Healesville Sanctuary

Melbourne, Victoria

Healesville Sanctuary, where saving animals is not an occupation, but a way of life.

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary: A Home for Native Wildlife

Contained within the heart of the Yarra Valley – an hour’s drive from Melbourne – Healesville Sanctuary is a wonderland for animal lovers. This iconic sanctuary offers a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with Australia's native animals while immersing yourself in the serene beauty of the surrounding natural landscape. From koalas and kangaroos, to dingoes, emus, wombats, and more; Healesville Sanctuary promises an unforgettable wildlife experience.

The sanctuary is set in a natural bushland environment where rural paths unfold into different habitats, exhibiting the animals in an authentic capacity. As part of Zoos Victoria, the sanctuary plays a crucial role in research, breeding programs, and the rehabilitation of injured and orphaned animals. Take a visit to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre and witness firsthand the efforts made by the zoo’s vets and nurses to provide expert, life saving care.

Healesville Sanctuary: Indigenous Heritage and Culture

Healesville Sanctuary was set up in 1920 by Dr Colin MacKenzie on 78 acres of land that was originally part of the Aboriginal reserve, known as Coranderrk. The Reserve passed to the Healesville Council in 1927 and became the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary in 1934. Today the Healesville Sanctuary, as it has become known, seeks to recognise and honour the rich indigenous culture of the region, and the significance of the land upon which it rests.

Consequently, the sanctuary offers an opportunity to explore Indigenous culture through various experiences, including the Wurundjeri Indigenous Walk, and traditional customs from Murrundindi (Wurundjeri Elder). Gain a deeper understanding of the significant connection between the land and its traditional custodians, and learn about the unique relationship between Indigenous Australians and native wildlife.

Wominjeka: Indigenous Cultural Experiences with Wurundjeri Elder

If you wish to learn more about the various uses of native plants, pick up some local Wurundjeri phrases, or listen to aboriginal folktales, then head to Healesville Sanctuary. Every Sunday between 10:30am and 3:00pm, Murrundindi shares the cultural traditions of the Wurundjeri peoples. Learn which plants make the perfect soaps, how to make a boomerang tick, or spin a ball of yarn, all to the background music of the didgeridoo!

Wurundjeri Indigenous Walk

Surround yourself in culture as you explore Wurundjeri Walk at Healesville Sanctuary. The walk will take you on a journey where you’ll learn about Indigenous Elder, William Barak, hear Dreaming Stories from four generations of Elders as they reflect on their families stories, and see an ancient Scar Tree.

Battling Extinction at Healesville Sanctuary

Formerly known as the Sir Colin MacKenzie Sanctuary, the world-renowned wildlife sanctuary is a place of conservation and education. With their overarching mission to become the world’s leading zoo-based conservation organisation, Healesville Sanctuary is dedicated to preventing wildlife extinction.

By strengthening the connection between people and wildlife, through its nature as a zoo, the sanctuary hopes to ensure a wildlife rich future for the world. Behind the scenes, the important conservation work is achieved via innovative and scientifically cultured breeding and recovery programs. By 2024 the sanctuary aims to have secured the future of 27 threatened native species. One successful breeding program involved the platypus, of which Healesville Sanctuary is one of only two places to have successfully made the pairing.

Bandicoot Bodyguards

Alongside partnering with local communities, fellow conservationists, and like-minded organisations, Healesville Sanctuary is also using more natural methods to achieve its aims. One such measure is the Guardian Dog program. This practise is a trial to ascertain whether the Eastern Barred Bandicoot, protected by specially trained Maremma Dogs, will be able to rebuild their populations, in areas not maintained by feral-proof fencing.

Maremma Dogs, originating in Italy, are renowned for their successful protection of livestock. They are considered ideal for conservation work because they can bond to a variety of animals, defend them from predators, and have a low prey-drive. Under their protection, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot might have a chance to peel themselves back from the brink of extinction.

Visiting Healesville Sanctuary

Australian Wildlife Health Centre

The Australian Wildlife Health Centre at Healesville Sanctuary is a state-of-the-art facility that plays a vital role in wildlife conservation. Currently, the Health Centre is closed to the public until July 1st 2023, for some much needed maintenance work. But typically, visitors can observe the dedicated team of veterinarians and nurses as they care for sick and injured native animals. This exhibit offers a fascinating insight into the veterinary care provided to Australia's precious wildlife, so be sure to pay it a visit when it reopens!

Spirits of the Sky

By allowing the birds to guide the keepers, Healesville Sanctuary promises that no two ‘free-flight’ presentations are ever the same. A visit to the ‘Spirits of the Sky’ exhibit, which is included in the entrance price, features Wedge Tailed Eagles, Barking Owls, and Kookaburras, among others.

The exhibitions are truly awe-inspiring and also offer the chance to learn more about the characteristics of each species and how they each play their part in maintaining an ecological balance in nature.

At the walk-through aviary – Land of Parrots – some of the birds may even take a perch on your shoulder and visitors can hand feed the smaller parrots, and listen to talks from the expert keepers.

Kangaroo Country

Meet the mob of happy hoppers at Kangaroo Island. It features the Western Gray Kangaroo and Red Kangaroo as well as wombats. Get up close and learn about these fascinating species. The Kangaroo Keeper Talk will also teach visitors unique 'roo' facts, from 11:30 am each day. Little bouncers will love this exhibit, as they can explore wombat burrows, follow the journey of a joey, take a photo in the pouch of a giant kangaroo, and more; learning is more fun whilst playing!

World of the Platypus

Healesville Sanctuary is renowned for its Platypus exhibit, allowing visitors to catch a glimpse of one of Australia's most fascinating and elusive creatures in their riverside environment. Apparently, they’re very inquisitive and like to swim, play, and forage in full view of their spectators.

Koala Forest

No visit to Healesville Sanctuary would be complete without a journey along the boardwalk and into the Manna Gum treetops at the enchanting Koala Forest. Visitors can wander through the eucalyptus-scented air as they observe these beloved marsupials in their natural habitat. There is also the possibility to broaden your understanding of Koala behaviours, biology, and the conservation efforts undertaken to protect their dwindling populations. The echidna, or the ‘Spiny Ant-Eater’, also calls this exhibit home, so look out for movement below!

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Dingo Country

Discover the iconic Australian dingo at the high country exhibit. These fascinating and highly adaptable canines are celebrated in an immersive, yet natural environment. Through interactive displays and informative presentations, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the dingo's significance in Australian ecosystems, their complex history, and the challenges they face in the wild.

Wallaby Walkabout

Experience a close encounter with wallabies and kangaroos as you stroll through the Wallaby Walkabout exhibit. These friendly marsupials roam freely within a spacious enclosure, allowing visitors to observe and interact with them up close. Learn about their unique characteristics, feeding habits, and the vital role they play in Australia's ecosystems.

Woodland Track

The captivating Australian bushland that is Healesville’s Woodland Track is home to a plethora of forest animals. From Emu and Lace Monitor, to Brush-Tailed Rock Wallabies and Tasmanian Devils. The native ecosystem that exists within this woodland is also alive with birds like the Kookaburra and Pelican. So take a breath, listen to the bird song, spot a joey, and soak up the sanctuary’s peaceful surroundings.

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Our Thoughts…

By providing a platform for conservation, research, and education, Healesville Sanctuary plays a vital role in protecting and raising awareness about Australia's remarkable wildlife. Its immersive exhibits, beautiful animals, and guided tours also make for an unforgettable experience. So make sure to add this Melbourne wonderland to your Aussie itinerary!

Interested in finding more places like this? Why not try one of our Melbourne Scavenger Hunts — work as a team to overcome cryptic riddles and allow yourselves to be swept off the beaten track on a journey to discover all the quirky bars and unusual sites Melbourne has to offer. 

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