yTravel’s 5 wildlife hot spots for kids

22 June 2017

Caz & Craig Makepeace are the founders of, one of the world’s biggest travel blogs and have been featured by notable brands such as Virgin Australia, Expedia, and Lonely Planet. When not traveling and writing about it, you can find them swinging in a beach hammock at sunset to the tunes of Jack Johnson, or screaming in the stands of their favourite sporting match. Connect with them on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. 

New South Wales offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife encounters with its many National Parks and Wildlife Parks. You can get up close and personal with our own Aussie favourites or encounter unique and exotic wildlife from around the world in a natural habitat. Below are some NSW wildlife hotspots our kids loved.

1. Murramarang National Park

Murramarang National Park, South Coast

Murramarang National Park, South Coast. Image credit: yTravel

If you want to see wild kangaroos in Australia, a great spot to visit is the Murramarang National Park located on the NSW South Coast.

Spotting kangaroos in the wild is not as common as people think, however; in Murramarang, specifically at Pebbly Beach, Pretty Beach and Merry Beach, the kangaroos are so used to seeing humans they allow you to come close without so much as an eyebrow raised.

We spotted them in people’s gardens, roaming the streets, and lazing around on bush walking trails. We were staying in a cabin at Pretty Beach and the kangaroos loved to chill outside our front porch.

If you want to extend your visit overnight the Pebbly Beach campground is tucked directly behind the forest. There’s also a campsite nearby at Depot Beach where we spotted kangaroos grazing by the ocean.

Murramarang National Park spans 44km of coastline and is only a 279km drive south of Sydney.

2. Australian Reptile Park

We grew up on the NSW Central Coast and the Australian Reptile Park is a very popular attraction for both visitors and the locals alike. The park was founded by the great Eric Worrell, Australia’s first naturalist, and the only Zoo in Australia committed to saving lives with a venom milking program in place for the past 50 years – you can learn more about the venom program during the reptile show.

The park has quite an extensive range of Australian animals and there are plenty of wildlife shows and chances to interact with the animals during your visit. You can watch an alligator being fed, see dingos, Tasmanian devils, or hand feed a kangaroo.

The interactive exhibits are always a hit with the kids and include the Lost World of Reptiles, Spider World, Frog Hollow and Platypus House. Also on show are cassowaries, Komodo Dragons, and a giant Galapagos tortoise.

Australian Reptile Park is located one hour north of Sydney and one hour south of Newcastle. Pack a barbecue lunch and enjoy a picnic surrounded by kangaroos.

3. Symbio Wildlife Park

Symbio Wildlife Park, Wollongong

Symbio Wildlife Park, Wollongong. Image credit: yTravel

On our travels, we’ve visited lots of wildlife parks in Australia and Symbio Wildlife Park, located near Wollongong, is a great spot to bring your kids so they can get up close with Australian and international wildlife.

We enjoyed many wildlife demonstrations throughout the day; we also got to feed kangaroos, emus, and had up-close encounters with koalas in the sanctuary. In addition to the wildlife, there’s a reptile house featuring 24 exhibits and you can also witness a rare Sumatran tiger feeding plus cheetahs and lemurs.

Symbio Wildlife Park is located just 45 minutes south of Sydney, and 30 minutes north of Wollongong.

4. Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park

Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park, Port Macquarie

Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park, Port Macquarie. Image credit: yTravel

Port Macquarie on the mid-North Coast of NSW is a fantastic family destination, and home to Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park. This park is a world-renowned breeding centre for koalas and offers the chance to get up close and personal with some of Australia’s favourite wildlife.

Besides up-close encounters with koalas, feeding the kangaroos and wallabies is always a highlight for our kids, who love holding out their palm whilst the animals nibble away at the food. It’s an even more special moment when the kangaroos have joeys in their pouches.

On the other end of the spectrum, the park is also home to ‘Shrek’, a monster saltwater crocodile measuring nearly 5 metres in length and weighing over 500 kilograms. He’s an intimidating fella, but the croc show is an educational experience and an important reminder of how we have to respect the largest living reptiles in the world.

Not only is there Aussie wildlife on display at Billabong Zoo, we also enjoyed checking out the snow leopards and red pandas, and the Zoo is now home to lions and cheetahs.

5. Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo. Image credit: yTravel

If an African safari is on your must do list but the cost of heading to Africa is over your family’s budget then Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is a great alternative.

Previously, we’ve been on a self-drive safari in Africa, the great thing about Taronga Western Plains Zoo is there is a similar self-drive or cycle option within the zoo grounds as a way to see the animals.

The whole experience felt like we were back on safari in Africa without the 14-hour flight and $10,000+ price tag. We were on a family adventure in NSW and our kids couldn’t wait to see their favourite animal…giraffes!

You can also spot rhinos, hippos, cheetahs, tigers, ostrich, elephants, zebras, African wild dogs, meerkats and ring-tailed lemurs. There are also a few Aussie favourites hopping about and koalas chilling in the trees.

We loved the freedom of cycling around the Zoo and it really added to the fun family adventure experience. There’s even the option to sleep overnight in a ‘Zoofari Lodge’. One of the benefits of staying at the lodge is a behind the scenes experience with the animals and private drives with an informative guide.

Staying overnight at the Zoo is significantly cheaper when you compare prices to an African safari.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is approximately a 5-6 hour drive north-west of Sydney.