Australia isn’t the type of place you’d expect to find gorillas and giraffes, but at the Werribee Open Range Zoo outside Melbourne, you can get the feel of an African safari just minutes away from the city. Hop on an open-air safari vehicle and cruise the Werribee grasslands, where you’ll search for rhinoceros, hippopotamus, or prowling prides of lions. See vervet monkeys as they swing through the treetops or zebras out on the plains, all while learning about the zoo’s efforts toward animal conservation.
Because the zoo is southwest of Melbourne, it’s a convenient stop on a road trip to explore the Great Ocean Road. Although Viator tours do not include this activity, animal encounters are also available with a separate ticket from general admission, and you can even book a luxury tent and hear the animals at dusk.
Insider Tip: On the hottest days of summer the animals tend to hide out in the shade; try to visit in cooler weather, or in the cooler hours of the day.
The Werribee Open Range Zoo is about 21 miles (34 km) southwest of Melbourne, and is accessible by car along Princes Highway South, and by public transportation, via bus 439 from Werribee Station. There is also a shuttle that departs the National Gallery of Victoria at 9:30am. Roundtrip shuttle cost is $35, and bookings are essential.
The zoo is open Sunday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and on Saturday from 9am to 8:30pm. Last entry during regular hours is at 3:30pm. Adult admission costs $32.50, and admission for children ages four to 15 years old costs $16.30, except on weekends when youth enter free. The safari vehicles are wheelchair accessible and suitable for all ages of visitors. If visiting with young children, there is also an indoor play area as well as miniature safari tour that’s specifically designed for toddlers.
Behind-the-scenes animal encounters last about 45 minutes, cost between $60 and $120, and should be booked in advance.