Melbourne Zoo is located in Royal Park about 4km north of the city centre. The Zoo has over 300 species of animals from all over the world in lush landscaped grounds.
Melbourne Zoo opened in 1862 on the Royal Park site, and is Australia’s oldest zoo. Melbourne Zoo was modeled on London Zoo, with formal Victorian gardens. In the early days the animals were housed in old circus cages. Picnic grounds and enhanced landscaping were added as the Zoo increased in popularity. In 1934, the Zoo introduced a collection Australian wildlife featuring kangaroos, platypus, koalas, and other native animals. The Zoo has changed dramatically over the last hundred years with exhibits renovated and new developments added such as the Trail of the Elephants, the Orangutan Sanctuary and the exhibit for Australian Fur Seals, Fairy Penguins and other marine life added recently.
Some of the top attractions include:
- The Trail of the Elephants features three elephants in the Asian Rainforest precinct. The Asian Rainforest also houses the Tiger display. At the entrance to the elephant display there is a museum hut with photographs and artifacts on display.
- The Orang-utan Sanctuary has a treetop boardwalk to get up close to the apes as they play and feed in the trees.
- The Butterfly exhibit has hundreds of colourful Australian native butterflies in a tropical glasshouse.
- The World of Bugs has a large collection of Australian insects including giant cockroaches and long stick insects.
- The Gorilla Rainforest is home to a family of Western Lowland Gorillas. Visitors can see the gorillas from several viewing points into their large exhibit.
- The Amazing Australians section features Australian wildlife in a bushland setting including the well known kangaroos, wallabies, platypus, wombats and of course, koalas. There is a free range area with emus and kangaroos where visitors can walk amongst the animals.
- The Great Flight Aviary contains Australian lorikeets and parrots and various other Australian native birds.
Australian native animals at the zoo include kangaroos, emus, wombats, koalas, platypus, snakes and lizards, frogs, tree kangaroos.(Healesville Sanctuary is probably the a better place to see Australian animals close up, but it is about an hour and a half drive away from the city).
Exotic animals include elephants, giraffes, giant tortoise, reptiles, lions, lemurs, wolves, big cats, bears, macaws, gorillas, otters, tigers, meerkats, red pandas, baboons, orangutans, apes and monkeys. The Great Flight Aviary features a variety of birds.
During the day there are numerous Keeper Presentations to give you a greater insight into the animals and their care. Presentations include Elephants, Giant Tortoises, Wombats, Meerkats, Giraffes, Orangutans, Gorillas, Baboons, Koalas, and Penguins. Allow about four hours for your visit to make sure you have time to see all the exhibits.
The Zoo offers a number of wildlife encounters that get you up close with the animals. The
Lion Encounter takes you behind-the-scenes with the keepers to a training session with the lions.
The Tiger Territory encounter takes you to with the keepers to meet a magnificent Sumatran tiger. A Tree-Kangaroos & Koala encounter lets pat a koala, feed a tree kangaroos and get your photo taken with them. These encounters are additional cost. Other Zoo experiences include “Roar ‘n’ Snore” which is basically a sleepover at the zoo. The zoo provides tents and mattresses, dinner, supper, and breakfast and admission to zoo the following day.
The Zoo is open from 9am every day of the year. Closing time is normally at 5pm, but on some nights during summer the Zoo is open late until 9:30pm for the Zoo Twilights concerts. You can get there easily by tram or train. Trains run from Flinders Street Station stopping at Melbourne Zoo’s Royal Park Station.