It’s school holiday time! Which means…mamas are on the lookout for family-friendly activities to fill the days. And what better way to spend quality time with your little ones than taking them on an animal adventure! Here we round up 5 of the best animal encounter experiences on the Sunshine Coast.

Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith

Australia Zoo

When it comes to zoo’s, it’s hard to beat the epic offerings of Australia Zoo. Spread over 700 acres, the grounds are home to a ‘Crocoseum’, ‘African Safari’ exhibit, ‘Tiger Temple’, ‘Grace’s Bird Garden’, ‘Crocodile Eco Park’ and ‘Bindi’s Island’ (a 3-story treehouse with panoramic views of the zoo). Along with 4 walk-through enclosures that allow kids to get up close and personal with kangaroos, wallabies and koalas, Australia Zoo lets kids see animals in their natural environment and also offers conservation shows that teach them about various animal species. There are a variety of ‘Animal Encounter’ experiences on offer, that give kids access to over a dozen animals (including lemurs, red pandas & giraffes) with one of the zoo keepers. Alternately, you can book in for the ‘Zoo Keeper for the Day’ programme, a hands-on experience which includes meeting and feeding animals within their enclosures with a real zoo keeper. The zoo also has a dedicated kid’s corner with a giant jumping pillow and waterpark with fun splash facilities.

Sea Life

If you’re keen for an underwater experience that will immerse your children in all things aquatic, head to Sea Life (formerly Underwater World). Home to thousands of marine animals, including sharks, seals, turtles, stingrays and penguins, this sprawling underwater oasis promises hours of entertainment. Spread over 11 interactive animal zones, exhibits include an 80-metre long glass ocean tunnel, a ‘Tidal Touchpool’ (where kids can touch the marine life), ‘Seal Island’ (which hosts an educational seal show) and ‘Penguin World’ where children can observe the Sunny Coast’s only colony of Little Blue Penguins. Additionally, kids can check out a bounty of tropical sea life in ‘Coastal Wreck’ – a shipwreck environment brimming with coral reef fish. There is also a 3-level indoor playground for kids who need to blow off a bit of steam. 

Wildlife HQ

Home to a range of native and exotic animals, Wildlife HQ is a cute and smaller alternative to Australia Zoo. Based alongside the Big Pineapple, it houses a number of enclosures with animals ranging from dingos to sun bears and red pandas. The kids can cuddle a koala, pet a snake or wander around the grounds and see free-ranging kangaroos and wallabies in their natural habitat. Pop into the reptile house to see a range of scaled creatures or visit 'Lemur Island' to glimpse some furry animals. The park hosts daily animal information sessions and also offers ‘Zoo Keeper for a Day’ passes for those wanting a more personalized VIP experience. Accredited with the Zoo Aquarium Association (ZAA) seal of approval, the park is committed to the welfare, conservation and research of all animals in its care, ensuring kids get to witness respectful, humane practices.

Maleny Dairies

Hosting daily tours of its working farm, Maleny Dairies is a great place to take the kids if you want to educate them about the dairy industry…and meet some cute cows! Showcasing the process of dairy production, kids will see how cows are milked; how milk is processed; and the delicious result – yummy milk, cream, custard and yogurt that can be tasted and bought in the farm’s ‘Milkbar’.  Home to a herd of Guernsey cows, goats and sheep, kids will enjoy petting and bottle feeding the baby calves if nothing else.  Tours are 1.5 long and must be pre-booked.

The Farmyard at Terella Brewing

Home to a wide range of animals including goats, pigs, chicken, sheep, ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs and mini horses, the petting farm at Terella Brewing is a sure kid-pleaser. Housed in outdoor enclosures, all animals are rescues or orphans that have been raised by humans from a young age so are extremely tame and friendly. Little ones can interact with the animals up-close and even hand-feed them. The best thing is that The Farmyard is right next to the brewery, so parents can set up a picnic and enjoy a glass of vino, while the little ones play in the sunshine.