Plymouth, home of the Royal Navy Dockyard, has many maritime connections stretching far beyond 1588 when Sir Francis Drake famously played bowls on the Hoe while monitoring the approach of the Spanish Armada. Walking the cobbled streets of Plymouth's Barbican has a very historic atmosphere with the old customs house and port buildings along the quayside.
Don't miss the Island House, one of the oldest buildings in Plymouth and take a tour of the Black Friars Plymouth Gin Distillery. It continues to produce Plymouth Gin as it has for the navy since 1793.
Just across the water is the contemporary glass building of the National Marine Aquarium with soaring aquariums which can be viewed from many different angles. In Britain's largest and best aquarium you can see sharks swimming with eagle rays, tarpon and barracuda. Other tanks display seahorses and brightly colourful fish swimming around beautiful coral reefs. A 4D cinema, Discovery Zone, café and soft play area, it is ideal for a cold or showery day.
Further along Devon's south coast is the Living Coasts attraction in Torquay. This award-winning coastal zoo is home to playful otters, fur seals, waders and sea birds as well as a colony of penguins. Indoors there are 20 aquariums with strange creatures of the deep including stingrays, octopus and crabs.
On the North coast, The Ilfracombe Aquarium is located in the Old Lifeboat House on Ilfracombe's pretty harbour. The exhibits are arranged to describe the aquatic life and habitats following a stream from Exmoor down to the estuary and rockpools and then out to sea. Feeding demonstrations, quiz trails and presentations by fish keepers add to the value of the day.
Just along the coast is the North Devon Maritime Museum at Appledore, a charming historic port to explore at any time. More than just ocean exhibits, this museum has seven exhibition rooms showing sail and steam power, shipwrecks, the WWII beach landing experiments and so much more. It offers particularly good value at just £2 admission for adults and 50p for children. Hartland Quay Shipwreck Museum is within the Hartland Quay Hotel which itself is decorated with souvenirs from local wrecks. The engaging displays capture four centuries of local shipwrecks, smuggling, wrecking and heroic rescues.
Mortehoe Museum also has a gallery dedicated to maritime history along with flora, fauna, farming and the development of tourism in the area.
Back on the South coast of Devon, it is hard to get more interactive than with a tour of the replica Golden Hind, moored in Brixham harbour. This replica Tudor warship is a full size reproduction of the shop Drake used to circumnavigate the world and depicts the harsh conditions of life at sea in the 16th century.
Finally, Salcombe Maritime Museum welcomes visitors with a fine collection of photographs, ships' logs, models and shipbuilding tools. It also captures the stories of many historic maritime events including the Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster in 1916.
The @NationalMarineAquarium in Plymouth is the largest in the UK, but is it necessarily the best? Have you visited other aquariums in the UK? How do you think they compare with the Plymouth National Marine Aquarium?