Brisbane is fortunate to have so many zoos and wildlife centres within easy reach, each offering the opportunity to learn more about our native fauna and exotic animals. Until fairly recently, visitors could only observe the animals from behind a fence or enclosure.
Nowadays, animal handlers are giving adults and kids the opportunity to connect more closely with the animal – to pet it, feed it, help care for it and (of course!) have a photo taken of the experience. There are so many animal and wildlife encounters on offer, and we’ve collated them all for you below. Keep this list handy when you next need a present idea or school holiday activity!
Be mindful that most animal encounters will require an additional fee on top of entry but who can put a price on a hug from a boa constrictor?
Animal experiences at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane
Lone Pine is not just about the koalas, although you will see plenty of these sweet creatures there. Located in a picturesque spot along the Brisbane River, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to a wide array of creatures, with everything from cockatoos to emus. When it comes to wild encounters, they have a number of options, including dingo, koala and snake encounters. For animal enthusiasts and budding zoologists, Lone Pine also offers a behind the scenes tour, and the opportunity to be a junior or teen keeper for a day.
Animal encounters at Australia Zoo
Beerwah, Sunshine Coast
This once fledgeling zoo now boasts an extensive collection of animals, daily shows, an animal hospital and more than 25 wildlife experiences. Unsurprisingly, Australia Zoo is a popular choice for local families and international tourists. Animals available for more personalised experiences at Australia Zoo include giraffes, camels, eagles, farmyard animals, wombats, possums, echidnas, tortoises, koalas, dingoes, cheetahs, komodo dragons, tigers, rhinoceroses, red pandas, otters, zebras, binturongs and lemurs. They also offer the opportunity to for a wildlife hospital tour.
Animal experiences at Wildlife HQ, The Big Pineapple
Woombye, Sunshine Coast
The Big Pineapple has a rich history as an entertainment park for families. It continues that tradition by offering Wildlife HQ – a zoo with animals from Australia, Asia, Africa and South America. At Wildlife HQ, you can book an animal encounter with a koala, Tassie devil, dingo, wombat, crocodile, sugar glider, possum, binturong, sun bear, red panda, baboon, lemur, boa constrictor, marmoset or tamarin! Don’t forget the camera so you can share your animal encounter with others.
Animal experiences at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin, Gold Coast
Hand-feeding the noisy and colourful native parrots in the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary dome would have to be our pick of their animal experiences. But the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary staff also offer dingo walks, crocodile feeding, an echidna experience, a possum experience, koala cuddle and photo, a wombat walk, bird training and a behind the scenes tour.
Animal experiences at David Fleay Wildlife Park and Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre
Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast and The Gap, Brisbane
These two centres, run by the state government, offer native wildlife shows and experiences. At the David Fleay Wildlife Park, each day at 2.15pm you can experience wildlife up close, and on the school holidays, there’s the opportunity to become a junior wildlife ranger. This experience allows kids to go behind the scenes to see how wildlife rangers care for animals. The junior ranger program is also available at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre. Walkabout Creek is a great place to spend the day, with plenty of nature play opportunities and a cafe. David Fleay’s also has plenty to keep the kids busy.
Animal encounters at Brisbane environment centres
Various locations, Brisbane
Managed by the Brisbane City Council, these environment centres offer engaging and interactive activities for kids, including animal encounters, especially on weekends and school holidays. Check the calendar for more details about what’s available at your local centre – Boondall Wetlands, Downfall Creek Bushland Centre and the Karawatha Forest Park and Discovery Centre.
Animal encounters at SeaWorld
Main Beach, Gold Coast
There are plenty of animal adventures to be had at SeaWorld, and families can get up close to sharks, seals, dolphins, penguins and polar bears. Teens can even experience what it would be like to work with marine animals, thanks to their trainer for a day program.
Animal encounters at Sea Life
Mooloolaba, Sunshine Coast
Swim with a seal, snorkel with the sharks or sign the kids up for the ocean ranger program, which runs during school holidays. At Sea Life, kids will get to feel, touch and meet a wide range of ocean creatures and receive a photograph of their special experience.
Animal encounters at Dreamworld
Coomera, Gold Coast
Dreamworld, Australia’s largest theme park, also has a collection of animals and offers animal experiences for families. You can have a cuddle and a photo with a koala, hold a snake or meet a dingo. There are even crocodile encounters for the brave at heart!
Animal encounters at Tangalooma Island Resort
Moreton Island, Brisbane
Tangalooma Island Resort is the location for a special kind of animal encounter – nightly feeding of wild dolphins. This once in a lifetime experience is also educational for Brisbane Kids and is a rare opportunity to see and feed dolphins in their natural habitat.