Werribee Open Range Zoo is about 30 minutes drive of Melbourne on the way to the Great Ocean Road. Along with Melbourne Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, the Werribee Open Range Zoo is one Victoria’s top three zoos. It used to be known as Victoria’s Open Range Zoo at Werribee and Werribee Zoo. The Zoo opened to the public in 1983. It is a major attraction on the Great Southern Touring Route and the Bay Tour. The Zoo is home to African animals living in a open savannah. You can see lions, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, monkeys and cheetahs. The most recent attraction is the family of hippos in the Kubu River Hippo exhibit.
Admission includes to the Zoo includes a 45-minute guided safari tour. Tours run at regular intervals throughout the day. Animals at the Zoo include lions, Meerkat, Hippos, Southern White Rhinoceros, Monkey, Zebra, Cheetah, Ostrich, Waterbuck, Emu, Brolga, wallaby, Kangaroo, Pelican. During the day there are a number of Keeper Talks, a great way to find out more about the animals. Talks include Monkeys, Meerkats, Lions, Hippos and cheetahs.
One of the Zoo’s highlights is the Lions on the Edge display where a pride of lions (two males and three females) live on a savannah landscape. The exhibit tells the story of a lion’s journey through an African village and savannah grassland to his pride land home, and highlights tissues with lions and humans co-existing in Africa. The trail takes you past African huts, through tall grass, past a water hole and meerkat colony to savannah and a broken down ranger’s truck. The truck is partially in the lion enclosure with the front of the truck sectioned off by a large glass viewing panel. You can sit in truck seats while a lion jumps up on the truck bonnet on the other side of the glass. (The lions are encouraged to jump on the hood by feeding, and apparently the hood has heating coils under it, making it a nice warm spot for the lions to rest).
A recent addition to the Zoo is the Kubu River Hippos experience. Four hippos live in three hectare area with pools, mud holes, sandy beaches and grassland. Visitors can see the hippos from a boardwalk and view them up close from a partly submerged barge. This area also has activities for the kids including adventure trail, hippo water playground with life-size hippo sculptures and an archeological dig site.
The Zoo offers a number of close encounters and behind the scenes tours (additional cost). The “Rip Roaring Feed” takes visitors behind-the-scenes at the Lion exhibit to see the lions being fed, and find out more about the animals from the keepers. A Giraffe encounter gives visitors the opportunity to get up close to the giraffes and learn about their habits and how the Zoo cares for them. The “Raising Rhino” features the Zoo’s Southern White Rhinos and includes a guided safari tour through the lower savannah to see rhinos, giraffes, zebras and antelopes.
The Slumber Safari is an overnight sleepover at the Zoo where visitors experience up-close animal encounters, an African barbecue feast, and campfire entertainment before retiring to sleep in comfortable canvas safari tents.
During the summer months, the popular “Rhythm of Africa” African music evenings features traditional percussion, contemporary African music and dancing. Werribee Open Range Zoo also caters for weddings, function and corporate events. The Savannah Function Centre caters for up to 250 guests.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is located 35km west of Melbourne on the Princes Freeway. From Melbourne travel over the Westgate Bridge or via the Geelong Road, and take the Werribee South exit.
If you are travelling on public transport, catch the Werribee Park Shuttle bus from Melbourne to Werribee Open Range Zoo. Services run daily with pick up from the Victorian Arts Centre.
The Zoo is open every day of the year from 9.00am to 5.00pm (including Christmas Day and public holidays). During summer there are extended opening hours for the Rhythm of Africa evenings.