Long before I ever came to Australia I was obsessed with koalas. Their cute little ears, their furriness, that large black nose and all. Upon moving to Melbourne the first thing I did was research where I could go to hold a koala, and was disappointed to discover there weren’t all that many. Most states now ban it, but I came across the Gorge Wildlife Park in Adelaide.
Adelaide? That was close to Melbourne. I read about it a bit more and decided I wanted to go so I bought some flights to Adelaide and rented a car for the day.
The wildlife park is about 45 minutes to an hour outside of the city and the drive is beautiful. South Australia is very different from Victoria in terms of its terrain, despite being quite close by. The country roads just outside of Adelaide are very windy, though beautiful, with a wall of rock on one side and a beautiful of a valley on the other for most of the drive.
It’s easy to miss the turn into the wildlife park because it’s rather understated, but in a way this is better because it’s not a zoo (pun intended). When I arrived there were tons of parking places and kangaroos were happily eating in a field right next to it. It was quiet and peaceful, which surprised me for both a wildlife park but also for one of the few places where you can actually koala. I thought surely it would be rather busy.
For an adult the entrance fee is only $15. I thought this was incredibly reasonable, considering most zoos are upwards of $30. You also have the option of buying a bag of food for $2, and let me tell you that bag of food will last you a long time, so it’s well worth the money. Once I paid for my ticket and got a bag of food I entered the park and the first thing I noticed was how I barely heard anyone. The only noises were the sounds of animals rustling around and birds chirping.
The koala holdings are at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. and you’re only allowed one cuddle per session, but you can stay and keep doing it. I did that. Don’t judge me.
What I loved about this wildlife park was that most of the enclosures were walk-through, meaning you could enter the fields where the kangaroos and wallabies were, in addition to an aviary. They have more than just koalas and kangaroos though, including wombats, emus, dingos, camels, a leopard, penguins, and even cassowaries. (Warning: one of them reached through the fence and grabbed my map straight out of my hands and ate it. Go ahead, laugh, but you won’t be when it’s you.)
The kangaroos and wallabies in the walk-through enclosures are so docile and sweet and they’ll eat directly out of your hand; you can even hug and cuddle them if they’re in a good mood. I found a wallaby with an injured foot and he (she?) was so sweet and I almost took them home with me.
The park has a really genuine feel to and it doesn’t feel like most zoos where they price gouge you for really not a lot in return. The staff are friendly, they take incredibly good care of the animals, and the interactive experience is a lot of fun and so different from the usually run of the mill zoo.
If you’re every in Australia I really recommend coming here because it’s one of the best experiences I’ve had for my money and the location is beautiful as well. You can fly budget airlines Jetstar or Tigerair if on a budget, but the two main airlines Qantas and Virgin both fly there too from most places in Australia.
For more information visit http://gorgewildlifepark.com.au/.