View more than 300 animal species on display in the attractive enclosures and botanical settings of the oldest zoo in Australia. Highlights include the Butterfly House and the Trail of the Elephants.
Open from 9am every day of the year. The usual closing time is 5pm, but on selected evenings during summer the Zoo stays open until 9:30pm for the Zoo Twilights concert series.
The average length of a visit is four hours but each habitat zone, for example, the Australian zone, can be experienced in about 60–90 minutes. If you arrive after 3pm, you should plan to visit most exhibits well before 4.30pm on weekdays and by 5.00pm on weekends and holidays.
What better time to let your kids go wild than at a birthday party. Melbourne Zoo offers two kinds of adventure-packed party packages – complete with a feast in the Keeper Kids Party Room and a tour of the zoo. Make your child’s birthday one to remember. Party Details and Costs
Always a great day out for the kids (and adults). Structure your day around special activities such as feeding times to make it even more interesting.
The pricing structure is a little strange in that it is more expensive to visit during the week. You need to balance the extra cost during the week versus the much lower number of visitors you will have to battle. Also note that there is a very strict 5 hour limit on parking. Many visitors (including us) have been given a fine for overstaying our welcome at the zoo. The parking cost ($2) is very reasonable though.
At the entrance are some lovely topiary animals and a free copy of the Herald Sun was included in the entrance price - although we didn't come to the zoo to read the newspaper, only the zoo map. Near the entrance is also the gift shop which is full of stuffed animals and other gifts.
Next to the meerkat enclosures (which is always a favourite) are a range of covered and uncovered sandpits to play in (the kids can burrow in the sand looking for bugs) plus a dirt mound with lots of tunnels underneath for the kids to explore.
The short road past the meerkats which leads to the toilets has a form of a huge Snakes and Ladders board except it uses giraffes, lemurs, elephant trunks, lizards and possums and is called Heads to Tails Game.
The "Growing Wild" exhibit is a nice cool chill out room next to the meerkats with soft seats to sprawl out on, reading books for the kids and glass cases with lizards, snakes, tortoises and some insects. Listen out for the red-spotted Chafer which we couldn't see but could hear its loud buzzing sound.
At the Giant Tortoise enclosure you can use the scales to see how the weight of the family compares to that of a giant tortoise. The enclosure in this area can be explored to find a quokka which are free ranging through the area.
From the main path which leads up and splits the zoo into two halves, you can take trhe path to the left which leads to the popular Lemur Island where you can get a close up view of the ring-tailed lemurs which roam around and more distant views of other types of lemurs. On the path you can get an understanding of the lemur language by pressing buttons on cut-outs of lemurs and hear them say "This is my territory" and "Back off Predator".
The whole zoo has displays with wonderful landscaping which creates a superb atmosphere and environment for both the animals and visitors. For example, you can walk through a bamboo forest to visit the gorillas. The Gorilla enclosure has a display about recycling mobile phones since Coltan is a metallic ore found in many metallic phones and much of the world's Coltan is mined illegally in the Congo Basin which is destroying the gorilla's natural environment. It wasn't completely clear what to do for the Gorilla Phone Challenge but we took the trail into the jungle and found as many mobile phones as we could.
Keep an eye open in this area for the building where zoo keepers prepare food for the animals.
A highlight is the Pygmy Hippopotamus exhibit where you can see the hippos swimming under the water. When we were there a mother and her young came swimming to the glass wall and played around.
This loop also includes mandrills, apes and monkeys which show off their exquisite climbing skills.
Another highlight is the Butterfly House which is hot and humid and an array of colourful butterflies will be fluttering everywhere. If you don't move the butterflies will probably land on your body. Lookout for the Cairns Birdwing butterfly which is beautifully coloured and Australia's largest butterfly.
There is a small food court near the elephant enclosure which sell Asian hawker-style street food and some staples like chips and ice-creams. You can find Mali the painted elephant which was inspired by Melbourne Zoo's 150th birthday. There is also some artwork done by real elephants. You can compare the artistic skill of the family versus that of an elephant. There are different views of the elephants including at a swimming pool.
The orang-utans were very popular with the kids and shopping at the interactive Zoopermarket was just as popular. You can choose supermarket products and scan them to see which ones are 100% CSPO (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil). There is also a puzzle which is equally challenging for an orang-utan.
On the right side of the main drive is Carousel Park where you can ride a lovely carousel with horse seats or elephants for small kids. The rides are $3.50. There is also a fairly basic playground under shade sails. There are some areas of lawn to sit on but be ready for swooping seagulls if food is around.
Another highlight is seeing the cute Little Australian penguins. At the entrance there is a big sandpit (partly shaded) which has lovely seal sculptures. You can see the penguins zooming through the water from below and then go to the surface and see them congregating together. There are also seals and other marine creatures to see in this area.
Something that the kids won't want to miss, especially during warm weather, is the "Loos Yourself Maze" which is located at the start of the track to the Australian section of the zoo which has a Giant Flight Aviary, Tasmanian Devils, wombats, emus, kangaroos and kookaburras. The "Loos Yourself Maze" has a theme of using recycled toilet paper - not toilet paper that you've actually used before but toilet paper which has been produced from recycled paper. The flush and run part of the maze has a water spray which can leave you just as soaked as flushed toilet paper.
The furthest areas from the main gate (near the Rail Gate) has big grassy areas and shelters with tables and seats.
Near the African Wild Dogs and Lions exhibit is a water play park with water sprays next to crocodile nests with eggs. The kids didn't seem to care that a nest of potential crocodiles was so close. They were just enjoying getting wet. There is also a chance to dry out a little by admiring the display of colours and patterns which the African Melako women use in their beadwork.
The Big Cats and Bears section of the zoo is the old part of the zoo and felt rather sad and a bit neglected. With patience you should be able to spot a Snow Leopard.
There are shaded seats and water taps scattered throughout the whole zoo.
You can either bring your own food into the zoo or eat at a range of locations which vary from cafes to the Zoo Bakery, Asian hawker style food, licensed seated dining room at the Lakeside Bistro, Plaza take-away or Giraffes BBQ.