Taronga Zoo review
With 2020 being the perfect chance to be a tourist in our own backyard, we toured the iconic Sydney Zoo.
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Taronga Zoo: Quick Verdict
On every visitor and Sydneysider's bucket list, Taronga Zoo was well worth a visit whether you're looking to tick Australia's Big Five off you list, get up close views of lions and tigers or are just after some unrivalled views of the CBD from across the harbour.
- Location: Bradleys Head Road, Mosman, Sydney, NSW
- Ticket price: $44.10 adults, $35.10 concession, $26.10 children, from $85.60 for family combination tickets. Infants younger than three can enter for free. Book online in advance for these prices, which are up to 20% off.
- Opening hours: 9:30am - 5pm, 7 days a week
- Family friendly? Yes
- Reviewer: Solo traveller
Pros and Cons
- Incredible harbour views
- Friendly and helpful staff
- Native and exotic animals
- Poor social distancing
- Some displays were closed
- Keeper talks were only available virtually
Having lived in Sydney for nearly a decade, but having never visited the iconic Taronga Zoo (aside from its annual Vivid displays), it was about time.
This is the best year to be a tourist in your own city after all, right?
Taronga Zoo review
What to expect
I headed over to Taronga on a sunny Sunday afternoon in November 2020. The zoo was easy to access from the city centre or North Shore via bus, or via ferry from the CBD.
If you're a first timer at the zoo or aren't from Sydney, I'd highly recommend taking the ferry across from Circular Quay. The 12-minute ride is incredibly scenic and will provide unrivalled views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the water.
The zoo's grand entrance is accessed via a mainly residential street with some of the North Shore's most beautiful homes. You'll enter through here if you're arriving by car or bus. The ferry wharf is located at an alternate entrance, which is also close to the Sky Safari. Unfortunately closed during my visit, but open again in time for the school holidays, the cable car offers views of the zoo from above and saves you from an uphill walk.
From the main entrance, where I arrived, after you walk past the gift shop and a cafe, you'll continue down a boardwalk-style pathway to where a staff member will check your tickets. You'll meet the first furry creatures along this walk, with the tree kangaroos hanging out in the lush trees along the track.
Maps are available where your tickets are checked, which is super useful if you're looking to tick certain animals off your list. A route through the zoo is recommended on it, and there are also a few suggested "trails" like the Lemur Trail, Seal Walk, Kids Trail, Australian Walkabout and the Rainforest Trail.
If you're after creatures like giraffes, chimpanzees, zebras, lions, elephants and tigers, you'll head to the western side of the zoo. These were the busiest areas in the zoo and crowding was a bit of an issue to me at some places. Those looking to maintain physical distance would likely struggle to get a good view of the animals here.
One of the areas I found most enjoyable, was the Tiger Trek. Designed to feel like you're deep in the Sumatran jungle, you'll enter the area via a mock airplane and walk through what feels like a tropical village before seeing the big cats. At the time I was there, this area was much quieter than some of the other areas, which was a bit of a relief on a day as warm and sunny as when I visited.
For those looking to see Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, wombats and quokkas, these can be found in a few areas throughout the zoo. I'd recommend heading to the section of the Australian Walkabout trail next to the Wild Ropes course.
Aside from the platypus display which unfortunately was closed, the area looked closed but was indeed open. This meant we had the entire open-air exhibit to ourselves. Kangaroos, wallabies and emus roam around without fences in this area.
Most Australian animals can also be found in the Kids Trail area, and is also where the adorable quokkas live.
What's different because of COVID-19?
To avoid overcrowding, the zoo is limiting the number of visitors each day. Personally, I found the zoo to be pretty busy, so I can't imagine what it would be like on a nice summer day once it's back at full capacity.
With the limitations on numbers, entry tickets are now only available for pre-purchase online. Luckily, buying them in advance on Taronga Zoo's website does save you 20%.
As for COVID-safety measures in place at the zoo, there are plenty of signs along the paths and at exhibits reminding visitors to space themselves out. Hand sanitiser stations were placed throughout the park, although some of the ones I came across were empty. During my visit, the Sky Safari was also closed, but it has since re-opened.
Some extra measures in place include:
- Increased cleaning, including at food and drink areas and bathrooms
- All staff will be wearing masks
- Visitors are recommended, but not required, to wear masks
- Promoting etickets upon entry and contactless payments for any purchases
What else can I do at Taronga Zoo?
While you can roam around the zoo just looking at the animals for hours, there are some free and paid-for extras you can do while there.
The seal and bird shows are free of charge and run a couple of times daily. There are also usually keeper talks, which are currently not running, but can be viewed virtually. You can do this without needing to purchase any tickets.
There is also a Wild Ropes course through the treetops, at an additional cost on top of your entry.
For a unique zoo experience, you can also splash out for overnight accommodation. Taronga has two options: the Wildlife Retreat, which offers hotel-style accommodation, and the Roar and Snore, which offers safari-style tent stays.
Alex visited Taronga Zoo Sydney as a guest of the zoo.
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