Have you been to Wildlife HQ at the Big Pineapple yet? No longer just the site of an iconic heritage-listed landmark, for the last five years, The Big Pineapple, has also shared its surrounding lush terrain with one of the best, yet little-known zoos our state has to offer.
If you haven’t heard of it, Wildlife HQ is its name and it is just as impressive as the tropical giant that famously marks its entrance.
Wildlife HQ – How it all began
In 2014, after 45 years of operation, the doors to Alma Park Zoo, on Brisbane’s Northside closed. On hearing of the closure, Julie Seabrook and her dedicated team of zookeepers relocated and built a new zoo for the animals at the iconic Big Pineapple.
Five years later and Wildlife HQ is now home to over 250 Australian and exotic animal species, is FAA accredited and is involved in a number of national endangered species management and breeding programs.
Zoo / Train Tickets
Please be advised the Big Pineapple train is currently undergoing major repairs and will be out of action until further notice.
There is a ticket office for Wildlife HQ right alongside the Big Pineapple itself. You can buy tickets just for the zoo or, for an extra $5pp you can add the train tickets in as well.
Although the zoo is a very easy walk, the train is a lovely way to go back and forth throughout the day or even just to do a circuit on. It is the old Big Pineapple carriage one and winds through the gorgeous tropical grounds, past exotic fruit trees and even an old, painted ‘station’. Once your ticket is bought you can ride the train as often as you like and so for us it was well worth it.
If you buy train tickets with your zoo pass then you can board the train right near the ticket office and it will take you to the main entrance of the zoo (surprisingly, not where you purchase your ticket from at the Big Pineapple).
If you are only getting the zoo pass then you will need to jump back into your car and drive down to a different carpark at the zoo’s actual entrance. If you don’t need to see the Big Pineapple or ride the train then you are best to park at the bottom carpark and buy your ticket there instead.
Spread out generously over the beautiful, tropical grounds, the zoo is laid out in sections based on the animal origins. These are the African Plains, South American Trail, Asian Rainforest and Lemur Island. There is also the Reptile House, Nocturnal House and Australian animal sections.
When in operation, the train does a loop through and around the zoo, the only station you need to access the zoo is Koala Station in the centre. From here you can either take the pathway right, walking through the rainforest to all of the Australian animals, Reptile house and Lemur Island or left to all of the other animals.
Although the pathways can be a little undulating, they are wide and easy to navigate.
Note: The zoo actually moves the animals around regularly to different exhibit spaces for a change of scenery and to stop them getting stir crazy. We love this, but it does mean that the maps are regularly re-printed to accommodate the new locations so make sure you get a printed one on arrival. The picture above is from the printed version given to us on the day, which is different to what you can currently find on the website.
Clearly the main attraction and the reason for our visit, the inhabitants of Wildlife HQ definitely don’t disappoint. Home to over 250 animals from around the world and boasts one of the largest collections of primates in Queensland, Wildlife HQ is also home to Queensland’s only Sun Bear, Maly.
Each section offers spacious and playful enclosures that enable visitors to go right up close to the animals within them. In the Australian section you will find all the favourites all within easy viewing access. The koalas, dingo, Tassie Devil and kookaburras are all here with the emu and kangaroos out in the open. This was very exciting for the little ones as we found ourselves walking alongside some very tame emus (they even let us pat them) and sitting beside some super friendly kangaroos too.
Also popular were the more exotic areas like the Asian Rainforest with its African Wild Dogs, Sun Bear, Red Panda, Lemurs and Baboons. The Sun Bear, Maly, is the only one in Queensland and we found the talk on her and how she arrived in the zoo extremely interesting.
Lemur Island, situated in the middle of a large lagoon filled with curious turtles (keep an eye out for these!), is a new addition and both the reptile house and nocturnal house were full interesting creatures.
By far the biggest attraction for my kids were the playful meerkats (found in Presentation Park) and the huge range of adorable mini monkeys (South American Trail). From the Cotton Top and Emperor Tamarins to the Marmosets – we loved them all.
Although the zoo is set up in a way that visitors can get pretty close to most of the animals, for some the chance to actually hold or touch one personally is something that is too good to miss out on. For this reason, Wildlife HQ offers a number of animal encounter experiences that you can book on arrival and the best part is they will take photos for you on your own camera!
These can be booked between 10:30am – 2:30pm daily and the animals that you can book an encounter with are:
Aussie Animal Encounters
Koala, Snake, Sugar Glider, Dingo
Asian Animal Encounters
Sun Bear, Red Panda (winter only), Binturong
African Animal Encounters
South American Animal Encounters
Boa Constrictor, Cotton Top Tamarin, Emperor Tamarin, Marmoset, Alligator
Tips to make the most of your visit
- Head there early if you can. The zoo is open daily from 9am – 4pm (last entry at 3pm). Although the zoo size is very manageable in that time frame, there are special feeding and presentation times and these all happen earlier in the day.
- Considering packing your own lunch and enjoy on any one of the shady picnic tables. Whilst there are a couple of spots to buy food, the options are somewhat limited. You can, however, get some delicious freshly brewed coffee and homemade ice-creams from the café at the entrance.
- Pack insect repellent. The tropical nature of the zoo means you will be sharing the space with shade-loving mosquitoes.
Parents Will Love
- The zoo itself is spacious and clean and the staff are extremely friendly
- Wildlife HQ is an affordable Queensland Zoo with ticket pricing well below similar destinations
- It is the perfect sized park for little ones to get around without becoming too exhausted by the distance travelled
- It is nice and shady in the majority of the park
- If you invest in a wildlife encounter, you can use your own camera to capture the moment
Kids Will Love
- The tiny monkeys and the big primates
- A train ride (when in operation)
- Wildlife shows
- The promise of ice cream at the end
Whilst the zoo is not the biggest one you can visit, the grounds are breathtaking, the animals all appear well cared for and happy and the range of creatures you can find here is impressive.
We would definitely recommend a day out at Wildlife HQ. It is a perfect zoo for the littlest of people, with the animals all very accessible and close and the zoo itself easy to navigate in half a day if that is all you have (or smaller kids can handle). Try to time it so that you can get to the different talks and feeding times as these were excellent and make time at the end (or start) for a delicious ice-cream/sorbet from the cafe at the entrance if possible.
Wildlife HQ is open 7 days a week, with last entry to the zoo at 3 pm. A variety of passes are available, including day passes and annual tickets so that you can return whenever you want.
For more information on what the park has to offer as well as ticket prices, you can head to their website here.
The Big Pineapple and Macadamia / Treetop Challenge
Allow a little time at the start (or the end) to check out the Big Pineapple at the entrance but also the giant macadamia next door. Both are deserving of a fun family pic, although the giant macadamia is now home to the treetop challenge and zip line. A four hour course that is recommended for those 8 years and old (there is also a height restriction), you can find out all you need to know about this here.
Wildlife HQ is located within the grounds of the Big Pineapple, at 76 Nambour Connection Road in Woombye. Please check out the Wildlife HQ website before your visit, as the attraction often hosts music festivals and closes some sections on these days.