Taronga Zoo: Wild adventures await in Sydney

Taronga Zoo Sydney Entrance Gates

For as long as I can remember, an Australian Zoo has been a bucket list adventure for me. As a kid whenever we went away and stayed in a hotel, the only show my sister and I could agree on watching was Steve Irwin’s Croc Files. The second my travel agent called me to confirm my flights I was flicking through my Lonely Planet guide. Highlighter in hand, I marked the ones close to me on my route. The best opportunity for me was luckily Taronga Zoo Sydney.

I booked my tickets the day I arrived in Sydney. The next morning was an early one, partly because of excitement, partly because one of my roommates snored worse than most of the zoo’s inhabitants. I got dressed, made sure I had everything I needed in my daypack, and walked down to the Circular Quay harbour. It was from here I would be grabbing a ferry to take me across and directly to the zoo. Taking this route took me past a few of Sydney’s tourist destinations. Circular Quay a great area in its own right, filled with my favourite bars and restaurants, and of course the Sydney Opera house. I took a mental note to return here in the evening and have dinner with a view of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking the ferry

Despite the fact I struggle with bus timetables, grabbing a ferry was surprisingly easy. It’s an amazing way to travel as it gives a sense of occasion to your visit. With the sun beating down I grabbed a bench and relaxed as we made our journey across. It’s not the fastest way to travel but it’s so much more relaxing than sitting in traffic. If you choose your seat with care you even get some amazing views of the Opera House as you drift past.

When the ferry docks you have two options on how to head up the hill to the entrance. One option would be to simply walk up, but why would you do that when you have the chance to float over the zoo in a cable car? I had never been in one before, and the excitement as you pass over the enclosures is overwhelming. It’s an incredible perspective and acts like a movie trailer for the zoo, giving you sneak peaks of what is yet to come.

By the time I reached the top I was almost bursting out of it to go explore. Although the fact that a cable car is essentially a glass box dangling in the sun and therefore incredibly hot may have also played a factor there too. It’s definitely the fanciest entrance I’ve ever made to the zoo, and really creates a sense of occasion or wonderment as you enter.

Meeting the locals

Koalas and Taronga Zoo in Sydney Australia Travel Guide

The exhibits here were incredible, I started with the Australian animals which felt appropriate. Seeing the koalas, kangaroos, and other native species, my favourite part was the Koala walkabout. Ascending a spiral walkway that encircled the tree’s they sleep in. It’s such a novel idea on how to allow visitors to have animal encounters without disturbing them. With 360 views you can always get the perfect angle whether that’s for photos or for memories.

I got lucky with my visit, it wasn’t nearly as busy as I imagined it to be but I was visiting midweek. It was the perfect level of busy for me, enough that there’s the excitement and buzz of a day out, but I never had to worry about someone sticking their head in my view when I’m trying to look at the animals. It’s certainly one of Sydney’s more family-friendly attractions, so I imagine at weekends its packed. But besides a few families and a couple of schools on trips clustered around keepers, I had a run of the zoo to myself. 

Exploring Taronga

I couldn’t help but chuckle at a keeper expertly taking on quickfire questions from some schoolchildren as I started to explore the rest of the zoo. Taronga Zoo is for the most part on a hill, so with the entrance at the top it makes for easy walking as you head down. The downside of this is if you forget anything or have to head back you have to climb up again. Usually that’s not a problem but the sun had decided to be unrelenting that day.

After seeing the crocodiles and other reptiles I was starting to feel nauseous from the heat. I checked the map to find the nearest place to grab some shade and a drink and saw it was near the Savannah exhibit. I stepped out of the sun and into the Food market to cool down. Sat down with my sandwich and a frozen coke (why don’t we have these in the UK? They are amazing) I had a perfect view of the Elephants so I could watch them play. After I had cooled down enough, I headed out to lean against the fence a bit and watch, before heading off to my next area. 

The benefits of going midweek

I continued to reap the benefits of going midweek. Without the weekend crowds I didn’t have to fight for a view at enclosures, or have a head pop up in front of my lens when I was lining up my shot. The day continued to be a peaceful and relaxing experience. I spent the majority of my time with the aquatic animals, partly because they’re my favourite and partly because I was hoping the proximity to water would keep me a little bit cooler.

One of my favourite moments at the zoo was in the sea lions viewing area. Taronga Zoo has a below ground viewing window, so that you can see them swimming and playing below the surface. When I think back on Taronga Zoo, this is the first memory I jump to. Sitting in the viewing area with the room to myself, watching the sealions circle in the water through a viewing window that stretched across the room like a cinema screen. After weeks of being constantly on the move, never staying in one spot for too long and running from one experience to the next, it was a relief to finally stop and just enjoy the moment. 

An educational visit

But all good things must come to an end, and I was still excited to see what the rest of the Zoo had on offer. I spent the rest of the day meandering between enclosures and watching the animals. I loved my experience at Taronga Zoo, what really made the experience for me was how proactive the keepers were. Instead of waiting to be approached by the public, I witnessed them approaching and starting conversations with visitors to educate them on the animals. Teaching them facts about the animals themselves but also about their individual personalities. 

Although a particular highlight was a conversation I overheard between an adult and some kids. I walked past some monkeys relaxing and overheard the guy say “yeh they look cute but they are absolute dicks, they love to throw poo and they’ll wait until you come close to do it”. I don’t think that guy is going to be offered a job on National Geographic anytime soon, but it certainly gave me a laugh.

The good ship friendship

All too soon though I had reached the bottom of the hill and the gift shop. I treated myself to a couple of souvenirs (naturally) and headed back to the dock to wait for the ferry. I had timed it perfectly as dark clouds were starting to enclose over Sydney and the water was starting to get choppy. So once I boarded and had made my way across, I raced back to my hostel before the oncoming downpour. I had just made it inside the coffee shop in time to see the heavens open, grabbed a milkshake (it’s too hot for coffee still) and started to browse through my photos for the day. 

The friendship ferry in Sydney

Australia is famous for being home to the most incredible wildlife and you can see and learn all about it here. Should you visit Sydney (and I really recommend you do) no visit is complete without seeing Taronga Zoo. It’s perfect for everyone from solo backpackers to families, and they are currently working on a lot of conservation projects that by visiting you help support. And if you are reading this in preparation for your trip, check out their youtube channels to see the animals’ latest antics. 

Taronga Zoo FAQ’s

Does ticket price include the ferry?

It entirely depends on the ticket you purchase. If you using the booking link below this ticket does include return by the ferry.

How much is entry?

For the latest Taronga Zoo tickets and prices I have included a booking link with Get Your Guide below. By booking through this link I will receive a commission which helps support Brad’s Backpack. You can get tickets on your phone making entry nice and easy when you arrive. 

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How do I get to Taronga Zoo?

The easiest way to get to Taronga Zoo is 12 minutes from Circular Quay by ferry. Sydney Ferries services depart Circular Quay every 30 minutes. You can also get the bus or drive yourself.

How old is Taronga Zoo?

Taronga Zoo was officially opened on October the 7th, 1916. And its gates have remained open to visitors ever since.

What time is Taronga Zoo open?

Taronga Zoo is open 9:30 to 4:30 in the Winter, and 9:30 to 5pm in the Summer.

Where should I go next?

Check out the link below to more guides on Sydney tourist destinations.

Link to Sydney Australia Travel Guide

Does Taronga Zoo make any efforts to conservation?

Yes at Taronga Zoo are constantly making efforts towards the betterment of animals both inside and outside the zoo. They do this through various projects, zoo education programs as well as zookeeper talks and shows. For the latest information about their wildlife conservation projects, check out the link to their site below.

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