15 Best Zoos in Australia – state by state
Australian zoos are some of the best in the world and play a key role in saving endangered animals, meaning they are a great place to learn and experience these animals like never before. From state to state, we uncover which are the best zoos in Australia for you to experience with your kids.
It doesn’t get much more Australian that a day at Australia Zoo, the home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. With 14 wildlife shows everyday included in your entry fees, you’ll certainly keep the kids entertained. Our favourite shows are the crocodile, birds of prey and the very cool tortoises. Australia Zoo also offers some of the best animal encounters in Australia, where you can choose between almost 20 encounters including walking with tigers, get up close with dingoes, wombats, meerkats and more. Did you know Australia Zoo is the only zoo in the world where you can get up close to a komodo dragon? Now that would make some kids very happy. A visit to the wildlife hospital, Australia’s busiest, is an incredible opportunity for the whole family. You’ll get to see the wonderful team of vets save wildlife right in front of your eyes. If you’re at Australia Zoo on the school holidays, the Zoo Keeper for a Day program is fantastic for kids. It has different programs for various age groups including a sensory program. If you are heading to Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast then you need to stop in at Australia Zoo, as it has certainly earned its place as one of the best zoos in Australia.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out guide to visit Mooloolaba Sunshine Coast
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is only 12 km from Brisbane City and a great opportunity to hand feed a kangaroo and hold a koala. You can also meet lots of other interesting Australian wildlife like Tasmanian devils, emus, snakes, wombats, and dingoes. The sanctuary is located in a beautiful natural setting along the Brisbane River. A very special treat for the older kids is being able to see the large snakes being fed. For the younger ones there is a popular lorikeet feeding session where they can get in on the action and an adorable barn animal encounter. The whole family can get in on a koala cuddle session where you can hold one of the koalas and get some photos taken. There are 130 koalas living at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and you get to learn all about their unique personalities through the different exhibits spread around the sanctuary. My favourite thing about Lone Pine is how affordable the experience is. From ticket prices to the kangaroo food ($2 a bag), to the optional animal photo encounters, the sanctuary makes learning about these native wildlife an accessible option for all budgets.
Cristal from Tofu Traveler – check out her story on Lone Pine Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast
Every time I see a photo of someone surrounded by lorikeets, it reminds me of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast. Lorikeets may be what it’s famous for, but there is so much more on offer for families. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the Gold Coast’s most iconic tourist attractions, nestled amongst a vast area of lush eucalyptus trees and rainforest. There is an array of activities, amazing wildlife shows, animal encounters, displays and presentations to be seen. If you want to cuddle a koala, get up close to a crocodile, feed kangaroos, or check out reptiles, birds and marsupials, this is the place to be! A new addition to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the Lost Valley, where families can explore a 5-hectare rainforest along elevated boardwalks and interact with unique exotic wildlife. If a bit of adventure is what you are after, take a guided Segway Safari around the sanctuary or zip line through the trees at the Currumbin Treetop Challenge. There is something for all ages at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary!
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Discover which Gold Coast theme Park is best for what age
Best New South Wales Zoos
Taronga Zoo, Sydney
The iconic Taronga Zoo is an absolute must visit when you’re in Sydney. For generations, this zoo has educated and entertained adults and children of all ages. From its breathtaking view over Sydney Harbour, to the diversity of animals and number of amazing animal experiences to be had, Taronga Zoo Sydney is a great place to visit. Start your day by taking the 12-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay across the harbour to Mossman. Once you’re there, spread your time between viewing some of the 4,000 animals, listening to the keeper talks and shows, go on a tiger trek, or go wild with the new high ropes course for ages three plus called Wild Ropes. An incredible experience is becoming a Taronga Zoo Keeper for a Day (see below for more details on this). If you are looking for accommodation with a difference, then look no further than Roar and Snore where you can have a sleepover at the zoo in safari style tents. At time of publication, costs started at $295 per adult and $195 per child per night.
Taronga Zoo Keeper for a Day, Sydney
Across the year on both weekends and school holidays, Sydney’s iconic Taronga Zoo hosts Keeper for a Day experiences for children aged 8 years and over. For a full day, junior keepers shadow a Taronga Keeper and learn all about a typical day at work, and the ins and outs of animal husbandry. This hands-on approach will see the kids immersed in all aspects of the job including mucking out pens! The experience is an all weather activity, so participants may find themselves feeding the animals in the rain or creating icy food pops to cool some of them down in the warmer months. They’ll also have a few opportunities to get up close with an animal or two and watch the seal or bird show, which is always fun. At $100 for the whole day, this experience is one of those special items to put on your Sydney Bucket List!
Australian Reptile Park, Somersby, Central Coast
Most kids love getting hands-on and interactive, and if that’s the case in your family, then the Australian Reptile Park on NSW’s Central Coast is the place for you. This place knows their reptiles and Australian native animals, and you’ll get to learn and touch some of the park’s scaly and furry animals on your visit. You can feed the kangaroos, walk with a giant Galapagos tortoise, see live shows, and go on a behind the scenes tour or join in the kids to keepers program. Did you know that the Australian Reptile Park is the only zoo in Australia with a venom milking program in place, which saves over 300 lives each year through its supply of all snake and funnel-web anti-venom? For the truly brave (not me), take a look at reptiles and spiders in the Lost World of Reptiles and Spider World exhibits, featuring Tarantula-ville, home to some of the largest spiders in Australia! There’s also a children’s playground, café, picnic area, and free barbecues.
Hunter Valley Zoo, Cessnock
Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo
If you’re after a safari adventure in the heart of NSW, then head to Taronga Western Plains Zoo located in Dubbo, in the central west. The zoo is home to over 500 animals including some of the world’s most exotic such as big cats, rhino, and giraffe. Don’t miss out on one of the keeper talks to learn more about these amazing animals. Now how to see them? The animals are spread throughout the 300 hectares of bushland and you get to drive your car, ride a bike, hop on an electric safari cart, or walk around the 6km circuit. There are picnic grounds situated along the way, so take some food to share with the family and enjoy being amongst the animals in nature. One of the other great things about Western Plains Zoo is the fact you can stay the night at the Billabong Camp, Savannah Cabins or Zoofari Lodge. See the story below for more on Zoofari Lodge.
Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo
Best Zoos in Victoria
Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne
Imagine heading up through a rainforest tunnel, walking through a door into a natural landscape full of lemurs sunning themselves, playing, running, jumping, exploring and eating all around you with no fences between you. No, you don’t need to fly to Madagascar for this experience, this is Lemur Island, at the Melbourne Zoo. Lemur Island was officially opened in 2013 and is definitely a family favourite. Once inside, you head up along a boardwalk, which takes you through the exhibit where the lemurs are truly free to roam around as they please. There are Zoo Keepers on hand to remind everyone not to touch the lemurs if they do wander close to you, which they very well may do as they are very inquisitive. Lemur Island is usually the first exhibit we visit (if we enter the zoo from the top entrance). We have visited a few different times during the day but found the best time to visit the lemurs is first thing in the morning when the sun is shining and the lemurs are sitting around sunning themselves! From Lemur Island continue on into the Gorilla rainforest experience, which takes you past the Gorillas, Pygmy Hippopotamus, Mandrills, and up along the boardwalks past the monkeys. The Melbourne Zoo is continually changing, updating and improving, and each time we go we love to explore a different area. But one thing is for sure, we will always find ourselves back at Lemur Island at sometime throughout the visit. We are positive you and your family will love the Melbourne Zoo too.
Amber from Hill Tribe Travels
Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne
Werribee Open Range Zoo, near Melbourne
If you are in love with African animals like lion, hippos and gorillas, then Werribee Open Range Zoo gives families a unique opportunity to see them up close, without having to venture to Africa. Spread over 200 hectares, you’ll find some of the world’s most iconic grasslands animals from Africa, as well as animals from Asia, North America and Australia. At Werribee Zoo you can see the spectacular silverback gorilla Motaba and his two sons in one of the largest gorilla exhibits in the world. There are also seven lions to admire, hippos to meet, plus kangaroos, emu, koalas, and more to admire. If you’ve got kids under five, then the best time to go is during the week (excluding school holidays), so you can enjoy Toddler Weekdays. With plenty of activities including a kid-friendly safari tour and African Village Dance Party, you’re sure to keep them entertained. They also have an indoor play space called Ranger Kids. Werribee Zoo is 35 km west of the Melbourne CBD.
Best Zoos Tasmania
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Make time for an animal encounter at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Tasmania. Located half an hour north of Hobart, the sanctuary is home to many Australian animal species that are on the endangered list. Kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and Tasmanian Devils can all be found here. We joined a Feeding Frenzy tour for a behind the scenes look at this wildlife sanctuary. As part of this tour you get up close to the animals, often being able to feed them. For two and a half hours we feed and interacted with kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian Devils, echidnas, wombats and possums, at the same time learning all about these native species. The highlight had to be feeding the Tasmanian Devils with their vice like jaws hanging on to the leg of meat! Our experience at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was brilliant. We would highly recommend it, especially for families, as it is very educational but fun at the same time.
Nicky from Go Live Young – read more on Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Best Northern Territory Zoos
Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin
Best Zoos Western Australia
Best Zoos ACT
Canberra’s National Zoo and Aquarium boasts some of the most interactive animal tours in Australia. Head off on the Zooventure Tour where you can hand-feed lions, tigers, bears and more (minimum age 12). Families with younger kids aren’t forgotten with a Family Tour giving kids and parents the opportunity to meet and feed some of the zoo’s favourite animals (minimum age 4). For the ultimate all day tour, take a Walk on the Wildside for an incredible wildlife experience. There are plenty of other encounters to be had at the National Zoo and Aquarium, so pick your favourite animal and take a look if you can get up-close and personal with it. The National Zoo and Aquarium is Australia’s only combined zoo and aquarium with a large variety of both native and exotic animals.
Best Zoos South Australia
Adelaide Zoo, Adelaide
Made famous for its Giant Pandas Wang Wang and Fu Ni, Adelaide Zoo is proud to have the only breeding pair of Giant Pandas in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you’ve checked out these gorgeous pandas, it’s time to see how many of the other 3000 animals you can see in a day, spread throughout the eight hectares of beautiful grounds. For 5 – 12 year olds kids, a great animal experience is ZOOcation Care, a school holiday program where they get to spend the day getting to know all the animals with a qualified conservation educator exploring the Adelaide Zoo. There are lots of fun activities, games and animal presentations to enjoy but you’ll need to book early to ensure a place.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out our Adelaide Family Holiday Guide (coming soon)