Open: Daily from 8.00am – 5.00pm, except Christmas Day.
Cost: Adults $34, Children (4-14 years) $17, Family $85. These prices are all for a 5 consecutive day pass. Click here for more information.
Location: Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas. Click here for map. There’s plenty of free (but mostly uncovered) parking available out the front. There is also a shuttle bus service to and from Port Douglas for a small fee.
Suitable for: Everyone! Mostly pram friendly (and you can hire strollers for a small fee).
The best bits: The 5 day pass means you can come and go as you please. There’s distinct habitat regions, with loads of Australian native animals. Kids can interact with many of the animals.
The worst bits: The koala section feels uninspired.
We visited Port Douglas in July 2014 when our kids were 1.5 and 4 years old. We returned again in September the following year, when they were 3 and 5 years old. The Wildlife Habitat was a highlight of both trips!
The Wildlife Habitat only a few minutes drive out of Port Douglas, and the 5 day pass meant we could come and go as we please. This is so handy with little kids, as we could work around nap times, and keep each visit short and manageable. We tended to visit in the mornings, and then pop back to the hotel for lunch and nap / quiet time…
The Wildlife Habitat is divided into four distinct North Queensland environments: the woodlands, wetlands, savannah and rainforest.
The woodlands is the first (and smallest) environment that you encounter when you arrive at Wildlife Habitat. It’s like walking into a small aviary, full of richly-coloured small birds like budgies, finches and quails. It’s location makes it tempting to pass straight through, but if you stop a minute, the little birds are amazing! They’re so colourful, and they constantly hop about, twittering to each other…
This is the next area that you encounter, and it’s very impressive. Stroll along a network of boardwalks over an enclosed wetlands habitat that’s full of wading birds, like spoonbills, foraging for fish.
This habitat includes James and Jabby, the world’s only captive breeding pair of black-necked storks, and many of their offspring as well. There’s a tower you can climb to get a different view, and one morning we sat up in the tower for about an hour, just watching the storks tending the eggs in their huge nest.
Meet James and Jabby, the only two successfully breeding black-necked storks in the world. James (with the black eyes) is taking a turn to sit on their three eggs so Jabby (with the yellow eyes) can tend the nest and get some lunch. We’ve been watching them for almost an hour….. We even saw them mate, so hopefully there may be a fourth egg in a few days time… Ps if you’re planning to come to the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, make sure to come early in your visit as your ticket is valid for reentry for 5 days. #zoo #zoology #gosciencekids #stork #learningisfun #nature #naturelovers #science
We even saw a bit of ‘action’ that might (hopefully) produce some future eggs!
The wetlands feels very much like an immersion atmosphere, with the birds are free to wander where ever they like. There are nests in the tree tops, and fruit bats hang sleepily from the netting above.
In the centre, is a large cafe area with plenty of picnic style tables. The keepers have strategically dotted bird feeding stations all around the cafe, so you’re quite likely to be dining next to rainbow lorikeets, king parrots, black cockatoos, and other birds. It’s also a great spot for families to rest, recuperate and cool down after being out in the hot and dusty savannah area.
There is also a koala exhibit off to the side. This exhibit feels the least natural. To be fair, koalas aren’t the easiest animals to house in an authentic setting, as they naturally prefer to sit on forks at the very tops of gum trees where they are hard to see.
This is an open air exhibit, with much being in full Australian sunshine, so put on sunscreen and a hat! You can buy bags of feed so the kids can hand-feed the kangaroos, wallabies, magpie geese and emus. This provides lots of photo opportunities!
There’s lots of joeys, which is a great way to talk about marsupials, and how they differ from other mammals. Below, this kangaroo was happy enough for my daughter to pat her joey’s leg, which was sticking out of her pouch!
Given that this is a free-range exhibit, and if your kids are as curious as mine are, they are likely to come across some poo, or ‘scat’. Don’t shy away from the topic, it’s a great way to talk about habitat, food, digestion. But maybe wash their hands afterwards if they touch any…
(See these magpie geese above? Just to let you know we found they could get a little aggressive while following my toddler around if she was holding a feed bag. She’s not a particularly sensitive girl, but they were about the same size and they outnumbered her! Once we took the feed bag away from her, they left her alone.)
There’s also a crocodile enclosure, and if you’re lucky, you might be able to time your visit to coincide with their feeding. This only happens a few days a week, so you might want to ask beforehand.
The rainforest habitat is a chance to see the elusive Southern Cassowary. Whilst it’s quite a big habitat, it’s probably the one that we spent the least amount of time in, as we tended to visit it last, and the boardwalk style doesn’t encourage the kids to ‘linger’.
Learning about animals and habitats
Visiting zoos and wildlife sanctuaries are a fantastic way to introduce even the littlest kids to biology, classification of animals, zoology, and animal habitats. Kids can learn about different species, what food they eat, where they nest or shelter, how they raise their young.
I find that we learn much more on our second and subsequent visits to habitats like this. The first visit the kids tend to run around to tick everything off, and it’s not until the second visit that they slow down and notice the details.
We noticed that many of the keepers at Wildlife Habitat also happen to be young, female and very knowledgeable! This made them relatable positive role models for little girls to aspire to.