Luckily, Brisbane is only an hour south of this fantastic zoo and animal-rehab center run by the family of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin, who died in 2006. While the zoo's focus is on wildlife conservation, it offers visitors more than 20 up-close encounters with creatures. You can spend quality time with a Komodo dragon, ride a camel, walk with a wombat and hand-feed a lemur, red panda or giant tortoise. At the Tiger Temple, you can view tigers swimming underwater. Asian elephants bathe below a waterfall at Elephantasia, and crocodile shows take place in the 5,000-seat Crocoseum. In all, the zoo shelters more than 1,000 animals.
Steve Irwin—who shot to fame with the wildlife-documentary series The Crocodile Hunter—grew up at this zoo. Though the star died while snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef (he was hit in the chest by a stingray barb), his legacy lives on at this 28-hectare (70-acre) sanctuary. It houses over a thousand native and exotic animals from koalas to cheetahs and Asian elephants. Many visitors schedule around the noon show at the Crocoseum; it features several slithering, snapping male "salties," who can hit seven meters (23 feet) and 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds)!
By American standards, it is fantastically quaint, spacious and easy to navigate.
Don't be discouraged by the prices (steep) or the warnings of crowds (not-really-that-bad). This is the one-stop Australia animal experience the whole family will enjoy. Plus, the drive to get to it (about an hour north of Brisbane) is a lovely and easy jaunt into the Glasshouse Mountains.
Pre-check the times for the "Crocoseum" shows online before you go. Highly recommended is the "Wildlife Warriors Show" -- an all-around Aussie display of birds, snakes and crocs. And, if you go during school holidays (which are often) there's a good chance the zoo's late founder, (Steve Irwin's) family will be presenting; that is Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin.
The zoo grounds are expansive, and taking it all in is almost impossible in one day. Here's a list of our ideas to focus your day. Do See:
-Wildlife Warriors Show in Crocoseum
-Afternoon Koalas LIVE show
-Walk-through Koala area (where you can get nose-to-nose and pose with and pet a sleeping koala on the tree, for free)
-Both Kangaroo exhibits and the Wallabies
-Drop into the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital on the opposite side of the parking lot before you go.
Skip if you must:
- Africa exhibit (this exhibit is fairly new and a long distance away from all the other exhibits. If you've ever been to a major city zoo before, then you've already seen giraffes and such.