Donna Nook Seal Colony | When is the BEST Time To Go? (+ TOP Tips)

Seal pup at Donna Nook Seal Colony in Lincolnshire

Donna Nook Seal Colony is in Lincolnshire on the coast of the North Sea on the east coast of England. Every year between November and December the grey seals come up on to the sand dunes at to have their pups.

The birthing starts at Donna Nook at the beginning of November and is at its peak towards the end of November beginning of December.

It’s a unique wildlife experience, I’ve seen seals in the UK before on the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales.

But I have never seen so many as close at Donna Nook. Some seals are literally lying next to the fence next to the path.

Cute seals at Donna Nook
Lots of cute seal pups at Donna Nook

The numbers have increased each year and now were reported over 3,000 seals last year.

On my visit to see the seals, I spent nearly an hour walking up and down, watching and listening to the bizarre seal behaviours. If I’d worn a warmer jacket I would have stayed a lot longer. That sea breeze is flipping cold!

Here are my best tips to help plan and enjoy your Donna Nook experience and capture those cute seal photos too!

All You Need to Know About Visiting Donna Nook

Where is Donna Nook Seal Colony?

Grey seals at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Donna Nook Seal Colony
Welcome to Donna Nook Seal Colony

The seal colony is about 10 miles from Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire on the east coast of the UK.

Address: Donna Nook, Louth, LN11 7PD*

*Please note this isn’t the exact postcode for Donna Nook but it gets you within a few 100 metres. There are signs so you can find the way.

When is the Best Time to Visit Donna Nook?

Donna Nook Nature Reserve
A beautiful scene, mother and pup at Donna Nook

The seal pups start being born from the end of October. And the number increases week by week.

Most seal pups are born in the last weeks of November and beginning of December (based on last year’s figures).

In 2018, the first seal was born on 22 October.

I read before my visit about how busy it gets at the weekend. So for a more enjoyable experience go on a weekday, if possible. Or alternatively try and visit before the peak birthday times, there are so many seals that you will still get to see plenty.

You can check the weekly update here from Lincolnshire Trust for how many seals are at Donna Nook and also join their Facebook and Twitter groups that share updates on the seal numbers.

In 2019, for the week up until 8 November, there were 123 bulls, 496 cows and 250 seal pups so still plenty of seals around for you to see.

Seal pup at Donna Nook
Seal pup at Donna Nook

How Many Seals Are at Donna Nook at Once?

  • And at their peak, there are over 1,500 pups. Yes seriously, that a lot of seals.
  • Over the entire seal season in 2018, there were over 3,000 seals in total

In October 2018, the number of seals started low but slow with around 26 bulls, 36 cows and 5 pups but during November and December, the numbers increased.

Seal mum + pup lying right next to the fence
Seals lying right next to the fence

Where to Park at Donna Nook?

There are two options for parking

  1. In 2017, the main car park at Donna Nook, which was free. I arrived at noon, one of the busiest times. There are not loads of car parking spaces, however, people are arriving and leaving from viewing the seals all the time so be patient and you should find a space.
  2. Option 2 is an overflow car park that costs £5. This is where the only toilets are (portaloos).

***UPDATE FOR Donna Nook Parking 2018***

  • Due to how popular Donna Nook was last year for the 2018/2019 season there was new car parking charges.
  • Parking from £5 per day. *tbc for 2019 season

Read here about why they are bringing in new charges and what the money will go towards.

Arriving at Donna Nook Seal Colony

Grey seal at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Donna Nook Seal Colony
It’s great watching the seals rolling in the mud too!

As soon as you walk into the Nature Reserve you start seeing the seals straight away. They are scattered in small groups, to begin with, and then the numbers increase.

Some of the seals are busy sleeping, well a lot of them. But a few of them are busy feeding their young pups or aggressively warning off other seals if they get too close.

Path and fence at Donna Nook
Path and fence at Donna Nook

There is a path that stretches along the entire area of the beach, separated by a fence. To protect you and the seals. The path is wide and is wheelchair friendly so gives the option for everyone to visit.

About halfway down there is a small information cabin where you can learn more about the seals. It has the latest seal count each week.

Plus other seal facts.

You can also get a free stamp on your hand which entitles you to visit Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre

Read next – 15 Awesome Wildlife Experiences

How Much Does it Cost to See the seals?

Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Lincolnshire
Seal pup at Donna Nook

To visit Donna Nook Grey Seal Colony it’s totally free. With the exception, of the overflow car park which is £5.*

However, there’s a small cabin selling a few seal related gifts and there are also places that you can donate money.

Becky’s Tip – Donations

  • Take some small change to donate to support the conservation of the seals and this beautiful area.

*New parking charges for 2018/2019 (See above)

What to Wear When Visiting the Seals at Donna Nook?

Grey seal at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Donna Nook Seal Colony
The grey seals have blubber to keep them warm!

After mentioning the cold sea winds you might already be planning on wearing some warm clothes.

I underestimated how cold it would be especially as you’re walking slowing and stopping to take photos. Here’s what I wish I’d worn!

  • Wellington boots were a favourite or hiking shoes or boots.
  • Thick socks – to keep your toes warm
  • Warm trousers
  • Layers, including a warm top or jumper
  • Winter coat or how about a fancy heated jacket!
  • Scarf, hat and gloves

If it’s raining then I would suggest a waterproof jacket and trousers.

It’s a busy place and an umbrella could be a bit of hazard plus chance are that it will blow inside out!

Donna Nook F&Qs

Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Black seal pup
The very cute black seal pup at Donna Nook

Is Donna Nook Dog-Friendly?

  • No dogs allowed. There’s a separate area if you want to walk your dog away from the seals.
  • My advice would be to leave them at home.

How Close Can You Get to the Seals?

Seal mum laying next to the fence
Seal mum laying next to the fence
  • The seals are not here to perform for you. They are wild animals, yes I do agree they are very cute too! But if they are sleeping, let them rest. It’s really important that they conserve their energy.

Can You Touch the Seals?

  • And here’s the most important one. Don’t touch or stroke the seals. You will see the reason when they open their mouths.

These guys have very sharp teeth, even the pups. So keep your hands away from them. They don’t like being poked. And I’m sure you don’t want a visit to the hospital.

Touching a seal pup could also result in the mother abandoning it and if the seal can’t feed it will get weak. Luckily the Donna Nook Wardens are on hand to look out for seals that are struggling.

But it’s so important not to touch them in the first place.

6 Top Tips for Visiting Donna Nook

Grey seal at Donna Nook Nature Reserve - Donna Nook Seal Colony
Very cute seal pups at Donna Book

  1. Visit seals during the week. Weekends are busy at Donna Nook. If you have the option I would recommend a weekday.
  2. Wrap up warm, it’s cold down there – yes I know I already mentioned this!
  3. Take a hot drink with you. Great to warm you up once you’re back in the car. (I took my Sigg Hot & Cold flask)
  4. Snacks or lunch – depending what time you go take a few snacks. There was a burger van selling hot drinks and food but that’s the only option.
  5. Get your hand stamped to visit Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre.
  6. Stop off at toilets before you arrive (limited facilities on site).

For more information, there are a couple of Facebook groups you can join Donna Nook –  National Nature Reserve and Donna Nook – Nature Reserve Pictures. 

Be prepared for your Facebook feed to be full of lots of cute seal photos!

Where to Stay near Donna Nook?

Donna Nook Nature Reserve
Otter at Mablethorpe Wildlife Centre

Planning on staying a few days in the area whilst you’re visiting Donna Nook? You can also visit Mablethorpe Seal Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre.

Are you travelling a long way to Donna Nook Seal Nature Reserve? Why not visit for a few days and enjoy seeing the seals at different times of day? There are various different options via or you could see what’s available on Airbnb.

Accommodation Options Near Donna Nook Seal Colony

Smiling seal!
Smiling seal!

Where to stay in Grimsby? – 20 miles, 35 minutes drive. Options – Hotels, bed & breakfasts, guesthouses (20 places)

Where to stay in Louth? – 13 miles, 27 minutes drive. Options available – Holiday homes, hotels, apartments, guesthouses, bed & breakfasts (48 places)

Where to stay in Mablethorpe? – 13 miles, 24 minutes drive. Options available – Holiday homes, chalets, hotels, apartments, guesthouses, campsites (58 places)

Where to stay in Chapel St Leonards? – 24 miles, 46 minutes drive. Options available – Holiday homes, apartments, chalets, hotels, apartments, guesthouses, campsites (57 places)

Click here to check prices and availability for where to stay near Donna Nook

Have you visited the seals at Donna Nook Seal Colony?

Tell me about your experience or any tips in the comments below or message me on Facebook.

Read here for more things to see and do in the UK

Save me on your UK Pinterest Boards

Donna Nook Seal Colony

Donna Nook Seal Colony

Donna Nook Seal Colony

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

13 thoughts on “Donna Nook Seal Colony | When is the BEST Time To Go? (+ TOP Tips)

  1. Christina says:

    Ohh my gosh I am MELTING. Cutest featured image ever goes to you <3 I'll be in the UK for Christmas so I'll be missing the pups by a few weeks, but AHH I want to go so badly now. I even asked my boyfriend if it's anywhere near where he's from. The answer is no… but I'll find my way to the seals eventually haha. Thanks for the inspo!!!

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Ah thanks so much Christina, well glad I made you melt with the very cute seal photo. There were so many and they were all really cute. I was quite proud that I enjoyed the moment instead of taking hundreds of photos. Yeah, I think they will all be heading out to sea end of December but I’m sure some must still visit throughout the year. I might need to find out a bit more information what happens! I’ve also seen lots on the other coast of the UK in Pembrokeshire. Would love to know when you see them 🙂

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Ah yes, it was so lovely Anisa, yes I’d love to know what it’s like in Norfolk. When I was there last month I went down to one of the beaches and met a guy who said there are loads there. Maybe worth checking out now because I bet they will have pups too 🙂

  2. Daphne says:

    Lovely photos!! And nice to know they have an information cabin where you can learn more about the seals and get to know the the latest seal count each week.

    • Becky the Traveller says:

      Hi Robert, I’m sorry, I don’t know about what caravan parks are nearby as I drove there and back in a day from my home. I’m sure there will be lots along the coast as it’s a popular place to visit for holidays.

  3. Pingback: Release seals into the wild at the Wadden Sea - the Netherlands

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.