Best Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries to Visit in Queensland

Queensland, the Sunshine State, is regarded as one of the most picturesque and beautiful landscapes on earth, with native animals as inspiring and incredible as the land in which they inhabit. Famed naturalist Sir David Attenborough once called northern Queensland the most beautiful place in the world; it’s hard to argue with an endorsement like that. The national parks and coastal areas of Queensland are teeming with wildlife and viewable from many of the nature walks and bush treks that the state has to offer. 

But sometimes, you just want a guaranteed look at the animals without having to go out into nature and actually find them. That’s where Queensland’s stunning zoos and wildlife sanctuaries come in, offering up close and personal looks and encounters with our most famous residents, as well as some exotic overseas animals.

Woman and child interacting with kangaroos
Australia Zoo

We will start our list with the most famous zoo in Queensland and perhaps Australia, Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. The zoo is located between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, at 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah. Australia Zoo is famous for the Irwin family, who continue to own and operate the zoo. With a large collection of native and exotic animals, the full property extends over 700 acres, with 110 of those used for public display, the rest as animal habitat and breeding grounds. The zoo has over 1,200 animals, so if you’re after a sighting of a particular species, Australia Zoo is most likely to have it, particularly if it is a native species. 

Along with the regular zoo exhibits, Australia Zoo also offers the Showtime in the Crocoseum. In this live show/feeding, keepers get up close with the animals and display them in a way ordinary enclosures can not. Other unique features are the open space Roo Heaven, an open paddock filled with kangaroos and wallabies where guests can hand-feed the bounding marsupials, or Croc School, an informative display and educational guide about salt-water crocodiles and finally, Bindi Island, a three-storey tree house filled with tropical birds and ring-tailed lemurs.

The zoo also plays an important role in animal health and conservation, with Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital treating our most vulnerable animals. The zoo also conducts animal research, with the primary focus being conservation while providing enough space for safe breeding programs for endangered animals such as white rhinos and Sumatran and Bengal tigers. With a range of tours on offer, there’s something to fit with every budget. Australia Zoo is worthwhile seeing just on its own, but if you are travelling between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast in your hire car, then it’s an easy stop-off to add to the journey. 

Person feeding rainbow lorikeets
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

Located just south of the Gold Coast, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a state heritage listed facility. With a range of different species, Currumbin is perhaps best known for its lorikeet feeding, where flocks of rainbow lorikeets numbering in the thousands descend onto the park. There is no alarm or signal to bring the birds in; they simply know the time and place of the feedings and show up on the dot every day. Entry into the park is ticketed, but the Lorikeet feeding is free to watch. With a range of animal encounters on offer, from feeding to photos, Currumbin is easily accessible by car to those around the Gold Coast.

Billabong Sanctuary

The Billabong Sanctuary is just outside Townsville in northern Queensland, located at 11 Country Road, Nome, 17 kilometres south of the Townsville CBD by rental car. The park is home to a successful koala breeding program, a two-hectare billabong, found in the heart of the sanctuary. You will find over 50 native species in the park, from koalas, kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, crocs, cassowaries, and emus. With a strong emphasis on animal conservation, this family-run sanctuary has a lot to offer. 

Rockhampton Zoo

One third of the way up the Queensland coast is Rockhampton, home to the Rockhampton Zoo. The best part about this zoo is, it’s free and connected to the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens and Japanese Garden, giving a triple nature hit, all for free. For a free zoo, it’s very impressive, with 60 species, both native and exotic. See daily keeper talks and engage in animal encounters. The Keeper talks and feedings extend to, chimpanzees, cassowaries, kangaroos, snakes, crocodiles and eagles. The most popular member of the zoo is a new chimpanzee born at the zoo in 2020 named Gandali. The whole site is one of the best free experiences in Queensland and a must if you are in the area.

Queensland is full of zoos and animal sanctuaries, dotted along the coast, some free, some ticketed, ranging in size from a few animals to over a thousand. They make great additions to any coastal road trip or Queensland travel experience. 

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