One of the echidnas at Healesville Sanctuary. Although there was some glass between us we still got really close.
Healsville Sanctuary (along with Melbourne Zoo and Werribee Open Range Zoo) is one of Melbourne’s three zoos. Focusing on naive Australian animals, it’s set in a very bush like environment with things spread out. Being so spread out means it feels like you’re constantly exploring and coming across new displays and animals. Although it is some distance from the centre of Melbourne it makes for a great day trip.
Being focused exclusively on Australian animals means the usual suspects are all here – koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, platypuses, lots of poisonous snakes, etc. Although the kids had seen pretty much all of the animals here before they still loved going around because it was still quite an adventure with the great layout. Plus there were lots of chances to get up really close and even pat some of the animals.
Getting up close with an Emu. Gripping even for a 2yo attention span.
Our eldest son really got a kick out of coming up really close to an echidna thanks to their great enclosure which meant you got some great views. And other than the dingo being taken for a walk (on a leash, thankfully) all the kids liked the chance to get up close and touch (if the animals were willing) kangaroos and wallabies.
Not only were the enclosures great for just watching but there were several “shows” – where a keeper would show an animal they were an expert on up close – as well as feeding times. The platypus show let our kids get a really great view.
The Platypus show at the Healesville Sanctuary. Our kids were fascinated to see a platypus so close up.
Other than the animals there two different playgrounds, one of which is quite large. There’s plenty of grassy spaces and also some tables and seats for picnics or breaking for a snack if you’ve got your own food. If not there’s two cafes with drinks and snacks and a small restaurant. We didn’t eat there but the menu (and what we saw of the food) looked good.
We all enjoyed our visit here. It’s nice and spread out and getting right up to the animals is something the kids really liked. Being spread out has the bonus of allowing everyone to focus on one animal or group at a time and not rush from enclosure to enclosure getting overloaded on them all. Although there’s a lot of walking to see everything the pace feels much more relaxed.
One of Healesville Sanctuary’s playgrounds. Just in case all the walking to see the animals isn’t enough…
Finally, just some advice: Healesville is not the warmest place and is a little cooler than Melbourne. If it is a cold day then rug up because Healesville Sanctuary can get chilly. If it’s a hot day then it’s a nice place to beat the heat. Also, bring plenty of snacks and water if you’ve got young kids – it’ll help get them through all the walking.
Is it the best of the three zoos? Personally I liked the Werribee Open Range Zoo a bit more but Healesville Sanctuary is similar and maybe better for smaller kids. Both are great places to visit! If you have visited either of the other two zoos in Melbourne and enjoyed them then the Healesville Sanctuary is something worth checking out.
The Healesville Sanctuary is located on Badgery’s Creek Road, Healesville. See their website – https://www.zoo.org.au/healesville – for more details such as prices or to buy tickets online.
Kid Friendly: Yes, it’s designed for kids with lots of chances to get close up to the animals.
Pram/Stroller friendly: Yes – the whole place is pretty much flat. There’s pram parking at places like shows where you may not be able to take prams all the way in.
Change tables: No, we didn’t come across any. There might be some somewhere.
Getting to Healesville Sanctuary
The Healesville Sanctuary is located roughly 70km east of Melbourne’s CBD and will take approximately 75 minutes depending on traffic, more if you’re avoiding tolls. The easiest way from the city centre is to take the Eastern Freeway and a bit of Eastlink to get to the Maroondah Highway and then to Healesville via Yarra Glen.
From the south-east of Melbourne you could take Eastlink north to Ringwood to get to the Maroondah Highway instead.
Public transport isn’t really an option. It’s possible but it’s a long way with several bus connections required and could (and probably will) easily turn into 2+ hours each way.