As Aussies, we love our native animals and we love sharing our unique wildlife with visitors. The rumours that we like to ride Kangaroos across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to get to work or that there are koalas hanging from trees around the Opera House are, unfortunately, not true. But that does not mean that you should not take some time to appreciate some koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, quokkas, penguins and many other native species during your time in Sydney.
Why cannot I hug a koala?
Whilst many celebrities have been pictured cuddling our grey-haired companions, a closer look will reveal that the picture was not taken in Sydney. In order to prevent stress and harm to the animals, members of the public are not allowed to hold koalas under law in the state of New South Wales and most other states in Australia, with the only exceptions being Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. As a result, you will not be able to hold a koala whilst in Sydney.
Whilst you cannot hold a koala, this does not mean you need to exclude the experience entirely. There are still plenty of ways to get involved with our native animals in Sydney that still consider the best welfare protections for our animals.
What is the best option? What zoo should I go to?
|Distance from the centre of Sydney
|12 minute ferry to Taronga Zoo Wharf from Circular Quay
|Most of a day (but less if you are just interested in Australian wildlife)
|Adult $49 entry, plus $6.12 for the ferry, each way, using an Opal card
|Located on Sydney Harbour, so it is extremely convenient and there is a great bird show at 12pm and 3pm
|Does not focus on Australian wildlife
|Wild Life Sydney
|In Darling Harbour, which is a 5 minute walk from Town Hall
|2 – 3 hours
|Small as it is within the centre of Sydney
|1.5 hours on a train, plus a 20 min walk
|Whole day trip
|Adult $47.50, plus $3.44 two $6.89 for the train, each way, using an Opal card
|Newest Zoo in Sydney
|Harder to get to using public transport and does not focus on Australian wildlife
|Featherdale Wildlife park
|50 minutes on a train to Blacktown, plus a 20 minute bus from that station.
|It could be a whole day trip or included as part of a Blue Mountains Day trip
|Adult $35 + $3.44 – 6.89 on the train, each way using Opal depending on time of day. Check online for discounts!
|Australian wildlife park designed exclusively for Australian native animals. Offers a much more hands on experience
|Harder to get to using public transport
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In and around Sydney, koalas are best seen inside zoos or wildlife sanctuaries. At Wildlife Sydney, in Darling Harbour, you can get your photo with a koala or enjoy breakfast with koalas. The photo will cost an additional $25 for a group of up to 5 people on top of the general admission fee. If you do not want to head out of the city then Wildlife Sydney or Taronga Zoo – Sydney’s oldest zoo – are your best options. Being in the heart of the city, these zoos tend to be more expensive (see pricing information above). Also, if you are gonna head to one of these zoos, be sure to book online beforehand as you will get a cheaper ticket price.
Heading to zoos further away from the city centre can provide you with a greater variety of Australian animal encounters. The aptly named Sydney Zoo, in the city’s west, opened in 2019 and features a wide variety of animal encounters as well as koalas and Kangaroo Island kangaroos. Similar to Taronga Zoo, this zoo is designed for Sydneysiders and so the bulk of animal species at the zoo are from elsewhere around the world.
The best place to see kangaroos and koalas in Sydney BY FAR is Featherdale Sydney Wildlife Park. Also located in Western Sydney, this wildlife park is exclusively for Australian native animals and features a variety of kangaroos, koalas, crocodiles, echidnas, and much more! This is also the place to go if you want ‘hands on’ experiences. For an additional fee, there are a range of experiences you can get involved in, including feeding tree kangaroos, getting a selfie with a quokka, feeding penguins, and getting a picture with a koala.
Outside of Sydney
Encountering native animals outside of captivity is likely if you are driving out of the city. Whilst native bird species such as cockatoos and kookaburras are common even in Sydney itself, kangaroos – most likely Eastern Grey Kangaroos – and a couple of wallaby species are often spotted in less urbanised areas around Sydney.
Kangaroos are most often spotted in the early morning or late afternoon when they come out to feed in large grassy areas. If you are heading up to the Blue Mountains, then Kangaroos are often seen around campgrounds and clearings. Kangaroos are also known to hang out on select South Coast beaches! For more information, checkout the NSW Environment website.
Koalas, unlike kangaroos, are close to being an endangered species, especially following the devastating and unprecedented 2019-2020 Bushfire Season, and as a result it is unlikely you will see them outside of captivity in and around Sydney.
So while hugging koalas and petting kangaroos is not possible in and around Sydney, you have a plethora of options when it comes to observing them and learning from experts, both in their natural habitat and captivity. A visit to any one of Sydney’s various zoos and sanctuaries is easy and affordable and should be included during your stay.