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The 10 best zoos in Australia

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Australian zoos are major tourist attractions that play a key role in keeping some of the world’s most endangered animals alive. If you’re interested in getting close to nature, here’s our pick of the Australia’s best zoo experiences:

  1. Melbourne Zoo
  2. Lone Pine Sanctuary
  3. Australia Zoo
  4. Dubbo Western Plains Zoo
  5. Phillip Island Nature Park
  6. Adelaide Zoo
  7. Hunter Valley Zoo
  8. Sydney Taronga Zoo
  9. Werribee Open Range Zoo
  10. Busselton Jetty

Disclaimer: All COVID requirements mentioned in article are correct as of 29 January 2021. Please check official government advice and with the zoos mentioned directly for updates.

Koalas are found in most zoos in Australia

Melbourne Zoo

Recently ranked Australia’s best zoo in a poll of international travellers, Melbourne Zoo is also Australia’s oldest, first opening its doors in 1862. The zoo is home to more than 5000 animals from more than 300 species on 22 hectares of grounds and enclosures.

Because of its age, Melbourne Zoo is also a great spot close to the city. Just a 15-minute drive from the CBD, catch a train to Royal Park and wander over from there.

Cost of entry: $38 AUD general admission, discounts for children, pensioners, students and families.

COVID requirements: Ticket bookings must be made online before arriving as none will be sold at the gate. Visitors can come in one of two sessions: 9am to 3pm or 3pm to 8pm. Marks are required in some areas of the zoo.

Best zoo in Australia for: Lions! The Lion Gorge development is the pride of Melbourne Zoo (pun intended). This multi-million dollar exhibition is the best of its kind in Australia. As well as lions, you can see African wild dogs and Philippines crocodiles in the gorge.

Lone Pine Sanctuary

If you love koalas, then this is the place for you. Located in Brisbane, Lone Pine Sanctuary is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary and is heavily involved in research to save these iconic marsupials.

Lone Pine is 12km from Brisbane CBD. This can be driven, but public transport users can get either the 430 or 445 bus. Alternatively, a boat from Southbank to Lone Pine Sanctuary is available. Find out more about getting to the sanctuary on the Lone Pine website

Cost of entry: $37.80 general admission, discounts for children, students, seniors and families.

COVID requirements: Masks are not required, but are encouraged for use in indoor areas. QR code sign in is mandatory. Keeper talks, raptor holds and barn encounters are closed.

Best zoo in Australia for: Koalas! With more than 130 koalas roaming about its grounds and several habitat types, Lone Pine Sanctuary is a haven for koala lovers.

Australia Zoo

Another option in Queensland is Australia Zoo, originally set up by TV icon Steve Irwin, the coutnry’s beloved Crocodile Hunter. The zoo is now run by his family, including kids Bindi and Robert.

You’ll find the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, 25 minutes from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast or an hour’s drive from Brisbane via the Steve Irwin Way, also known as Glass House Mountains Tourist Drive.

Cost of entry: $61 general admission. Discounts for children, pensioners, students and families.

COVID requirements: Because of its large size, there are very few changes made at Australia Zoo. Be sure to adhere to social distancing and one-way walkways when signposted. QR code sign in is mandatory.

Best zoo in Australia for: Crocs! It’s no surprise that Steve Irwin’s legacy involves crocodiles. See this ancient reptile in the daily show and find out why Steve had such an affinity for them at a wildlife show.

Dubbo Western Plains Zoo

Get a taste of the African plains in a visit to Dubbo’s Western Plains. Compared with other zoos in Australia, Dubbo’s enclosures are luxurious. Animals are given plenty of space to roam giving them a more natural environment than you are likely to see elsewhere. Here you can cycle around the six-kilometre circuit and experience the wild animals of Africa with just a moat separating you and the animals.

Cost of entry: $43.20 general admission.

COVID requirements: Facemasks are no longer mandatory but are encouraged. Social distancing is in place. All tickets must be booked online before you arrive. QR code check-in is required.

Best zoo in Australia for: Giraffes! One of Dubbo Zoo’s wildlife encounter options gives you the chance to hand-feed giraffes.

Phillip Island Nature Park

Penguins aren’t the first animal you associate with Australia, but down along the southern coasts (and much of Tasmania), it’s possible to see the little critters. Perhaps the best spot is Phillip Island in Victoria, roughly 90 minutes from Melbourne.

The aquatic swimmers leave their home at sunrise and come back at sunset, often in a military-style parade. Along the island, you’ll find viewing platforms for the best spots to watch from. And for a bit of a teaser, there is also an app available for extra images and webcams set around the park.

Cost of entry: $27.25 for general viewing admission, however this can be upgraded for better perks or for access to more parks.

COVID requirements: Tickets must be bought online before arrival, including for infants. Face masks are mandatory for indoor sites, underground viewing area and busy outdoor spots. Cash is not accepted, only contactless payment. All visitor details will be recorded.

Best zoo in Australia for: Penguins! Like clockwork, they start coming back to their nests each evening. The Phillip Island website even has a countdown to their arrival.

Adelaide Zoo

After Melbourne Zoo, Adelaide Zoo is the oldest attraction of its kind in Australia. The zoo holds more than 2500 animals (from more than 250 species), including the rare attraction of giant pandas.

The zoo is found in the green belt to the north of Adelaide CBD, beside the River Torrens. It’s just a five-minute drive from the east end of Rundle Mall. Nearby is Adelaide’s botanic garden, a place to enjoy another glimpse of nature.

Cost of entry: $38 for general admission, discounts for children, concession tickets and adults. Tickets and passes can be bought on the Adelaide Zoo website

COVID requirements: Bookings and reservations must be made online before arrival. QR code or paper sign in is mandatory. To limit person-to-person contact, some animal encounters are temporarily suspended.

Best zoo in Australia for: Pandas! Adelaide Zoo is home to the only two giant pandas in Australia: Funi and Wang Wang.

Hunter Valley Zoo

Located in one of Australia’s most loved wine regions, the Hunter Valley Zoo is a worthy break from the vineyard tours and wine samples (semillion is the area’s specialty). The zoo is smaller than most on the list, but that adds to its charm in many ways. Wander the paths and appreciate the exotic birds, mammals, primates and reptiles on show.

The zoo is in Nukalba between Cessnock and Rothbury, close to Ernest Hill Wines.

Cost of entry: $32 for general admission. Discounts for concession, children and groups.

COVID requirements: QR code check in is required. Keeper talks are not running at the moment. Animal encounters are running, but visitors will be subjected to a temperature check. BBQ bookings have a limit of 30 people.

Best zoo for: Meerkats! Hunter Valley Zoo offers an experience upgrade that allows you to enter the meerkat enclosure. Apparently, they’re particularly fond of climbing on hats.

Sydney Taronga Zoo

Dating back to 1916, Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, located in Mosman, offers a packed day for visitors. There are more than 20 keeper talks and shows each day and an estimated 4000 animals on site, and some enclosures have views over the water to the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

The best way to the zoo is by ferry from Circular Quay, but you can also drive along the Lower North Shore to get there (not advised during peak hours).

Cost of entry: $44.10 general admission, though you can save 10-20% by ordering through the Taroga Zoo website.  

COVID requirements: Facemasks are no longer mandatory but are encouraged. Social distancing is in place. All tickets must be booked online before you arrive. QR code check-in is required.

Best zoo in Australia for: Sleepovers! Sydney Zoo offers a Roar & Snore experience that allows visitors to see nocturnal animals at their busiest and stay over at the zoo in its glamping facilities. 

Werribee Open Range Zoo

Like Dubbo Zoo, Werribee offers its inhabitants much more space than the average zoo. Animals from Africa are the main attraction, with gorillas, giraffes, big cats and hippos popular with visitors. Safaris are available for those who want to get in the enclosures and close to the animals.

Werribee Zoo, and Werribee itself, is 35km south-west from Melbourne CBD, roughly halfway towards Avalon Airport.

Cost of entry: $38 general admission, discounts for children, seniors and concession. Membership also available through the Werribee Zoo website

COVID requirements: Masks are required in some areas of the zoo and for some attractions. Keeper talks and safari buses are running with lower capacity limits. Tickets much be booked online before arriving.

Best zoo in Australia for: Gorillas! Werribee is home to one of the world’s largest gorilla enclosures, with more than 6000 square metres granted to the majestic primates. Daily keeper talks give you more information and several viewing platforms offer unique ways to see the animals feed and play.

Busselton Jetty

Around 220 kilometres south-west of Perth is one of Australia’s more unique marine ‘zoos’. Described as Australia’s greatest artificial reef, the Busselton Jetty has more than 300 marine species and is host to an array of colourful sponges, corals and fish.

The Underwater Observatory, eight metres below the water’s surface and 1.7km along the jetty, can host 48 people at a time. The jetty also boasts that title of the longest wooden jetty in the world.

Cost of entry: $4 for a Jetty Day Pass, $14 for the Jetty Train and $34 for the Underwater Observatory (includes train ride and day pass).

COVID requirements: Online bookings are essential and sign in on arrival required.

Best zoo for: Marine life! Busselton Jetty is one of only five underwater observatories in the world. What you see can vary from day to day and season to season, but even on murky days there are VR goggles available to give you a taste of what may be lurking nearby.

Can’t wait to bring your whole family along to visit these amazing zoos? Get the best flight and hotel deals with Skyscanner.

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