Healesville Sanctuary is one of the best known wildlife sanctuaries in Australia. It is located in the Yarra Valley region, 65 kilometres from Melbourne, and features more than two hundred species of Australian wildlife including kangaroos, koalas and birds of prey.
Healesville first opened to the public in 1934, when it was known as the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary for Australian Flora and Fauna. The Sanctuary became famous in the 1940s as the first organisation to breed platypus successfully in captivity. Since 1978, Healesville Sanctuary has been managed by the Zoological Parks and Gardens Board of Victoria and has become one of Australia’s top wildlife Sanctuaries.
The Sanctuary has large walk-through exhibits, aviaries, nocturnal exhibits and bushland with walking paths, so there is plenty to see. Allow about three hours to wander round the Sanctuary, although you could make a day of it.
There are a number of keeper presentations throughout the day, so it is worth planning your visit around the talks you want to see. Many of the Australian animals spend a lot of the day sleeping or resting in their shelter or in hollow logs, and feeding time is the best opportunity to see them active during the day. Meet the Keeper presentations include Wombat talk, Kangaroo talk, Tasmanian Devil talk, Pelican feeding, Lyrebird feeding, Koala talk and Platypus talk.
Don’t miss the Birds of Prey presentation where Australian raptors such as the Black Breasted Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Barking Owl, and Wedge-tailed Eagle put on an aerial display demonstrating their flying and hunting skills. Visitors watch the show in an outdoor amphitheatre. You need to arrive at the Birds of Prey arena in plenty of time to get a seat, as the gates are shut when the show starts. The Parrots in Flight show highlights some of Australia’s colourful parrots such as Lorikeets, Eclectus Parrot and Corella in a free-flying display.
The Healesville Sanctuary Australian Wildlife Health Centre lets visitors to see veterinary care in action. Through a special viewing window, visitors can see vets at work performing surgery on animals, or conducting post-mortems on dead animals. Every year more than 1,500 native orphaned, sick or injured Australian animals are brought to the Sanctuary by members of public and wildlife professionals. The Sanctuary’s veterinary team performs almost 5,000 procedures each year from basic check-ups to major surgery. The Australian Wildlife Health Centre is open all day.
A number of special Close Encounter programs are available to provide you behind-the-scenes and close-up experiences with Australian wildlife. Encounters include a one-on-one session with a keeper and a bird or prey, or a behind the scenes night encounter with nocturnal animals. There is also the opportunity to become a keeper’s assistant for a morning doing the rounds and assisting with animal care and feeding. These encounters are not included in the general admission price.
Healesville Sanctuary is located at Badger Creek Road, Healesville and is about an hour and a half drive from Melbourne. Public transport is available from the city, and a number of day tour operators visit Healesville every day. The Sanctuary is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm every day including Christmas Day and public holidays.