It’s not always easy to find a great day out with kids of different ages. Little ones need nap time, toddlers have in-built tantrum clocks to cater for, and older kids need to be permanently engaged in fear of being 'bored'.
One place that is always sure to keep everyone happy is Wildlife HQ.
Tucked next to the Big Pineapple, this fabulous zoo offers something for all ages. We visited with three generations – kids, parents and grandparents – and everyone had an absolutely AMAZING day.
You can enter Wildlife HQ from either from the Big Pineapple at the top of the hill and catch the train, or via the zoo entrance at the end of the service road, to the right of the Big Pineapple. The train is an extra $5 but it’s a fun trip for the kids, so is certainly worth doing if you have the time. The train departs every half hour from the Big Pineapple (on the hour and half-past.)
Tip: Don’t forget to pick up a bag of feed from the entrance so you can feed the kangaroos along the way.
The zoo is roughly split into two parts. On one side of the train tracks there is Friendship Farm where you can check out the goats, guinea pigs, miniature horses and llamas. There are also crocs, snakes, lizards and a reptile hut. Next to this is the Aussie Billabong, which is a lovely space to explore - with chickens wandering around, stacks of turtles in the water, lemurs on the island, and kangaroos and emus happily roaming.
Cross over the tracks and you head into the more exotic section of Wildlife HQ, with the Asian Rainforest, African Plains and the most amazing (and CUTEST!) collection of little monkeys in the South American trail.
There are also some more native animals to be found with koalas, parrots, free-ranging wallabies and the nocturnal animals shed.
There’s a shaded seating area in the middle of the zoo, with a small café and space to rest. The café has everything you need for a pit stop: coffee, ice creams, and snacks. For something a little bigger you can grab lunch up at the Big Pineapple, or pack your own.
Tip: head to the koala presentation area where you can hold a koala!
For something special, adding an animal encounter to your visit is a MUST-DO. There is a range of encounters to choose from. Try a native encounter such as a dingo, koala, snake or sugar glider, or choose something more exotic such as the cotton top tamarins, marmosets, alligator, meerkats, lemurs, or red panda.
We opted for the Meercat Encounter – and it was absolutely INCREDIBLE!
Holding a bowl of food, you sit inside the meerkat enclosure as they feed from your hands. They will jump up onto your lap, scurry around, it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one we will never forget. We didn't feel rushed and the animal ranger that led the encounter was fabulous, sharing lots of information about the animals and their habits.
Book your animal encounter at the café in the centre of the park.
There are also several animal shows throughout the morning, including Meerkat Feeding, Koala Interactive Talk, African Painted Dog, and Sunbear Feeding. These are mostly held late morning so it works well to arrive at the zoo first thing in the morning, and work your way through most of the exhibits before feeding time.
What we really liked about Wildlife HQ is how easy it was to get around and see the animals. It didn’t feel overwhelming, instead it was more like visiting a sanctuary. We didn’t feel rushed to get around and see everything, it was a very relaxed experience and just the right size to visit with little ones. It is by far the kids’ favourite destination on the Sunshine Coast, and following the animal encounter it was “the best day of my life,” said the littlest.
“It was the best day of my life!”
It also worked really well for kids of all ages. The little ones really enjoyed being able to get up close with a range of native and exotic animals, whilst the older ones loved the interesting facts along the way. It was also pram friendly, so you can bring your wheels.