Werribee Open Range Zoo (or just Werribee Zoo for short) is one of Melbourne’s three zoos, all of which are run by Zoos Victoria. The Werribee Zoo’s point of difference is that the animals have a lot more room to move in more natural pens with minimal fences.
That doesn’t mean that they’re hard to find. On our visit, lots of the animals happily sat and watched people in the viewing area on the other side of the glass wall.
While there are fewer animals you do seem to get a better look at them (in my opinion anyway).
The highlight of the zoo is the Safari tour which is included with your ticket. The Werribee Zoo safari sits you in an open bus like vehicle as you drive around several open enclosures – more like paddocks.
A bit like an African safari through Kruger National Park, the bus ride lets you see some hippos, bison, zebras and giraffes (amongst others) up close. For my two year old toddler, it was one of the greatest things ever.
It’s way cooler than a typical zoo because, in a sense, you’re way closer to the animals. Even if the animals wander off in some far corner there’s nothing but the sides of the vehicle between them and you. You can see them better and you’re not competing for a spot alongside a fence. All our kids have preferred this zoo over any other they have been to (and they’ve been to many).
The safari runs every day but is especially toddler focused on weekdays during school terms.
Other than the safari, there are a couple of paths to wander along. One has African animals – lions, gorillas, cheetahs, rhinos and ostriches amongst others – and is all African themed. The theming is engaging for young kids.
The other path has Australian animals and has similar theming. My young toddler didn’t think this was as cool but still enjoyed it.
Between the start of the two paths is a cool playground that my toddler had to be carried away from, although it was crowded with different school groups.
Overall the zoo is really well designed and set up to be really engaging for kids – especially young kids. The paths are easy to follow with lots of little fun diversions. There are lots of signs with pictures on them so you don’t even need to read to know what’s coming up and the little theming touches are really well done. Best of all, you feel like you’re really close to the animals as their enclosures are well designed.
It was a hit for my young toddler, who liked it better than the normal zoo. Despite being a bit out of town, it is well worth the effort.
You might want to bring your own food. There are lots of places to sit down for a lunch. Alternatively, the zoo has you covered with a restaurant (with reasonable prices) and several food and beverage outlets (although how many are open vary with the day of the week and time of year). There are also prams you can borrow if you need one.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is in Werribee Park, off K Road, Werribee. Open every day (no exceptions) from 9am to 5pm with animal areas closing at 4:30. From Boxing Day (Dec. 26) to New Years Eve the zoo opens at 8am. See https://www.zoo.org.au/werribee for more details.
Kid Friendly: Yes! The whole place is designed/aimed for kids, especially the younger ones.
Pram/Stroller access: Prams can go nearly everywhere. There’s pram parking near the Safari tour and anywhere prams aren’t meant to go.
Change Tables: There’s a great parent’s room which has a couple of great change tables. Unfortunately most of the public toilets didn’t seem to have them (although there was plenty of wheelchair friendly toilets with a lot of space.
Getting to the Werribee Open Range Zoo
The Werribee Zoo is approximately 40 minutes (depending on traffic) from the city centre by car. The easiest route from the city is taking the West Gate Freeway (which turns into the Princes Freeway) – aka route M1.
While public transport isn’t really an option there is a daily shuttle bus run by a private company that goes to Werribee Park and stops at the zoo. The shuttle departs daily from out the the National Gallery of Victoria building on St. Kilda Road. See https://www.werribeeparkshuttle.com.au/daily-shuttle.