The Best Zoos, Aquariums and Wildlife Sanctuaries in Queensland


You’re planning a family vacation to Queensland but don’t want to spend the entire trip lugging your teenager’s bags through shopping centres or easing your queasy stomach after enjoying too many rich foods and roller coasters at an amusement park. Luckily, there are three compromises that will actually appease every member of the family: zoos, aquariums and wildlife sanctuaries. Aside from being a welcome distraction from the constant cries of “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored,” these educationally enriching attractions actually allow you to slip a little learning in with the fun. Here are a few of the best aquariums, zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in Queensland.

Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure

Due to excessive hunting throughout the 1940s and into the 1970s, the number of saltwater crocodiles swimming the waters in and around Australia plummeted. Today, there are only an estimated 150,000 saltwater crocodiles living in the wild, making it important that children learn about preserving this species. Teach children about conservation by infusing a little fun into this serious subject with a visit to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures in Cairns. Crocodiles are the main focus of the park, but they are not the only entertainment. From koalas and quolls to snakes and macaws, there are a variety of animals that are both indigenous to Australia and found throughout the world. If you see anything while touring Hartley’s, don’t skip the daily Crocodile Attack Show.

Alma Park Zoo

From the Melbourne Zoo to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, many visit these massive preserves and educational facilities every year. If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, head approximately 36 km north of Brisbane to the Alma Park Zoo. Completed in 1969, the Alma Park Zoo boasts 23 species of non-indigenous animals and 24 domestic species, including koalas and crocodiles. Much of the park’s resources are dedicated to the ring-tailed lemur exhibit. More specifically, the exhibit is a sanctuary constructed to mimic the lemur’s natural habitat in Madagascar. For the younger children in your group, the zoo features a small petting zoo complete with miniature cows, goats, chickens, sheep and guinea pigs. The Alma Park Zoo is an inexpensive way to spend the day, and it’s open from nine to five, seven days a week.

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Located a short 27 km west of Cairns, many associate the village of Kuranda with its vibrant markets and the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, which takes you through a World Heritage–listed rainforest. While visiting Kuranda, stop at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary. The aviary is the largest exhibit of its kind in Australia and houses more than 1,500 butterflies. If taking smaller children, be aware the butterflies are literally everywhere, including the ground. The tour guide will remind you and the kids to watch where you’re walking, but be mindful.

UnderWater World

Located in the resort town of Mooloolaba, UnderWater World is one of the best aquariums in Queensland. The facility is divided into convenient, clever exhibits including “Touch and Tell,” “Weird and Wonderful,” “Seal Island” and the always popular “Shark Shipwreck.” Your kids’ first instinct will probably be to head right toward the shark exhibit, which features seven different species of cartilaginous fish. Adventurous kids and adults 14 and over can even suit up and enjoy a 30-minute experience inside the shark tank. For the more timid who still want to interact with the wildlife, there’s the seal experience. The most expensive and inclusive seal experience actually allows kids to be a trainer for the day. UnderWater World is open every day, except Christmas, from nine to five.

When you’re ready to relax after your wildlife encounter, skip the crowded streets of Brisbane or Cairns and instead book a hotel in Palm Cove. Situated 30 minutes north of Cairns, Palm Cove is known for its amazing restaurants, spas, fishing, resorts and beautiful beaches.

About the Author: Sandy Martinson is a guest blogger and lifelong resident of Port Douglas. When Sandy isn’t snorkeling or diving, she can be found hard at work updating her blog about Australia’s beaches and wildlife.