Planning activities to do in Melbourne can grow into quite an ambitious list. While there is plenty to do within the city limits there is a substantial amount to do outside of the city. If you’re a huge animal lover like myself then seeing native fauna is definitely on the To Do List. Melbourne Zoo is your typical city zoo with a mix of animals from all over the world but if you really want to see some rare creatures then the Healesville Sanctuary is where you want to be.
The sanctuary first opened in 1934 under Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary for Australian Flora and Fauna. In the 1940’s it’s popularity grew and by the end of the 1970’s the sanctuary was under the management of the Zoological Parks and Garden Board of Victoria. Today it proudly boasts as one of the best zoos/sanctuaries in Australia. We arrived just in time to catch an early showing of Spirits of the Sky, a presentation of their larger predatory birds. Visitors sit in an outdoor amphitheater while the handlers and birds walk through the crowds to give you a spectacular demonstration.
After the presentation, you can follow the path to the walk-in aviary and interact with Australia’s brightly colored parrots and other birds. There is staff around to help answer any questions you might have or give you random tidbits of information on the birds. One of the most exciting features of the aviary is that the sprightly colorful Lorikeets will land right on you! And they will especially do so if you carry a small cup of nectar to feed them. Watching the natural interaction of the different types of birds is quite entertaining. I fell quickly in love with one of Australia’s most beloved birds, the Galah.
As you walk through the park you’ll notice that the grounds are very well kept and the landscaping is beautifully lush. The paths are wide, clean, and along the way you’ll find some fun sculptures to make any adult feel like a kid in a playground. It’s extremely kid friendly with lots to do all over the park. And don’t miss out on taking them to Lunar’s Secret Forest, a fully interactive experience specifically designed for the kids.
Naturally, when visiting an Australian zoo, you’ll want to also see the country’s most remarkable mammals. Most of the them are in their own display and can be seen from a close distance. However, in the wallaby are visitors are actually permitted to approach the agile creatures. Just don’t chase after them! There is a large array of mammals ranging in sizes from rodents to kangaroos but all native to the country and/or that region of the world.
And of course, they have their deadly to docile reptiles. They showcase some of the country’s most unnerving, cold-blooded snakes. There are plenty of lizards to see if you’re into that. They also showcase the less-frightening baby crocodiles – no full sized ones, thank goodness.
You can easily spend a full day here. If you do so, I’m sure you’ll get hungry sometime throughout the day. There are three eateries (1 restaurant and 2 cafés) and a lawn area with a pre-ordered picnic hamper. The Sanctuary Harvest menu carries typical Aussie cuisine (burgers, pies, and BBQ) but with a seasonal and regional twist. For drinks you can choose from local Yarra Valley wines, Aussie beers, or sodas. The restaurant floor is rather spacious with large glass windows where you can watch a Tree Kangaroo eat too.
One of the main reasons the sanctuary boasts as one of the best is due mainly to their conservation efforts. Their most notable achievement is their program in platypus care and research. They were the first zoo to successfully breed platypus in captivity! In the 1940’s, Corrie was the first captivity-bred platypus. Today, they have bred several more with the last 3 births being the 2nd generation.
They are nocturnal animals. So do expect to walk into a dark exhibit. Spotting them right away can be a little tough but once you see them you won’t want to keep your eyes off of it. Taking pictures can get a little hard with their fast movement and your slow camera flash. Luckily, the sanctuary does offer visitors an intimate interaction with the elusive animals. For $195 AUD, you can participate in their Wade with the Platypus program where you’ll have hands-on experience with them.
But if spending that much money to interact with a native animal is a bit out of your price range there are other options. They also have other animal interactions called Magical Moments. For $12 AUD and 10 minutes, you can reserve a spot to personally interact with dingos, koalas, kangaroos, or snakes. I really wanted to interact with the koalas, however, it was completely sold out that day. So instead we interacted with Red kangaroos!
We interacted with a mob of kangaroos consisting mostly of females and a few males. The staff gave us brief instruction on how to approach, touch, and feed the animals. They do provide you with the food to feed them and they will happily hop over to you. There was one male kangaroo in particular that we were to be extra cautious about. He was the alpha of the group and a little territorial but he could be touched if he approached you. The 10 minutes went by so quickly. I didn’t want to stop petting and feeding them! This was the perfect way to end such a wonderful day.
While the Melbourne and Weribee Zoos are also great places to visit, Healesville Sanctuary is the only zoo that displays indigenous animals in Victoria. Their mission to care, educate, and be leaders in conservation is something to be admired for. They have world leading research and care programs, amazing animal presentations, and give you plenty of opportunities to interact with animals which will make your trip extra special.
Their official website will give you a better overview on what to expect and gives great tips on how to plan your trip. Admission is reasonably priced but do vary, and on specific days it’s actually FREE for children (4-15 years old). The sanctuary can easily take a full day to explore. But if you don’t have the time then a few hours should allow you to see the main exhibits. So what are you waiting for? Start planning today!
Lastly, I’d like to send the biggest and most heart-felt thanks to the couple that befriended and took care of three strange Filipino-America girls. Haha. We cannot wait to see you guys again! Thank you for that day. Thank you for everything!