Australia's best Zoos
For such a young nation, Australia has already built up a great reputation for creating outstanding zoos. The combination of stunning natural surroundings, variety of international animals and a showcase of our own unique native species makes a zoo visit a must-do event when touring or day tripping. Here is our selection of some of the best on offer.
Where better to begin that with the iconic and internationally recognised Australia Zoo, set in the glorious Sunshine Coast in Queensland. The late Steve Irwin’s daring escapades put it on the world stage and the dedication of his family have built on that legacy to create an immersive zoo experience.
Conservation is a strong theme among the passionate staff and education and adventure are woven into the fabric of this interactive sanctuary. The cute Koalas and Tasmanian Devils are ready to be petted, while the Asian elephants can be hand fed. Get up close and personal with a rare Sumatran Tiger, or for something even more exotic you can exchange pleasantries with an iguana, Burmese Python or Alligator.
For its natural scenic beauty alone, Taronga Zoo in Sydney has to make the list. Hugging the shores in the heart of Sydney Harbour, Taronga enjoys a backdrop that few other world zoos could boast and is a convenient short ferry ride from the city centre.
Taronga is set on a steep and lush headland, but a breathtaking cable car ride from the ferry wharf to the top of the zoo allows a leisurely stroll through an amazing variety of over 2900 species. Highlights include Gorillas, Tigers, Snow Leopards, Kodiak Bears, Chimpanzees, Giraffes and Asian Elephants. Don’t miss the spectacular Seal show and the stunning Free Flight Bird Show. A real treat!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
In stark contrast to its city cousin, Western Plains Zoo is an open range-style zoo that sprawls over 300 hectares of bushland near the town of Dubbo in central New South Wales. A road meanders through the spacious series of enclosures, with a distinct lack of obtrusive fencing or barricades helping to give it an open and natural feel.
Take the 'Early Morning Walk' for the most engaging animal experiences with the exotic residents. The layout and flat landscape make it ideal for touring by foot or for greater mobility you can hire a bike or bring your own. For those not so fit, hire a cart onsite or even drive around the 6 kilometre trail that snakes through the park.
A variety of onsite accommodation options, including luxury camping and the newly renovated Savanah Cabins, allows you to stretch your visit over an extended period and fully take in the entire zoo and all the Dubbo district has to offer.
Australian Reptile Park
If you want a quintessential Australian animal experience you can’t go past The Australian Reptile Park at Somersby on NSW’s Central Coast. The emphasis is all about being hands-on with the native wildlife and majestic reptilian inhabitants, including Hugo, a giant Galapagos tortoise and Elvis, a massive crocodile.
From 11am-2pm daily is the most active time for photo opportunities with the locals, including pythons, wombats and koalas. The Lost World of Reptiles and Spider World exhibits will get the adrenalin pumping too!
Just 4km north of the city centre, Melbourne Zoo houses over 300 species in lush landscaped grounds. It’s Australia’s oldest zoo, opened in 1862 and modelled on London Zoo with its formal Victorian gardens.
Things have changed dramatically since those early days and the zoo now encompasses some state of the art exhibits that are much more animal-friendly. The award winning interpretive design of theTrail of the Elephants and the spectacular Orang-utan Sanctuary are features, while the new Wild Sea exhibit is outstanding. The latter houses Australian Fur Seals, Fairy Penguins and other marine life that frolic in the naturalistic environment created by wave machines. Visitors enjoy front row seats to their aquatic antics, via massive windows revealing the full depth of the pools for maximum viewing pleasure.
Adelaide Zoo is a real gem in the city of churches. Just a stone’s throw from the city centre, the zoo is set in magnificent botanic gardens making a visit a naturally restorative experience. The 300 species include exotic and native mammals, birds and reptiles.
A focus is on endangered and rare animals and key exhibits include the South East Asian Rainforest, Seal Bay, Australian Rainforest Wetlands and the Nocturnal and Reptile Houses. Much of the original late 1800’s architecture has been preserved, giving it a quaint and nostalgic feel, as do the majestic old Moreton Bay Figs planted in 1877.
What's your favourite Zoo in Australia? Let us know in the comments section below.