animal-sydney-australia

Australia Travel Guide – Sydney for Animal Lovers

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Sydney, Australia, is universally acknowledged to be an absolutely beautiful city, with its beaches, Victorian-era architecture, and spectacular harbor. Some come to surf, some to see a performance at the opera house, some check out the art scene, and some go wine tasting. I was there earlier this year (my summer, their winter) to see some family and dear friends. And as my husband and I were with our older daughter (not quite ten at the time), and she is absolutely animal-mad, we hit all of the animal-related attractions that we could.

Alas, I cannot now give you advice about nightlife or water sports. But, if you are interested in Australian wildlife, I have plenty of recommendations for you.

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One of our favorite things to do there, which didn’t cost us a thing, was taking a stroll through the Royal Botanic Garden. It’s gorgeous, open every day, and is 100 years old this year, so do go and wish it a happy centennial if you can. You are not supposed to feed the birds, but I will confess that we did give them a few sunflower seeds…just for the novelty of having cockatoos and rainbow lorikeets approach (as well as some pigeons, ubiquitous worldwide). We quickly befriended not only the local birds, but an entire family of Chinese tourists and a couple in from the Netherlands, all of whom happily took pictures with birds on their hands and birds on their heads.

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And of course we had to go to the Toronga Zoo! Everyone should go to the Toronga Zoo, at least once. From downtown Sydney, it’s easy to catch a ferry across the harbor (and the ride only takes 12 minutes—12 minutes of extraordinary views). This costs quite a bit more than the Botanic Garden, though: $46 for an adult admission, $26 for a child, as opposed to the low, low price of free. (It is slightly cheaper, though, to buy your tickets online.) It’s worth it, though, if you make a day of it…because the place is huge. And it includes animals from all over the world, not just the local fauna. I’d recommend at least three or four hours there. Definitely go to see the giraffes…it is not every day you get to see these enormous beasts with the Sydney harbor as a backdrop. I would also highly recommend the Free-Flight Bird Show (we can’t get enough of birds), which is included with admission to the zoo, and takes place at noon and 3:00 daily. Kites! Red-tailed black cockatoos! A condor with a three-meter wingspan! It’s breathtaking. (We didn’t try this, but if you want even more zoo time, you can spend the night there doing something called “Roar and Snore.” Next trip!)

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Now, this next animal encounter is a little more challenging, as it’s a bit further away. If you don’t have a local friend to drive you to Featherdale Wildlife Park (25 miles west of Sydney) you can reach it by train and bus, although that won’t be nearly as fun or as attractive a journey as a ferry ride. Still…this is the place to go if you want to see the Australian wildlife up close and personal. Get your picture taken with a koala (we met a fine, if sleepy, specimen by the name of Archer), and feed and pet kangaroos, wallabies, and quokkas, which roam freely about the property. (You can buy ice cream cones full of animal food for them, and the animals find these concoctions delicious and gobble them right up.) My daughter and my friend’s son were simply in animal heaven and couldn’t get enough of these strange and beautiful creatures. There were also magnificent birds, wombats, Tasmanian devils, quolls, dingos, and echidnas. Absolutely amazing, all around, and well worth the price ($31 for adults, $17 for children—discounts available if you book online). We were there for hours and enjoyed it immensely.

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If you are STILL looking for more animal attractions, another fun day trip is to Manly, a beach-side suburb, also accessible by ferry, and home to the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary aquarium. The aquarium is fairly small, so it didn’t take us too long to see the sharks and stingrays and turtles (you get a nice view from an underwater viewing tunnel and it’s rather fun to watch them swim overhead). We particularly enjoyed seeing the resident little penguins (also known as “blue penguins” or “fairy penguins”), which were adorable and quite personable. The walk up price is $25 for adults, $17 for children, which is a little steep for what you get. I wouldn’t recommend a special trip just for this venue, as we’d pretty much exhausted its possibilities in about an hour and a half. Still, Manly was worth seeing, with little shops, restaurants, cafés, and art galleries, as well as lovely beaches. If I were to go back, I’d probably skip the aquarium, have a nice meal, do some shopping, and then go in search of little penguins in the wild (there is a colony there of about 60 breeding pairs, one of the last few on the mainland of Australia).

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Most of all, it’s a joy visiting a place so stunningly attractive, laid back, safe, and friendly. We met people from all over the world, learned about amazing wildlife, ate well, enjoyed the parks and the public art, and generally had a wonderful time. And I’m very glad we were able to meet some kangaroos…after all, if you go all the way to the other side of the world, you ought to meet a kangaroo!

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Laura LaVelle is an attorney and writer who lives in Connecticut, in a not quite 100-year-old house, along with her husband, two daughters, and a cockatiel.

Laura can be contacted at laura@newswhistle.com

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PHOTO CREDITS

Lead-In Image Courtesy of Curioso / Shutterstock.com

All Other Images Courtesy of Laura LaVelle