If your kids love animals then Melbourne is a brilliant place to visit. The state capital of Victoria is home to some of Australia’s best loved animals as well as creatures from far-flung lands. From wildlife parks and open range zoos to aquariums and nature reserves, there’s something to please anyone aspiring to be the next David Attenborough. Take a look at these six best animal experiences in Melbourne and, if that’s not enough, explore some more ideas here.
Just 30 minutes from the city centre is the wonderful Werribee Zoo. This 225 hectare open range zoo is home to over 320 species of animals from lions, zebras and giraffes to meerkats, bandicoots and African Wild Dogs. It’s a little like visiting Africa for the day and kids are sure to love it. Board the Safari Tour Bus for a 40-minute ride through the arid landscapes and savannah grasslands and watch lemurs sunning themselves and hippos wallowing in the mud. The Safari Tour is included in the admissions price. There are talks by the animals’ keepers scheduled throughout the day, which give kids a great opportunity to learn more about their favourite animals. There are a number of additional activities available for an extra cost. Firm favourites include being a Zookeeper for the morning (a particularly brilliant activity for toddlers), meeting the gorillas and feeding the giraffes.
A slumber party at the zoo! Spend the night with the animals on an overnight Slumber Safari sleepover and watch the zoo come to life after dark. Once the animals have gone to sleep, you can turn in for the night in your luxury tent before waking with the sunrise to watch the animals roam the African savannah.
If it’s Australian wildlife that you’re after then head to Healesville Sanctuary. First opened in 1934, this bush haven looks after native Australian animals so you can expect to see kangaroos, koalas, emus, wombats, echidnas and more. You’ll also spot skinks, lace monitors and pythons as well as plenty of colourful birdlife. Regular keepers’ talks teach kids all they need to know about Australia’s furred, finned and feathered friends but one of the best experiences is the Tales from Platypus Creek show. Traditionally thought of as shy and reclusive, this interactive show highlights the lesser known side to this incredible creature. Watch the Platypus as they interact with keepers, play in the water and even enjoy having their tummies tickled! Healesville Sanctuary runs a number of different experiences where you can get up close and personal with some of Australia’s most iconic animals including the ridiculous cute koalas and the even cuter echidnas.
Hanging out with a Platypus! Become a Platypus keeper for the day and learn all about these playful and affectionate animals. Put on your waders and step into the Platypus pool where you’ll get to touch, play and feed one of the resident Platypus’. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Phillip Island Nature Park may be most famous for its fairy penguins but there’s much more to see than the world’s smallest penguins. That said, the Penguin Parade is inevitably a visitor highlight and you can watch them waddle along from the sand and along the boardwalk as they leave the water after a day at sea and make their way across the sand to their burrows. Afterwards, take a virtual journey through the Antarctic where dozens of hands on activities teach you all that there is to know about this continent. You can even stand on a virtual ice floe where seals, penguins and whales appear all around you. But it’s not all about penguins at Phillip Island, you can also see koalas at home in the trees at the Koala Conservation Centre and visit one of Australia’s largest colonies of fur seals on board the Wild Ocean Boat Tour.
The chance to up your penguin experience! There are a number of opportunities that allow you to get that little bit closer to the fairy penguins including the Penguin Plus, where a ranger will tell you all about the penguins as you watch them waddle along from one of the best viewing points. The Penguin VIP Tour allows up to ten people to have pole position for penguin viewing from an exclusive elevated viewing tower (you can also watch them at eye level if you opt for the Underground Viewing package). For something a little more intimate, try the Behind the Scenes Tour that is particularly well-suited to families and allows children to discover the secret life of penguins.
Less than an hour from Melbourne, the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park is set in 10 hectares of bushland and is a wonderful place to see Australian animals. By day visitors can try hand-feeding the resident wallabies and kangaroos, cuddle a Koala and even hold a python. Learn all about dingos in one of the daily dingo talks, and discover what’s being done to help the Tasmanian devils, who are at risk of extinction. Once dusk falls, however, the Moonlit Sanctuary really comes to life. Join one of the park’s guided lantern-lit evening tour and journey through the homes of some of the park’s most famous nocturnal animals. Meet squirrel gliders, owls and possums, and see quolls, bettongs, feather-tail gliders and many more creatures that like to come out at night. It’s a wonderful way to learn more about Australian animals and particularly great fun for kids – who doesn’t want to explore a nature park by night?!
Becoming a keeper for the day! Learn the day to day operations of the wildlife park, help feed the animals and discover what’s needed in order to keep all the animals in good health. It’s a wonderful way to get close to many of the animals and learn much more about them. recommended for children 12 years and above.
Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium
Go under the sea at Melbourne’s incredible aquarium, home to an amazing number of ocean wildlife. In addition to a variety of sharks, rays and hundreds of multicoloured fish, the aquarium is home to a large number of native Australian creatures. Discover the leafy sea dragon, meet the sea stars and say hello to Nemo! Then there’s the Penguin Playground, where King and Gentoo penguins slip, waddle and slide across the ice before splashing in the penguin pool, and the chance to come face-to-face with Pinjarra, one of Australia’s largest saltwater crocodiles.
Diving with sharks! Melbourne’s Sea Life aquarium offers visitors aged 14 years and over the chance to swim with sharks – without cages. Scuba with Nurse Sharks, Port Jackson Sharks, Wobbegong Sharks, Leopard Sharks and enormous stingrays! The experience lasts 30 minutes and no previous diving experience is necessary.
The Melbourne Zoo first opened its doors in 1862, making it the oldest of the region’s zoos. It’s home to animals from all over the world, including elephants, monkeys, hippos, rhinos and plenty of native Australian animals. The days are packed with talks by animal keepers and there are a huge number of exhibitions including the Meerkats, the Wild Sea exhibit, the Baboon Lookout and Lemur Island. For an additional fee you can go Behind the Scenes and learn all there is to know about tigers, gorillas, orang-utans or elephants.
Sleeping with the animals! The brilliantly named Roar ‘n’ Snore experience gives zoo visitors young and old the chance to sleep where the elephants once walked, in the Historic Elephant Exhibit. Built in the 1940s, this unique venue has been restored to offer guests a one-of-a-kind camping opportunity. Enjoy dinner in the Elephant House and then explore the Zoo after dark, where you’ll learn all about the animals that come out at night. In the morning, wake to the calls of gibbons and birds and enjoy breakfast before meeting the keepers and learning more about what goes on behind the scenes.
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Disclosure: This is a partner post with Groupon. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.