The Hunter has so many wonderful attractions to offer children and families, and the Hunter Valley Zoo has to be one of our absolute favourites. Located in picturesque Nulkaba, only 30 minutes from Maitland and just under an hour from Newcastle, Hunter Valley Zoo is well and truly worth the drive.
The Hunter Valley Zoo was established in 2006 and has expanded into a popular attraction that is well-known for providing guests with amazing opportunities to get up close and personal with the animals, with their many hands-on interactive animal experiences.
Like many locals, I have fond memories of visiting what was then called Rusa Park Zoo as a child and it is wonderful to see how much it has changed and improved since then and to now share this special place with my own children.
With a large collection of animal species, including cheetahs, lions, American alligators, camels, monkeys, meerkats, koalas, kangaroos, reptiles, lemurs and farm animals to name a few, plus their newest addition to the family – zebras, there really is something for everyone.
You can purchase bags of animal food upon entry and feed the farmyard animals, lorikeets and kangaroos, which is such a fantastic opportunity for children (and adults) of all ages.
They also offer daily animal talk shows as well as an animal encounter pop-up where you can cuddle a baby wombat or python for only $10 each. (These are offered on Saturday and Sunday and every day during the school holidays).
This was my 2-year old’s favourite thing by far, she was so brave and fell in love with the huge python that they wrapped around her body for a cuddle.
Both of my children loved feeding and petting the kangaroos, especially my little one who was so intrigued by the whole experience.
He was also fascinated by the camels who were so close he almost got a kiss.
The meerkats were a definite favourite too as they playfully interacted with him through the window.
The lions, who moved from Taronga Zoo to retire in the Hunter Valley a few years ago were another favourite for my daughter, as well as the ‘crocodiles’ which are actually American alligators, although she was very disappointed that she wasn’t able to swim with them.
Another fantastic opportunity, if you are after something even more exciting are the private animal encounters where you get to spend 20 minutes feeding and interacting with the meerkats, marmosets, emperor tamarin, or black & white ruffed lemur. Unfortunately, we did not participate in this experience during our visit, but we were able to see what it entails as we watched others. This costs between $80 and $120 depending on the animal and bookings are essential.
The Hunter Valley Zoo is open 9am – 4pm Thursday-Tuesday (closed Wednesdays), and entry price is very reasonable for what is included. It costs $29 for adults, $15 for kids (3 to 15) with children 2 and under free. Family Passes are $80.00 (2 Adults + 2 Children. Extra child $13).
It is also very spacious and easily accessible making it perfect for families with prams. With so many amazing exhibits and shows to see you could easily spend the whole day there if you wish, however with a toddler and a baby in tow we found that a few hours were enough for us.
There are free BBQ facilities and plenty of shaded picnic tables and grounds to utilise, but ensure you bring your own food as there are very limited options available for purchase at the zoo. However, being the Hunter Valley region, there are many wonderful eateries close-by if you’re willing to drive a bit further after your visit. We decided to head to Oishii Japanese at Roche estate for a late lunch and finished our day with milkshakes and dessert at Sabor dessert bar.
We had such a wonderful family day and already can’t wait to go back. We will definitely be recommending it to all of our family and friends. The Hunter Valley Zoo may be small compared to some, but what it offers for its size is world class making it even more inviting and the perfect place to visit all year round. Visit with family or friends, come with a school or sporting group, or book a group birthday party. Why not start planning your visit today?
For more information, visit the Hunter Valley Zoo website.
Address: 138 Lomas Lane, Nulkaba NSW 2325
Ideal Age: Suitable for all ages, perfect for children and families
Public Toilets: Yes
Water Fountain: Yes
Picnic Facilities: Plenty of shaded picnic tables and grounds
BBQ: Yes free BBQ facilities
Cafe: A very limited selection of canteen food in the main entrance, but plenty of lovely eateries within the local surrounding areas
Disclosure: Newy with Kids received complimentary admission to Hunter Valley Zoo in February 2020 for review purposes. All opinions are our own.
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Bianca grew up in Newcastle and loves everything about this wonderful city. A mum of two under 2 1/2, she cherishes the crazy and challenging, yet beautiful days that she gets to share with her children. On her days off she enjoys exploring new places together and creating fun and engaging play experiences, which she shares on her instagram account @mila.and.micah. When Bianca isn’t being Mum to her two, she is busy managing a local community-based childcare centre. She has 10 years experience as an Early Childhood Teacher and Director, and is passionate about play-based learning for the early years.