Oakvale Wildlife Park (formally Oakvale Farm & Fauna World) is located at Salt Ash, in the beautiful Port Stephens region. This family business has been running since 1979 and keeps getting better every year. Don't expect to spend the day at a "zoo" however, as there aren't any lions or tigers there, it is a day to experience a variety of animals and get hands-on with cute farmyard animals - all of which you will fall in love with.
If you visit in summer, take your swimmers and a towel, as this park has animals and a state-of-the-art splash park. Be prepared - your kids may never want to leave!
The wildlife park is open between 10am - 5pm, 7 days a week (except Christmas Day), with plenty of free parking out the front. When you purchase your tickets at the gate, you receive a wrist band, which means that you can go in and out of the park to get your esky for lunch or swimming costumes and towels, for a swim at the end.
Visitors to the park also receive a map, which lists all the activities and shows that will be happening that day, such as the Farmyard Feeding, Tractor Trailer Ride, Koala Presentation and more. Ensure you buy a few bags of animal feed for $1.50 each, to share with the baby animals at the Farmyard Nursery. It is then time to start exploring, with American Alligators, reptiles, birds, a tractor-trailer ride and a playground, all situated near the front entrance.
I visited Oakvale Wildlife Park near the end of summer with a friend and an extremely excited 7 year old, who couldn't wait to get inside. One of the main highlights for my daughter (and us adults too!) was the Farmyard Nursery, where we saw a cow being milked and got to meet a wide range of baby animals who all wanted our attention - and our food.
Lay your palm flat with the animal food pellets on your palm and watch as the small calves, goats, sheep, rabbits and guinea pigs nibble it gently from your hand. As well as feeding the animals, admire the owls in the barn and the swans and geese, as they wander around picking up the scraps. Some of the larger animals (such as the calves) can make your hand a little wet, so there is a basin and soap nearby to wash off the animal "lick".
Exploring the wildlife park took us just over an hour, so it is ideally suited to families with young children, as you can easily do it in a morning. There is a main dirt path that takes you around the park, which is pram and wheelchair friendly if you have sturdy wheels. The path takes you past all the animals in the paddocks, and around Lemur Island in the centre of the park.
Some of the more prominent characters you will see along the way include a Texan Longhorn, with incredibly long horns and an even longer tongue...
After walking around and experiencing the variety of shows, animals and interactive areas, visitors can walk all around again or stop for lunch at their café. If you prefer to bring in your own food, there are plenty of tables inside the tearoom, or take it to one of the tables by the Splash Bay water park. There are free electric BBQs to use, however be aware that tables can be occupied early for birthday parties and large family gatherings.
Splash Bay, near the entrance to the wildlife park, is one of the best splash parks that my daughter had ever seen - with a playground next to it and a huge bowl of water that tipped down over the kids every few minutes. If you are a local, it may be worth getting an annual pass so you can visit the park and Splash Bay all summer long.
Did I mention that your kids may never want to leave?