|Melbourne and Victoria have a range of zoos, children's farms and conservation parks which allow families to experience the wonders of the animal world.
There are three main zoos in and around Melbourne. Melbourne Zoo in Parkville is close to the city centre and has more than 300 animal species on display in attractive enclosures. Some of the highlights are Growing Wild (an interactive area designed especially for children aged 3 to 8 years where kids can patrol for danger alongside the Meerkats, burrow through tunnels and climb inside Giant Tortoise shells), the Butterfly House (home to hundreds of spectacularly coloured native butterflies), Trail of the Elephants (an Asian village and garden setting which is home to Asian Elephants), Orang-utan Sanctuary, Wild Sea (showcases the inhabitants of Victoria’s coast including penguins and seals), Baboon Lookout, Lemur Island, Lion Gorge and the Australian Bush.
The 200 hectare Werribee Open Range Zoo in Werribee South offers the opportunity to experience an African adventure and encounter the iconic animals of the African savannah as well as wildlife from the grasslands of Asia, North America and Australia. Highlights include a Safari Tour amongst some of the world’s most magnificent grasslands animals, Serval Cat presentation, Gorillas (silverback Motaba and his two sons), a pride of lions at Lions, Kubu River Hippos, Australian Journey (kangaroos, emu, brolga, koalas, eastern barred bandicoots and other Australian natives on a beautiful walk through the Australian Journey grasslands) and an indoor play space, Ranger Kids.
Healesville Sanctuary to the east of Melbourne has native fauna and highlights include Australian Wildlife Health Centre (visit the Centre to watch vets and nurses at work treating sick, injured or orphaned wildlife), Spirits of the Sky (discover birds of prey and parrots), World of the Platypus, dingos, Animals of the Night and Kids’ Nature Playground.
Other locations to see Australian native wildlife are:
Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park in Pearcedale is a wonderful experience where visitors meet endangered native nocturnal animals rarely seen in the wild. Tours are held during the day and at night and provide a chance to interact with animals such as quolls, bettongs, pademelons and gliders.
On the way to Phillip Island is Maru Koala and Animal Park in Grantville. You can hand feed and pat kangaroos and wallabies, rare albinos, koalas, wombats, Tasmanian Devils, dingoes and a crocodile. There is even a fun Pirate Pete's Mini-golf course next to the animal park.
The 25 hectare Phillip Island Wildlife Park is home to over 100 different species of Australian animals. Kangaroos and wallabies roam throughout the grounds. Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island is really unique as visitors get the chance to see these creatures in their natural habitat, living as they would in the wild.
Gumbuya Park in Tynong has a range of animal including cockatoos, dingos, emus, kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. There is a walk through aviary and a duck pond.
Jirrahlinga Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary in Barwon Heads has a range of rescued animals including koalas, kangaroos and reptiles.
There are a number of fun children's farms throughout Melbourne. Chesterfield Farm in Scoresby has daily farm shows, baby animal nursery, tractor ride tours of the farm, a Farmhouse café and picnic areas.
Myuna Farm in Doveton is a public community farm with pony rides, farm tour train rides which makes its way past numerous farm animals and the Wetlands Nature Walk where you can walk along the board walks to the islands, feeding the different varieties of ducks and birds.
The iconic Collingwood Childrens Farm in Abbotsford is nestled on a bend of the Yarra River and only 5 km from the centre of Melbourne. Visitors can milk the cow, bottle feed young lambs (seasonal), wander around, feed the animals, help with farm chores, go into the paddocks with the sheep and goats, cuddle a guinea pig, waddle with the ducks, feed the chooks, look for eggs or just sit and unwind under a shady tree or on the banks of the Yarra river.
Bundoora Park Childrens Farm (Cooper's Settlement) in Bundoora is an urban farm which presents an authentic farm experience with a variety of farmyard animals to meet, feed and cuddle. Other highlights include taking a tractor ride to see kangaroos, wallabies and emus, pony rides, milking demonstration and a stroll through the Heritage Village to experience the atmosphere of the early settlement.
Animal Land Children's Farm in Diggers Rest is a place where children can learn and interact with farm animals, have a pony ride, milk a cow and lots more.
Rain, Hayne & Shine Farmyard in Balnarring provides “hands on” experiences with a large variety of friendly farm animals to feed and cuddle.
Melbourne Aquarium in Central Melbourne offers a range of themed zones such as Penguin Playground (King and Gentoo penguins), Seahorse Pier (seahorses and sea-dragons), Rainforest Adventure, Coral Atoll (hundreds of stunning tropical fish in a floor-to-ceiling exhibit), Crocodile's Lair (one of Australia’s largest saltwater crocodiles), Ocean Discovery (swamp-dwelling marine creatures), Mermaid Garden (2.2 million litre Oceanarium with huge stingrays, massive sharks and thousands of multi-coloured marine animals swimming by), Shipwreck Explorer (venomous sea creatures), Coral Caves, Mangrove and Rockpools and Bay of Rays (inhabitants of Port Phillip Bay).
Outside Melbourne there are a range of zoos including:
Halls Gap Zoo in Halls Gap comprises 120 species of native and exotic mammals, reptiles and birds. Highlights include the inquisitive meerkats, playful monkey’s, pure bred dingoes, grand barbary sheep and a range of wallaby and kangaroo species.
Mansfield Zoo in Mansfield has a large collection of exotic and native animals on 12 hectares.
Ballarat Wildlife Park is set in 32 acres of woodland and has a collection of Australian native animals and reptiles which have been chosen for their educational and conservation potential. The reptile collection features over 200 snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles and frogs. Activities include guided tours, interactive animal shows, reptile house, koala enclosure and koala nursery.
Pioneer Animal Nursery in Swan Hill is a baby animal nursery which is located permanently at the Swan Hill Showgrounds. Visitors can cuddle, hold and feed baby lambs, goats, rabbits, ducks, chickens, calves and guinea pigs.
Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park in Princetown near the 12 Apostles has a Petting Area, Animal Sanctuary which is the central focus of the park and supports a mob of free range kangaroos, wallabies and emu plus Herd Animals which graze in the surrounding fields and include Fallow and Red deer, alpacas, Wiltipoll sheep, horses, ponies and donkeys.
Kyabram Fauna Park has the second largest collection of Australian Fauna in Victoria, including Koala, Alpine Dingoes, Owls, Snakes, Wombats, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Tasmanian Devils, Cockatoos, Parrots, Waterfowl, Cranes, Finches, Lizards and many more. There is a large walk-through Aviary, reptile house, wetland viewing hides and a wetland observation tower.