Australia has a superb collection of zoos and wildlife sanctuaries that entertain, enthral, engage, excite, and educate. Yet visiting an Australian zoo or wildlife park is like standing in a supermarket’s confectionery aisle – there’s so much on offer that it’s tough to know what to choose (or where to start).
So rather than just informing you of the best zoos in Australia, we’ve gone a step further. We present the lowdown on great zoo experiences – the must-sees, the rare encounters, the up-close meetings, or the captivating shows – and when to witness them.
We understand a day at the zoo can be pricey even without add-ons, so our choices are limited to experiences that form part of a general admission ticket, (which means the chance to wrestle dozy polar bears at $10,000 a pop was omitted from the list, sorry). With the hard work already done for you, prepare to enjoy a bunch of great Australian zoo experiences.
1. Wildlife Warriors Show, Australia Zoo, Queensland
This is a must-visit zoo in Australia, and the action within the Crocoseum during the Wildlife Warriors Live show is electric. While snakes and birds provide plenty of entertainment, it’s the main event that will have you riveted – the antics of an imposing saltwater crocodile. These creatures might be incredibly scary but it’s tough to take your eyes from them when they are up and about. And this gripping show is not just about entertainment, but also education.
2. Giant pandas, Adelaide Zoo, South Australia
The giant panda enclosure is without doubt the thing to check out at Adelaide Zoo, home to the adorable duo, Wang Wang and Fu Ni. As the only giant pandas in Australia they just about earn rock-star status in Adelaide. Unfortunately for visitors, they can also act like rock stars. So although you can see the pandas throughout the day, optimum viewing time is first thing in the morning when they’re usually most active (unless they were playing a massive gig the night before) or during the morning keeper presentation.
3. Spirits of the Sky bird show, Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria
Several Australian zoos and wildlife parks feature free-flight bird shows and Spirits of the Sky is up there with the best of them. This spectacle takes place in a superb viewing area where a succession of birds are introduced to visitors, sometimes skimming overhead in thrilling fashion. The birds’ personalities are both fascinating and amusing and it all makes for an enthralling experience.
Stay at: BIG4 Yarra Valley Park Lane Holiday Park.
4. Nature theatre, Alice Springs Desert Park, Northern Territory
Another free-flight bird show that commands strong attention is held at Alice Springs Desert Park. It’s a highlight at this wildlife park in part because the shaded nature theatre in which it’s held provides a stunning backdrop that typifies the Central Australia landscape. What we love about these types of shows is their ability to entertain all ages – watch as children and adults are equally dazzled. In this instance, the star of the show has to be the brown falcons, and they seem to know it.
5. Serval Cat presentation, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria
There’s plenty of appeal to this open-range zoo, but the Serval Cat presentation stands out. These animals are not something you see every day…well, unless you work at the zoo. In fact, we dare suggest that many people wouldn’t even know what a serval cat is. Watch this presentation and you’ll amazed by the talents of these engaging African animals. This show is held daily at 11am, so don’t be late! Werribee is a great daytrip destination when staying in Melbourne.
6. Giraffe feeding, Perth Zoo, Western Australia
Ok, so this comes at an extra $5 on top of the admission price but we think the experience of feeding giraffes is worth an additional fiver. It’s a great opportunity to come face to face with a creature regarded as the tallest animal in the world – the lookout tower vantage point means you’ll eyeball these cloud-piercing gentle giants. This is also a great opportunity to marvel at the intricate patterns of a giraffe up close.
Stay at BIG4 Perth Midland Tourist Park.
7. Japanese macaque enclosure, City Park, Launceston
We’ve added this experience to the list for two reasons: one, it’s an easily accessible attraction with engaging creatures; and secondly, it won’t cost you a cent to enjoy. In many ways it’s random to see the enclosure plonked in the middle of this attractive park, but who cares? These fun animals are sure to keep younger ones thoroughly entertained.
Stay at: BIG4 Launceston Holiday Park.
8. Cycling around Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo
Western Plains is one of a handful of Australian open-range zoos that come with extensive appeal (also try South Australia’s Monarto Zoo if staying in Adelaide). What we love even more is that you can experience the expansive grounds on two wheels. Cycling is the best way to explore this Dubbo zoo; it best captures a feeling that you’re among the wild. Check out a vast range of native Australian animals as well as exotic creatures: the black rhinoceros are our favourites.
Stay at: NRMA Dubbo Holiday Park.
Spread your wings and embark on a wonderful wildlife encounter with BIG4.