5 Animal encounters for kids on the Sunshine Coast

When most families think of the Sunshine Coast, it’s the beaches and the relaxed lifestyle that come to mind first. Yet if you’re looking for a walk on the wilder side of life, the Sunshine Coast has some classic animal encounters to be explored.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best places you can ‘walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals’. Find everything from riding a horse on the beach to swimming with whales.


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5 animal encounters for kids on the Sunshine Coast

Horse riding on the beach

How many children say they want a horse for a pet? Riding a horse is an incredible experience, especially for children. You could book your kids into lessons or you could spend an afternoon riding on the beach or in the countryside. The only operator with a permit allowing you to ride a horse along Rainbow Beach is Rainbow Beach Horse Rides. The rides cater to all levels of riding experience, which means even if you have no previous experience with a horse, you’ll be well taken care of.

Riders will be given full instruction prior to the ride. The guides will also take photographs during each ride and you’ll get to keep copies free of charge. As Rainbow Beach is the third most colourful beach in the world, this is awesome!

You don’t have to just go for a horse ride on the beach. Rainbow Beach Horse Rides offers country day rides, full moon rides and more.

Swim with whales

Between July and October, Sunreef Mooloolaba allows you to get closer than ever before to the giants of the ocean. The opportunity to swim with humpback whales is rare and special. Every swim offers a different experience, but one thing is for sure — getting close to a whale in its natural habitat is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime.

The opportunity to swim with the whales is open to children aged eight years and older. Children under 16 years of age must have an adult with them.

You’ll head out to the ocean via the Mooloolaba River, where all eyes will be eagerly searching for humpback whales. The guides teach you how to do this and what you should look for. It all adds to the excitement of the experience. Before you’re allowed to get into the water, the skipper and the crew assess the safety of the situation; no one will be swimming with a whale if they are displaying unsuitable behaviour.


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Swim with seals and sharks

If humpback whales are too big to even comprehend, consider getting in the water with a rescued seal at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast. This experience gets you up close to these rascally and loveable ocean animals. You can experience this encounter when you book a Seal Swim at Seal Island, which run Monday to Saturday at 10am. In addition to your swim wit the seals, you’ll have your photo taken, and learn more about how the seals are cared for at SEA LIFE.

If you’re feeling brave, get into the water with enormous sharks and rays. The Shark Dives are back at SEA LIFE! You’ll go behind the scenes and be briefed in how to safely interact with these wild animals. Then you’ll plunge into the aquariums iconic Ocean Tunnell. There are no cages and you don’t require any previous diving experience.

The Seal Swim sessions are only available to kids aged 13 years and older. Diving with the sharks has a minimum age limit of 14 years.

Kiss a giraffe

Australia Zoo animal encounters let you get up close and personal with incredible wildlife. There are 14 opportunities at the zoo, but one that tickles our fancy is the Giant Giraffe Snapshot. You’ll meet the tallest land mammal in the world. These gentle giants can get to more than 5m tall and weigh almost 2-tonne. The encounter lets you hand-feed a gorgeous giraffe… Kissing is optional.

Kids under 15 years old need to be accompanied by a paying adult.


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Get a selfie with a South American macaw

It’s a real hoot (see what we did there?) spending some time at the iconic Maleny Botanic Gardens Bird World. The gardens are privately owned. You’ll be surrounded by ancient rainforest. Walk the 110-acre grounds and take in the spectacular views of the Glass House Mountains. The gardens are home to native and exotic birds, and there are four walk-through aviaries to explore. We recommend removing your jewellery and sunglasses before getting started, as the brightly coloured macaw and the black cockatoos are friendly.


Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids events, attractions & things to do with kids, schools and education, school holiday guides, health & wellbeing for families, parenting and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD. 

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By Angela Sutherland
After spending many years hustling stories on busy editorial desks around the world, Angela is now mum of two little ones and owner/editor at Kids on the Coast / Kids in the City. She is an atrocious cook and loves cutting shapes to 90s dance music. Angela is the editor of Kids on the Coast - a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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