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Iluka and baby koala at WIld Life Sydney Zoo
Photograph: Supplied/Wild Life Sydney Zoo

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

By Olivia Gee and Maxim Boon

Sydney is a bustling urban metropolis, but if you think our concrete jungle has little to offer in the way of animal inhabitants, you'd be wrong. There’s many a stable, sanctuary, zoo and harbour beach where wildlife from around the globe thrives.

Aside from native fauna roaming free in their natural habitats, there are plenty of more exotic creatures you can encounter at one of Sydney's fine animal attractions, from those critters you can meet in the flesh, to those you're better off admiring from afar.

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.

Animal encounters in Sydney

Roar and Snore Experience at Taronga Zoo
Photograph: Supplied

1. Taronga Zoo

Museums 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.

Animals at Western Sydney Zoo
Photograph: Supplied

2. Sydney Zoo

Attractions Zoos Bungarribee

Who do you meet? Wildlife from both near and far, from lions, tigers and elephants, to wombats, wallabies and koalas.

Sydney's first new zoo in a century may be a 35km journey from the CBD, out by Bungarribee, but the state-of-the-art enclosures, carefully considered park design and sheer range of wildlife make it well worth the trip. Its innovative layout whisks visitors on a round-the-world journey on an intuitive circuit of paths, leading you through the familiar outback of Australia via the waters of the world’s rivers, deltas and shallow seas, before heading on to explore the jungles of South East Asia, and finally, the great plains of Africa.

Featherdale Wildlife Park
Photograph: Supplied/Featherdale Wildlife Park

3. Featherdale Wildlife Park

Attractions Wildlife centres 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.

Blue ocean water at Shelly Beach
Photograph: Supplied

4. Shelly Beach

Attractions Beaches 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

5. Koala Park Sanctuary

Things to do 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.

A massive loggerhead turtle swims by in all new Day and Night on the Reef exhibit
Photograph: Supplied/Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

6. Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

Museums 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 placid dugong. 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

7. Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Attractions 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

8. Calmsley Hill City Farm

Attractions Farms 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.

Wild Life Sydney Zoo
Photograph: Supplied/Wild Life Sydney Zoo

9. Wild Life Sydney Zoo

Museums 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. If your little ones is more into the wild side, visit the resident salt water crocodile or go spying for nocturnal creatures.

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

10. Golden Ridge Animal Farm

Attractions Farms 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 and seals

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

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Attractions Beaches

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.


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