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Melbourne may be Australia’s second largest city, but just outside the city (and even within) you’ll find incredible natural attractions where you can witness a wide range of wildlife.

Just outside Melbourne’s CBD you’ll find some of Australia’s finest sanctuaries for authentic wildlife encounters, home to both Australian and international species. And within the city, there are an incredible range of attractions, including the zoo, the aquarium, and many nature parks prolific with native wildlife.

Admission fees can start getting quite expensive after you hit a few of these attractions. So we recommend purchasing a Melbourne iVenture Card for up to 40% of the city’s best wildlife experiences (the card also includes a wealth of attractions within the city itself).

Enjoy the flexibility to choose a pass that works for you in terms of your holiday duration and what you wish to experience. A Flexi Pass allows you to visit a set number of attractions of which there are a wide variety to choose from or you can opt for an Unlimited Attractions Pass to experience it all.

Best Wildlife and Nature Attractions around Melbourne

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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Be transported to Africa with a visit to the Werribee Zoo. Far from witnessing animals locked up in small cages or enclosures, this open range zoo provides an enjoyable home for the wildlife as well as providing visitors with a much more rewarding experience.

Included with your visit to this 200 hectare zoo is a 40 minute bus safari tour where you’ll see iconic African wildlife such as rhinos, zebras, and ostriches. The zoo is also home to beautiful exhibits featuring western lowland gorillas, hippos, and African lions.

The zoo also contains an Australian Wildlife section located along the Werribee River where captive and wild native wildlife can be viewed.

The Melbourne iVenture Card provides single entry to the zoo and also allows you to book return transfers from Melbourne. The Werribee Park Shuttle provides daily service from Melbourne’s Arts Centre to the suburb of Werribee and takes approximately 30 minutes.

Giraffe

Phillip Island Nature Parks

The Melbourne iVenture Card gives you access to all three of the below attractions via the Phillip Island 3 Park Pass.

Fairy Penguins

Rent a car to experience the magic of Phillip Island just a few hours south of Melbourne. Here you can experience the thrill of seeing penguins return to shore at sunset via the Penguin Parade Experience.

Every night of the year, the world’s smallest penguins, known as little or fairy penguins, return to their burrows in the sand dunes after spending the day fishing at sea.

Koala Conservation Center

By day you can see koalas in their natural habitat with a visit to the Koala Conservation Centre. Here you can get a glimpse into the daily lives of these adorable marsupials as you walk along a set of tree top boardwalks.

You may also come across other Australian natives such as the adorable, albeit spiky echidnas and wallabies.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

While you’re in the area, a visit to Churchill Island Heritage Farm will provide you with a glimpse of rural Australian culture.

Learn about sheep shearing, whip cracking, and other aspects of life on an Australian farm. In addition to seeing wild looking livestock such as the Highland cow, the farm provides wetland walks where you may spot many types of Australian wading and shorebirds.

Day trip from Melbourne booked via TripVerse

Day trip from Melbourne booked via TripVerse

Photo courtesy of Philip Island Penguin Parade.

Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park

Moonlit Sanctuary is located between Melbourne and Phillip Island and provides an authentic viewing experience of over 60 Australian animal species.

By day visitors can hand-feed kangaroos, wallabies, and birds as well as hold a koala. As darkness falls and Australia’s nocturnal animals come out to play, you can view species rarely seen in the wild via the sanctuary’s guided lantern tours where you get the chance to see Tasmanian devils, owls, quolls, and more.

This is a fabulous wildlife experience, and very hands-on. The sanctuary is included with your Melbourne iVenture Card.

For up close and personal encounters with koalas.

Tasmanian Devil

Healesville Sanctuary

A visit to the Yarra Valley wine region is a must when visiting Melbourne and while you’re in the area you should check out Healesville Sanctuary.

Much like Moonlit Sanctuary, Healesville Sanctuary centres on Australia’s native wildlife. Enjoy a wide variety of incredible Australian native species like dingoes, wombats, platypus, and more in a natural bush setting.

The sanctuary puts on numerous daily talks and incredible shows like “Spirits of the Sky” which offers free-flight demonstrations from Australian parrots and eagles as well as an interactive Platypus show.

The sanctuary is also home to a walk in aviary where you will come face to face with vibrantly coloured parrots such as the Eclectus Parrot and Red Tailed Black Cockatoo. Like Moonlit Sanctuary, enjoy access to Healesville with your Melbourne iVenture Card too.

Platypus

Puffing Billy Railway

Experience the ultra scenic rolling hills of the Dandenong Ranges aboard the open-sided carriages of the Puffing Billy steam train.

The railway offers several stations where you can begin your journey as well as a wide variety of train experiences including dining and musical events. And a ride gives you a nice introduction / overview of what the Dandenong Ranges has to offer.

Enjoy stunning landscapes (especially during autumn), as well as the historic Monbulk Creek Trestle Bridge. After your ride you can then take a self driving tour of the Dandenong Ranges. Melbourne’s iVenture card provides you with a return trip from Belgrave to Lakeside.

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

This stunning aquarium allows you to get extremely close to incredible underwater creatures very few people would get a chance to see in the wild.

In addition to a variety of shark and ray species, you can also view bizarre Australian creatures like the weedy sea dragon, lionfish, and cuttlefish. There’s a huge range of ocean wildlife, but you will also get to see a massive saltwater crocodile and adorable penguins.

Along with the aquarium’s beautiful viewing exhibits there are also hands on experiences which children will love. Entry to the aquarium is included as part of your Melbourne iVenture Card.

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium

Melbourne Zoo

Enjoy rare and endangered wildlife from around the world as well as Australian native species at one of Melbourne’s most popular attractions.

Melbourne Zoo offers the chance to see around 320 species from around the world including large predators along the newly opened carnivore exhibit. Witness snow leopards, lions, tigers, and Tasmanian devils … oh my!

The zoo is easily accessed via public transportation and affordable parking is provided if coming via your own vehicle. Entry is included with your iVenture Card.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

    30 Comments

  1. Wow, so many wildlife viewing opportunities so close to the city. While I love to see them in the wild with the accidental sightings, I do enjoy the sanctuary’s as well for learning of a new places wildlife. And I’ve always wanted to see a Tasmanian devil. They are so cute in the photos!!!

    • Absolutely – we were really impressed with Melbourne’s wildlife opportunities :) You do have a couple of parks in the city, like the Botanic Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens, where you can spot native birdlife, but the sanctuaries are fabulous for land based wildlife.

      If you have extra time while you’re in Melbourne and really want to see Tassie Devils, it’s pretty quick to take a side trip to Tasmania itself, and there are a lot of fabulous sanctuaries set up solely for devils here :)

  2. That green serpent that folded all the piped body structure is really very cute, the angle of the shot is really very praise-worthy. Thanks for sharing this post.

    • He’s one of my favorites from the aquarium – really looking forward to getting to North QLD where they exist in the wild at some stage too :) Glad you enjoyed the post!

  3. Hi
    Very nice post
    Keep up the good work

    thanks
    Umar Asif

    • Thankyou Umar, glad you enjoyed it! Happy travels :)

  4. So many cool places to see Australian Wildlife near Melbourne. Sign me up to see penguins on Phillip Island & all the animals in the Moonlight Sanctuary! It is definitely on my bucket list to see Koalas and a tasmanian devil as well as Quokkas!

    • Absolutely Eric! Phillip Island is an absolute haven for wildlife, it’s an incredible day trip for any Melbourne itinerary. Can highly recommend it!

  5. Oh man, how did I miss out on all of this last year. The only thing I saw regarding wildlife was the penguins of St Kilda beach. Cant wait to get back to melbourne one day, it needs a longer stay.

    • Sounds like you have an excellent excuse to plan a return trip! Though you have alerted me that I should include the penguins at St Kilda beach here – thanks for the tip!

  6. I never knew you could save this much buying a Melbourne iVenture Card! Because we love to visite nature preserves and book wildlife experiences wherever we go, it’d be absolutely perfect. Also while I’m not into zoos, I had a few of the experiences you’re suggesting on my radar (and now I added some more). We absolutely need to book this trip!

    • Absolutely – the iVenture card was amazing during our time in Melbourne – saved so much, and it was nice being able to skip the queues too, already having paid.

      You would love Melbourne if you’re a fan of nature and wildlife, I would recommend renting a car, because a lot of the really cool sanctuaries are about an hour out, and taxis are really expensive, otherwise there’s a great system of public transport too.

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon!

  7. Aaah, now this is a post for me. We love travelling for wildlife and have made many trips centred around enjoying native wildlife in its natural habitat. I had no idea there would be so much within such close reach of Melbourne! I think the one calling me most is Phillip Island Nature Park, I’ve always wanted to see the fairy penguins, and of course, koalas! I’d like to visit the Healesville Sanctuary too.

    • Fabulous Kavita! Yes it actually surprised us too that there was so much so close to the city. Phillip Island is one of the best spots – such a stunning coastline as well as the gorgeous range of wildlife :)

  8. The iventure card is like your passport to some amazing wildlife experiences. Koala breeding center and Phillips Island would be the first on my list for the very animals they showcase. Can you get close to the Penguins? I hope so, they are so adorable. Cheers

    • Absolutely Ami, the iVenture card was the best choice we made for Melbourne :) You can get close to the penguins, though unfortunately no photography is allowed as it disturbs their normal routines. You watch them waddle up from the beach, and they’re at a distance at that point, but after they’ve all come in you walk along the boardwalk right next to them :)

  9. I’ve never been to Australia, but will definitely go one day. It’s interesting that there is so much wildlife around such a metropolis like Melbourne. Of course it’s mainly the Koala who conquered my heart ❤

    • When you do have the chance to visit Melbourne, definitely carve out some time for the wildlife sanctuaries and preserves in the surrounds – a lot of places with koalas for you, check in advance if you can hug them too as this is often something you can pay extra for :)

  10. You are blessed with some great wildlife in Australia, but if there is one animal I would really love to see in real life is a Koala bear. They are so adorable. I can’t remember ever seeing one, not even in a zoo. Hard to believe, right? From what you are describing, Moonlit Sanctuary seems to be the right place for that. Hopefully someday I’ll make it there.

    • Koala’s really are quite adorable (a little fierce too though lol!). You can usually opt to cuddle a koala too for an extra charge in many of these sanctuaries which might make a great memory for you!

  11. As you probably know, I’m a HUGE fan of sanctuaries and places to see animals in the wild. I would love to go to Phillip Island to see those penguins. Fairy penguins sound super adorable, too – even just with that name alone! Thanks for writing about loads of animal experiences that we can visit!

    • Melbourne would be a great base for you then, there’s such a wealth of preserves, nature parks, and really fabulous sanctuaries in the surrounds. And yes, Phillip Island is one of the best! Hope you have the chance to visit soon :)

  12. Oh that is so cool. There are definitely so many cool places to see Australian Wildlife near Melbourne. The iventure card makes good sense to us. We would love to see penguins & all other animals in the Moonlight Sanctuary! Koalas will be another animal we would love checking. Thanks for sharing all these details Meg.

    • The iVenture card was a fabulous choice – I’m so glad we picked it up. We were really impressed by the wealth of nature and wildlife experiences around Melbourne, and that they were included as part of the card :)

  13. I would definitely purchase the Melbourne iVenture Card, all those experiences for such a big discount sounds like really good value to me. I would definitely expect Australia to have some awesome nature experiences, but the wealth of them in this area is incredible. Love the idea of seeing Churchill Island Heritage Farm, something a little different and more rural (and the wading bird picture you’ve included is amazing – is it a baby penguin or something else? Either way, very cute!)

    • The iVenture card is incredible value, yes, we were really pleasantly surprised by the wealth of nature and wildlife around Melbourne – you don’t usually expect that from a big city :)

      The photo of the animal wading is actually a platypus :) Lol apparently the unusual appearance of this egg-laying, duck-billed, beaver-tailed, otter-footed mammal baffled European naturalists when they first encountered it, and some people thought that it was actually an elaborate hoax!

  14. OMG the Koalas are adorable!! I’ve heard people absolutely RAVE about Phillip Island, but thought that this was just about the penguins. I didn’t realize that it also had a Koala Conservation Center as well. If it wasn’t a definite before now, it certainly is now – thanks for the heads up on the iVenture Card, it sounds like a great way to save $$$

    • Absolutely, Philip Island is a whole nature park. While the fairy penguins are probably the biggest draw (definitely do the Penguin Parade Experience at sunset), the Koala conservation center is an incredible stop, and it’s a fantastic way to view koalas in their natural habitat.

      And you’re welcome on the iVenture Card – it really came in handy on our trip :)

    • You’re welcome – enjoy your time in Melbourne!

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