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Where to see animals in Sydney

We’ve found the best spots to spy animals in Sydney and occasionally cuddle the fluffier members of the menagerie

Koala at Sydney Wildlife Zoo
Photograph: David Berkowitz

Living in the city, with its towering skyscrapers and human-heavy occupancy, you might feel that this concrete jungle hasn’t got much to offer in terms of animal inhabitants. But we say neigh; there’s many a stable, sanctuary, zoo or harbour beach that houses wildlife in Sydney.

Sometimes they’re roaming free in their native habitats and may be difficult to spot, but you’ll also find animals making trouble for keepers and conservation workers in zoos and parks, and you’ll often have the chance to meet, feed and pat the more personable species.

Need more animal energy in your life? Check out Sydney’s best dog beaches and these adorable critters that you’ll meet on your next Blue Mountains getaway.

RECOMMENDED: The best parks in Sydney.

Encounter animals in Sydney

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Featherdale Wildlife Park

icon-location-pin Doonside

Who do you meet? The crawlers, jumpers, flyers and slitherers of the Australian animal family.

When it comes to cute native critters, the team at Featherdale have the cuddly, enchanting goods. The Western Sydney centre will introduce you to rare and endangered Aussie species like bilbies and Tasmanian devils, as well as more commonly encountered fellas like kangaroos and kookaburras. We know you’re dying for a pat, so make the most of the hands-on experiences here: cuddle a possum, chill with a dingo, chat with a baby croc or hang with a koala.

Roar and Snore Experience at Taronga Zoo
Photograph: Supplied

Taronga Zoo

icon-location-pin Mosman

Who do you meet? Everyone from Mr Giraffe to Mrs Andean Condor.

While Taronga has transferred its corporate focus from entertainment to environmental conservation, it has also perfected the zoo experience for animal lovers in more than 100 years of operation. Watch shows where seals snap up fish or condors take flight, feed penguins and giraffes at animal meet-and-greets, or navigate a ropes course above the habitats. For the remainder of your visit, follow meandering pathways to animal enclosures looking out at the city skyline.

Blue ocean water at Shelly Beach
Attractions, Beaches

Shelly Beach

icon-location-pin Manly

Who do you meet? A whole world of sea life under the waves.

Shelly Beach might be a favourite for sunbathers looking for a more secluded stretch of sand in Manly, but the calm waters are also part of an aquatic reserve, so it’s teeming with marine wildlife. You’ll be spotting Blue Gropers and the occasional wobbegong or dolphin as you snorkel or scuba dive in the bay. On dry land, wave to a sunbaking water dragon and try not to startle the brush turkeys who will be your constant companions as you walk from Shelly Beach around Cabbage Tree Bay.

Generic koala
Photograph: Creative Commons
Things to do

Koala Park Sanctuary

icon-location-pin West Pennant Hills

Who do you meet? Koalas, of course, but also some of their bush mates and barnyard friends.

When they’re not napping, you’ll be able to see Blinky Bill look-a-likes at koala shows throughout the day. While these gumleaf-loving floofs are clearly the stars, the sanctuary also houses echidnas, emus and other native birds, plus a mob of roos who are happy to have you join their ranks. To mix it up, there’s also visiting lambs to cuddle and even a sheep-shearing show. You can see the ten acres of lush Pennant Hills rainforest on partially guided tours, or amble down the leafy paths solo.

Wuru the dugong enjoying some lettuce.
Photograph: Joel Coleman

Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

icon-location-pin Darling Harbour

Who do you meet? The cast of Finding Nemo, basically.

If you reckon it’s better where it’s wetter, the obvious choice is the aquarium. The tunnels of this Darling Harbour wet-weather excursion favourite transport you under the waves, where you’ll meet colourful aquatic fish, not-so-scary-after-all sharks, curios cephalopods, wise turtles and even a couple of placid dugongs. The colony of fairy penguins are charming, and you can learn more about them and other residents at the feeding time talks, plus other specialised experiences like the shark dive and the penguin expedition boat ride.

Whale tail breaching the water
Photography: Wild About Whales

Kamay Botany Bay National Park

icon-location-pin Kurnell

Who do you meet? Whales on their annual migration.

The best time to spot these majestic creatures off Cape Solander, in Kamay Botany Bay National Park, is when they’re heading south with their new calves to feed in Antarctic waters from May to August. This popular whale watching haunt named after botanist Daniel Solander includes an unbeatable lookout and is a good starting point for a walk through the park. Information on whales can be found near the lookout, and you may glimpse a humpback just 200m from the coast. Also keep an eye out for rarer sea giants like orcas and minke whales.

Calmsley Hill City Farm
Photograph: Supplied
Attractions, Farms

Calmsley Hill City Farm

icon-location-pin Abbotsbury

Who do you meet? Moos, baahs, oinks, neighs and quacks.

While it was once solely a working farmstead, the Abbotsbury venue now also showcases a rural lifestyle less than an hour’s drive from Sydney CBD. You’ll be meeting the most adorable farmhands, from lambs to cattle dogs, peacocks, ponies and even the occasional koala. Daily shows demonstrate the uncanny ability of working dogs to bend sheep to their will, as well as the arts of shearing sheep, using a stockwhip and milking cows. Koalas make an appearance at the 2pm talks, and the animals are prepared for patting at 10.30am and 3pm.

Kangaroo at Sydney Wildlife Zoo
Photograph: Travis/Flickr

Wild Life Sydney Zoo

icon-location-pin Darling Harbour

Who do you meet? Australia’s feathered and furred faves.

Did you know Australia has a big five? Wild Life Sydney Zoo reckons we do: kangaroos, crocodiles, koalas, wombats and platypuses. They may not be as ferocious as South Africa’s list, but they’re pretty adorbs (mostly), and you’ll meet them all at this harbourside zoo. There are talks and feeding sessions where you’ll become an expert in Tasmanian devils, cassowaries and lorikeets. Then, pretend you're a fairy in the butterfly enclosure, be transported to tropical Queensland at the Daintree exhibit or spy nocturnal creatures in the nightfall habitat.

Girl holiday a bunny at Golden Ridge Animal Farm.
Photograph: Supplied
Attractions, Farms

Golden Ridge Animal Farm

icon-location-pin Sydney

Who do you meet? The littlest, fluffiest farm animals.

Spend hours cooing over a barnyard of baby animals – chicks, lambs, calfs, kids, ducklings and rabbits, you name it. The almost too adorable experiences at Golden Ridge Animal Farm are largely aimed at human children wanting to learn about the 500 furry and feathered farm residents, but grown-ups can tag along too. You’ll be visiting in the morning (there’s sweatier farm work to be done after lunch) to cuddle the smaller members of the farm family, milk cows, meet the bigger herds and bottle feed lambs and baby goats.

Check the gentle waves for dolphins

A panoramic view of Camp Cove beach in Watson's Bay
Photograph: David Iliff
Attractions, Beaches

The best harbour beaches in Sydney

It's sunny outside. You want to go to the beach. But the drive to Bondi is looking like absolute hell. And besides, you haven't shown one of our many harbour beaches much appreciation lately. Find the ones that are worth the trip.