Animals,  Attractions,  Family travel

Australia Zoo, Sunshine Coast

A visit to Australia Zoo is something families come from all over south east Queensland to do – where else can you see crocodiles, African safari animals, tigers and more!? After our recent visit, I thought I’d summarise some tips that will help to make your visit to Australia Zoo with toddlers more enjoyable.

  1. It goes without saying, but if you can, visit on a weekday. It will be a lot less crowded than weekends, access to shows will be easier, and generally moving about the park will be more pleasant. You may encounter school groups on a weekday, but we found them to be well behaved and didn’t get in our way.
  2. The park opens at 9am and I’d recommend getting there as close to opening as possible. It gets really hot in summertime, so try to get started early as the kids especially will fade as the day heats up.
  3. We found the best route to take around the park was to catch a shuttle from the entrance all the way to Africa and start there, working your way back to the entrance. Africa is the furthermost point of the park and it is a really long walk to get there. If you choose to walk there and do Africa last, I can guarantee the kids will be over it and won’t enjoy what is probably the highlight of the park. The shuttle runs every half hour starting at 9.05am from the entrance station. We were on the 9.35am shuttle which got us to Africa by 10am and it was perfect timing.
  4. Taking this route, we were able to make it comfortably to the Tiger show at 11am and the Crocosseum at 1.15pm. Check the timetable for show times, but 1 hour to visit Africa, the Lemur Island and south east Asia was perfect. From there, we walked through the Wetlands, the Kangaroos, and then the Birds of Prey areas.
  5. We had morning tea on the move, but stopped for lunch at the Crocosseum food court and to get a spot for the Wildlife Warriors crocodile show. You’re able to bring food and drinks into the park, so we packed a lunchbox with a bunch of snack foods to keep the kids happy all day and purchased lunch and some cold drinks.
  6. There are food kiosks scattered around the zoo, but we found the best spots to stop for a cold drink, ice cream or something to eat were the kiosks by the rhinos in Africa, and the tigers in South East Asia. In both of these places you could sit down and watch the animals while eating.
  7. Australia Zoo has a great kids play area with jumping pillow and a water park splash pad. If your kids are anything like mine, I would suggest not even walking past this area until you are ready to go in – you can see everything as soon as you leave the Crocosseum on the play area side and you won’t be able to stop them from wanting to run to it! Pack a swimsuit or change of clothes and let them cool off during these hot summer days.
  8. There is an ice cream store and lolly shop by the splash pad, so if you’ve promised the kids an icecream, I’d suggest waiting til you get here! We used it as an enticement to get out of the water otherwise our 3yo would have played all day long.
  9. There are water refill stations everywhere around the park which was fabulous for refilling our waterbottles! I can’t reiterate how hot it can get, so definitely be prepared to keep hydrated and cool.
  10. Definitely bring the pram if you’ve got one, if not, you can actually hire wagons at Australia Zoo for the day! There is a lot of walking and little legs will struggle.
  11. Coming from the Gold Coast, it’s about a 2hr drive to the zoo. If you can, I’d suggest staying the night at Caloundra or Mooloolaba and doing the zoo either the day you arrive or the day you go home. No one loves 4 hours of driving on top of a mega day at the zoo!

Staying on the Sunshine Coast:

We decided to drive up and visit the zoo first, then stay the night before heading home the following day. We chose to stay at Caloundra, which is about a 30min drive from the zoo. Mooloolaba is similar distance, but further north so there is further to drive on your return home. Oaks Sunshine Coast Oasis Resort is a very popular choice with the families, and probably the best option for a one night stay. You can get large villas if you need multiple rooms (basically like a 2 bed or 3 bed townhouse), are self contained but also have access to the restaurant, and there is a massive kids waterpark and playground including a putt putt course and jumping pillow. While we weren’t particularly impressed with the resort, it was perfectly fine for 1 night and the kids loved the facilities. One thing to note that we thought was pretty poor, is that the water park and playground are only open 9am-5pm. Outside of these hours there are no facilities that the children can use. The swimming pool is open 7am-10pm, but isn’t the most child friendly pool and would require parents to be in the water as the step in the pool is tiny and the pool gets really busy.

So there you have it, my top tips for surviving a day at Australia Zoo, particularly with toddlers! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments box below.