our way around the aquarium in an anti-clockwise direction. Toilets are immediately available before you enter the first exhibit.

Coastal Habitats

The first exhibit, "The Estuary", is a great start to your visit. Immediately on your left, you can see a porthole that gives your first look into the large central tank with some of the largest fish in the aquarium.

Also in this first section is the first of the interactive wall displays and a fish tank containing smaller fishes.

The secondary area here is dedicated to sealsdolphins and birds. There are so many interesting informational wall panels and displays with shells and skulls. A full-size dolphin skull is on display, found nearby in Cullen.

Hundreds of local fish.
The first exhibit in the coastal habitats section.
Exciting displays
One of the many displays with information all about the aquarium.
The amazing diversity of the North Sea.
Get your first glimpse into the large central kelp tank.
Shell collection
A collection of shells and other interesting artefacts found in the North Sea.
Dolphin Skull.
Skull of a sick dolphin washed up on Cullen beach.
The first exhibit at MMA.
The entrance and porthole to the central tank.
Cliffs, birds and seals.
Exhibit about the seals and birdlife on the Moray Coast.
Plastics in the sea informational board.
About plastics making their way into the sea and food chain.
Realistic displays
Olivia posing with model of a seal! A seal colony lives a short distance from our home.

Shallow Waters

The Shallow Waters exhibit is a rock pool-style zone. Here you can see starfish, anemones and hermit crabs

Cultural hub.
Investigating the shallow waters exhibit.
Macduff marine aquarium sits on the shore of the Moray Firth.
Interacting with the fish.
A glimpse into marine life.
We saw a hermit crab in this tank.
Jellyish zone.
Jellyfish zone on the right.

Jellyfish Zone

This is one of my favourite sections of the aquarium. It's just a single display with a circular window, but inside are moon jellyfish. They are very graceful and ideal subjects for photography.

Moon Jellyfish.
A photo from the Jellyfish tank. Take a wide aperture lens if you have one, no flash allowed!
Sponsors board. Macduff Aquarium is integral to the areas economic growth.
Decorative sponsors board found between exhibits.

Kelp Reed Aquarium

The star of the show is the kelp reef aquarium in the centre of the building. This tank is 10 metres in diameter and 5 metres deep and contains over 400,000 litres of seawater. Due to the tank being open to the sky, this kelp aquarium is the only successful example in Britain.

As you walk around the aquarium, port holes give a glimpse into the central tank, but you don't experience its true grandeur until you reach the main auditorium/theatre. A curved glass window gives a view of the central tank from the floor to the full height of the building.

The largest fish in the aquarium are visible here; they are very impressive, and looking up through the kelp to the surface is quite an experience.

There are projectors showing displays on the walls on either side of the main viewing window, showing interesting facts about the inhabitants of the tank. Staff talks occur at regular intervals in the theatre, and tiered seating ensures no-ones view is spoiled on busier days.

If you are very lucky, you can see a diver carrying out tasks in the main tank; give them a wave!

Discover how the aquarium works.
Entrance to the central Kelp Reed Aquarium.
The AV theatre at Macduff Aquarium
Looking down from the seating area.
The AV theatre at Macduff Aquarium from the other side.
The otherside of the theatre.
The main view of the central fish tank.
Standing up close to the largest viewing window for the central fish tank.

Sea Lab and Touch Pools

This area is highly educational. When we visited, there was a live microscope set up to a TV screen, showing live plankton; my daughter Olivia was fascinated.

The lab area exhibit showing plankton under a microscope.
Touch zone.
Petting area with a variety of North Sea species.

Across the room is a touch pool area with seashore critters you can reach in and touch; hand-washing facilities are nearby. The final area of this room is the octopus tank; unfortunately, we weren't able to see it on our visit.

Deep Reef and Seafloor

The final exhibit is the deep reef and seafloor. This is a very large tank with a variety of viewing angles, including a raised stair to look down into the tank, glass sides and mirrors on the ceiling.

Rays and flatfish are the main attractions here, but the dogfish kept popping its head out of the water; it reminded me of a sausage dog in some ways.

Sea Floor tank
The large "Sea Floor" exhibit.
Sea Floor exhibit.
Alternate view of the Sea Floor tank.
Side window to see into the seafloor tank.
There are many different ways to see into the tank.
Viewing platform.
Elevated viewing platform for the large sea floor tank.

In addition to this seafloor pool, there is also a bubble viewing area for the main tank, which is even more immersive than the theatre room

Viewing area for the main tank.
Getting a picture in the bubble inside the central tank.
A fascinating aquarium full of local fishy characters.

Hidden away to one side is also the seahorses exhibit; they are absolutely beautiful.

Daily Talks and Feeding Shows

It's worth asking at reception when the talks and feeding sessions will begin, as this is the best time to learn about the aquarium's inhabitants. Divers feeding the fish is one of the most impressive sights at the aquarium.

The final area. Town's st peter street.
The final area of the aquarium before reaching the gift shop.

Gift Shop

After the final exhibit, you are taken to the gift shop and reception. There are many lovely items here, and after vowing not to buy anything, we ended up purchasing a soft toy and a couple of pretty necklaces. I bought a smart-looking nugget of fool's gold.

The aquarium gift shop.
The Gift Shop.

Outside the Aquarium

Just a short distance from the aquarium, you can see the shore. There is no pretty beach here, but there are impressive rock formations behind the facility looking over to east Macduff. The aquarium has provided boards here to tell you about local species you might see from the shore.

Rocks near Macduff.
Interesting rock formations at the rear of the facility.
Outdoor info boards. Aberdeenshire Council.
Informational boards looking out to sea.

UK Government Levelling Up Fund

Macduff Aquarium is currently in the process of bidding for additional funding for modernisation and an extension to the existing building.

How to get to Macduff Aquarium

Here are directions to get to Macduff Aquarium from the Banff side and Aberdeen City direction.

From Banff:

  1. Follow the A98 from the west.

  2. Cross the bridge spanning the River Deveron and then turn left.

  3. Continue along the A98, passing the harbour area.

  4. Turn left down Laing St. You should see A Tang Chinese on the corner.

  5. Cross the road to Bankhead and follow the road as it curves to the right.

  6. You will see Macduff Marine Aquarium directly ahead on your left.

  7. Take a left turn into the car park.

From Aberdeen:

  1. Travel north out of Aberdeen on the A92, then A90 to Ellon.

  2. From Ellon, take the A948 to New Deer, then B9170.

  3. Exit B9170 and head to New Byth, eventually connecting with the A98.

  4. Follow the A98 into Macduff.

  5. Take a right turn down Market Street.

  6. At the bottom of this street, you should see the car park directly ahead.

  7. Follow the road left and then turn right into the car park.

Address: 11 High Shore, Macduff, AB44 1SL
What3Words Location
Google Maps Location

Macduff Marine Aquarium FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about the aquarium.

Do you have to book the Macduff aquarium?

No, you can just turn up without booking, but at very busy times, there could be a maximum capacity allowed in the building. We have always gained access each time we have visited without issue.

Does Macduff aquarium have sharks?

We didn't see any sharks on our February visit to the aquarium. I'm not sure if this changes throughout the year, but there have been baby sharks in the shark hatchery/shark nursery in the past.

Are there toilets at Macduff Aquarium?

Yes, there are toilets at reception, including a large disabled bathroom.

Macduff aquarium mens toilets.
The mens toilet at the aquarium.

Is Macduff Aquarium disabled-friendly?

Yes, the entire facility is on one level; there are no steps or obstacles for wheelchairs. There is a large disabled bathroom too. Many of the fish pools have glass sides, so it's still possible to see the fish from a lower viewpoint.

Is there an aquarium in Aberdeen?

No, Macduff Marine Aquarium is the only one available in Aberdeenshire. Just keep in mind that Macduff is a substantial distance from Aberdeen City (at least a one-hour drive).

What species can be seen at Macduff Aquarium?

There are too many species to list them all, but our particular favourites were:

  • Lumpsucker

  • Salmon

  • Dab

  • Dogfish

  • Moon Jellyfish

  • Seahorses

Tompot Blenny
Tompot Blenny keeping an eye on us!

What is Scotland's biggest aquarium?

Deep Sea World in North Queensferry is the largest aquarium in Scotland.

Aerial photo of Macduff Aquarium.
Aerial view of Macduff Aquarium (Photo John Luckwell).

Are there any other places to visit before or after Macduff Aquarium?

Here are some of my favourite places near Macduff:

Macduff Aquarium Videos

Here are a few videos from our last visit to Macduff Aquarium, please excuse the poor quality it is quite dark within the facility.

Car park and main entrance.
The first exhibit.
A very friendly Lumpsucker fish.
A variety of fish.
The main Kelp Reef area and Auditorium.
Looking into the main central fish tank.
The impressive Kelp Reef.
Another view of the auditorium.
View of the central tank from the Deef Reef view point.
Loooking over the Seafloor tank.
Side view of the Seafloor tank.
Seafloor tank from the other side of the room.
Shanny tank.
A ray popping its head out of the water.
A curious dogfish.
Macduff Aquarium entrance signage.
Entrance signage.

Key information on Macduff Aquarium

  • Macduff Aquarium opened to its first visitors on the 18th of April, 1997.

  • The official opening was on the 29th of May 1997 by the Princess Royal.

  • The car park is free and has disabled spaces and electric car charge points.

  • The Macduff Marine Aquarium sits on the Moray Firth, Scotland's largest bay.

  • The aquarium only contains local sea creatures found in the North Sea.

Entrance sign
Posing for a photo before we head home!

Conclusion - Macduff Marine Aquarium

Macduff Aquarium is a unique and fascinating destination for visitors of all ages, offering a chance to get up close and personal with the diverse and captivating wildlife inhabiting the Moray Firth waters. Whether you are a seasoned marine enthusiast or simply curious about the creatures of the North Sea, this aquarium is brilliant, providing educational and entertaining experiences. A must-visit in west Aberdeenshire or east Moray.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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