There is a wide range of zoos and petting farms of all sizes across Essex, from the world-renowned Colchester Zoo that will take several visits to get to see everything and where a season ticket would be a good investment, to Pets Corner in Harlow which is free of charge.
Barleylands Farm Park
Barleylands Road, Billericay, CM11 2UD. Open every day 10am to 4pm (autumn winter) 5pm (spring summer)
Alpacas, pigs, sheep, cows, birds of prey and more. Many of the paddocks give opportunities to feed the animals, and there’s a new Animal Barn in the dry. Activities and events throughout the year.
Boydells Dairy Farm
Wethersfield, Braintree, Essex CM7 4AQ
Try your hand at milking a cow, feeding hens, riding a donkey cart or outstaring a llama. But the chief part of your visit will be the sheep milking which takes place in a modern “rapid exit” parlour, milking batches of18 ewes at a time.
Call of the Wild Zoo
Wickford Rd, South Woodham Ferrers CM3 5QZ
Rising from the ashes of Tropical Wings Zoo (not literally, it didn’t burn down!!) A growing collection of small mammals (i.e. don’t expect nelliephants or giraffes or lions), lizards, birds, and more.
Maldon Road, Colchester, CO3 0SL. Open daily from 9.30am, closing times vary according to season.
“Colchester Zoo is home to over 260 species set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes. During your visit you will see species from around the world and learn more about them at daily encounters, giving you the chance to see the animals being fed, watch a training session or perhaps just quiz the keepers!”
Hadleigh Farm Rare Breeds Centre
Castle Lane, Hadleigh SS7 2AP.
“The Rare Breeds Centre is a long standing favourite with people of all ages. You will love our array of unique and fascinating animals. We have some real characters here, too. After being greeted by the braying of Dylan the Donkey and the graceful beauty of Cookie the Exmoor Pony.”
Hasty’s Adventure Farm
West Rd, Clacton-on-Sea CO15 1AG
Opened in 2015 and going from strength to strength.
Lots of petting animals and also “lots of play to be had, including pedal go karts, grass sledges, ride on tractors for toddlers, den building, giant Lego bricks, sand and water play, hobbit huts and for older children, a huge undercover wooden adventure zone…”
Spring 2013 opening times and prices to be announced.
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Hopefield Animal Sanctuary
Sawyers Hall Lane, Brentwood, CM15 9BY. Open to the public 1pm to 4pm daily.
“Hopefield cares for a variety of animals including horses, donkeys, goats,sheep, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, cats and more recently has become home to smaller animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchilla’s. The sanctuary even has its own resident bull called Max, who loves nothing more than being tickled between his horns!”
Lee Valley Park Farms
Stubbins Hall Lane, Waltham Abbey, EN9 2EF. Open every day 10am to 5pm.
Pigs, sheep, goats, cows, chickens, ducks, llamas, reindeer, meerkats, ponies, and many more… Bundle Barn, Hilltop Adventure and Alpine Adventure
Marsh Farm Animal Adventure Park
Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers, CM3 5WP. Open Monday to Sunday 10am – 5pm.
Lots of animals, birds of prey, pony rides, and indoor and outdoor events, and much, much more.
Old MacDonald’s Farm
Weald Road, South Weald, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 5AY. Open 10am – 5pm March-Nov, 10am – 4.30pm (or dusk) Nov-March.
Animals, trains, roller-coaster, giant tractor rides, trampolines and much more.
Pets Corner Harlow
Town Park, Harlow, CM20 2QG. Open 11am to 4:45pm summer, 11am to 4:00pm winter.
Pets Corner is a small friendly open farm located in Harlow Town Park. It has a large selection of traditional farm animals, more exotic animals such as Reindeer, Llamas and Alpacas, whilst still keeping with the visitor’s favourites’ of rabbits, Guinea pigs and chickens and ducks.
Redwings Ada Cole Visitor Centre
Broadley Common, Nazeing, EN9 2DH. Open daily 10am to 4pm.
More than 50 rescued horses, ponies, donkeys and mules at the site.
Seafront, Southend on Sea, SS1 2ER. Open all year around 10am/11am to 5pm/8pm.
Over 40 displays featuring sea life from all over the world.