Well worth a visit!
It may be tempting to think that a trip to Healesville Sanctuary, a relatively small zoo of native Australian animals, is unnecessary if you’ve been to Melbourne Zoo in the city. After all, the city zoo has things like kangaroos and other native animals there. But there is more to the Sanctuary than you might think, and upgrades made to the facilities over recent years (and continuing now) have made it a wonderful place to explore and relax.
Aussie icons abound at Healesville Sanctuary. Emus, wombats, platypus, kangaroos and wallabies, and koalas, of course! You can catch the koala show at 1:30pm when the koalas wake up for lunch, and the keepers talk about koala life while feeding them and maintaining the enclosures. Also at 1:30pm is the platypus show, where you can learn some cool facts about platypus (did you know their bill is actually soft and rubbery? I didn’t, until the platypus show!) and have the chance to see one up close.
Paths meander throughout the park, weaving amongst native bush and branching off to different enlcosures. Keep your map handy as you find your way around to features like the reptile room, lyre bird forest, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, and so much more. See goannas, weird and wonderful insects, a possum that can run across windows like a ninja, and even bilbies!
Don’t miss the Birds of Prey show at 12pm and 2:30pm where you’ll see parrots, a hawk, and the star of the show, Jess the eagle. The keepers move about behind the audience, calling the enormous, powerful bird across the arena so that she flies so close you could reach out and touch her – if you dared! [Don’t touch the eagle, please]
As well as the various talks and shows that happen each day, there are a number of educational features. There is the wildlife hospital where you can actually watch procedures being performed on sick animals, as well as a whole imaginary play area for children to test out the veterinary skills. Dotted along the paths and exhibits there are informative signs that will tell you all about the animals, the land, and the history of the area. Zoo staff are always happy to answer any questions you might have.
Food and fun
If you’re feeling peckish or just want to sit and have a cuppa, there are 3 different cafes in the Sanctuary! Two are kiosk type things serving coffee and snacks. Harvest Cafe is a large venue with indoor and outdoor seating and they supply everything from coffee, chips and pies, to full cooked meals. I tried the Roast Lamb Pie at my last visit and it was SO good! The prices are reasonable, too; Harvest Cafe has become my new haunt when I’m feeling cooped up with the kids.
Speaking of kids – my little one *loves* playing in the sandpit at the big playground. She has fun scurrying up the steps to the giant birds’ nest, crawling through the wombat tunnel and slipping down the slide. When she’s older she’ll probably enjoy the ropes course nearby. There’s also another, smaller playground in a different area which is more like your typical council playground, with a slide and obstacle course, etc.
The souvenir shop is big and full of exciting things. Plush animals, plastic animals, hand puppets; magnets, stationary, regular souvenir fare; clothing, tea towels, bags; indigenous wares – I haven’t even seen everything they have because there’s just so much! It’s well worth a look on your way out.
Five stars – Healesville Sanctuary has become a world class zoo with plenty on offer for young and old. I love that we live close enough to just pop in when we’re feeling bored at home. With a cafe for me to grab coffee from, playgrounds for the gal to expend some energy on, and those beautiful animals to wander amongst, it’s always a fantastic experience. [Well… so long as the kid isn’t in a feral mood, but that’s not to do with the zoo!]