Animals Up Close in the Newcastle & Hunter Region

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Do your kids love seeing animals? Here are some places in the Newcastle and Hunter area that gives families the opportunities to see Australian natives and exotic creatures up close.

Australian Reptile Park

Pacific Highway, Somersby, NSW
(02) 4340 1022
Website: Australian Reptile Park

The park is a hands-on zoo located in a natural bush setting on the Central Coast (60 minutes from Newcastle). It’s home to exotic reptiles from around the world and a wide variety of Australian native animals.  Enjoy live shows, themed exhibits and behind the scenes tours. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of the Australian Reptile Park.

Blackbutt Reserve

Carnley Avenue, Kotara, NSW
(02) 4904 3344
Website: Blackbutt Reserve

Blackbutt Reserve is a 182 hectare reserve in the middle of Newcastle’s suburbs which features walking trails, children’s playgrounds and tranquil picnic areas with free electric barbeques. However, its wildlife exhibits are the main attraction as it is home to koalas, emus, wallabies, wombats and peacocks. A series of boardwalks make it easy to push a stroller and let young ones view the creatures up close in the enclosures.

There are also reptile shows in the Wildlife Arena in which visitors can meet, learn about and interact with different creatures. (These are on weekends and during school holidays). Time your visit to coincide with feeding times for the koalas and wombats. It’s free to visit Blackbutt Reserve but there’s payment for parking. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of Blackbutt Reserve.

Hunter Valley Wildlife Park

Lomas Lane, Nulkaba, NSW
(02) 9622 1644
Website: Hunter Valley Wildlife Park

Previously Hunter Valley Zoo, Hunter Valley Wildlife Park is located just out of Cessnock and features a range of Australian and exotic species. These include monkeys, alligators, dingoes, tasmanian devils, wombats, koalas, kangaroos, reptiles, birds, lions and more. There’s interactive walk-through yards as well as shows and Keeper Talks. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of Hunter Valley Wildlife Park.

Hunter Wetlands Centre

1 Wetlands Place, Shortland, NSW
(02) 4951 6466
Website: Hunter Wetlands Centre

There’s lots of opportunities to see different animals at the Hunter Wetlands Centre in Shortland and it changes with the seasons. Visit the Freckled Duck enclosure to see one the world’s rarest ducks or climb the Egret Tower for a birds eye view of the egrets that call this place home. Take a walk or bike ride around the site; book a tour or go canoeing. Don’t miss the large tanks containing snakes, lizards, turtles and fish at the main entrance to the Centre. Friendly staff members often bring the reptiles out of their tank so the kids can touch them. Towards the back of the centre there is a great Discovery Playground. Kids can also try dipnetting. There’s Magpie Geese feeding daily as well as reptile talks which are usually held on weekends during the school term and daily during school holidays. You can eat at the cafe, bring a picnic or use the BBQ facilities. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of the Hunter Wetlands Centre.

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

2 Jessie Road, Anna Bay, NSW
(02) 4982 2476
Website: Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters is a unique interactive aquarium that allows visitors to experience ocean life and interact with the sharks and stingrays. Have a close encounter in the water with up to 190 Sharks and Rays. Along with meeting them, you’ll also get to interact with them in their world by feeding them with special feeding sticks, patting them softly on their backs and you will even get tickled by them. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy with Kids review of Irukandji Shark an& Ray Encounters.

Oakvale Wildlife Park

3 Oakvale Drive, Salt Ash, NSW
(02) 4982 6222
Website: Oakvale Wildlife Park

Enjoy a fun family day out with your kids at Oakvale Wildlife Park & Splash Bay in Port Stephens. Set on 25 acres at Salt Ash, Oakvale Wildlife Park is home to Australian natives, domestic farm and exotic animals such as koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, goats, sheep, rabbits, alligators and ostriches. Kids can feed free-ranging animals such as kangaroos and goats, bottle-feed baby farm animals and go for a tractor trailer ride around the farm. Schedule your day around the daily talks about  koalas, Tasmanian devil and cassowary as well as a reptile show. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of Oakvale Wildlife Park.

Tilligerry Habitat

2E King Albert Avenue, Tanilba Bay, NSW
(02) 4984 5677
Website: Tilligerry Habitat

This foreshore reserve in Port Stephens is a favourite feeding and resting spot for local koalas. The Tilligerry Habitat is a community based Ecotourism Information Centre which organises guided walks including koala spotting and a range of other eco activities. For more information, including tips on making the most of your visit, read the Newy With Kids review of Tilligerry Habitat.

Featured image: Oakvale Wildlife Park

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