SUNSHINE COAST – Australia Zoo
We love Zoos and Australia Zoo is one of our favourites. We have been many times. It’s spotlessly clean and meticulously maintained. The first time I went to Australia Zoo was before it expanded to the size it is now, before the Crocoseum when Steve Irwin was doing his beloved croc shows from inside the original crocodile enclosures. It is amazing to see how far this Zoo has come since then. It is huge!
The Zoo is located at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast. About 1 hour’s drive north of Brisbane, 2 from the Gold Coast.
There are two things I always say to people who are planning a visit to this Zoo and that is 1) Get there for when the gates open because you will need the full day to explore this place, especially if you have kids in tow and 2) once inside take the shuttle bus (included in admission) straight to Africa (prams and wheelchairs can go on the shuttle) as this is the furthest exhibit, see Africa then walk the rest of the way back to make the Croc show at the Crocoseum. If you arrive at the Zoo late then it would be best to leave Africa until after the Croc Show.
Our family are all in agreement on our favourite parts of the Zoo. Firstly, Africa, where you can see the mischievous meerkats, the giraffes, rhinos and zebras. Did you know the Zoo is home to the world’s tallest giraffe – 12 year old Forest who stands a whopping 5.7m tall? We booked a Meerkat Encounter which was the highlight of our day! We had to book this quite a few weeks in advance as it was during school holidays, so keep that in mind when planning your trip if you are interested in getting up close and personal with the Meerkats. There are other animal encounters you can do but the Meerkats is the most popular.
The second favourite part of the zoo for us are the Lemurs on Bindi’s Island. They free roam amongst us, yes us, the zoo visitors. What a delight. The kids absolutely loved this. They said the lemurs reminded them of King Julien from the Madagascar films. They were walking around singing ‘We like to move it, move it’….lol Also on the island are tortoises, macaws, a boa constrictor and Bindi’s giant 3 storey treehouse. Then we headed to the tigers and red pandas making our way to The Wetlands then doubling back a tiny bit to the Koalas and Kangaroos, Birds of Prey and wombats, making it in time for our 3rd favourite thing the Croc Show.
Make sure you are at the Crocoseum in time for the Croc show as there is only ONE show daily. You don’t want to miss seeing Steve Irwin’s favourite animal in the entire world – the impressive saltwater crocodile. Woo-hoo! So check the showtime when you arrive at the Zoo as this may change from time to time but when we went it was 12pm. Most school holidays one or all of the Irwins do the show.
The food court is right near the Crocoseum so you can either grab lunch before or after the show. One of the great things about Australia Zoo is that you are allowed to bring your own food in. Just be aware that there is a lot of walking at the zoo so you might not want to be loaded up with too much food and drinks. The food we got at the food court was nice, plenty of options at prices that we’d expect to pay at any tourist attraction and to my surprise (being one who suffers from food allergies/intolerances) there was even a separate counter to assist those with dietary requirements. You can eat your lunch at one of the many unique handcrafted tables made from Queensland hardwood, some were made by Steve Irwin himself!
Underneath the food court is an exhibition gallery showcasing many of Robert Irwin’s award winning photos. Also located underneath the food court is an area that displays Steve’s life in pictures with lots of memorabilia. Very interesting to stop and look at if you have the time.
The remainder of the day after the Croc show and lunch we spent wandering around viewing the many crocodile enclosures, dingoes, cassowaries, sea otters, Tasmanian devils and Komodo dragons (this area is all part of the original zoo).
There is a great little splash zone for the kids to cool off in right near the Crocoseum, so make sure you bring their swimmers or a change of clothes.
Just remember it’s a zoo, the animals won’t always be entertaining. Lots are sleeping or hiding. But the zoo is well thought out and even in school holidays the crowds seem to just spread out. The enclosures are roomy (unlike Taronga Zoo) and the animals look happy and well cared for.
Australia Zoo is very much wheelchair friendly, with wide, smooth paths, low fences, glass viewing walls and accessible bathrooms.
As exhausted as we were and now very late in the day, we stopped by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital before heading home which is located at the back of the carpark (it’s not in the actual zoo itself), it cost us a $2 donation each with our admission price. The Zoo receives very little government funding, so what is not covered by donations is then covered by Australia Zoo. We managed to see a baby kangaroo being brought in and seen to for treatment.
It’s a shame there are no longer any elephants at this zoo, who doesn’t love seeing elephants but it does not take away from this being one of the best if not the best zoo in the country. We loved supporting a bunch of people doing an amazing job.