This weekend gone by I fell even more in love with our Aussie animals on a visit to Healesville Sanctuary. As I meandered the maze of tracks, the outdoor nerd inside me sighed with happiness to be surrounded by the beautiful lush native gardens, towering gum trees over 200 years old and happy calls of dozens of different bird species.
Healesville is a special place, which is apparent as soon as you walk in the gate. It is focused entirely on showcasing animals native to Australia and as a not for profit, every visitors entrance fees contributes money back into the conservation, breeding and recovery of their 20 priority threatened species.
There is plenty of opportunities to get up close to Australia iconic species such Kangaroos but for me the highlight was their Signature 'Spirits of the Sky' show where magnificent birds, such as Australia's largest bird of prey the Wedge-tailed Eagle, swoop overhead in an up close encounter.
The keeper talk on the Tasmanian Devils was interesting, and it was heartening to here that despite the rapid decline of this species because of a deadly facial tumour, there is huge breeding programs going on around the country to keep populations free of the disease.
What I loved most about this sanctuary is that sometimes you barely know you are inside an aviary or an exhibit, there is natural creeks running through many of them and the landscaping gives the impression of seclusion. This is also means if you love photography there is plenty of opportunities for great fence free shots of soaring birds, furry mammals and photogenic plants.
There is also no shortage of picturesque picnic areas at Healesville so we enjoyed our home brought lunch at a table surrounded by bush, but there seemed to be plenty options for food at their cafes if you would prefer to buy it there.
Because I have a park management background I pay attention to nerdy things like signage, and I found that it is really well set up regardless of your age. For adults there is great information on more complex concepts but there is also lots of child friendly options, sculptures to play on and plenty of opportunities for kids (and big kids) to get there photo taken with their heads on funny bodies! From memory, nearly everything is accessible to all abilities as well, with nice wide and flat paths perfect for wheelchair access.
Like all attractions, if you can visit on a weekday you will avoid the crowds and have areas of the sanctuary to yourself. It took us (two adults) around 3 hours to get around the sanctuary, including the talks we went to, so you probably need to allow at least that amount of time, maybe more if you have kids to slow you down or want to see more of the keeper talks.
Healesville truly is a little patch of paradise not far from the city (although we drove two hours from Geelong to get there and it was still worth it) and whether you want to fill your brain with new information or just want to see lots of cute critters, you will leave happy and feeling like you have had a little mini holiday in the bush.