From nature reserves bursting with native species to exotic creatures such as sun bears and cheetahs, Canberra offers a diverse range of experiences for animal lovers
National Zoo and Aquarium
The only combined zoo and aquarium in Australia is located on around 18 hectares of land at Yarralumla, just five minutes’ drive from the centre of Canberra. It has a wide variety of native and exotic animals, an open range section, plus the AdventureLand playground, which features fibreglass animal sculptures for children to play on. You can also book close encounters with animals including giraffes, cheetahs, white lions, sun bears and tree kangaroos, or book to tour the zoo at night.
Canberra Reptile Zoo
This small zoo in Gold Creek Village at Nicholls, which is also home to the National Dinosaur Museum and Cockington Creek Gardens, started its life as a pet shop. Over the years it has expanded to include displays of turtles, frogs, lizards, snakes and even a saltwater crocodile, as well as an affordable gift shop. Gigantic python and boa constrictors that have been rescued from smugglers overseas are among the highlights.
Yarralumla Play Station
Jump aboard the Weston Park Miniature Railway to Farm Station, where you disembark and meet the furry farm animals – most of which have been rescued after being rejected or orphaned as babies. They include ponies, lambs, miniature pigs, alpacas, miniature and dwarf goats, ducks, geese, chickens, turkeys, and a miniature Galloway cow.
Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve
Of course, the best place to see animals is in the wild – and this predator-free habitat, around an hour’s drive from the city – offers the chance to do just that. Koalas, kangaroos and wallabies are among the native species living in diverse sub-alpine habitats, including wetlands, grasslands, wet and dry forests and woodlands. You may also spot platypus, potoroos, bandicoots, wallaroos, echidnas, emus, lyrebirds and many other birds and reptiles.
Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary
Book a guided ranger tour to explore this conservation area and spot animals not seen in the wild on mainland Australia for more than a century. They include various species of reintroduced echidnas, quolls, bettongs, lizards, parrots and curlews. The safe haven is the only woodland of this type free from the impacts of foxes, rabbits, goats, deer and hares in the country.
Australian National Botanic Gardens
Frogs, water dragons, bats and birds such as ducks, magpies, kookaburras, crimson rosellas, honeyeaters and fairy wrens are among the creatures you are likely to see in this beautiful oasis at Acton. You can also spy kangaroos and echidnas on the surrounding Black Mountain Reserve at dusk, but the shy swamp wallaby may be harder to spot.
Where to stay in Canberra
Get 10 per cent off the best available rate if you mention Out & About with Kids when booking a room at East Hotel Canberra. Located between the buzzing shopping and restaurant hubs of Kingston and Manuka, the family-owned and operated hotel has special family rooms. The two-bedroom apartments have bunk beds, Xbox One consoles, games, bean bags and dress-up clothes. There are also free lollies in the lobby and kids’ mini bars. Its Italian restaurant, Agostinis, has a kids’ menu including pizza or pasta, gelato and a soft drink for $20. It also offers free bike hire to explore the area.
In partnership with East Hotel Canberra