If anyone in their right mind can say that they don’t love cuddling and fawning over adorable animals, then move right along because this list is for sane people. From farm to forest and sea, these are some of the best places to get up close with native wildlife in Victoria.
RECOMMENDED: The best activities for kids in Melbourne.
Wildlife encounters in and around Melbourne
0 minutes from the CBD
If you’re looking for something a little more aquatic in your animal adventures, why not try the Melbourne Aquarium? With underwater tunnels for you to surround yourself with sea life and discovery rock pools that let you experience these curious creatures with your own hands, there's loads to keep you occupied. Visit the crocodile lair to get as close to a croc as you’d ever want to be, or check out the penguin playground to see some of the best-dressed birds in the ocean.
15 minutes from the CBD
Naturally, we had to include the Melbourne Zoo on our list of places to see wildlife. From baby elephants to tigers, the Melbourne Zoo is undoubtedly one of the best places to see an array of native and exotic animals. Take a wander through the butterfly enclosure and let them decorate your hair, or sit and listen to the keepers give talks on the animals while they feed and play.
17 minutes from the CBD
In a spot that’s only a short walk from the bustle of Melbourne’s busiest streets is the petting paradise that is the Collingwood Children's Farm. Bring a picnic basket and set yourself up on the sprawling lawns or help look after the cows by attending one of the day’s milking sessions. And if you make a visit and decide you love it here, why not try signing up for the farm’s volunteer program?
20 minutes from the CBD
We all know about Philip Island’s nightly penguin parades, but did you know you can see these dapper little birds in St Kilda, too? Now home to 1,400 penguins, St Kilda’s sandy beaches are the perfect spot to see some wildlife without having to travel too far from Melbourne’s CBD. But be sure not to touch them, feed them, or shine any lights in their eyes! We want to protect our little tuxedoed friends.
35 minutes from the CBD
This public community farm is just a short drive from the CBD and offers guests the opportunity to see and feed a whole bunch of animals, from deer to alpacas, buffalo, camels and sheep. It’s wheelchair accessible, with the opportunity for people with disabilities to ride animals and explore community gardens.
40 minutes from the CBD
If you come down to Bundoora Park Farm you can help feed the animals at one of the daily feeding sessions and give the plethora of animals a little pat. The farm’s activities include handling guinea pigs and rabbits, seeing a live milking demonstration, and a chicken round up.
45 minutes from the CBD
Take a safari ride past giraffes and antelope, or wander the zoo grounds and peer into the enclosures for some of the more dangerous animals at Werribee Open Range Zoo. This is the closest you’ll get to the world’s most iconic grassland creatures without jumping on a plane and flying to another country. With 200 hectares of land to hold these animals, they’ve always got somewhere to roam.
50 minutes from the CBD
Set to the backdrop of 16 hectares of state forest, the Dingo Discovery Sanctuary and Research Centre is the perfect spot to meet some of Australia’s most adorable native fuzz balls. But be sure to book in advance because tours are by appointment only.
1 hour from the CBD
Drop by the Moonlight Sanctuary to see some of Australia’s native and endangered species, from the sanctuary’s very own dingo pack to curious pythons. You'll be able to meet kangaroos, wombats and colourful birds and even pat a koala. The gardens are great for exploring, too, as you can get to know some of the aromas of their native bush tucker plants.
1.15 hours from the CBD
Jirrahlinga is a sanctuary for Australian native wildlife as well as a zoo, so there is a hospital section for treating injured animals. At Jirrahlinga you can see lots of Australian native fauna, including kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, birds, reptiles, dingoes, echidnas and more. Keepers are knowledgeable and friendly, and if you're lucky they'll let you pat a koala, hold a snake or have an up-close encounter with a lizard. Look out for the bird near the office that does a perfect imitation of the office phone ringing, followed by, "Hello, Jirrahlinga?".