Australia Zoo THE REVIEW
Seventy acres of tropical parkland and more than one thousand native and exotic animals makes Australia Zoo an awesome place to visit with your Brisbane kids.
From humble beginnings in the 1990s, the Irwin family have worked hard to make Australia Zoo a world class conservation facility and tourist attraction.
With so much on offer to see and do, it can be a little overwhelming, so we’ve put together some tips to help you make the most of your next family trip to Australia Zoo.
If possible, book your discount tickets online before you go as this will save you having to line up to purchase them on the day. The less waiting around with little ones, the better! And don’t forget to grab your free map on entry so you can navigate your way around. The zoo is open from 9am until 5pm every day, except Christmas day. On Anzac day it is open from 1.30pm until 5.30pm.
Australia Zoo is located at 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah. It is approximately a one hour drive from Brisbane. Car parking is free. Alternatively, you can catch a train from Brisbane to Landsborough or Beerwah station and a free shuttle bus will take you the rest of the way.
Getting around Australia Zoo
For small children, you will need a pram as there is a fair amount of walking to do. The cheapest option is to bring your own. If you forget, or that is not possible, there are prams and “tag along wagons” available for hire. You can also make use of “Steve’s Shuttle Service” to get around the zoo and give tired legs a rest. This free shuttle can accommodate prams without needing to fold them up, which is very handy if you have a sleepy head. There are also plenty of ramps and lifts available for easy pram access, and the paths around the zoo are wide and pram friendly too.
You may not have time to see all the animals in one day, so here’s a list of the most interactive animal exhibits. Why not ask your children to name two or three animals that they really want to see and then spend the most time at those exhibits? This gives your Brisbane kids more time to learn about their animal of interest and spend time observing their behaviour.
Roo Heaven is a large and natural home for kangaroos and wallabies – children can hand-feed them, pat them and have their photo taken with them. There is also a Kids’ Zoo near the Crocoseum where children can hand feed goats, pigs, calves and sheep.
The cuddly koalas are a must see and children are able to pat them and learn more about this vulnerable species of unique Australian wildlife.
Crocodiles were always Steve Irwin’s passion, and so you can’t go past the crocodile enclosure without having a look at these amazing prehistoric reptiles.
With less than 4000 tigers left in the wild, it is special to see these big cats and their cubs up close and learn about how we can help save them. There is even an underwater viewing enclosure to watch them having a swim, and you can witness the handlers keeping them entertained with toys and games.
Explore the wide open plains of the African Savannah and see the rhinos, giraffes and zebras. You may even see a cheetah walking by. The setting is completed with a big canvas safari tent where you can stop for a rest, a drink from the kiosk and time to just gaze at these amazing animals. Tip: head to the African section first up in the day and work your way backwards. The safari area can be unbearably hot in the middle of the day and you will be thankful that you did this in the cool of the morning.
A gentle pony ride will be a big hit with both boys and girls aged two years and up. This activity does cost extra ($5 at the time of writing) but it includes a photograph as a keepsake of the experience.
The Australia Zoo roving wildlife team give you the chance to meet koalas, wombats, possums, dingoes, blue tongue lizards, skinks, pythons, alligators, macaws, cockatoos and many more. You can also have your children’s photo taken with them, either by yourself (for free) or by one of the professional photographers. These photos are then available to purchase in the photo lab.
Australia Zoo experiences
1. Animal Encounters
Animal lovers can get up close and personal (for a fee!) with their favourite zoo animal. Participants may be able to pat them, feed them, walk them and have their photo taken with them. Make a booking when you arrive at the zoo, but be aware that children must be four years or older to participate, and they must be accompanied by a paying adult.
2. Zoo Keeper for a day
During the Queensland school holidays, children aged seven years and up can take part in the Khaki Discovery Program and see what it would it would be like to be a zookeeper for the day. The program includes lunch, a photo, a gift and the opportunity to explore “behind the scenes” at the zoo and help to care for some of the animals.
3. Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital
If you have a budding vet or wildlife warrior in the family, you can book and pay for a “behind the scenes” tour of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Alternatively, for an additional $2 per entry, you can have a “sneak peek” into the hospital and learn more about animal conservation and rehabilitation. This is perfect for little ones with short attention spans! All proceeds from the tours go towards caring for sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife.
There are a number of informative and entertaining animal talks/shows held throughout the day – tortoises, otters, crocs, koalas and birds, to name a few. Check your map that you received on entry for the most up to date show times. The main show – Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors – runs at 12noon each day in the Crocoseum. This is really worth watching, and in the school holidays, you’re almost guaranteed of seeing Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin perform. A word of warning for younger visitors: it does get quite loud, and there are large birds flying around the audience. If you’ve seen the show before (it hasn’t changed much over the years), then use this time to go and see the other exhibits. You will feel like you have the zoo all to yourselves and can enjoy the animals without the crowds.
Feeding time at the zoo
The most economical option is to bring your own food and drinks to the zoo. There are no BBQ facilities but there are plenty of grassy spots in the shade to enjoy a picnic. There are also lockers available for hire so that you don’t have to lug your picnic gear around all day. For nursing mothers, there are dedicated nursing rooms. If you would rather eat out, there is a 1200 seat open-air food court offering burgers, pizza, sandwiches, sushi, fish and chips and other hot foods. There are even koalas in the centre of the food court munching on their own lunch of eucalypt leaves. You can purchase a kid’s croc box meal deal consisting of chicken nuggets or sushi, chips, a popper and a toy. In another part of the zoo there is the Dingo Diner, with a smaller selection of food and drinks. There are also three kiosks in the zoo selling tea, coffee, cold drinks, snacks and ice creams. Keep in mind that you will be paying “theme park prices” for all food and drinks. Bottled water is available for sale, but to save money, bring your own water bottles and refill them at the water fountains provided. You will also need some cash for the kiosks and for purchasing animal feed – an ATM is available at the zoo entry.
Other activities at Australia Zoo
If your little ones are losing interest in the animals, there are some free rides at the zoo to keep them entertained – a jumping castle, tea cup ride and trampoline. Sometimes there is free face painting and children’s storytelling sessions (check on the day for times). There are also two shaded playgrounds which are great for breaking up the day. Additionally, the set for the TV series, Bindi’s Boot-Camp, has been turned into a play area for older kids and is worth checking out. There are plenty of well-maintained toilet facilities throughout the zoo – check the map for your closest block.
Wear comfortable clothes, a hat, carry a water bottle and apply sunscreen as you will be out in the open a lot. In summer, the zoo can get very hot and still, so try and pick a cooler day if you can. It is also a good idea to pack a poncho if it looks like rain. Don’t forget your camera, as there will be many photo opportunities. There is free Wi-Fi available in the Crocoseum, admissions area and food court if you want to share some of your snaps with the world. Finally, don’t forget to tell your children the zoo rules to help keep them and the animals safe. In particular, remind your children not to feed the animals anything other than approved zoo food, don’t touch the animals and don’t climb into their enclosures. Crikey!
For more information and bookings: www.australiazoo.com.au