Hartley's Creek Crocodile Adventures, Wangetti, QLD
Australia's best zoos and wildlife parks
From koala cuddles to getting up-close to adrenaline inducing crocs; experience Australian animals at one of these top-quality zoos and sanctuaries.
By Carolyn Beasley
Australia is home to an incredible array of wildlife and there’s no shortage of places to admire them. Zoos, wildlife parks, and sanctuaries are perfect for visitors short on time, families with junior travellers, or for those who simply want to see our wildlife icons together.
Our zoos give you the chance to see animals safely and much closer than in the wild, with most Australian zoos offering wildlife encounters and in-depth tours to make your visit extra special. Plus, with strong animal welfare laws in Australia, you can visit knowing the ethical standards will be high.
Here are some of our favourite zoo experiences from all corners of the country.
For a unique wildlife encounter just moments from the city, catch the public ferry across the glistening Sydney Harbour to Taronga Zoo Sydney. For a more intimate experience, visit Sydney Zoo located in western Sydney, where you can feed wildlife, and animal-loving little ones can become a zookeeper for the day.
Featherdale Wildlife Park and Symbio Wildlife Park offer animal interactions including kangaroo feeding, and for more of our prolific marine life, visit SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, where you’ll get to safely see plenty of Australian sea creatures, from seahorses to sharks.
Outside of the city, check out the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, which offers overnight stays in permanent tents and stylish cabins. Down south towards Batemans Bay, make a trip to Mogo Wildlife Park for (ethical) cuddles galore and incredible feeding experiences. Heading north, the Australian Reptile Park on the New South Wales Central Coast will introduce you to Aussie animals both scaly and furry, and at Oakvale Wildlife Park at Port Stephens, 2.5 hours north of Sydney, you can join a nocturnal encounter and relax with cute koalas.
Escape the city for a day of animal encounters in the sprawling reserves and sanctuaries just outside of Melbourne.
At the Koala Conservation Reserve on Phillip Island, an easy day trip from Melbourne, you can soak up stellar views of the star fluff-balls in their natural treetop habitat during a woodland walk. Or head to Healesville Sanctuary, just an hour outside of Melbourne, to explore their many nature trails abundant with native wildlife.
West of Melbourne in Ballarat, the Ballarat Wildlife Park offers a chance to see free-ranging kangaroos and other Aussie favourites. South of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula, the Moonlit Sanctuary can introduce you to many nocturnal animals, like the spot-tailed quoll, our cat-sized carnivore.
South of Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary has been feeding wild rainbow lorikeets for over 70 years. These days, you can also take high-tea with a koala or even walk a dingo! Closer to Brisbane, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to koalas, echidnas and other Aussie critters, and can be accessed by road or the Mirimar river cruise.
Just north of Brisbane, on the Sunshine Coast, famous “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin’s legacy lives on at Australia Zoo, where his family still educates the public on crocodiles and wildlife, and you’ll still hear the word “crikey!”
Home to the Great Barrier Reef and the world's oldest tropical rainforest, the Cairns region offers the unique chance to interact with incredibly diverse marine life and ancient, tropical creatures that seem more at home in the Mesozoic Era.
In north-east Queensland, Cairns is the main gateway to the Great Barrier Reef where you can learn about the world’s biggest reef at the Cairns Aquarium. In the nearby lush hinterland, visit Rainforestation Nature Park at Kuranda to see tree kangaroos and the huge flightless bird, the cassowary.
If it’s reptiles you’re after, visit Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures between Cairns and Port Douglas to meet “salties” (saltwater crocodiles), or visit the volunteers nursing sea turtles back to health at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on idyllic Fitzroy Island.
Try the Cage of Death at Darwin's Crocosaurus Cove, and come face-to-face with a five-metre (16-foot) saltwater croc, as you are lowered into the water for a thrilling (albeit terrifying) 15 minutes.
Thrill-seekers will love the top end of Australia for its (very safe) up-close encounters with some of our more non-cuddly wildlife.
Australia’s Top End (the top section of the Northern Territory) is crocodile central, and at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin you can challenge your instincts by safely swimming in a glass tube within a croc’s pool. Not your cup of tea? Near Darwin at the Territory Wildlife Park, you’ll see adorable agile wallabies and witness our biggest bird of prey, the wedge-tailed eagle, in flight.
Near the Red Centre
The heart of the Northern Territory outback is known as Australia’s Red Centre, a haven for wildlife species that can tolerate the heat. In Alice Springs, visit Alice Springs Desert Park to learn about the connections between local Aboriginal communities and the animals.
You’ll see weird and wonderful desert creatures, like the bilby with its long ears, and our quirkiest lizard, the thorny devil. And to lay your eyes on our biggest land mammal, the red kangaroo, you’ll want to stop by the wildly popular Kangaroo Sanctuary. You may even get the chance to bottle feed an orphan joey during your visit. The sanctuary is owned by charismatic television personality Chris "Brolga" Barns from the BBC/National Geographic series Kangaroo Dundee.
Spending time with our wildlife in the surrounds of their natural habitat is a special experience. Bring a picnic to Cleland Wildlife Park in the hills behind Adelaide, or visit Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, south of the city, where free-ranging native animals live in their natural habitat, protected by a feral-animal-proof fence.
Further east, Monarto Safari Park hosts animals from around the world and also breeds many rare Australian marsupials like the tammar wallaby and the Tasmanian devil.
Make some new native mates at the Perth Zoo Bush Buddies encounter! Gently stroke the spikes on a sleepy echidna, feed an adorable wallaby and bask in the sun with a thorny devil.
Out west in Perth, Perth Zoo offers you the chance to see quirky creatures such as the numbat – our insect-eating marsupial – along with many other animals. In nearby Swan Valley, at Caversham Wildlife Park, visitors get close to Australian wildlife and farm animals. Take a dive under the Indian Ocean waves, visiting the Aquarium of Western Australia, where kids will love the sharks and rays, and the chance to touch a starfish.
If your journey takes you south of Perth to the wine and beach region of Margaret River, check out the Eagles Heritage Raptor Wildlife Centre for the largest display of eagles, hawks, and owls in Australia. Or stay dry while exploring the depths of Geographe Bay in the Underwater Observatory at the Busselton Jetty.
Looking for a more immersive experience? Ningaloo Reef is a coral wonderland just a two-hour flight north of Perth. In the town of Exmouth, drop in to the Ningaloo Discovery Centre and Aquarium before you hit the reef’s marine park where you can swim with extraordinary marine life including whale sharks, rays and turtles.
Just 30 minutes from Hobart, meet (and feed) the devils at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, a social enterprise and wildlife hospital that rescues animals and provides eco-education experiences to visitors. If you’re heading further north to Cradle Mountain (four hours’ drive north of Hobart), drop in to Devils@Cradle to learn about their vital conservation work.
Also in the north of the state, Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary showcases Tasmanian species like the pademelon and the eastern quoll, and offers interactive tours with wombats and devils. For something completely different, try the world’s first seahorse aquarium at Seahorse World on the northern coast at Beauty Point.
Australia’s capital city, Canberra is home to the National Zoo and Aquarium, where you’ll find many of Australia’s must-see native animals like emus, dingoes, koalas and wallabies. If you want to see animals from your pillow, stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, where you’ll be immersed in an incredible animal experience.
At Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary, just north of Canberra, locally extinct animals (including bettongs, a teeny relative of the kangaroo) are being bred within the safety of a predator-exclusion fence. Join an educational tour to learn more about the species to be reintroduced to the Canberra region.