Sydney Zoo has been open for six months, so we thought it was about time we popped in to check out the zoo and its accessibility. We’d heard good things from our Have Wheelchair Will Travel and Accessible Sydney Facebook communities but we wanted to see it for ourselves. What made us extra curious was the fact Sydney Zoo is step-free. Imagine, 17 hectares of zoo and not a stair to be avoided by visitors with a wheelchair or with a mobility restriction. And don’t think that means stairs have been replaced by steep ramps, access throughout is exceptional, which is why we think you should put Sydney Zoo on your list of accessible Sydney attractions to visit.
SYDNEY ZOO – WESTERN SYDNEY – ACCESSIBLE SYDNEY
We were so impressed with Sydney Zoo. The ease of pushing a wheelchair around the zoo made this a pleasant and carefree day out for us as a family.
While we were wowed with Sydney Zoo’s accessibility, we were equally impressed with the variety of animals and their spacious enclosures.
Green grass, obstacle courses and water views are just some of the features the Sydney Zoo residents enjoy. Room service seems to get the thumbs up with a range of serving styles which double as enrichment for the animals. The orangutans returned to their enclosure with enthusiasm and curiosity after their keepers had delivered lunch. Various food offerings were soon discovered hidden under boxes and tied to the ropes. They skilfully removed the food and sat devouring it with much satisfaction.
Orangutans are a particular animal favourite of mine and often prove elusive. When AJ and I visited Adelaide Zoo, I made her stand for a ridiculous amount of time waiting for the resident orangutan to emerge out from under a sheet. I was certain the minute we left she would come out but despite waiting and then leaving and returning, an orangutan butt was all I saw. So you can imagine, all my orangutan dreams came true watching three climb, eat and swing their way through the enclosure at Sydney Zoo.
While orangutans are my favourite, it was fascinating watching the Hamadryas baboons, particularly the mothers with their young. It appears those long tails come in handy for parenting in the baboon world with the mothers keeping a tight hold on their young’s tails.
You can see in the photo below, Mum has a firm hold on her charge even with her back turned.
Some of the other animals you’ll find at Sydney Zoo include the most stunning pride of lions, Sumatran tigers, a giraffe, zebras and 62 year old (around about) Saigon, the Asian elephant.
Australian’s iconic wildlife has not been forgotten with a region dedicated to our most familiar friends including emus, echidnas, various varieties of kangaroos, koalas and our tassie devils.
It’s particularly pleasing to see Sydney Zoo has paid tribute to, and included the Indigenous culture of the Darug people within the Australian section. The zoo is set on Darug land and information boards throughout this area educate visitors on the traditions of the Darug people.
ACCESSIBILITY AT SYDNEY ZOO
The openness of Sydney Zoo is wonderful for wheelchair users. Wide paths, which are predominately level, link the various areas of the zoo and make for easy access throughout. Compacted paths provide a smooth ride and easy pushing for manual wheelchair users.
Large windows within the aquarium and reptile house provide excellent views for young children and for wheelchair users.
Fences which ensure the safety of guests but still allow great opportunities to see the animals are perfect for those touring the zoo in a wheelchair or little ones in a pram.
It’s always hard to tell who is watching who with Meerkats. Glass ensures both the Meerkats and visitors can keep an eye on each other.
There is only one ramp needed throughout Sydney Zoo because it’s so level. If you want to avoid going up the ramp, our tip is to turn right after entering the main entrance, go through the Australian exhibit and you’ll go down the ramp towards the aquarium.
Accessible unisex stand-alone bathrooms are positioned around the zoo. It’s good to see in each toilet block there is an accessible stall with a baby change table and one accessible toilet without. Hopefully the fact one is without the baby change table will free up the accessible bathrooms for those who need it.
A raised boardwalk takes visitors on their journey around the African animals. The railing height on this particular walkway seemed right in BJ’s line of sight but was easily fixed with the right positioning. When we positioned BJ back slightly he had a good view.
Benches are positioned around the zoo so guests can rest and enjoy viewing the animals while doing so.
If you don’t have your own mobility equipment or find your little one tires during the day, Sydney Zoo has a range of equipment available to hire.
A refundable deposit is required on all equipment. Wheelchairs are free to borrow but there’s a small charge for the scooters and prams. You can read about hiring equipment on the Sydney Zoo website.
The Australian Companion Card is accepted.
Ten accessible parking bays are positioned at the main entrance. Further accessible parking is available nearby.
DINING AT SYDNEY ZOO
Food outlets at Sydney Zoo are spread out and can be found in various areas of the zoo. Our pick is the outlet near the orangutans – simply because we like any excuse to spend more time watching them!
We were impressed by the variety and prices of the menu items on offer in the various outlets. You’ll find sandwiches, sushi, salads, poke bowls, burgers, fish and chips. Vegetarians are catered to with a choice of veggie options available in all the menu items mentioned previously.
Picnic tables allow for a wheelchair user to sit at either end of the table.
Sydney Zoo delivers on accessibility and offers a unique Sydney animal experience. People are always keen to compare zoos. I like to think each one offers something different. What I will say is that Sydney Zoo provides an easy day out for families and anyone with mobility restrictions. We didn’t feel exhausted at the end of the day but felt we’d had a really great day out.
HWWT TIP – We did a second lap of the African area at the peak of lunch time (12.15 the day we visited) and it was much quieter and less crowded with everyone else sitting down eating their lunch. At 1245 we noticed food being delivered to the orangutan enclosure and they were much more active once that arrived. This could vary but it was a good time to view them on the day we were there.
You can read more about Sydney Zoo and the accessibility on their website.
We were guests of Sydney Zoo but as always our opinions are our own. We had a wonderful experience at the zoo and between the accessibility and the orangutans we couldn’t have asked for a better day.