Visiting the Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia

I traveled to Melbourne, Australia with my fourteen-year-old daughter this past August. Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, we enjoyed a respite from what is otherwise the hottest and driest time of year in the Pacific Northwest. Beyond exploring the city (look for our family-friendly recommendations in an upcoming post) we ventured out to the Healesville Sanctuary, one of three zoos in greater Victoria.

Natural landscape.

Located in the town of Healesville approximately a one hour drive northeast of downtown Melbourne, the Healesville Sanctuary is very different than what you would expect from a zoo in the U.S. With more open-range, barrier-free, exhibits and a terrain built into the native bushland environment, you’ll feel more like you’re on a nature hike than moving from enclosure-to-enclosure or visiting distinct “zones.”

Dang nature, you’re scary!

Housing species of mammals, reptiles, and birds native to Australia expect to see koalas, platypus, Tasmanian devils, echidnas, wombats, wallabies, dingoes, and kangaroos. I paid an extra $20 for the kangaroo close-up encounter for my daughter (book ahead online as these spots fill up ahead of time).

Kangaroo Close-Up Encounter

Worth scheduling into your day is any of the keeper talks included in the price of admission. We greatly enjoyed the Spirits of the Sky show, which was both interactive and educational. Another highlight of our visit was feeding different types of birds in an enclosed aviary.

We also loved seeing platypus (Healesville Sanctuary is one of two locations in Australia with a successful platypus breeding program) and hearing the distinct growling noises made by the Tasmanian devil (take a listen in this video; I’ve never heard anything like it).

Tasmanian Devil

Visiting the sanctuary in the “off-season” we enjoyed fewer crowds. The weather was a bit cold and rainy (and it hailed for a bit) but we warmed up and enjoyed a lovely meal of soup and hot coffee in the cafe. Families with younger children will enjoy the playground spaces and interactive semi-enclosed exhibits. Plan to spend at least half a day or more at this fantastic destination.

Happy trails!

About the Author

Julie Henning
Julie Henning is a freelance writer and journalist based out of Eugene, Oregon. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and owner of the family-travel website She is a recent past member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association and the Association for Great Lakes Outdoor Writers. Julie is the Oregon Coast destination specialist for Bindu Media, an itinerary-focused website launching in Spring 2016 and featuring the work of 200+ professional, indie travel writers. Julie has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Wisconsin State Journal, The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Illinois), the Rochester Post Bulletin, Wisconsin Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine, Sustainable Chicago Magazine, Group Tour Magazine, Student Group Tour Magazine, Silent Sports Magazine, Intercom Magazine,, and FTF Geocacher Magazine. Julie has appeared on Wisconsin Public Radio, Ohio Public Radio, and KCBX FM Central Coast Radio and is an affiliate producer with the Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer, a National Public Radio travel podcast. She has blogged for, Travel Oregon, and VISIT Milwaukee. Julie travels with her three kids and black lab as much as possible and lives by the motto, "Not all who wander are lost." Check out some of her best work at