If you want to introduce your children to creatures from all corners of the world without leaving the state, visit Taronga Zoo. It’s your ticket to a global journey with animals from all over the planet. From American Alligators to African elephants, Chinese Chinese three-striped box turtles to Bolivian Squirrel-monkey, there’s plenty to fascinate your family.
A Family Visit to Taronga Zoo
We arrive at Taronga Zoo as it opens at 9:30am. (If you get there early, you’ll miss the crowds that arrive later in the morning). We start our visit at Reptile World and peer at the mighty Komodo Dragon. He doesn’t seem as enthusiastic to see us as we are to see him though. The reptile section is impressive and will wow reptile fans with its wide range of creatures. Half the fun is spotting the inhabitants in their habitats.
Next it’s on to the giraffes who are owners of the best real estate in the whole zoo. With their long necks, they enjoy magnificent harbour views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. However, they are pretty blasé about the views and just munch on their breakfast.
We’re initially disappointed when we get to the lions and tigers. The tiger is pacing back and forth in the distance and the lions are dozing in the sun.
However, the lioness must feel our gaze upon her as her eyes suddenly snap open and she levels a steely gaze at us. Yikes! We’re glad there’s a glass panel between her and us.
A friendlier animal is the Sun Bear who comes close to us before clambering away.
Next is on to the elephants where we have a close up view of their morning routine consisting of a scrub, shower and morning exercises. There’s groans and giggles from the kids when an elephant deposits a massive amount of poo.
Moving on, we visit the much talked about Lemur Forest Adventure complete with a brand new playground for kids. Expect to spend a while here!
In addition to seeing the lemurs, you’ll be amazed to see your children exhibit lemur behaviour as they play, climb, jump and explore this playground.
Tip, as you enter the exhibit, take the path to the right to go through the Forest Path and let kids play with interactive stations.
It’s then on to the seal show. Although people started queuing 30 minutes in advance for the show, as we’re visiting on a weekday, it’s not as crowded. The area has a capacity of 1000 people so we’re able to arrive five minutes before the show starts and get a seat.
Although much hyped, the Seal Show does not disappoint. It’s incredible what these seals can do such as waving to the audience, catching fish and balancing balls.
In addition to being amused by their antics, we also learn about seal behavior and how we can all look after the oceans.
Another show which you can’t miss is the Bird Show. Watching these birds soar through the air overhead is incredible against a harbour backdrop. Sit close to the front if you want to experience birds flying directly over your head but as the keeper mentions, don’t make any sudden movements!
Our last exhibit of the day is the Kids Trail area which includes a Farm Playground.
This playground also includes a little water area for toddlers to splash around so bring swimmers if it’s a warm day. We time our visit so we’re there for Farm Feed.
This involves the kids feeding goats, ducks, sheep and pigs.
To finish our visit, we make our way down to the Sky Safari station near the ferry terminal. There, we jump on the Sky Safari and cruise up hill for an easy ascent to the top Zoo exit. Along the way, we see more views of the harbour and an aerial view of the animals we’ve visited. As we pass through the exit gates, we’re sorry to leave but happy that we’ve seen an entire world of animals.
Tips for Visiting Taronga Zoo
You can either take the ferry to the Zoo from Circular Quay (12 minutes) or park in the carpark ($17 a day). For directions to the zoo, visit the Taronga Zoo website.
Buy tickets online to avoid queues. Tickets are $44 for adults and $22 for children. Kids under 4 are free. If you purchase tickets at Circular Quay, take advantage of combined zoo entry and ferry tickets which are $52.50 for adults and $26.20 for children 4 and over.
The Entertainment Book has 25% off admission for Taronga Zoo but you can only use this by buying tickets at the zoo. If you plan on visiting more than twice a year, think about becoming a Zoo Friend as it works out cheaper to buy a family pass and plus you get discounts on zoo purchases and parking.
Before your visit, identify which animals and shows are must-sees and plan accordingly. You can download a copy of the Zoo map on the website to plan a route.
If you arrive by ferry, take the Sky Safari to the top of the zoo and work your way down. It’s a lot easier on the legs. Bring a stroller that can fold for the Sky Safari.
If you need a stroller, you can hire one for $15 for the day from the Zoo Shop at the Top Plaza.
Wear comfortable shoes and pace yourself. There’s lots to see and the zoo is quite large so take frequent breaks especially with younger children. Seating and shade is plentiful so rest when you need to.
Make sure you pack hats and sunscreen. If you forget, you can buy them at the Zoo shop. Water stations are throughout the park so bring refillable water bottles.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, download the free Taronga Zoo Audio Tour or Monkey Mayhem kids app.
You can bring your own lunch and snacks to Taronga Zoo. I noticed many visitors who had brought food and were eating it in the picnic areas. We weren’t so organised but didn’t starve. There’s plenty of yummy eating options available such as the Piazza serving Italian food and Taronga Food Market serving Asian and western favourites. We ate at the Fish Stop Takeaway. In terms of price, the food is a bit more expensive but not unreasonably so.
To make a weekend of it, stay a night or two in Sydney. There are a few hotels in Sydney which offer family-friendly amenities. Swissotel Sydney offers a very unique experience for kids and parents alike. The hotel provides a specially decorated room for kids aged 2 to 12 with age-appropriate kids linen, toys, DVDs and bathroom amenities.
More family-friendly features include a kids menu for room service, kids section in the breakfast buffet, baby cots and nanny service (additional charge).
Mercure Sydney Hotel on George Street offers a city break for families which includes Overnight accommodation for 2 adults and 2 children - Full buffet breakfast for the family, complimentary car parking and complimentary in-room movie. Vibe Hotel Sydney in Goulbourn Street in Sydney offers family friendly features such as complimentary kids pack which includes crayons, colouring in sheet and assorted puzzles, Kids menu at Curve Restaurant plus kids under ten years eat for free in the Curve Breakfast Buffet and roof top pool.
If you have a car and wish to be closer to the zoo, stay in Sydney’s North Shore. Rydges North Sydney have a Taronga Zoo package. This includes overnight accommodation in a family suite, entry to Taronga Zoo, full buffet breakfast and hotel car parking. Like its CBD counterpart, Vibe North Sydney also offers family friendly features such as complimentary kids pack which includes crayons, colouring in sheet and assorted puzzles, Kids menu at Curve Restaurant plus kids under ten years eat for free in the Curve Breakfast Buffet.
Thanks to Taronga Zoo for providing a family entry pass for this review.