Werribee Open Range Zoo holds a special spot in my heart. AJ and I spent a day exploring the zoo when she was just a preschooler on our first ever mother-daughter trip. We spent a few days in Melbourne together and the zoo was a highlight of our time. So on a recent trip to Melbourne I was happy to revisit the zoo to check out accessibility (we didn’t have a website when AJ was little).
My companion on my most recent visit was my pal Belinda, who may not be quite as cute as AJ when she was a preschooler but she proved a fun and young at heart.
She was happy to try out some of the interactive elements of the zoo – just for demonstration purposes of course! We learnt a cheetah’s stride is up to 8 metres which Belinda couldn’t quite match.
ACCESSIBLE SAFARI TOUR
Going on a Safari Tour certainly ignites and excites kids and it’s joyful to see their faces as they spot the various animals on the open plains. AJ was certainly wide-eyed and took great delight in pointing out the animals she could see, as did the many of the kids on our recent tour.
The 40 minute Safari Tour with commentary transported us through arid landscapes and savannah grasslands. We learnt about some of the world’s most endangered species while seeing Bison, Addax, Rhino, Zebra and Ostrich.
Much to my delight I discovered the Safari bus is modified and therefore the Safari Tour is accessible to all. Guests who need to remain in a wheelchair can do so.
The beautiful nature of Werribee Zoo means the animals have large areas to roam and therefore you may find them close to the safari bus or they may be relaxing under the shade of trees further away. I love that the choice is theirs and they have so much room to explore.
We visited on an overcast day and did feel the wind chill whilst on safari so make sure you rug up with layers for the day.
After our Safari Tour we were ready for a warming cuppa and snack so we headed to the cafe which is accessible via ramp. While my pals AJ and Belinda were both great company I have to admit to being totally smitten by the Meerkats who were entertaining and easy to spot with large windows right beside the cafe tables. Their antics are sure to keep kids happy while eating a snack or lunch. The cafe has a good range of options, including vegetarian dishes like the open flat bread with grilled cherry tomatoes, zucchini and sundried tomato pesto, burgers, fish, ancient grain salad and more. The Junior Keeper menu (children’s menu) includes a sandwich pack, penne pasta, fish and chips and more. There’s certainly plenty of options to keep everyone well fuelled for a day at the zoo.
Although the animals on the plains may be further away, there are many opportunities to get up close to the animals with lovely floor to ceiling windows which are pram and wheelchair friendly.
At times it’s difficult to know who is observing who at Werribee.
As with most zoos in Australia, Werribee Open Range Zoo offers keeper talks which aim to educate their big and little guests.
While Belinda and I listened keenly to the keeper talk about Werribee’s hippos, they seemed totally unfazed and despite the offer of food, couldn’t be bothered to move their ample sized bodies. Another sign that the animals at Werribee are content and happily march to their own beat.
Kids certainly like to use their independence at the zoo to take the paths less travelled with lots of opportunities to go off the beaten track. But please note, not all of these are accessible to wheelchairs.
The playground is certainly a hive of activity and is equipped with a nest swing which may be suitable for some children with a disability. Werribee Zoo embraces natural elements so the ground in the playground area is a light covering of wood chip which may prove problematic for wheelchair and walker users.
Accessible parking is available in the main car park.
Accessible stand-alone bathroom facilities are available.
A microwave is available to heat special food or baby bottles near the bathroom facilities in the cafe.
Pathways throughout the zoo are lovely and level and accessible.
Four of the Safari buses are wheelchair accessible. Safari vehicles can accommodate two standard wheelchairs, or one electric wheelchair per vehicle. Wheelchairs are accommodated at the front of the vehicles alongside the driver and will be safely strapped in. Bookings are advisable. Tel: 03 9731 9610.
Extensive accessibility information can be found on the Werribee Open Range Zoo website here.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is certainly fantastic for all ages but I have to say, it’s particularly good at inspiring imaginative kids who seem as excited about a Werribee safari as they would be an African safari. From a parent’s perspective, it’s certainly more affordable and doable.
I was a guest of Werribee Open Range Zoo for my most recent visit, but as always my opinions are my own and I think an accessible Safari Tour is something to get pretty excited about.
You can read about Werribee Open Range Zoo on their website.