I've heard about this zoo for years now from Daniel, but for whatever reason, we just never made it there till this past weekend! Our Zoos Victoria membership is expiring very soon, and although we've visited the other two zoos enough times to more than make up the cost of membership, we thought it'd be a waste to not utilize our free entry into Werribee Open Range Zoo. So off we went!
The zoo is fairly easy to get to - just take the Princes highway and exit at Werribee. The zoo is just a short drive away from there. Parking was a bit of a horror because it was a Sunday, which was to be expected. But just keep in mind that you're going to have to do a little bit of a walk to get to the entrance if the parking lot is full (which is what happened to us).
Entry was free for us, but of course if you are not a member of Zoos Victoria you are going to have to pay (scroll down for ticket prices). The line for tickets was pretty long, which was surprising because it was already noon. Frustratingly, there were people in the VIP members line that were not VIP members...but obviously, that's not the zoo's fault. Not sure if these people were ignorant or only pretending to be, but it was really annoying. Just don't do stuff like that, people!
Anyway, the moment we entered the zoo, we made a beeline for the Safari Tour. It's not hard to find, because just past the entrance you'll see a sign that will show you the main attractions. The Safari Station - which is where you board the Safari Tour vehicles - is located to the right. It's only a short walk away from the entrance.
There was a pretty long line at the Safari Station, but since every Safari Tour vehicle comes with three cars each, they can fit quite a number of people at one time. All in all, we probably waited for only 10 minutes. And since it was all in the shade, we didn't really feel uncomfortable at all!
There are plenty of exits from the Safari Station to get onto the vehicle and PLENTY of seats on the vehicle itself, but there were still people being pushy. I think that's just par for the course when there are so many different types of people in one spot. But it was really odd to see that the most inconsiderate people are the ones traveling without kids. Just sayin'.
The Safari Tour itself was fantastic. The older boys enjoyed seeing the animals up close. There was a bit of a breeze, which we all enjoyed (given how sunny it was). Unfortunately, the pleasant breeze also meant that certain smells made it into the vehicle. That's the price you pay for being up close and personal to wild animals, I guess!
While we were out on the Safari Tour we were surprised to see another type of vehicle getting even closer to the animals. We later discovered that these were Off-Road Safari Tours. You have to pay extra for them, and we totally would have, had we known that this was an available service. Sadly, we didn't know about this ahead of time so we couldn't go on that. But it's definitely on the list for next time!
After we were done with the Safari Tour - which was only about half an hour - we headed for lunch. The Meerkat Bistro is a lovely space to have lunch. It has quite a large selection of warm food, and plenty of seats. However, since it was a Sunday, most of the indoor seats were taken. We did manage to snag a lovely spot in the shade in the alfresco area, which actually turned out to be even nicer than being stuck inside where it would've been noisy. We also lucked out because there was a high chair there. Adam having his own seat made lunch way more pleasant! Of course, I had to take him out of the high chair for a quick selfie before we had lunch ;)
After lunch, we made a beeline to see the lions. We haven't seen the lions at Melbourne Zoo, and there are no lions at Healesville Sanctuary, so I thought the kids would get a kick out of seeing them. There are plenty of other animals on the way there too, though I didn't get any clear shots of any of them. The zoo is actually quite small and we made our way to the lions in no time (with a short stop to get some ice cream first, of course).
I should mention that I was pleasantly surprised by all the little places that you can stop at while you walk around, including sand pits, play areas, and huts. That's a great way to keep kids happy, relaxed, and rested. The boys loved clambering around the play areas, and Afraz especially loves all things sand-related, so we made sure to make frequent stops.
On the way out, we came across Hippo Cafe, which had a nice water play area. Again, I wish we had known about this area beforehand! Sadly, since we did not bring any extra clothes, we couldn't play in that area. The older boys were pretty disappointed but I promised them that we be able to play there next time. Aqil did hop into one of the hammocks, though. And Afraz had a great time playing with sand (again).
Afterwards, we basically decided to call it a day and head to the exit, because it was really warm and older boys were getting cranky. All in all, it was a really fun day for the whole family. I loved how small the park was and how easy it was to get around with little kids. The many spots to play, relax, and even have a picnic, make this place more than a zoo. It's a destination for a relaxed day out with the family - seeing zebras and lions are only a bonus ;)
- $32.50 for adults
- FREE for children on holidays and weekends; $16.30 per child on other days
If you live in Melbourne or coming for an extended visit, I highly recommend that you sign up for a Zoos Victoria membership! By the time you visit all three zoos (or visit one zoo three times like we did, haha), you will have already made up the cost of membership.
What we enjoyed the most
- The Safari Tour
- The assorted sand pits
- The small size of the zoo - no overtired kids or parents here!
What we didn't do but definitely will do next time
- Off-road safari tour
- Hippo wet play area
- Assorted activities in the park huts
- We also would have gone early had we known that the viewing times for most of the animals (and the brand new lion cubs!) were in the morning.
Find out more about Werribee Open Range Zoo on their website HERE.