Taronga Zoo is possibly Australia’s most beautiful zoo and a highlight of any trip to Sydney with children (though I saw plenty of tourists visiting without kids too)
There is so much to see that you should allocate a whole day to explore or start at 9:30am for a solid morning if you have younger kids who need an afternoon nap. Note it is impossible to cover everything in a day – there are over 4000 animals to see and over 20 keeper talks and shows a day.
The quickest and most scenic way to get to Taronga Zoo from the city is via ferry from Circular Quay. The ferry takes you out past the Sydney Opera House, provides glorious views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and only takes 12 minutes to arrive at the bottom of the hill of Taronga Zoo.
You can enter the zoo via the bottom entrance (which doesn’t open until 10am), take the free shuttle bus which will drive you to the front entrance up the hill, or take the Sky Safari cable car to the top.
When you arrive, take a proper map as well as a kids map. Children will love pointing out where they are, where the animals are and where to go next. It has fun colouring and word activities on the back which are useful if you’re waiting for a show to start, lunch to arrive or the ferry home. Take or buy a pack of coloured pencils!
Our highlights are:
- The giraffes. Their long necks provide them with million dollar views of Sydney Harbour!
- The 20 minute seal show. We were all thrilled and very impressed with the seals leaping, flipping and diving. There’s normally a line to get in but we just hung around eating morning tea until the end of the line emerged and then snuck into the back row. All seats provide good views as it’s stadium seating.
- The penguins and seal tanks. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see the seals perform an underwater ballet for you in the underground tanks.
- Backyard to Bush kids area. It’s modelled on an urban home and backyard, a rural living area and the bush.
- The adventure playground was a hit with the kids, with a water-play area, wooden fort, rope nets and interactive musical stepping points.
What we missed but will visit next time:
- Lemur Forest Adventure – a playground where kids can play next to lemurs.
- Free flight bird show
- Roar and snore – when the kids are older we’ll take them camping at the zoo! Accommodation is in safari style tents and you get to wake up to spectacular views of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
- the quickest and most scenic route to Taronga Zoo is via ferry from Circular Quay. Direct ferries leave from Wharf 2 and generally run every 30 minutes (sometimes more frequent);
- the ferry takes 12 minutes and a single trip costs costs $6.20 using an Opal card;
- plan your route starting from the entrance at the top of the hill and exit at the bottom of the hill. Going the other way around means a lot of stairs and steep uphill inclines;
- don’t miss the seal show, but don’t bother queueing – just watch until the queue is at the end then move into spare seats in the back;
- take a change to clothes so kids can enjoy the water play area;
- food options are standard fast food/takeaway fare unless you go more high end. There are lots of picnic spots for BYO food;
- If you are a Melbourne Zoo member then you get free admission to Taronga Zoo. If you forget your membership cards just tell them you’re a member at Member Services (before you enter the gates for ticket office) and they will call Melbourne Zoo to check and provide you with a handwritten slip to show at the entry gate;
- paths provide good pram access though note the site is along the side of a hill so there are stairs and uphill parts to navigate; and
- stroller hire, free wifi, parents rooms and lockers are available.