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.
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Best Queensland Zoos
Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast
It doesn’t get much more Australian that a day at Australia Zoo, the home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. With plenty of 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 people aged 15 years and over can get up close to a komodo dragon?
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 what I think is the best zoo in Australia.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Download your free Ultimate Travel Planning Checklist, so you can plan with confidence.
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!
The latest 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 – check out Best Gold Coast Theme Park for kids by age group
Best Zoo in Sydney and New South Wales
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.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out Secrets to Survive a Road Trip with Kids
Taronga Zoo Keeper for a Day, Sydney Australia
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!
Leah from Kid Bucket List – check out her story on Taronga Zoo Keeper for a Day
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.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – take a look at our 8 tricks that’ll change the way you plan family trips
Hunter Valley Zoo, Cessnock
The Hunter Valley Zoo is a small country zoo, out in bush country a few miles from the town of Cessnock and close to the Pokolbin vineyards of the Lower Hunter Valley.
We took our young son there for a few hours, and it was a great adventure for him, sparking his already vivid imagination. It’s also probably the best attraction for kids in the immediate area, an essential stop on the Hunter Valley tourist trail.
The zoo has a nice mix of animals, from Australian icons like koalas, kangaroos and wombats, to favourites from all around the world, from magnificent white lions to statue-still alligators lounging lakeside, and from dromedary camels to capybaras, the world’s largest rodents.
Kids can get up close to many of the animals, and feed them by hand. Our son loved feeding the camels, Barbary sheep and ostrich at one of the enclosures – he thought they were absolutely wonderful. The walk-through aviary also excited him, where you feed the ravenous rainbow lorikeets.
It’s best to plan your day in advance to make the most of it, as some of the animals are asleep for much of the day, and it’s a pity not to see the koalas or kangaroos awake and moving about. The best time of day to see the latter is the afternoon.
David from Travel with Little One
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.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – check out Best Places to See Wildlife in Australia
Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo
If you are looking for a great family fun trip with a good dose of luxury included, then Taronga Western Plains Zoo “Zoofari Lodge” is for you! Located in Dubbo, NSW, this unique accommodation package offers exclusive zoo tours and access not normally available to the public.
Accommodation for your stay is deluxe African-inspired lodges, many of which directly face a private African Savannah. You’d be forgiven for believing you had woken up in Africa – giraffe’s, antelope and ostriches range right in front of your lodge. These majestic animals are separated from the lodges by recessed fencing, giving you the impression that they could walk right up onto your private deck!
This is zoo accommodation like no other, but the Zoofari Lodge experience doesn’t end there.
An elegant main lodge house offers a guest swimming pool, bar and fine dining – including a delicious dinner banquet. Continuing the sumptuous African safari theme, excluding drinks, all is included in your Zoofari Lodge package.
Two amazing behind-the-scenes zoo tours are also included. One at sunset and one at sunrise, offering exclusive opportunities to hand-feed or closely experience some very special zoo residents, including hippos, rhinos, elephants and many more.
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo “Zoofari Lodge” is a very special animal experience the whole family can enjoy.
Barbara from Let’s Go Mum – Read more about their Zoofari Lodge experience
Best Zoo in Melbourne and 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.
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
Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne is the perfect place for families to get up close and personal with Australian animals like kangaroos, platypuses, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, wombats, lace monitors, and many more.
I highly recommend adding one or more close-up encounters to your admission ticket. For around $12 per encounter, you can spend 10 minutes with a dingo, koala, kangaroo, python or echidna. (Children under 14 need to be accompanied by an adult). I booked three close-up encounters on my trip to Healesville. Getting to pat a dingo, have my photo taken with a koala (in a tree – they don’t allow you to hold them), and feeding a kangaroo named Crystal, were the highlight of my trip! For a higher fee you can also play with a wombat or wade with a platypus.
With all that Healesville has to offer, you can easily spend an entire day there. Located outside Melbourne, it’s probably easiest to drive if you have access to a car. You can get there by public transportation but it makes for a long day. Healesville is open every day from 9am-5pm and children get in free on weekends and holidays.
Cate from International Desserts Blog
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.
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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
Your trip to the Northern Territory would not be complete unless you have stared an Australian crocodile right in the eyes. I know what you’re thinking, that’s insane, but this is a great animal encounter for kids of all ages. Just think of it this way, the USA has Sea World and Australia has Crocosaurus Cove.
One of the main drawcards at Crocosaurus Cove is to go cage diving with some of the largest crocodiles in the world but that is not all you can get up to there. There’s a swimming pool where you can swim with over 30 young crocodiles. There’s set feeding times so you can watch or you can join in on the feeding of the crocodiles. They also have a 200,000 litre fresh water aquarium where you can watch different kinds of fish.
Above all, Crocosaurus Cove is an education centre designed to teach you all about these prehistoric creatures. This is not a normal education centre where you and your kids could be bored to tears. There’s live hands on demonstrations throughout the day that will not only excite your kids but also teach them something. All of the crocodiles at the cove were saved from life threating injuries in the wild and would not have survived if it were not for Crocosaurus Cove. This is Australia’s ultimate urban wildlife experience, right in the heart of Darwin City and is a must experience for all families visiting the Northern Territory.
David from Divergent Travelers – read more about swimming with crocs at Crocosaurus
Best Zoo Perth and Western Australia
It might not be the biggest zoo but Perth Zoo is certainly worth a visit with the kids. From lions, elephants, rhinos and bears, to snakes, birds, monkeys and frogs, Perth Zoo has plenty to keep the family entertained. Give yourself at least half a day to get around everything at Perth Zoo.
If you’ve got time, join a guided one-hour walking tour for free, leaving at 11:00am (Oct-April only) and 1:30pm daily. Where the tour takes you changes daily, so ask at the Information Hub when you arrive for details.
If you can’t walk any further, hop on an eight-seater zebra-themed electric vehicle for a one-hour tour. There is a small charge for these tours.
School aged kids can get more hands-on plus learn about the animals at the zoo by joining the Zoo Crew (8-13 year olds) or Wild Vets (14-18 year olds) during the school holidays. If you have 2-5 year olds then take a look at the A to Zoo program.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs – Check out our Family Travel Toolkit
Best Canberra Zoo
National Zoo Canberra
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.
Nicci from Trip Chiefs
Best South Australia Zoo
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
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