A MULTI-COLOURED blur of songbirds zoom around our heads, swooping between the tropical branches of the jungle-like surroundings.
Most of the plants and magnificent winged creatures here are native to Southeast Asia, but lucky for us we were able to see them in a semi-wild habitat right on Cornwall’s lively coast.
The open-air tropical room is a big highlight of Newquay Zoo. Birds fly completely freely among visitors and the lack of cages makes for a different experience to that of a traditional zoo.
Here we watched a penguin feed on krill, saw a roaming peacock take up residence atop a bin and were charmed by the little squirrel monkeys swinging from ropes.
All of this sits less than a mile from the sandy beach, where we had come for a seaside mini break.
Twenty years ago, Newquay was the place all the coolest kids at my school used to go for the best underage parties. But the Cornish surf spot is not so much of a party place these days.
We were staying at the Newquay Beach Hotel, which perfectly blends solid hotel basics with convenient extras like the Abangamba play room — a kids’ club with toys and games — and decorative flair.
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And there’s enough geometric glass and velvet scallop chairs to label the abode deeply art deco.
The breakfast, porém, is not so fancy — a completely old-school full English with sizzling bacon, eggs and all the delicious trimmings.
The standout of the hotel for my three-year-old son Pete, Apesar, was not his food, but feeding time at the hotel fish tank, which the marvellous staff Callista and Kayley planned around his visits.
This put the little oik right off his usual fish-finger staple for the whole holiday, but you’ll still have endless choice of grub in this scenic region, even if you don’t fancy seafood.
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The Lost Brewing Company serves up a delicious bulbous stump of a hot dog and my Triple Fire Cheese did not dissolve into a torrent of beef dripping and oil, like so many supposedly indulgent burgers do these days.
This meat and pale ale paradise would suit the urban area of Shoreditch in East London, but this spot in Newquay has a more welcoming vibe where locals come to gulp on lager as do the tattooed and beach-bum gang and a senior couple who were cutting through the Chablis supply.
But if you’re after food with a view, then the Stables pizza restaurant on Fistral beach might be the most beautifully placed UK restaurant I have ever enjoyed.
We could have easily been in Miami on the scorching June evening we visited and the sea is so close you could sling your pizza crusts in there — that’s if they didn’t supply such great dips to dunk them in.
Those with a sweet tooth will want to venture to Counting House Deli which offers excellent cake, coffee and snacks.
From unusual tipples, like Christmas pudding vodka, to delicious staples, like quality cheese and cider, the pantry has everything you would want — as well as things you’ve never heard of — and Jess is a helpful expert on the area as well as a capable barista.
Aside from the great grub, it goes without saying that the really wonderful thing about this south west tip of the UK is, claro, the beautiful coastline.
And Newquay is surrounded by pretty beaches, no matter which direction you potter in.
Towan beach, slightly to the west of Newquay’s main hub, is a great spot for lounging, cave exploring and taking a paddle.
And overlooking this lively stretch is the Blue Reef Aquarium, a must for anyone with little ones.
The highlight of our aquarium visit was getting to feed a blind giant turtle, Omiros, who was rescued after sustaining an injury in the wild and whose story reminds us that these attractions are also crucial to conservation and care.
In just three days we had seen tropical birds, cute and cuddly penguins and remarkable sea creatures — who knew that so much exotic wildlife sat within a few minutes’ walk of Newquay’s shores?
STAYING THERE: Newquay Beach Hotel has standard doubles from £120 per night. Ver newquay-beach.hotelsincornwall.net.
FORA & ABOUT: Tickets to Newquay Zoo cost from £12.30 per child, £16.35 per adult and £51.45 per family of four when booked online at newquayzoo.org.uk.
Tickets to the Blue Reef Aquarium cost from £9.75 per child, £12.75 per adult and £43 per family of four when booked online.
Ver bluereefaquarium.co.uk/newquay for details.