Brisbane is often overlooked by visitors to Australia in favour of better-known Sydney and Melbourne, but Queensland’s capital more than merits a visit in its own right. Brisbane is a place where modernity and nature meet. Home to gleaming sky scrapers, seat of the state government and surrounded by greenery and water.
Visitors to Brisbane will delight in its fantastic array of shops, restaurants, museums and monuments and will spend many a happy day of sightseeing and indulgence wandering through its streets and relaxing on the waterfront.
So when Sunday comes and you feel in need of something a little different, what better way to spend the day than travelling to Australia’s biggest tourist attraction nearby – Australia Zoo!
Founded by the original crocodile and nature-loving genius, Steve Irwin, in conjunction with his equally inspired wife Terri, Australia Zoo is just an hour’s drive from Brisbane and is one of the most exciting trips you can make during your time in Australia.
If you are looking to get back to nature and up close and personal with koalas, elephants, tigers, snakes and all manner of giant reptiles, this is the place to do it. This is a wildlife park like no other, a place where the staff’s love of their jobs and their love for the animals they tend is paramount and absolutely apparent. No dirty cages and heartless zoo keepers here. Steve Irwin himself used to conduct the live crocodile shows here until his fatal accident took him from us, but his spirit very much lives on in the park to which he dedicated a lifetime’s work.
Australia Zoo was established by Irwin and his wife Terri shortly after they met, and grew over the years to take its place as Australia’s most successful tourist attraction. 500 million viewers have enjoyed Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter series and other programmes across 142 countries and this is your chance to find out what the man was really all about.
While there is, unsurprisingly, a heavy focus on the Irwin family, that does not in any way detract from the story of the zoo’s inhabitants themselves. Part of the delight of visiting Australia Zoo is its relaxed atmosphere and the way it enables you to really interact with the animals that live there. Where else could you share a sunbathing session in a private garden with a team of wallabies, cuddle a fluffy koala or feed the elephants right up close?
With over a hundred different species, there is a strong emphasis on conservation and learning here too. Irwin’s message that anyone and everyone can become a wildlife ambassador rings loudly despite his absence. It is not pushy, but certainly leaves you with an understanding of the amazing work that Irwin started and a desire to help continue to fulfil the dream.
This is a great day out no matter what your age – the grown ups will enjoy the learning opportunities and the sympathetic ethos behind the way the zoo is run, while the kids will love the chance to get up close to the animals. There is a lovely feeding area, perfect for the little ones, with goats and piglets eager for a spot of hand feeding by the many little people who pass through here each day.
The zoo itself is expansive, and though it can be covered perfectly well on foot, it is fun to jump on the train that circulates around the zoo, carrying its visitors from one section to another. It also provides some welcome shade from the blazing midday sun, which can get decidedly on the hot side during the summer months. There are plenty of places to eat, from picnic areas to restaurants and snack bars, ensuring that energy levels are kept at a premium for enjoying everything the zoo has to offer.
If your budget stretches to it, it is well worth considering the “platinum” zoo experience, providing you with an “access-all-areas” VIP pass and a hands-on experience that few will ever match. You will be assigned your own personal Australia Zoo guide who will tour you around the zoo, making sure you are in the right place at the right time to ensure the very best that it has to offer. A personal photographer will capture snaps of you throughout the day and you will get up close and personal with just about every species in the area. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea will be taken away from the crowds in a private area surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking the crocodiles and koalas in their natural habitat.
How to get there
Despite its location an hour from central Brisbane, Australia Zoo is easily accessed via bus, train, car or coach. There are a number of coach pick ups for just $5 (under 3’s travel free) from 11 different locations all along the sunshine coast, the proceeds of which go towards the zoo’s own conservation projects. Alternatively take the QR Citytrain, which runs regular services on a Sunday, from Brisbane to Beerwah where trains are met by courtesy coaches from the zoo.
Our best recommendation is to take the “Croc Coach” for a full wildlife experience. The Croc Coach operates pickups from all of Brisbane’s major hotels and during the journey a guide will introduce the history and highlights of Australia Zoo and the Irwin family. The journey itself is highly attractive as the coach follows the Glasshouse Mountains, and the guide will provide an excellent commentary on the area as the bus passes through it. The little ones will almost certainly relish the opportunity to watch the complimentary Crocodile Hunter DVD too, to get them in the mood for their trip.
What to take
The sun can be fierce in Queensland even during the off-season months so remember to wear plenty of sunscreen and take a hat and good quality sunglasses. Unlike many tourist locations the zoo welcomes families bringing their own food and drink, so bring plenty of water and some supplies to keep the energy levels up. Finally, don’t forget your camera. Australia Zoo provides an unmissable experience and the pictures you take on your Sunday afternoon visit will help to ensure your happy memories stay with you long after you leave.