Crikey! Visiting Australia Zoo

Queensland, Australia is a great place to visit with Outdoorsy children. There are so many family friendly things to do, and the laid-back, casual Aussie vibe is sure to get the whole family into holiday mode just as soon as the plane has landed. And then there’s the climate…blue skies and sunshine was on my order sheet after a grey, cold New Zealand winter – and Queensland delivers on that note! I have now defrosted and de-sogged. Hallelujah.

So today we took Little to Australia Zoo. We all loved it! The toddler is a real animal lover, and he had been looking forward to this visit for ages. He reeeeeeally wanted to ‘pat a koa-ya’ and ‘feed a kangawoozle’ and today his dream came true. However, he was a bit put out when his request to touch the Eastern Brown Snake (one of the world’s most venomous) was met with a resounding ‘NO’! He had to settle for patting a very tame carpet snake instead. And there was a slight flinch.

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Australia Zoo is located in Beerwah, about 1.5 hours’ very easy drive north of Brisbane, 2.5 hours from Coolangatta (the airport servicing the Gold Coast), or 45 minutes from Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast. We drove from Coolangatta and had absolutely no problem without a map or GPS, the roads are so well sign-posted (please learn something, NZ). As you approach the zoo the bobbly Glasshouse Mountains rise up from the dry eucalypts and are eerily beautiful, as if they have just slowly parachuted down and settled in their spots. There are lots of hiking trails and picnic possies surveying the hinterland – definitely a cool part of the world to explore.

The zoo itself is beautifully set in lush, landscaped grounds and it’s a pleasure just to wander around, animals or not. However, bear in mind that we visited at the very beginning of spring and it was pretty warm with a top temperature of 24 degrees Celsius. We agreed that perhaps it would not be so pleasant in summer when temperatures can easily hit the mid 30s, despite many sun shelters, drinking fountains, and icecream stands. I’d go in winter or the shoulder seasons and avoid the summer heat (when most of the animals are doing nothing but dozing in the shade as well).

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We noticed a few families had brought little wagons to tow around tired, hot kids and their eskie/chillbin/coolers containing cold drinks and lunch. What a great idea, we thought. These trolleys are also available for hire from one of the many well-stocked merchandise outlets at the zoo. We just had a stroller for the rugrat and were very pleased we brought it. The zoo is sprawling – the animals enjoy a lot of space, which is as it should be. But there’s no way a two year old would be able to walk around the whole shebang. I was keen for a go in the pushchair, myself…

There are all the usual suspects when it comes to unique Aussie wildlife – crocodiles (both salt and fresh water), koalas, kangaroos, wombats, echidna, Tasmanian devils, snakes, etc…but there is also a really well-thought-out African prideland with rhinos, zebras, and giraffes; a South-East-Asia section featuring extremely rare Sumatran tigers; and extras that really are designed with kids in mind, like a treehouse amongst Madagascan lemurs (‘I like to move it, move it’), camel rides, and fun themed playground areas for burning off even more steam. You could easily spend the whole day here with older children, but three hours was probably enough for Mr 2.

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So, was it what we had expected, we mused as we left? Yes and no. It was much bigger than she had thought, said Mum. It was not as ‘in your face’ as I had thought, having seen the Crocodile Hunter and Terri and Bindi Irwin on TV. I was expecting it to be a bit more commercial and structured, and was pleasantly surprised to find it like ‘a walk in the (really beautiful) park’. We did go to a crocodile show at their enormous ‘Crocoseum’ outdoor theatre, but it wasn’t ridiculously theatrical and was actually pretty educational, as well as being entertaining. It was included in the entry price to the zoo, so we were pleased they weren’t trying to gouge more. Also, the swooping bird show in the lead-up was an unexpected spectacle! Take it from me, condors are GINORMOUS. Wow. We also would have gone to the tiger talk, but half an hour beforehand it was packed out and we didn’t think Little would sit around, wait, and then sit attentively for the talk. We diverted to dance with the lemurs.

So. Steve Irwin – good on ya, mate. You created a fantastic day out for the rest of us to both learn something, and create great family memories of our own. Crikey.

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