Travelling with children can often mean doing something that is not really up your alley. But sometimes that is a positive thing – and you end up enjoying the experience much more than you expected.
During our recent Sunshine Coast holiday, hubby mentioned we should take the kids to Australia Zoo. I was a bit hesitant. We had been there in late 2004 when Mr 12 was just a toddler. At the time, the iconic wilderness warrior was still alive and to this day, I can still remember Steve Irwin riding past us on his motorbike with a young Bindi, waving as they passed. Would it be the same without him?
The answer – yes. And our visit to Australia Zoo became a highlight of our family’s Sunshine Coast holiday.
Australia Zoo has continued to thrive since the untimely death of Irwin in September 2006, but his presence remains strong. In fact, at times, I found myself swallowing down a lump in my throat, especially when we were lucky enough to see the Irwin family in action. But more on that later.
We visited Australia Zoo on a busy September school holiday day – another great thing about this place, is that it never felt crowded.
Our visit started with the keeper talk at the otters. I was reminded how happy the keepers seem here. Unlike some staff you can encounter at tourist attractions, they don’t come across as jaded. Obviously, our presenter had told the story about how Steve got these cheeky creatures thousands of times, but he still sparkled and laughed as re-counted it once again.
Continuing on, we saw the crocodiles that look so docile lying behind there fences (although one of them sitting on a nest glared across the cage, making my hairs stand on end). We saw koalas sleeping as they digested their gum leaves and my children were enthralled by the cheeky little lizards running around the park.
With the 11am Wildlife Warriors presentation coming up quickly, we made our way to the Crocoseum. Grabbing a coffee, we found ourselves a seat (this place is huge, but it is worthwhile getting in a little early to grab a preferred seat, as there is only one show a day).
Being the school holidays, we also had an extra treat – a singing and dancing performance by Bindi and the Jungle Girls, which was particularly popular with the younger members of the audience.
And her last song, a tribute to her Dad, was actually really touching. Let me just say I was glad I was wearing my sunglasses as I was reminded that no matter what he did for animal conservation, Steve Irwin as first and foremost and husband and a Dad.
It was here that I also had a near-encounter – not with an animal, but a superstar. We were seated quite close to a VIP area, in which Terri Irwin was playing host to a group of people. I obviously did not look hard enough, as I later learned that Justin Timberlake was the VIP visitor that day.
Later Terri joined Bindi and Bob on the ground for the main crocodile show. It was educational, but also a lot of fun. The easy relationship between the family and the head crocodile keeper was evident, with the banter quite funny at times.
Other highlights of our visit included the Tiger talk and the bird show (which precedes the crocodile show in the Crocoseum). International visitors in particular would love the hands on experiences available, where you can get close up to the Australian wildlife, including koalas and kangaroos.
Our visit to Australia Zoo for a family of 4 cost $172 (a family ticket for 5 costs $189), plus we also paid an extra $8 to allow us to visit the animal hospital.
There is no doubt that there is a real sense of enjoyment and fun that comes through at Australia Zoo – but still entwined with important conservation messages that Steve and his father before him worked so hard to get us to understand.
The show goes on.
See Family Friendly Accommodation for information on where to stay on the Sunshine Coast.
More information on other things to do on the Sunshine Coast with your family